STOCKIN’ FILLERS

If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not have a butchers at these books that featured on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians but also featured authors and poets like Keith Armstrong I was interested in people like Dylan Thomas, the rhythm of his poetry. Actors like Richard Harris, hell raisers like Oliver Reed – all good role models! Yeah in my early days I loved the old bohemian lifestyle of reading poetry and getting tanked up. Order direct from Northern Voices Community Projects, 35 Hillsden Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE25 9XF.

 

More than four decades after the BBC’s iconic TV series ‘When the Boat Comes In’ was first screened, ‘Jack High’ a novel by Peter Mitchell tells the story of Jack Ford’s missing years. ‘This is a man who has found a family in war. He interacts with union men, upper crusts, politicians….all he knows is how to survive and when he see’s a chance he takes the opportunity’. ‘Jack High’ is available through Amazon.

Some authors talked about growing up in the North East, like former White Heat front man now music documentary director Bob Smeaton I was working as a welder at Swan Hunter Shipyards at the time. When punk and new wave happened around 76/77 that’s when I started thinking I could possibly make a career out of music. The doors had been kicked wide open’. ‘From Benwell Boy to 46th Beatle & Beyond’ available on Amazon or can be ordered in Waterstones, Newcastle.

Earlier this year I read a great book ‘The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy’ and got in touch with the author Vin Arthey… Newcastle born William Fisher turned out to be a KGB spy, he used the name Rudolf Abel and was jailed for espionage in the United States in 1957. He was exchanged across Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge for the American U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers. The Tom Hanks film ‘Bridge of Spies’ tells the story of how it happened. Contact Vin at varthey@gmail.com ‘I have a few pristine copies on my shelf but with p&p, it would come out at £10 more than the Amazon price’.

A big influence on my life was watching and being in the audience of ‘80s live music show The Tube, so when I got the chance to talk to former music TV producer Chris Phipps about the program, I didn’t miss the opportunity ‘As an ex-BBC producer I initially only signed up for 3 months on this unknown program and it became 5 years! I was mainly hired because of my track record for producing rock and reggae shows in the Midlands’. Chris released ‘Namedropper’ revealing backstage stories from the ground breaking show. The book is available at Newcastle City Library or through Amazon.

 Gary Alikivi   December 2019.

FAMILY AFFAIR in conversation with North East songwriter Alan Fish

Loud Guitars Playhouse 4

The Loud Guitars live at Newcastle Playhouse.

Last time I interviewed Alan (Sept.13th 2019) he talked about his time in North East band White Heat who were signed to Richard Bransons label Virgin. After they folded in ’82, The Loud Guitars were born….There was 3 of us from White Heat, me, Bob Smeaton, and Col Roberts, we decided to control everything. Fund the gigs our self and not look for management or deals. Because there was a dark cloud over the ending of White Heat we thought this self-containment idea would help clear it. Virgin eventually let us go so we had total control, it was very cathartic.

For recording we funded it all, brought in some really good players, professional and slightly younger so from a live point of view they super charged the band. We had Martin Campbell, brilliant rock guitar player,  Gary Cowey and Stu Haikney were involved early on as they had their own studio. Bob and I had songs left over from The White Heat days and really it was a very important time for us to be able to do it independently. When I look back on what I’ve done I’ve always been happier when it’s independent.

We built on the legacy of White Heat and we put out new material with professional musicians who we paid. Now that sounds obvious to pay them but it is the correct way, the job is done well and it makes for a happier work place. By the early ‘90s The Loud Guitars run their course then I made the decision that was it. From the recordings I felt we pushed the quality up from White Heat days as in that band I felt our studio output didn’t reflect what we were like live. However, we still weren’t getting a lot of radio play and I became obsessed to write and record music of a standard that would get radio play.

I took time out, this was when technology was advancing at a fair old rate and recording facilities were becoming affordable. So I invested quite a bit in new instruments, microphones and developed a skillset to record my own stuff. I set up my home demo studio where I could take the song to a certain point, essentially getting the song down in the right key, right speed, then taking it to my studio of choice, The Cluny Studios in Newcastle run by Tony Davis.

Tony is a fantastic engineer and a brilliant musician so we’ve developed a good relationship over the years where I might play a bit guitar for him on some of his recordings. A lot of North East bands would have recorded there in what is a highly competitive industry.

Att Skrs Cluny Studios with Tony Davis, Paul Liddell, Stu Haikney

In The Cluny Studio, Newcastle (left to right) Tony Davis, Paul Liddell, Alan Fish & Stu Haikney.

When did you put the Attention Seekers together ?  The concept has been around for 10 years now, it was to be primarily song writing and recording. I wanted a change from what I’d previously done because the main thrust of White Heat and Loud Guitars was live performance. In a way having the band has unified my family. When I was song writing in the studio with Bob Smeaton on the record deal after White Heat had finished, I would only do it if I could bring my wife Viv down with me. I’ve seen too much destruction with musicians and their nomadic lifestyle (laughs).

We wanted to share this experience and enhance our life together but they weren’t happy so I walked away from it. A few days later I got a call saying ‘Ok bring her down but she’ll have to cook (laughs)’. Viv came down and we enjoyed the time together. It’s always been like that since those days. We bought a people carrier to get to gigs, my daughter has played in the band and Viv’s the road manager when we go out at gigs.

I didn’t trade on the back of previous bands because Attention Seekers were so different. We didn’t want people turning up to a White Heat rock gig and end up listening to 3 acoustic players. In fact our first gig’s were on buskers nights were we tried out new material and there was no pressure. My eldest daughter was becoming a proficient violin player so she came along, my brother in law had a nice voice and had never sung live so we eased him in and that added to the busker night.

