In September 2020 the review of Raven’s latest album Metal City declared that ‘on this evidence Raven consolidate their title of Chief Headbangers’ and signed off with ‘any contenders?’
Last week one of the original North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, Tygers of Pan Tang, hoyed their hat in the ring.
Their new single Edge of the World released on the Mighty Music label was as the kids say ‘dropped’ last Thursday and after the first time on hearing, the Tygers have sharpened their swords and hoyed the kitchen sink at the production. It’s epic.
Starting with a hint of Eastern promise the guitars will put lightning back in yer tired bones, and with that chorus we have the next superhero soundtrack. Someone put a call in to Hollywood blockbusting film maker Christopher Nolan (Batman/The Dark Knight/Man of Steel).
There’s no idle shilly-shallying here with layer upon layer of glossy finesse, ultra-tight drumming from Craig Ellis, bassist Huw Holdings accomplished maiden recording, plus a searing twin lead break from guitarists Robb Weir and Francesco Marras, while vocalist Jack Meille faces down the beast.
Edge of the World doesn’t lead you to the dead zone with no follow up record as the Tygers are about to launch their new album and on this evidence alone, wrestle the crown from Raven.
Autoleisureland is the new project by former Kane Gang members Dave Brewis and Paul Woods.
The Kane Gang, with Martin Brammer completing the line-up, formed in the former coal mining town of Seaham on the North East coast in 1982, and signed to Kitchenware Records.
The pop soul band notched up several UK and USA hits including Respect Yourself, Closest Thing to Heaven and Gun Law.
I asked Dave and Paul how did the project come about ?
PW: It started a few years ago when Dave was working on his instrumental album.
Every week before we popped out for a pint he’d drop off a new mix or new track. I really liked them and started on lyrics to turn them into songs. It snowballed and I started giving him lyrics and ideas for new ones.
DB: Paul and myself have remained in touch and seen each other regularly over the years since the Kane Gang was active. When I quit lecturing at Gateshead College I was still doing session gigs, but fancied writing again.
I recorded a set of tunes, and Paul thought he would write lyrics, so that got the ball rolling. Before long we were full on writing and recording, something we always enjoyed. So we thought we’d name ourselves and start a band project.
PW: Eventually we came up with the song Autoleisureland and that was the catalyst for the sound we were going for in our heads. Sort of all of our influences coming together.
After that we were off and running. I’ve never enjoyed working on something so much.
Have you a best time for song writing ?
DB: Definitely not in the mornings. A few days a week we work two to three hours at a time in the afternoon on recording.
After that length of time we lose our judgement so we stop, but evenings are when we usually write and that is done separately. Then we exchange ideas and continue. It’s quite efficient as we usually know what we are after. But it can take time.
PW: I tend to have the best ideas at night for hook lines, titles and choruses. Sometimes when I’m listening to some other music and I mishear the lyrics, it sets me on a different train of thought. The rest of the daytime is used for the mundane lengthy task of actually finishing it.
What do you consider for the final running order of the songs on the new album ?
PW: We had a number of catchy songs that kept going, all rather upbeat and positive and we didn’t want to break the mood. So, we didn’t really want a slow number until about the seventh track in.
DB: We start with something upbeat that is representative of the album – Autoleisureland, then try to run four or five strong bangers in a row. Pop in a slow one then kick off again.
We have a few reflective ones but we finish this album with the title track Infiniti Drive, as it bookends with the first track Autoleisureland.
Do conversations ever turn to ‘remember in the ‘80s when this happened’ ?
DB: Yes sometimes. The odd daft thing that happened with taxis, airports, interviews. For me, thinking back to studio work mainly. That was very enjoyable, I think we preferred that side of it.
PW: The Kane Gang was and is a big part of our lives so it’s natural we have some thoughts about it. Obviously, the older you get, the less you remember.
For instance, a few weeks ago a thought came to me and I asked Dave, ‘were we on Soul Train?’. All of a sudden I had a flashback of the dancers and the show’s set. We performed Motortown.
However, on its official website it says we were never on. They mustn’t have used it, I guess.
What does music mean to you ?
DB: Music is a part of my life. I feel somewhat frustrated if I haven’t played or written something for a while. We can create and shape something out of nothing that entertains and feels worthwhile.
PW: This is difficult. For Dave, I believe it’s simpler. He’s a musician. That’s what he studied for, that’s what he practised for, that’s what he does, that’s who he is. He doesn’t think about it. And then there’s me.
When it comes to music I’ve always had imposter syndrome. Never believing I’m good enough to sing, write, record. All the time I was in The Kane Gang I was plagued by that.
It was only until this latest project that I thought, ‘yeah this IS what I do, and I’m going to keep doing it’, so I apologise in advance.
What are your hopes for the new album ?
PW: Who knows anymore. I’m just pleased it’s done, out, finished. I’m prouder of this than anything I’ve done. So I’m pleased it’s out, people can hear it and then we can get more stuff out and even more recorded.
DB: We hope we can reach a lot of people who like this style of music, worldwide. Obviously some Kane Gang fans, but also the people who listen to our contemporaries like Tears for Fears, China Crisis, Prefab Sprout.
And people who like some of the more interesting newer bands. It’s good to try to be fresh but ultimately do what you do.
Autoleisureland is released on 25th November 2022 on all digital streaming and download platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube & Bandcamp.
The previous post featured South Shields born Will Binks, who at 16 started a successful North East punk fanzine, in this second part he talks about his passion for photography.
Will can often be seen ‘doon the frunt’ at North East punk gigs so if you see him give him a shout.
After the fanzine and short-lived tape label I was ready for something new, and even as a child I always had a passing interest in photography.
When did you start taking photos, was it with North East punk band The Fiend back in the 1980s?
When I was eighteen years old, in 1984, I got a Pentax SLR camera and flash from Alan Brown’s shop on Frederick Street in South Shields. I took it to gigs and yes I did do a photoshoot with the lads from The Fiend.
(The Fiend featured on the blog in January 2021)
However, it was a bulky camera, with film, batteries and developing not cheap at all. I was at the age where I wanted to socialise and enjoy a drink with friends, so I often left the Pentax at home and took out my parents’ Kodak Disc camera. It was pocket-sized and you just pointed and clicked.
Great I thought at the time, but in retrospect a mistake. The quality of photos was to put it bluntly, terrible. I wish I persevered with the Pentax. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
What was the atmosphere like at punk gigs?
To be truthful, it was scary sometimes but mostly it was okay, although I know folk who suffered violence. There were times when you could sense trepidation in the air, and you just knew what was gonna happen.
Thankfully, I sidestepped any trouble but I definitely had a few lucky escapes.
There seemed to be a lot of that irrational tribalism between different areas. I never did understand folk wanting to assault someone just because they were from another town or city. I’m pleased to say that nowadays it is much, much better.
For you what is the difference between taking photos on film back then, and digital now?
Back in the day, I was restricted by how much film I could afford to buy and having the cash to get those films developed. It wasn’t particularly cheap. Photography was, and still is, an expensive hobby.
The good thing was once I had taken my pics and had the film developed that was that. You had your images and there was no post editing back then.
Nowadays, your time is split between taking pictures then spending hours, if not days, at home editing your images to your own specifications. It is very time consuming but I thoroughly enjoy it.
I’ve always said I take pictures for my own gratification. If anyone expresses a liking for any, then I’m pleased, but I should stress that it’s not the reason behind why I do what I do. I am non-commercial. I am not motivated at all by financial gain.
Hard to say, I know, but what is your best pic?
A very difficult question. Regarding my live music photography, it changes constantly. Here’s one I took of a sunrise from back in 2016, something that I always enjoy witnessing.
Where can people see your pics ?
I’ve had some of my images used in books and by bands on their record or CD sleeves. All I ask for in return is that I am credited, and that I get a copy of the product once released. I don’t think I can be much fairer than that.
All my pics are public and viewable in full resolution on my Flickr page. I invite everyone to follow the link and check out the many albums of pictures there. Hope you enjoy what you see.
I know doing a fanzine wasn’t exactly momentous historically, however it was our small involvement in our local scene. It might not be important to everyone, but it was very important to some.
After leaving school in 1982Will was looking to contribute to the punk scene on Tyneside…
I never possessed natural talent or had the opportunity to play an instrument, I was never gonna be a vocalist by any stretch of the imagination.
Thinking back, I don’t think my parents had the kind of disposable income to fork out on a guitar, amp or drums. Times were tough back then as anyone from that era can confirm.
But I did have an admiration for the Sunderland fanzine Acts Of Defiance which I bought from The New Record Inn next door to the infamous Old 29 pub in Sunderland where many bands played. I would read the copies enthusiastically and wondered if I could do something similar.
Will set about typing stuff out using his sister’s typewriter.
I would be creative using Letraset or permanent black marker pens with stencils. I would cut pieces out of the weekly music paper Sounds and daily newspapers to create collages or backgrounds by gluing them together. Back then ‘copy and paste’ meant using scissors and adhesive!
For a name I saw ‘Hate And War’ in a magazine, that would fit perfectly across the top of an A4 sheet of paper. I cut it out and it looked great, so that was that sorted.
Obviously we didn’t endorse hate or war – quite the opposite in fact. To us it was just a great song by The Clash, and it was completely by chance that I found that cutting and it fit perfectly.
Were you working alongside anybody to produce the fanzine?
During that period I was very close with my cousin Paul Briggs. We would arrange to meet bands or write to those further afield with postal interviews. Basically I’d send them a bunch of questions and they’d reply with their answers in a week or two.
What bands did you feature?
We featured bands like Vice Squad, Dead Kennedys, U.K. Subs, The System, External Menace, Riot Squad, The Adicts, Instant Agony, and lots more.