Publicans were impressed after a few songs and asked us to return and do a full gig. This was around ’98 when we started getting around the pub circuit and we adopted a very low key policy of no individuals, no front men. This attracted really good musicians who liked the non-committal feel to the band. I explained this wasn’t about a unit of a traditional band it was about bringing in the right people when they were available because they still had their main bands with regular gigs. We were getting popular on the whole circuit, places like The Magnesium Bank in North Shields, The Smugglers in Sunderland and Tyneside Irish Centre in Newcastle.

Sounds like there was more emphasis on the song rather than a band ? Yes there was I had done the live band thing which I enjoyed but if I had something with a promoter or radio it would always be labelled as The Attention Seekers. There is a consistent feel that runs through the songs. I’ve found by taking this approach local radio play has increased significantly with Paddy McDee and Julia Hankin playing us on a regular basis. St James’ Park (Newcastle United) play us because some songs have a regional feel about them.

The album ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ has  overall sound of Crowded House/Waterboys with an acoustic version of the Boomtown Rats song ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ in the middle. A strange choice compared to the other songs ? Yes playing original music can be a big ask to an audience and sometimes you’ve got to give them something back. Something familiar. We arranged it without the bombastic drama of the original with the ‘Tell me why’ sentiment slightly changed.  The audience realize what song it is by the second verse. It’s ‘Tell me why’ this is still happening because that song is nearly 40 years old. It’s talking about mass shootings in America that happened and are still happening. It’s a very difficult situation for USA to solve because of the gun laws. The American singer, Jesse Terry, gave the song another edge with his accent and we wanted to give the song an anti-gun feel. But from the beginning we know it is a very good Boomtown Rats song, the melody, the lyrics all fitted together so you knew it wasn’t going to fall apart.

How did American singer/songwriter Jesse Terry get involved in The Attention Seekers ? I was watching the TV program Tyne and Wear live and the music show ‘Cookin’ in the Kitchen’ came on. There was a great performance from Jesse on there and I wanted to pass on my comments so tracked him down. It was like serendipity, he was looking for a UK based guitarist and had checked me out on You Tube – the upshot was, would I be interested ? And I was looking for a vocalist to record with Attention Seekers – you don’t turn away from these moments so a deal was struck.

The album ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ is the result of our coming together. Jesse has quite a following in the States and get’s the songs played out there.

For more information contact the official website:

http://the-attention-seekers.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2019.

 

 

 

BURNING ON THE INSIDE with Bill Newton former guitarist of ‘80s post punk band SILENT SCREAM

Silent Scream were very much influenced by what was going on around us. There was so much fantastic music in the late 70’s and early 80’s: punk, post-punk, new wave, futurism, new romanticism, Bowie’s Berlin stuff and really fresh sounding early hip-hop and disco-pop such as Grandmaster Flash and Was (Not Was).

We all loved bands like The Only Ones, The Scars, Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Wah! Heat, Japan and The Associates.

Silent Scream were alive between ‘80-82. The line up was Stephen ‘Stesh’ Miller (vocals) Steve Newton (bass) Steve Bell (drums 80-81) Bobby Greenland (drums 81-82) and Bill Newton (guitar)…..

There was a vibrant music scene in Newcastle during the early 80’s with some excellent bands, like Deda, Rival Savages and Treatment Room. I’m surprised things didn’t explode like it did in Manchester and Liverpool. Silent Scream did attract quite a following as we were very much part of the developing new romantic/futurist scene. People came to see us to hang out, pose and be seen. The audience were an intrinsic part of the movement and were as important as the bands at that time.

When did you start gigging ? Around 1980 I had been playing guitar in a band with my brother, Steve on bass, and a friend from school, Steve Bell on drums. I met Stesh at a Chelsea punk gig in Newcastle and decided to form a band there and then.

I remember that Silent Scream had this idea of wanting to be elusive and mysterious so we only played a small handful of gigs between ‘80-81. We played our debut at Newcastle University and I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember much about this apart from being really nervous. Bauhaus had just played a storming gig at the same venue and I remember thinking, ‘How the f*** are we supposed to follow that?’

We played The Cooperage, where we were awful, Balmbras in The Bigg Market, Newcastle, twice where we were pretty good, and Rumours in Sunderland which I thought was our best gig mainly due to a sterling performance by Steve Bell on drums.

We also traveled to London to play at the renowned Moonlight Club in Hampstead as part of a showcase of North East bands. We shared the bill with Zap! and Red Performance. Stesh was sadly lost to us some years ago. He was such a creative talent. He could turn his hand to anything and was acclaimed as an influential DJ in Newcastle after Silent Scream split up. There was also talk of us supporting The Psychedelic Furs at Newcastle Mayfair on their 1980 album tour but unfortunately this fell through.

Who were your influences in music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?  Seeing Bowie perform ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972 made me want to be a musician. I’d been playing guitar pretty badly from the age of 13. Punk exploded when I was 15 and gave me that DIY ‘you-don’t-need-to-be-Carlos Santana’ confidence to explore the guitar with a different mind set.

I was massively influenced by the spiky, staccato energies of John McGeoch, Keith Levene, Will Sergeant, Wire, Gang of Four etc. Hearing Magazine’sShot By Both Sides’ in 1978 was a pretty defining moment, and my favorite album of all time is ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’.

Did the band have a manager ? We were managed by Dave Baird who was a guiding influence. He arranged gigs, studio time, photo shoots etc. Dave is still in the business today producing new music.

What were your experiences of recording ? Silent Scream recorded two demos. The first at Impulse Studios in Wallsend in 1980 with Steve Bell on drums. The cost of this would have been laughably cheap by today’s standards and we were so young and naïve. I don’t think we really knew what we were doing or how to get the most out of the experience.

Stesh had already recorded a marvelous single, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’, with his previous band, The Voice Of The Puppets so he had a bit of savvy. He was also a little bit older than the rest of us so we looked up to him.

The track list of the first demo was Deadline, Fate, All the Promise, Thin Ice, Trapped and Pantomime. Copies have mysteriously disappeared over the years and I haven’t heard it  in ages. Maybe someone reading this will have a copy.

Our second demo was recorded at Guardian Studios in Pity Me, County Durham over two days in October 1981 with Terry Gavaghan as producer. Bobby was drumming at this point and three songs were recorded. This became known simply as ‘EP’. The tracks are: The Maze, Drown and Join Together.

Did you get any press or appear on radio ? Our recorded material and gigs were well reviewed in the local press and I remember we featured in an early edition of i-D magazine. The demo was sent to various labels and was picked up by The Shadows guitarist, Bruce Welch, who loved our sound. We also had interest from various record labels. Unfortunately, before we could even negotiate any kind of deal we had split up.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  I am writing and recording under the name Psykobilly and have recorded a number of songs at Smiley Barnard’s Sunshine Corner Studios. The man himself plays drums, bass and produces. Smiley is, among others, ex-Joe Strummers Mescaleros and is currently drumming with The Alarm and Archive. I’ve released a single ‘Leave It All Behind’ and a low key, lo-fi EP ‘Social Media Influenza’ on all major digital platforms. I’m releasing my first album, with a working title of ‘Black Candle’ in early 2020.

It’s taken a long time for me to do this on my own as I don’t have much confidence in my singing voice and have produced, mixed and engineered over half of the album independently, learning on the go really. I try to write in a way that doesn’t make me easily pigeonholed or categorized. It’s broadly dark pop, but a mix of ballads, rock ‘n roll and ‘80s influenced synth pop.

I’m lucky to have the very talented Trevor Johnson working with me. Trevor has produced official videos for the songs and we like to think of our project as a way of marrying sound and image in a deeper, kind of dark cinematic style. Trevor is influenced by the Situationist movement. His visuals are an important part of my work as they bring new and challenging perspectives to the soundscape.

You can watch all of the official Silent Scream and available Psykobilly videos on You Tube. French label, The Evil Has Landed, is in the process of releasing the Silent Scream EP on vinyl although I think copies might be pretty rare. Worth checking on Discogs. The demo is also available digitally on Bandcamp

The first track on the EP, ’The Maze’, is going to be included on the marvellous compilation album series ‘Killed By Deathrock Vol. 3’ on the Sacred Bones label based in New York, USA.

There has always been an appetite for lost, hard to find and enigmatic stuff that came out in the post-punk explosion, way before the invention of smartphones and social media. The EP is pretty widely available on various YouTube channels and has almost 10,000 views.

These days of course, everything is captured and can be stored for posterity. But in 1981 it was a different story. Thank God photos and footage were taken and kept, and good people like yourself Gary are archiving some of these independent treasures from almost 40 years ago.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2019.

ALL SAID & DONE with Derek Miller from North East prog rockers CIRKUS

Out of the ashes of North East bands Moonhead and Lucas Tyson, Sunderland band Cirkus emerged on the ‘70s progressive music scene. With the right backing they were confident of achieving success on a national scale…..Every band thinks that they have something different to offer. We also had two agents at the time, Ivan Birchall who was a true professional as a booking agent, and Mel Unsworth.

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The line up was John Taylor (bass) Stu McDade (drums & vocals) Paul Robson (vocals) Dogg (guitar) & Derek Miller (keyboards)…..We played all the usual clubs and were lucky to play the University gigs. The University audiences gave us the benefit of the doubt but the club audiences were unsure how to react to our set. We opened with ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ a King Crimson song. Incidentally we got our name from one of their tracks. In fact on several occasions we didn’t even get to the bridge and were ‘paid off’ on a regular basis (laughs).

 In 1974 the band went into Sound Associates/Emison & Air Studios in London. What was your experience of recording ? We were encouraged by the reaction to our songs from Ken McKenzie. He owned the studios where we had demoed our songs. This resulted in a fight for our signature between songwriters and producers, Dave Dee, Mickie Most and Chinn & Chapman. Finally we signed up with a guy called Robin Britten who was manager of The Hollies. But this is where it all went pear shaped.

We were already earmarked by Chinn & Chapman for the project known as Smokie, but Britten intercepted negotiations and we recorded the album Cirkus One, incorporating Beatles producer Ron Richards and Tony Hymas. The album included orchestral arrangements, a 32 piece orchestra and chorus.

What did you think of the album ? It’s a good album but some of the mixes are questionable and poor old Ron was struggling. But timing is everything. We seemed to be doing alright on a retainer and with our own apartment in Central London, but as Britten was about to hand over the over produced and over engineered concept album, The Sex Pistols were telling everyone to ‘eff off’. And prog rock was dead.

Britten lost a small fortune and failed miserably trying to get it off the ground. Anyone that has been sacked will relate to this. I still remember being called into the office and having that sinking feeling ‘Is he talking about us?

How did you handle this situation ? Our bassist John Taylor, with his unstinting optimism suggested we all return to the North East and regroup. This idea was a bit of a sickener as I had just set up in London and got a job at RCA records. The ultimatum was return to Geordieland or be replaced. For reasons I find hard to understand now, I hired a transit van and returned.

Did you have any nightmare gigs where everything just went wrong ? We had a couple. Namely the Marquee in London where there was loads of reps from record companies to see us. What happened was that the pa actually ‘blew up’ and we couldn’t continue. Then there was the time our manager Robin Britten was trying to sell the band so he chartered a private plane to fly to a gig in the North East, Ashington Central to be precise. It was a nightmare flight, with sick bags being handed around. We done the gig but we were awful. Not a great way to sell the band.

On another occasion we invited Mike Chapman (songwriter/producer) up to see the band at the Londonderry Hall in South Shields. It didn’t start well as Chapman arrived at Sunderland station and walked into the glass doors, he was expecting them to be automatic. We thought it was funny, he didn’t. He wondered what sort of hell he had walked into when a police car was overturned and set on fire – just a normal Saturday night in Shields….in the end the gig was cancelled (laughs).