We also focused heavily on local North East talent such as Uproar, The Fiend, Psycho Faction, Total Chaos, Toy Dolls, Sadistic Slobs, Public Toys, Negative Earth, Red Alert and tons of others.
The next hurdles to overcome were how to get it financed and printed.
We were just kids relying on pocket money so things didn’t look good. Then I mentioned it to my grandmother who worked as a cleaner at the police station in South Shields.
I think the office staff turned a blind eye when she photocopied the odd knitting pattern but I’m grinning remembering that before anyone turned up on a morning my grandmother photocopied our fanzine in the police station offices.
She must’ve had some bottle knowing that getting caught could cost her the job she loved.
How many issues of the fanzine did you put out?
We put out two issues of Hate And War. Admittedly, they were basic and primitive but I mentioned this recently to my mate Nelly, he pointed out that ‘our whole punk scenewas basic and primitive‘ – it’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
We set about a third issue including interviewing Total Chaos at the Bier Keller in Newcastle where I crossed paths with Gary Payne. When I said wor – Geordie slang for ‘our’ – Paul had lost interest, he suggested going into cahoots with him.
He even had the new fanzine name and first front cover assembled – Still Dying was born. If Hate And War was basic and primitive then Still Dying was a bar or two higher as we raised our game.
Where did you sell copies of the fanzine ?
We sold lots by taking them to gigs at places like The Station in Gateshead and The Bunker in Sunderland. We’d ask folk if they fancied buying a fanzine and before we knew it they were gone. We had some for sale in Volume Records in Newcastle and lots were sent out by mail-order too.
I’m guessing we got about 200 of each issue printed and they all sold. The two issues of Hate And War sold for 10p, and Still Dying was a bargain at 20p.
My grandmother helped again by getting the first issue of Still Dying photocopied. We put out three issues of Still Dying during 1983 which I’m still proud of.
The second issue was printed by a lad called Ian, who did Testament Of Reality fanzine and owned his own photocopier. The third and final issue was printed by our friend’s sister who did Edition Fanzine.
By the end of that year Gary bowed out saying he’d completed what he set out to achieve and left me to forge on. My intentions were to continue but it wasn’t the same, so I gave everything we had typed out with all the artwork for our proposed fourth issue to a lad called Marty.
It featured in his fanzine ‘Remember Who We Are’. After that, I did pursue a short-lived tape label before stepping back altogether.
Do you think the fanzine had an impact on those who bought it ?
In recent years some folk have told me that they still own the issues they bought back in 1983. They’ve kept our little fanzine for nearly four decades, so it must’ve left some impression on them. I’ve heard good comments over the years and even the suggestion that we should resurrect it.
Next up read As I See It part two with Will Binks talking about his passion for photography.
Part one of the interview featured stories of gigs in working men’s clubs and recording in Abbey Road, in this second part Bob and Dave remember more shenanigans in ‘70s band Fogg.
At the time Tyne Tees TV were building a team to produce music shows resulting in the ground breaking Tube exploding on our tv screens in November 1982, but before The Tube was a programme called Geordie Scene.
Dave: We were on the Geordie Scene a few times. One time we were on with the band Geordie, Brian Johnson (AC/DC) was their singer. On the last song both bands got up and jammed on Blue Suede Shoes, we were the daaarlings of the North East scene (laughs). There was a party afterwards, it was great, both bands got on really well.
Bob: Yes, we did a few shows. Heidi Esser from EMI Electrola flew us out to Cologne to do a TV show and we stayed in a beautiful hotel all expenses paid. Boney M and Gilbert O Sullivan were on the bill too.
After the show we wanted a drink but like most bands we didn’t have any money. However there was a mini bar in our room which we’d been told was off limits. Chris and me looked at each other and said well just the one!
I’m ashamed to say that we disgraced ourselves by drinking it dry by 4am. I was told that it cost a fortune. Apologies to Heidi and EMI. It’s no excuse but we were just young lads and were very very thirsty!
Bob: The excellent Vaingloriousuk site does have many of our TV performances on video. (link below)
Mind the result of a little known FOGG/Geordie football match is still a sore point for us. Tom Hill, Geordie bass player ‘It’ll just be a quiet kickabout’. Aye that’ll be right Tom. (laughs)
Dave: Geordie were signed to Red Bus Records. I’ve got three songs on a Geordie album, and never had a penny. But that’s the music business.
Bob: Thinking back about that we were lucky to have John Reed and Derek McCormick on our team, they were dead straight with us. In fact they still look out for us. The re-release of the album This is it is their project.
How did the re-release of the album come about ?
Bob: Over the years John Reed stayed in touch with Mike Heatley at EMI who had worked on the initial This is it release and was a huge fan of Fogg. Cut to the present day and the new CEO at Warners music is Mike’s friend and ex colleague.
Our manager Derek McCormick has been beavering away on the legal side whilst John and Mike discussed a digital release with Warners. Success – what a team.
Talking about team members, our guitarist and main songwriter was Dek Rootham. Dek had a great sense of humour which certainly enlivened long journeys. He was often seen with Archie, a ventriloquists dummy.
We once had a small fire in the back of our Ford Transit whilst flying down the A1 at 70 mph. We are all thinking like Basil Fawlty ‘F-F-F-Fire!’ but Dek just turned around, warmed his hands on the blaze, turned back and continued reading his newspaper. What a guy. (laughs)
What caused the band to call it a day ?
Bob: A number of things really. In the mid-70s a few things were happening around the UK – recession, middle east oil shocks, venues closing down, three day weeks, power cuts. Just lots of things that really added up. But we gamely carried on playing gigs for a while surviving on the money from them.
We eventually decided to wrap it in. Chris went on to form his own band Shooter. Dave, Dek and I worked the clubs for a few months as a trio named Jingles(laughs).
Dave: By the late ‘70s Brian Johnson was re-forming Geordie to play the clubs, he already had a drummer and he asked me and Dek to join. We joined and had a great time with gigs pouring in. We had a few with Slade as Brian knew Chas (Chandler, ex Animal, Slade manager) quite well.
Then 1980 came round, Brian left for an audition in London, my wife was in hospital giving birth to my son, and I got a call from an American called Peter Mensch.
‘Hello is that Dave Robson, my name is Peter Mensch, I own AC/DC. I believe you have some contracts ?’
I said best to ring me back as my wife has just given birth. Well really I was devastated, Geordie had being doing well, now suddenly I was out of work. We continued with other singers but it was hard to replace Brian, he was very funny and had an instant connection to the audience soon as he got on stage.
(Along with many tales about the band Geordie, Brian Johnson’s story of the AC/DC audition can be read in the new book ‘The Lives of Brian – A Memoir by Brian Johnson’).
Bob: I went on to work with other bands and really enjoyed working on several unique projects with Steve Daggett (Lindisfarne). After studying at Newcastle University I joined Raw Spirit again for a while who I was in before Fogg.
Sadly Chris (vocals) passed away in 2014. He is still greatly loved and missed by the lads and indeed by all who met him. Dave, Dek and myself still do occasional gigs in our respective bands. Music is always in your blood I guess
Dave: But looking back it was a fantastic time.
Bob: Yeah such a magnificent period in our lives. We are so blessed to have experienced it and have This is it come to light once again.
Dave: And you can always dine out on the stories (laughs). Although some don’t believe you about Abbey Road.
Bob: Yeah there are a wealth of tales which are true but usually met with disbelief. Did we tell you about the time the Duchess of Devonshire asked us to pop in for tea, or Freddie Mercury’s market stall, or our near fatal adventures on Aberystwyth beach or when recording the album This is it, Olivia Newton John walked by and simply gave us a dazzling smile ?
I met up with rhythm players Bob and Dave to get a clear picture of the FOGG story, but first let’s find out where the name come from…
Dave: It had something to do with the book about Phileas Fogg and his travels around the world in 80 days didn’t it ?
Bob: Nah it stands for Fairly Old Grumpy Geriatrics (laughs).
During the 1970s FOGG were based in Newcastle and signed for EMI and Warner Brothers. They released four singles and an album ‘THIS IS IT’ recorded at Abbey Road. Warners are now re-releasing the remastered album (links below).
Bob: Iwould say This is It…is really a mix of hard rock, boogie, pop stompers and even a smidge of prog. Very tight instrumentally with great vocals, harmonies and guitar. Warners have remastered and digitised the album.
To my ears it sounds quite contemporary and hasn’t dated. Ok I’m biased but I love it all over again.
Dave: The album sounds very fresh today, I really like it. I’m proud of what we did. We were just a little band playing workingmen’s clubs who were suddenly catapulted onto a higher level and suddenly recording in the world famous Abbey Road studios.
The first version of Fogg started in 1971 and was formed by guitarist Dek Rootham ex-Sect, and bassist Dave Robson ex-Toby Twirl. They played the working men’s club circuit with drummer Ronny Levey and Colin Anderson on guitar.
By 1973 Ronny and Colin had moved on and were replaced by ex-Raw Spirit drummer Bob Porteous and Chris McPherson on vocals.
Dave: I was playing bass when I first joined a band at 19, they were called Toby Twirl who were a pro band doing gigs every day and night all over the UK. The drummer was John Reed, John was also a songwriter, later he moved from Sunderland to London but we stayed in touch.
Don’t wanna get ahead of myself here but he was very influential in Fogg because he got management involved and to this day is fully committed to the band.
John called Derek McCormick from Corus Music who had pedigree because he used to manage The Moody Blues and had a lot of industry contacts.
Bob: That was around 1973, we were playing the clubs at first then the work expanded via Derek and John and their contacts. Dek Rootham and John Reed began to write songs together.