By ‘75 lead vocalist Paul Robson left to be replaced by Alan Roadhouse (ex Halfbreed) who also played sax….Yes along comes Alan, multi-instrumentalist, singer and larger than life character. Exactly what was needed to kick start Cirkus the club band.
Paul and Alan were both great vocalists in their own right. Alan had a certain flamboyance which the club audiences lapped up. He also played sax and flute. This allowed us to tackle all sorts of covers from Gerry Rafferty to Moody Blues. We became a live juke box.

We rehearsed all week and had a new song nailed by the weekend. We had a winning formula that continued for several years. The highlight of the first set was an explosion of pyrotechnics at the end. It worked like a dream scaring the sh** out of most people. Especially when sparks landed in the bingo machine and set fire to it. In the end we had to pay for a new machine (laughs). One highlight was watching the roadies trying to use a foot pump to inflate our blow up doll ‘Melissa’ by the end of the song (laughs).

Everything seemed to be hunky dory then ? Yeah at this time we were still writing new material. We recorded a couple of our own songs, Amsterdam, Pick up a Phone, and Melissa. We performed them live and mixed them in with the covers in the set. The EP sold well and we recouped our outlay.

By the early ‘80s ‘ I’m On Fire’ was featured on a Battle Of The Bands album but this proved to be the final offering from Derek…We were deciding if we should invest the proceeds into a new EP or divvy up the dosh. John, Stu and Dogg thought it was a good idea to divvy up and that was the beginning of the end for me… I decided to leave the band.

In my opinion we were going nowhere. We were repeating ourselves and going back to the same clubs every 3 months. I think the lads kept going for a few years after I left and I lost touch with the band.

But you know looking back over the years we were lucky to be able to recruit some of the most talented guitarists, like Keith Satchfield of Fist. Yes there was some hiccup’s along the way but we did have some brilliant gigs. We did a series in Holland where the Dutch people seemed to like our original music, tho’ it might have been what they were consuming (laughs).

We had some great gigs in the clubs as well. At one time we were gigging 8 shows a week, 2 on Sunday. My dad, who was horrified when I packed my job in at the Shields Gazette, was immensely proud to see the queues round the block on a Saturday night. Other bands around at the time were Geordie, Goldie, Burlesque and The Piranha Brothers, that was the peak of the club land scene in the North East.

The 1990’s saw sporadic releases from the band with ‘Cirkus II The Global Cut’ and only Derek Miller featuring from the original line-up. Then in ‘98 the much anticipated third Cirkus album ‘Pantomyne’ was released. This brought together original members and main songwriter, Stu McDade and featured cameo performances by an array of other musician’s most notably former frontman Alan Roadhouse. How did these recordings happen ? I wanted to record some new material so I built a little recording studio. I was working with a new singer called Ian Wetherburn, who I thought had a great voice and also looked the part. We put an experimental album together and Audio Archives picked up on this and decided to distribute the cd. It was basically demos but I decided to release it anyway. We pressed 500 copies and as with Cirkus One is highly collectable.
Off the strength of the Global Cut album I met up with Stu McDade and we decided to pool our resources and record a new album. Pantomyme was the result and again Audio Archives agreed to distribute.

For different reasons we lost touch until about 3 years ago when we decided to record some new material. Sadly in 2016 we lost Stu, leaving some unfinished tracks. With a brand new set of talented musicians, we managed to finish the tracks and also add some new ones. ‘The Blue Star’ album was released in June 2017 and is dedicated to Stu.

BLUE

Can you bring the Cirkus story up to date ? The new line up bears little resemblance to the original band as we have morphed so much over the years and Cirkus V is the new band. Now we have Mick Maughan (guitars, vocals, production)
Nick L Mao, (vocals, guitar, production)
Brian Morton (bass) Dave Ramshaw (vocals)
Paul Moose Harris (vocals) and me on keyboards.

On the back of the success of The Blue Star album comes Trapeze. We all record remotely passing tracks back and forth with someone ultimately doing the final mix. The tracks are all written by the band and as we speak the album is nearly finished.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.

 

 

HOWAY THE LADS in conversation with North East songwriter Alan Fish

In 2016 representatives from Newcastle United were looking to recreate a new version of The Blaydon Races that would capture the fan’s imagination. Rob Byron the announcer at St James’ Park had been playing some pre – match tracks by The Attention Seekers, so got in touch with the songwriter Alan Fish….The version of Blaydon Races that they’d been playing for the past 20 years had originally been copied from vinyl so the quality wasn’t great. Rob asked if I was interested in coming up with a new version. The biggest challenge was every version I heard was a jolly, lightweight novelty song and sitting playing it on guitar or piano just added to that, The song didn’t have any of the dynamics that fans give it!

With Rob Byron St. James'

Alan (left) with match announcer at St James’ Park, Rob Byron.

What was your initial idea about recording a new version of the song ? At the games we attended during the research phase of the project it was evident that the fans rarely sing the song, so what I wanted was to reach back to the nostalgia of how I heard it back when I first started going to the matches and try to create a fan’s version.

I’m thinking back to 1968 in the Leazes End covered stand where it sounded really powerful and loud like through a loudspeaker. You would get to the match early to get your place and sing with all the other fans, it was a real communal thing and helped pass the time before kick-off. Now people can walk in 5 minutes before because they know they have their seat.

How did you put your idea into practice ? I had a chat with representatives of the club and they wanted a single voice to create a sense of unity and pride, Rob added that the fans only sing one verse, I thought this is going to be short then (laughs). But it was one of those 4am thoughts when I got the idea how I was going to put it together, not have one voice but 50,000 voices as one. That’s where the challenge was, to make it sound like that.