Chris McPherson sounded like Noddy Holder from Slade, and was a charismatic front man. He took a break for a short while so we got Davey Ditchburn in on vocals during Chris’s time out.
We did several shows on Tyne Tees TV for the Geordie Scene. A You Tube channel dedicated to North East music called VainGloriousUK has several videos of Fogg performing on the show. My personal favourites are Ask No Questions and Captain Moonshine but there are many more to choose from.
Dave: Then later on Chris re-joined the fold. I remember Chris was a great character, god bless him he passed away a number of years ago.
Bob: He owned every stage he walked on. We all loved him.
Bob: Fogg worked hard on the College circuit, did a tour of Finland and TV & Radio work. By this time the band was developing a great synergy and the competition with other pro bands on the circuit had created a highly charged performance involving great audience rapport.
Dave: Yeah yer’ had to ! It was sink or swim.
Bob: Jumping in at that level generated massive confidence and camaraderie within the band.
Dave: We also did a lot work in the Bailey Clubs run by Stan Henry, a friend of our manager.
Sadly, Stan Henry died in September this year. From their South Shields headquarters Stan and business partner John Smith ran the Bailey Organisation. They opened a number of clubs around the UK.
Notably The New Cellar Club in South Shields where Cream opened the venue on 2nd December ’66 and Hendrix played on 1st February ’67.
Bob: One night we played the Bailey club in Watford and the top act was Dana (Hugely popular Irish winner of Eurovision song contest in 1970 with ‘All Kinds of Everything’).
She was absolutely lovely and invited us to her dressing room which was a different world. She was like a beautiful Queen with her make up and wardrobe people swanning around offering drinks and even lighting up other people’s cigarettes.
This, coupled with our week long soiree at a Hampshire health farm where we met the legendary Ava Gardner gave us a little glimpse into ‘70s fame.
Dave: The Bailey clubs were great, very pro, but I remember a lot of the CIU workingmen’s clubs were also run really well, Concert Chairmen keeping things right, great audiences, yeah loved them.
Bob: They always gave you a round of applause and there was always a dressing room, no changing in the toilets. And being paid well.
Dave: I wish they were back.
Bob: Concert chairmen had a bad rep but often they were smashing guys. There was a chairman called Edgar at one of the clubs and he would like to sing the last song of the night with the band.
‘What do you want to sing Edgar?’ ‘Blaydon Races’ he replied. We found that the song had about 20 verses and he knew them all! Still shiver and feel apprehensive to this day when someone says Blaydon Races (laughs).
How did the band get signed ?
Dave: As well as song writing with Dek, John Reed was the band manager and got us a gig in a Covent Garden pub where he invited Derek McCormick and various music industry people.
Derek was very impressed and we signed a management contract with him. John arranged a session in the EMI recording studio in Manchester Square and we did a successful demo there.
Bob: This was during the late summer of ’73. Derek was friends with Joop Visser, a lovely Dutch A&R guy in EMI and this opened the door to a recording contract.
In 1974 the band went into the legendary Abbey Road studios where The Beatles had recorded. They produced several singles, one of which Water in my Wine had significant sales in Germany and Japan.
EMI then helped realise the bands ambition by recording a full album at Abbey Road. This is It…was produced by Wally Allen from the Pretty Things.
Dave: It was like ‘yeh just going into the recording studio today’, that’s just what you did in those days you know.
Bob: Back then it was the arrogance of youth! (laughs)
Deep down though, we were ecstatic to be at Abbey Road even though we were being outwardly cool and professional about it.
Dave: Now it’s revered as a holy place but don’t get me wrong it really was a fantastic place to be.
Bob: The first single was Doing the Best I Can which got a few radio plays when released in 1974 but nothing major. All the band were involved in writing for the album but it was Dek and John Reed on the majority of songs.
Our first producer was Ian McClintock who we thought was good but not entirely tuned in to our music.
Dave: We needed more direction from him as we hadn’t been in a 16 track recording studio before.
Bob: When you are new to studios and the red light goes on it can be nerve wracking but we must have done ok because if I remember rightly we only did a max of three takes on most songs .
Dave: Eventually McClintock was replaced by Wally Allen who was bassist with The Pretty Things – he was brilliant. We moved into The Beatles studio and the sounds were fabulous there. You go into the control room to hear back what you’ve recorded and it’s a genuine ‘Is that us !’
Bob: That was Studio Two where the whole thing had a different vibe.
Dave: And the harmonies had a much better sound.
Bob: I don’t believe in ghosts but you could just feel an atmosphere of all the other musicians who had passed through there.
Dave: And on the piano there was the marks where (Paul) McCartney had left his tab burning!
Bob: One day the others were laying down some overdubs so I went for a wander around the other studios. I went into the huge Studio Three where I started playing a wonderful set of timpani drums. A severe looking security guard heard this and popped his head in and asked what I was doing in there.
‘Just from the band recording in the other studio’. After hearing my accent he asked where I’m from ‘Newcastle’ I replied. He let out a delighted laugh ‘Wey I’m from Gateshead man!’
We really felt a part of the Abbey Road family. Incidentally a couple of tracks from the album have a real North East vibe, Northern Song and Water in my Wine.
In 1975 the band moved on from EMI, signed to Warner Brothers and released two singles Dancing to the Music and Rock n Roll Star.
Next up read Rhythm Kings part two with more FOGG stories from Bob and Dave.
The remastered FOGG album ‘THIS IS IT...’ is now available in digital format from:
After his debut Birdwatching, Clifford returns with his second album of new wave pop. Building the Bird is released on the night of the debut gig by Amateur Ornithologist scheduled for Gateshead’s Central Bar on 21st October.
‘We’re also playing in Stockton on 26th October at NE Volume Music Bar and we’re hoping to play a Christmas gig in South Shields, so fingers-crossed for that’ said Daniel.
The new album has eleven new songs recorded in the Harbourmaster Studio, South Shields. Producer Martin Trollope also features on bass, and on viola is Madeleine Smyth.
‘Maddie is a fantastic musician and songwriter in her own right, and plays a big part in Amateur Ornithologist too. The keyboard was recorded onto a cassette tape and then played into the computer, which gave it a semi-out-of-tune and nostalgic sound.
That reminded me of writing little songs when I was a kid and singing them into my nanna’s baking flour-covered tape recorder’.
Do you take time when thinking about the running order ?
‘Getting the track listing right is something I really care about. The best albums have a flow to them and that’s something I wanted to achieve.
It’s ended up with four singles in the first six songs, but I think that’s because you need to grab people more in the first half of an album and in the second half there’s more space to breathe’.
The single releases have received airplay from BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio are Hermit Phase, I Told A Lie, Sunscreen and A Better Person.
‘A Better Person is all about my mam and my nanna, their relationship, my nanna’s death and how similar they were. I wanted to write something a little bit like Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles but I ended up with something much sadder’.
‘Still, the music had something about it that made me want to write about love – but familial love rather than the usual song subject’.
‘Whenever anyone told my nanna that my mam was like her, she’d say “Well… couldn’t be like a better person!” It’s a song for them, although when I first played the music to my mam she preferred some of the others’.
How did the band get together ?
‘Pulling a band together has actually been a lot easier than I expected. I’ve just put adverts up on a site called Join My Band and auditioned people from there. But keeping it together has been harder’.
‘We’re almost Fall-like in terms of our member turnover. I think that’s possibly the case with lots of bands at the start – trying to find the right personalities to work together with the will to keep going’.
‘A lot of the band are neurodivergent so sometimes we’re more direct with how we say things but I like to think we understand each other and get that it’s just the way we’re made. And more often than not we laugh most of the way through band practices’.
What time of day do you find best to write ?
‘I tend to write during the daytimes, fiddling around with ideas on my computer and amassing completed tracks of music, including drums, bass, guitar, keys and other instruments. Then I write the lyrics in batches of four or five because if I do them in isolation they feel too daunting to complete – like they have to be perfect’.
The music videos were created by Daniel and Jenny Rohde, who also worked together on the single and album covers.
‘It’s all related to my nanna and the things we did together. I went to her old street to film and that was the first time I’ve been there since she died so there was a sadness there, but I got to talk to Jenny about my childhood and that was positive’.
What are your hopes for Building the Bird ?
‘I’m hoping that this album connects with an audience and we get to play the songs live for lots of people around the North East and further afield. We’ve got CDs and cassettes printed and made a zine of lyrics, art and behind-the-scenes stuff’.
‘These are all incredibly limited edition so I’m hoping people take a chance on them and enjoy having something hardly anyone else has’.
‘I’d love for people to connect with the words and feel like they can relate to them. And then I’ll get writing the next one’.
Building the Bird is released on Friday 21st October by Harbourmaster Recordings and Regret Everything Records on CD, cassette, zines and download from:
During Covid lockdowns some musicians took time out to reboot ideas and produced new music, guitarist Alan Fish was no different.
‘Against all odds I managed to produce a new collection of songs. It’s been quite a journey. This pandemic has reminded us how fragile and precious life is and it’s in this spirit of gratitude that we are releasing a new album which is a tribute to my home town Newcastle upon Tyne’.
‘We’ are a collection of musicians trading under the moniker The Attention Seekers who went into Newcastle Cluny studio and with engineering skills of Tony Davis, recorded new album Seven Bridges – also the name of a track with its infectious chorus…
‘It’s a beautiful city I know, from the steps to the quayside, and I can still see Seven bridges to carry me home, to the streets of Newcastle tonight’.
The album is Tyne soaked in a positive acoustic feel with vocals on the eleven tracks shared between Jesse Terry, Romaana Shakir, Sam Blewitt and Alan who had different plans back in 2020.
‘Everything stopped in March 2020. The world as we know it ground to a halt. Covid made the future uncertain. The plan had been to return to the USA to promote the previous album A Song for Tomorrow. We had promo in place but gigs and radio interviews had to be put on hold’.