I contacted sports radio stations to see if any audio of the fans singing the song without being contaminated by the match commentary existed. One person got back to me, Chris Watson used to be in a Sheffield electronica band called Cabaret Voltaire, now he’s a top sound engineer who has worked with everyone including Sir David Attenborough. With him living up here now, he had taken sound gear into the ground and got loads of recordings. I bought quite a bit of audio off him. Chris is also a big NUFC fan!

I also set up an evening where members of fan clubs Wor Hyem 1982 and Gallowgate Flags came to a pub and we recorded them singing The Blaydon Races. Then back in the studio, to build the track we mixed in the audio from Chris Watson’s ‘Toon Army’ chants, referee whistles, cheers, goals, crowd reactions….. in place of conventional instrumentation. We then added Stu’s tribal drumming.

All of this was to stay away from the jolly, comedy feel. However listening back it still didn’t sound how I wanted, so we then asked for full access to the Stadium and pitch side areas in order to pump the track through the St James’ sound system, then re- record the mixes of the fans singing, from different areas of the stadium. RESULT! Sounded great!

Originally the club wanted Jason Isaacs to sing it, he’s like the Michael Buble of the North (laughs). We met up and got on well and agreed we needed someone to lead the song, but this was going to be a fan’s version not a celebrity version so I asked him not to sing it but be ‘five pints in’ belting it out (laughs). He loved the idea ‘I go to the match and sing along so it’s no problem’. He done a brilliant job and belted it out like a fan – five pints in!

How do you feel about the song now ? It’s still being played at St James’ and I see it as an ongoing project which I can add to. Using photos and visuals of matches from past to present is an idea I’ve been looking at, and how The Blaydon Races has been sung at matches over the years. I would love to have recordings of The Blaydon Races from the 50’s, 60’s, 70s…. to mix in to the track and create an audio/visual exhibition. (anybody out there with any recordings?)

Stu Haikney was my co-producer on this and he’s done a brilliant job. Stu is also a big Newcastle fan and we felt it had to be right. We wanted to get it to transition from a music hall song to a real football chant. We wanted the true authentic sound of fans singing at St. James’ Park and not take the easy option of using a ‘stadium simulation’ studio plug- in. Football fans spot that sort of thing a mile off (laughs).

It’s like a call to arms, a Northern anthem which captures the tribal spirit of the beautiful game and the roars at St James’ on a match day.

More stories soon from Alan about The Loud Guitars and current band The Attention Seekers.

For further info contact the official website

the-attention-seekers.co.uk 

where the track is available as a download/stream on Spotify, Amazon & iTunes.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.

ALL HANDS ON DECK – interview with North Tyneside musician Aaron Duff from Alt-folk rock band HECTOR GANNET

After recently signing a deal with Wipe Out music publishing and supporting fellow North Shields musician Sam Fender, Aaron and fellow band members, Jack Coe (drums), Joe Coady (bass) and Martin Wann (guitar/korg) need all hands on deck as they prepare to release their first single ‘All Hail, All Glory’. The track sounds not quite ‘War on Drugs’ but easily nestles alongside ‘The Maccabees’, it has a release date of November 15th, a huge significance to songwriter Aaron Duff…..It marks the 51st anniversary of the sinking of the Hector Gannet. It was the name of a stern trawler that my Grandad sailed on. The boat was working as a support vessel for gas and oil rigs off the Great Yarmouth coast. In November 1968 there was a blowout on the Hewitt A rig and while attempting to rescue workers from the drilling platform, the bad weather caused the Hector Gannet to capsize, tragically resulting in the loss of three crew members. Thankfully my Grandad survived the disaster and is still alive to tell the tale. For me, the name means a lot, and sort of symbolises my heritage in a way.

23 year old Aaron also writes and performs solo. In 2017 he wrote an original music score to be performed alongside archive film footage of North East England. Ironically the film contained footage of his grandfather and other family members working at sea…. Like most people from the North East, I’m very proud of the place and the people that I come from.

When did you first start playing guitar and who were your influences ? I can’t ever remember not being interested in music. There was a guitar in the house that I’d pick up from time to time but it wasn’t until I was about ten that I started to actually learn the instrument.

I’ll listen to anything that’s played with conviction. The Clash were a massive band for me growing up. Their sentiment is something I completely latched onto. Their attitude and their ideology, I’ll stick by it for life.

Today people have described my music as Alt Rock/Folk. There’s a lot of folk influence in there, the likes of Lindisfarne/Alan Hull are huge local heroes for me and I’m influenced by artists like Dylan, CSN&Y, The Band etc.

But my heavier influences lie with bands like The Pixies, without doubt one of my favourites. There are current artists that I find inspiring too, Courtney Barnett has to be my favourite at the moment. Just brilliant song writing. Genius lyrics, really catchy.

Does your song writing happen quickly or take time for the lyrics and music to come together ?  Most of the time it starts with a subject but it has to be real to me. I suppose it goes back to that ‘Clash’ mentality. I have to write about things that really mean something to me, that I’m passionate about, enough to want to share with the world. Hopefully that way they’ll mean something to other people too. Sometimes it can happen straight away, sometimes it can take an age. I’ll sit for hours messing about on guitar and sometimes a tune will come out of it, then I’ll come up with some lyrics to fit in around it and the melody evolves around them.

What’s your thoughts on crowdfunding ? Some highly regarded artists use it, not just little known ones like us. It has its place, and a lot of artists have used it successfully. There’s always the worry that it won’t work or people won’t invest, but that’s the same with releasing your music anyway, people will invest time and money listening, or they won’t.

New single ‘All Hail, All Glory’ is released on November 15th 2019.

The band are due to support Sam Fender again in December 2019. For further information check the social media contacts:

https://www.facebook.com/hectorgannet/

https://twitter.com/HectorGannet

https://www.instagram.com/hectorgannet/

Or the official website: https://hectorgannet.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.

 

 

 

 

THE FIXER – in conversation with former Impulse Studio and Neat Records owner David Wood

The next person to feature on this blog was owner of probably the most influential independent heavy metal record label in the 1980’s, a label that spawned Chief Headbangers Raven and Venom, who were major influences on the multi-million selling Americans, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeath.

So what was he like ? Was he the Don Arden of Tyneside ? Am I to be flown out by private jet to a yacht on the French Riviera or picked up by a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce and driven off to an exclusive restaurant ? Sadly no, it was just a misty September morning when I nipped on a ferry, crossed the river Tyne and taken to a café in North Tyneside by a man wearing a fez.

What or who inspired you to start Impulse Studio ? When I left school I ended up as a Park Keeper in Wallsend Park then found a half decent job as a Technical Assistant at Proctor and Gamble. I was there for 3 year, it was well paid at £11 a week so I had a few quid to go out on a Friday night with me mates, but I couldn’t see myself staying there. For a 21st birthday present off my parents I was given a ticket to go to America on the Queen Mary.

While sightseeing in New York I came across this recording studio called Talent Masters. I went in and got talking to a guy who worked there called Chris Huston. I found out he used to be guitarist in The Undertakers from Liverpool. They had a hit record but he left the UK to be a tape technician in the studio. I’d always liked music, my instrument is the piano while not much of a player, but was really interested in this studio.

So when I returned home on the Queen Elizabeth ship I began to play around with a bit of sound recording. At that time a teenagers club was open in The Borough Theatre in Wallsend called The Manhole. This was around 1966 and people were listening to The Beatles and locally The Animals had made their name. It was a great meeting place was The Manhole, graphics painted on the walls, flower power you know, and a lot of good bands played there. That’s where I really got interested in the music scene. There was a similar place in Tynemouth called The Cave which was underneath The Gate of India Restaurant. (There was also a teenagers club in Beach Road, South Shields called The Cellar Club run by Stan Henry and his mother. Stan later opened The Latino and The New Cellar Club where Cream and Jimi Hendrix played).

cellaradvert

Advert for the opening of The New Cellar Club, South Shields. Taken from The Shields Gazette December 1967.

Yes I used to go to The Cellar. I’d drive to the ferry at Howdon, get on there with my car, you could in them days, then get off at Jarrow. It was a great building I think it was in the basement of their house where Stan’s mother ran the club. South Shields and Sunderland had their own places to run music from, it was great. I ended up doing some work for Stan, we ended up doing his sound equipment and for a lot of other people to keep the business ticking over.

In the Manhole club I met a band called The Chosen Few, and in them were Alan Hull, Alan ‘Bumper’ Brown on bass, singer was Rod Hood, guitarist I think was John Gibson and keyboards was Micky Gallagher who eventually played for The Blockheads, and he’d also played in The Animals when Alan Price left. They were really good and had a recording contract with PYE records. They recorded down in the West End of London at Radio Luxembourg studios. They put a couple of singles out.

Going back to The Manhole Club, that just shut one day and never reopened. I don’t know why maybe someone out there knows something about that. The Borough Theatre was built in 1906, it was a music hall at first, then a cinema, then a bingo hall. I got to know the manager and asked him for some space to run a studio. The studio was in the dressing room and the entrance to the studio was through the old stage door. There was a little booth where the doorman would of sat, well before our time (laughs).

How did you develop the space into a recording studio ? Literally built it up from scratch Gary, it took years to get it all done. At first we used egg boxes for sound proofing then bricked up all the windows. Anything was used for padding because we never had enough money then and at first we only had a mono then a stereo studio. We then purchased a 4 track, then an 8 track, eventually a 24 track machine but this was done over 10 or 12 years. This was all by the 1980’s and by then we had the run of all the building and moved the studio to the top floor, which wasn’t very popular with the bands as we had no lift. Eventually Impulse Studios were on all 3 floors.

What bands did you record and who did you get in as sound engineer ? One day I bumped into Alan Hull (Lindisfarne) by then The Chosen Few had split up, he was working as a nurse at St Nicholas Mental Hospital and still writing songs so I invited him down to record some. Impulse at that time recorded local bands. We were a progressive studio and probably recorded most people in the region who sang and played at one time in their careers. Everything then was recorded onto quarter inch tape. At that time we started to organise pressing records.

Sound engineer was Micky Sweeney, a great character, really popular with everyone. I used to do some recording as well. Micky ended up working with Lindisfarne who were born in the studio because it was there that Alan Hull got together with various members of Downtown Faction. They played together and got to know each other and it all came together.

You recorded an album with North East comedian Bobby Thompson, how did that come about ? I knew his manager Brian Shelley and he said Bobby is doing really well around the clubs do you fancy recording him ? I thought yeah we’ll give it a go. So we recorded him in Rhyope Poplars Club and Newcastle Mayfair. This was around 1978. It was around an hours recording that we put out and got Vaux breweries to sponsor it, ironically Bobby didn’t drink then and there he was on a promo poster with a pint of beer.

Soon as we put the record out it took off, they couldn’t get enough off it, straight to number one in the local charts. Every shop was selling bucket loads. It was phenomenal. Nobody could of appreciated the way it took off like it did, he even appeared on the Wogan show. But his humour didn’t travel well, he was shy of being in other places but up here in the North East he was absolutely fantastic. He could relate to the man in the street up here – the debt, the poverty, the wife and the war, he was incredible really.

With the label doing well, was Bobby responsible for Neat records ? Ha ha well with the profits from Bobby the studio came on in leaps and bounds in no time at all, so yeah we’ve got to thank him for it. We started Neat records as an alternative to what we were doing. A couple of early singles and one by a band called Motorway which was pop, not heavy metal, then a song by Jayne McKenzie written and engineered by Steve Thompson. Then Tygers of Pan Tang, Raven and Fist came along and suddenly we’ve got what became a New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Venom added to that and before we knew it we’ve built up a library of metal records.