‘Fast forward to 2022 and some semblance of normality is gradually returning, most importantly my family, friends, bandmates and I have our health intact. There are too many who have not been so fortunate’.
When did you start putting the Seven Bridges ideas together ?
‘I travelled back in time to revisit songs from my days in North East rock bands White Heat and The Loud Guitars in Do Me A Favour, Chain Reaction and Is it Too Late? Keeping in that frame of mind I wrote a letter to my younger self in Daydreaming’.
‘Romaana Shakir provides great vocals on the track Mr Coastguard which is a letter of thanks to The Turkish Coastguard Service. What happened was my wife Viv and I spent a night in a tiny speedboat lost in rough seas and with no fuel. An experience Viv and I will not be repeating’.
‘And there is a ‘what if’ song called Money In His Pocket. The lyrics covered the story of a musician trying to ‘make it’ in the music biz’…
‘He put some money in his pocket, grabbed a bag and picked up his guitar. He took off in the middle of the night in his beat up car. He left behind the prettiest girl, to find his way in the big wide world’
‘That’s about walking away from ‘the deal’ which was one of the best decisions I ever made. In 1989 White Heat reformed for a one-off festival appearance alongside Aswaad and Nick Hayward.
After our set we were approached by Don Arden ‘notorious’ owner of Jet Records, manager of ELO, Dio and Black Sabbath, father of Sharon Osbourne, and father in law of Ozzy’.
‘He expressed an interest in managing us (White Heat), although I had long put aside any thoughts of a full time career in the music business, I was interested in what he had to say and I agreed to meet with Don the next day’.
‘His plan was to put us out on tour after tour in the states supporting his bands – ELO, Black Sabbath to name but two, until we ‘broke the market’. He was aware I was married with a young family and said “you have a decision to make”. I kindly declined the offer, ‘Money In His Pocket’ is a fictitious story where in a parallel universe I accepted the deal’.
A full interview with Alan was posted on 13 September 2019. (Link below)
A track on the new album was originally by a band with its roots firmly in the North East – Lindisfarne.
‘The Alan Hull (Lindisfarne) track Winter Song was suggested to me by New York radio presenter Charlie Backfish, many thanks Charlie! Both Sam Blewitt and Jesse Terryshare lead vocals and I think their voices work incredibly well together, I am planning to repeat this combination in the future’.
‘Passing Ships is a dip into the murky waters of Greek Mythology and The Girl with the Jukebox Mind was after a chance encounter with someone in New York, she definitely had the Woodstock look, she described herself as having a ‘Jukebox mind’ – a brilliant title for a song!’
‘And on the next track who is Alison Jones ? well everybody loves a mystery’.
Have you plans to take Seven Bridges out on tour ?
‘Firstly a huge thanks to all the talented musicians who have joined me in this venture and yes there was a mini tour in October finishing at The Cluny in Newcastle’.
‘Our next gig is at Birmingham Central Art Space on the 30th October supporting Dan Whitehouse, and more gigs to be announced soon so keep a look out on our social media page or check the official website’.
Ground breaking live music TV show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle upon Tyne for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987.
The show was broadcast for 90 minutes on a Friday and I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a number of shows which had a big impact on my life.
When I didn’t get tickets I’d be at home with me tea on me lap watching great performances and being introduced to different sounds and styles of music. Someone new and fresh were on every week and the show always delivered a surprise.
There was one week when a duo delivered huge power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. With only a keyboard and microphone set up on stage how loud could a synth pop duo go ?
A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.
A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet.
I mentioned the show liked to pull a surprise and someone who featured regularly on the show and tangled with some of the Tube’s Big Wigs was – insert your own description here/eccentric/circus performer/recording artist/surreal South Shields showman, whisper it quietly – Wavis O’Shave.
“When the Tube crew came back from filming me they would run straight off to Malcolm Gerrie (Producer) and tell him ‘You won’t believe what he did!’ Malcolm would reply ‘I would’.
Despite my controversial antics it didn’t stop Producer Gavin Taylor candidly telling my wife that I was the most decent person he had ever known!”
“Sometimes I would witness disputes in the Tube office like when Queen reckoned the show should pay them for a ten grand filming bill, and the show thought that they should be coughing up. I was there when Elvis Costello sent a life size photo of himself with a signed apology after he wrecked his dressing room the week before”.
One of the many faces of Wavis was The Hard, an exaggerated tough working class Geordie possibly the hardest man in the world. Other faces were Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot, Foffo Spearjig, but it was The Hard that got the show’s attention.
“During a live Christmas Eve show Muriel Gray (presenter) hit me over the head with one of those pretend bottles they use in Spaghetti westerns. I was told afterwards that she’d thought she’d killed me!”