Was there any rivalry between the top four North East metal bands – Fist, Raven, Venom and the Tygers ? Ha ha yeah they probably hated each other. No, listen, musicians are very much their own people you know. I don’t blame them. If they are the guitarist they are a ‘great guitarist’, you can’t perform in front of a dozen, hundreds, or thousands of people if you haven’t got an ego. You couldn’t stand on stage if you are a wimp, you’ve got to have something about ya – and they all do.

For Venom, first gig they played was at a church hall in Wallsend and they decided to have pyrotechnics and smoke. That all went off at the start and that’s the last we saw of the band for the whole set – they were playing behind a screen of smoke.

Did you deal with any managers or did the bands represent themselves ? I dealt with Raven directly but some of the bands had managers. One of them was a butcher (laughs) then Venom ended up with Eric Cook who really worked hard for them.  He was very enthusiastic and got a lot of things going for them. Thing was he had no experience but nobody else did really with this New Wave of Heavy Metal, it was all new. And that is something to remember about that whole scene, they were trying to play and we were trying to market, we (Neat) were all on the same level. We were balancing the recording, arranging tours, marketing, it was all interesting times, sort of in development, and some nightmare situations.

How did recording on the Neat label work for bands ? We did singles at first and they were tasters trying to get some interest, get picked up by bigger labels, that sort of thing. Some of them would end up on compilation lp’s later and some of the early Neat stuff were the demos. The first Raven album went into the national charts which was a surprise to all of us. But that was the progress we were trying to make.

How did Tygers of Pan Tang end up on MCA record label ? MCA were interested in the Tygers first single and put it out on their label which put the Tygers in a position to sign an album deal. Through their enquiries I got to know Stuart Watson who was head of A&R so I took the whole Neat project to MCA. They ended up recording albums by Fist and White Spirit. But MCA didn’t get their teeth into what we were doing so it all came back to us. It could have gone further but major companies are looking for big numbers, they didn’t want to sell 5,000 albums they wanted to sell 50,000 albums. We would have been happy to sell 1,000!

If you did sell that many how would the profit be used ? It would all go in the kitty, we wanted to progress the studio and the label – but we didn’t have any Lamborghini’s you know.

How did the label work for Raven ? We ended up doing 3 albums with them and took them to America and worked with Johnny Z at Megaforce Records based in New Jersey. They did some touring over there and Neat were managing the band at the time, paying them a retainer every week. When they came back the band had signed with the Americans. ‘Thanks for telling us’ I said, but hey that’s all in the past and we came to an agreement to release I think a live album over there.

Was that the bands natural progression to go to a bigger label ? Yes I suppose that’s fair comment to say that. We had gone as far as we could as basically a smaller outfit. I liked the band, I liked the idea of a 3 piece because it makes it easier to ship around. A 5 piece band can be much more challenging to get around on tour and in the studio.

Did the label have contacts to sell records in other countries ? We tried to get like-minded people in European countries, Holland, Italy etc, to do that but sometimes it was hard. A lot of time was spent trying to get it up and running but perhaps the label never reached it’s full potential. We sold to local record shops in the North East but a good outlet was actually mail order.

How does it work for a band if they released a single in say 1980 and the track ends up on a compilation album years later ? All the contracts were given over to Sanctuary and they had a section to deal with all the necessary releases.

What were Neat paying for as in terms of recording and tours ? We would put money up for tours and we once bought a tour bus for Fist, which was a big mistake cos it got wrecked inside. Their first single was ‘Name, Rank & Serial Number’ and ‘The Wanderer’ came much later, Status Quo ended up doing that, sounding very similar. Doing a more commercial song is a way in. Again I liked Fist and thought they had great potential, Keith Satchfield is a great singer and songwriter.

But just managing it all, controlling it all was a nightmare. There wasn’t a bottomless pit to fund it and you just try your best with the resources. What was surprising about bands playing in the UK was there wasn’t many chances to play on the big festivals, England was a hard place to play. America and Europe was mainly where the market was. I remember Holland was a good place for the bands to go.

Neat released a lot of singles would that have put the label in a good position ? Yes it helped the studio, marketing etc when the next single or album come along to record and promote.

Was there a time when Neat weren’t in a good position ? Yes often, I remember one time a band wanted to go on tour and it was £4,000. A lot to lay out because you don’t get it back cos the band don’t make much playing live. There was a lot of costs involved with going on the road.

When did Neat records fold ? Jess Cox (former Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist) got involved and we set up a separate label called Neat Metal, we put a different catalogue together, started licencing from different labels – a different approach to it. At one time we didn’t have any of the original Neat stuff on the catalogue. Eventually Sanctuary Records came in for the label and did some re-releases. A lot of independent labels have been moved around over the years.

With that I checked my watch and time was getting on so we agreed to meet up again soon where Dave will tell more stories about Impulse Studio including Cilla Black, Joan Armatrading and Sir Lawrence Olivier.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2019.

 

HEED’S DOON – with John Gallagher from Chief heabangers RAVEN

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 !

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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.

 

DIRECT ACTION – with TV/Media director & producer Chris Cowey.

On Tyne Tees programme ‘Check it Out’ broadcast in 1979, presenters Chris Cowey and Lynn Spencer interviewed punk band Public Image Limited featuring ex Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten (Lydon). The piece also featured Mond Cowie from Angelic Upstarts….Firstly, Mond Cowie isn’t related to me, his name is the rich branch of the family, like Sir Tom, with an ie rather than my Durham pit yakker spelling of ey. Mond is a top bloke and a damn good guitar player. Angelic Upstarts were an underrated band I reckon.