“I told her earlier in the day to give me a right good belt and you’d better believe she did. There’s still some doubt as to whether there had been a cock up and it was a real bottle, it sounded like it, it did cut me and there was blood. The show were crapping themselves thinking ‘Insurance’. I felt nowt though”.
Wavis remembers the day he was carpeted by Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.
“The BIG boss of the show was Andrea Wonfor, a lovely lady and a huge Wavey fan. I remember when I was first given the freedom of The Tube studio. Andrea had me in her office where I was made to assure her that I would behave”.
“As you can see in her fond recollection I’d asked her – she was a big-wig at Granada at the time – if she would be ref for me in my proposed fight with Chris Eubank for Children In Need or something like that. I had the challenge put thru Chris’ letter box in Brighton but he never came back to me.”
When you were in the studio did you get along with any of the musicians, celebrities or TV crew ?
“Being anti-social and elusive I stayed clear of everyone. I guess this became part of my expected ‘image’. I couldn’t help but see a few in passing like Lemmy and Jim Diamond, but in fact I think most people were quite wary of me and would prefer I kept my distance”.
“When Paula Yates (presenter) wanted my dressing room which was nearer the stage as at the time she was pregnant, she didn’t approach me directly to ask. Think she was well wary of me. Either that or she fancied me rotten”.
“I rarely would turn up at the Friday shows despite having a VIP pass. On one such rare occasion I was invited to go over and say hello to a shy young American girl. I glanced over, and because I had this elusive but anti-social reputation I didn’t bother. Turns out it was Madonna, so I guess I can claim I blew her out”.
(Madge’s first TV performance was on The Tube broadcast from The Manchester Hacienda in 1984.)
What are your memories as The Tube finally closed up shop in 1987 ?
“The last Tube show was aired on its regular Friday slot. I was disappointed as a week before I had filmed The Hard ‘Final Felt nowt feeler’ with my missus in it but it wasn’t included. On the Sunday, when the repeat was aired, there I was edited in as a personal tribute to The Hard and his popularity on the show.
That was the very last ever Tube show not the Friday one. It’s gone missing and remains to this day the Holy Grail of lost Tube shows”.
Autoleisureland is a new project by North East musicians Dave Brewis and Paul Woods, but in the 1980s along with vocalist Martin Brammer, they were with Seaham soul trio The Kane Gang.
Originally signed to Newcastle label Kitchenware Records, they released two albums and scored UK hits in Closest Thing to Heaven, Respect Yourself and Motortown in the USA.
‘When we had London Records promo team the promotion was all over Europe and we always seemed to be going to a TV studio or Radio interview.
We were once booked on the the live BBC teatime show Crackerjack with Stu Francis, other guests were Keith Harris and his duck Orville’.
‘We made a video for most singles and filmed a couple in the USA. Looking back it happened pretty fast – it was surreal at times’ said Dave Brewis.
The Kane Gang’s existence was smack bang in the middle of The Tube’s dominance of live music programming. I asked Dave how did you get the call ?
‘The Tube production team contacted Kitchenware Records to set up special filming for the four bands that were on the labels roster – The Kane Gang, Prefab Sprout, Hurrah! and the Daintees’.
‘Each band was filmed in a different location in Newcastle. We were filmed performing Smalltown Creed in the Barn restaurant at the end of Leazes Terrace and Prefab Sprout were filmed outside the Holy Jesus Hospital on the Swan House roundabout. It was broadcast in November 1983’.
What can you remember of filming your live appearance on The Tube ?
‘In April 1984 we recorded Smalltown Creed and Closest Thing To Heaven. We used live vocals over the instrumental tracks from the finished records that we had just recorded with producer Pete Wingfield’.
‘When broadcast, the balance of the microphones on Smalltown Creed was all over the place and you couldn’t really hear Paul Woods, although it sounded fine in the studio at the time. On Closest Thing To Heaven the vocal balance was fine and the sound was good’.
‘I’d seen this happen to a couple of other bands when I was in the audience in the early days, and it seemed a peril of live TV. It wasn’t unique to Tyne Tees studio’.
‘In November ‘84 we were on live, this time with our full touring band, and the crew got an excellent sound. We did Respect Yourself and Gun Law, and I remember Al Jarreau having a crack live band including Steve Gadd, and David Sanborn was there. Afterwards we may have gone to the pub next door, certainly went to the Big Market for a curry’.
Did nerves play a part in your live appearances ?
‘With the show being live and featuring so much stuff every week we just had to be ready to go whenever we were told, so until we had been on, we couldn’t really mix or relax’.
Did you meet any other musicians backstage or in the studio ?
‘I remember Grandmaster Flash & Co. being incredibly jet-lagged and half asleep on their dressing room floor, and in the corridors. But they did a dynamite performance, it looked great. Jeffrey Osborne was really good live, too’.
‘I remember talking to Roy Wood in the green room on one show. Anyone flying home on a Friday to Newcastle from Heathrow was bound to see a few bands on board’.
You can find most of The Kane Gang performances on the official YouTube channel.