 


The infamous PIL chat was my first live studio interview and a real baptism of fire. I was and remain a big fan of Lydon and his music. The whole pantomime was their way of getting themselves noticed and being in the press, which sells records. The programme of course was instrumental, even complicit, and the interview with Mond was designed to wind them up. I was, as you can tell from the clip, just a teenager and thought I was going to have the shortest TV career ever, but a lot of people realised that and sympathised with me.

Did you think any live interview could potentially be a ‘career finisher’ ? I was kind of numbed by the whole thing. But a sort of survival instinct kicks in, the fact that viewers and press backed me made me feel better, but I still would rather have had a proper discussion, rather than a childish strop.

My memory of the show is that the band had got themselves really relaxed by the time the studio session started, and they were ready to do their usual argumentative schtick, but were out manoeuvred this time. The point of the interview, which gets lost in the aggro, was that they’d just brought out their ‘Metal Box’ album, which was a set of 12-inch singles in an elaborate film-tin type of packaging.
It was hugely expensive, and very designer chic for someone who was supposed to be so street, Anyway everyone won, they sold records, the Check It Out show was on the map, and I did about seven series of it. It was a combination of Check It Out and the music show Alright Now that prompted Channel 4 to commission The Tube, which of course PIL appeared on too, and I had a fabulous five years making the show.

Alright Now, Check it Out, The Tube – why did the North East have a reputation to produce good music shows ? Tyne-Tees already did some good old entertainment shows before my time, like Geordie Scene or What Fettle, but they were obsessed about their ‘Geordieness’. The Tube and all those shows you mentioned really wasn’t, it was all about good music, because we were music-obsessed. It also had a great blend of old school time served TV people, blended with new people with fresh ideas, and a kind of irreverence which all blended and came out in those shows.
Having said that it was really important that it came from the North-East because of the passion and the swagger and the total commitment. It’s not just that Geordies like showing off (although they undoubtedly DO!) it’s because the history and attitude of the region can be really inspiring, creative and hugely fun. It really breaks my heart to see what’s happened, not only to Tyne Tees, but a load of gigs and venues, clubs and pubs across the whole area. I have an unshakable belief that it will rise again though…. don’t get me started though!

When did you first get interested in music and what was your first TV break ? I was always obsessed with music and did school discos in the hall every lunchtime. When I was 17 and doing my A-levels I lied about my age and got a couple of jobs DJ’ing in nightclubs, the biggest of which was The Mecca in Sunderland. It was a great learning curve for me, with a vast range of music from funk to metal. There were some amazing live bands too, Ian Gillan, Tom Robinson, Crown Heights Affair – check them out if it’s before your time! There was live music just about every night I worked, I was bitten by the live music thing. I was also into Drama/Theatre/acting which led to my TV break I guess.
My mentor was Malcolm Gerrie, who a lot of people will remember from his Tyne-Tees days. He’d been my English and Drama teacher from my Comprehensive school, and he suggested I audition for Check It Out. A lot of the same gang of music fans were the nucleus of Check It Out, Alright Now, The Tube, TX45. Razzmatazz, production teams. It was a real blend of old school Tyne-Tees TV expertise and young whippersnappers like me. That’s how it worked so well, we had a good run, but I could see it was going to dry up, so I bailed just before The Tube ended, because I knew it was going to be the last series.

Is entertainment in your family ? My family all worked down coal mines, and some in breweries! I was very lucky that I had an older sister and brother who bombarded me with pop and rock music from an early age. Also my school was a real proper comprehensive that did ‘Tommy’ and ‘Stardust rather than Shakespeare or Gilbert & Sullivan. My school was amazing, great teachers, a radio station, school discos, drama, music, it really help to shape my future. Just a regular comprehensive in a little County Durham former mining village. I loved Ryhope… I still miss it.

Lately I’ve interviewed North East bands Tygers of Pan Tang and White Heat and soon will be chatting to Dave Woods (Impulse Studio/Neat records). Did you come across any of them ? Yeah I knew all that bunch. They really did create a strong identity for the Newcastle music landscape. The city is world renowned as a major centre for good old fashioned rock’n’roll, and there’s nowt wrong with that.

Dave Woods is a North East music legend, we made many a film and studio show with his bands….a film about Venom is a fond memory. He was a really important figure in Newcastle’s rich musical history and heritage, and should be very proud of his achievements.

 

What differences did you find working at Tyne Tees then going to Top of the Pops, and how did that job come about ?  The BBC came and poached me to take over Top Of The Pops after I made a C4 show called The White Room, which was like a stripped down version of The Tube in some respects. It wasn’t trying to re-create The Tube though, it was much more how I thought Top Of The Pops should be if it wasn’t so weighed down by it’s own traditions.
So when I got to the BBC as Executive Producer and director of the world’s biggest music show, I gave it a massive kick up the jaxi, and it worked. It went from a show on the verge of being axed, to a huge national and international success, and I didn’t have any of my mates with me for once, (except Big Clive).

It was great fun and I’m really proud of what I achieved there. I loved working at the BBC too. Massively different in many ways from Tyne-Tees, but I put together a diverse production team again, and made it a happy show, which is critical I think. I did it for six years, but the BBC’s ambitions for the show weren’t the same as mine, so we parted company. The show sadly died after my successor turned it into a kids show again!

Was there a magic moment during your career when you had the feeling that ‘This is where I should be’ ? Yeah, loads of times! Doing Top Of The Pops, The Brit Awards, Glastonbury, The Tube, The White Room…. when there’s an amazing talent on stage, and I’m directing a load of cameras, having booked the act and devised the whole shebang….I get huge job satisfaction from that. I get paid for doing something that it’s a privilege to be involved in. I’m a very lucky lad.

Can you think of a couple of memorable moments in your career and also a nightmare situation where things just went wrong ?  Memorable moments? SO many. The Foo Fighters, working with David Bowie, particularly the banter we had in New York. Or freaking Beyoncé out by taking a Concorde trip to see her. I could go on for hours with stories and bore you to death. Not all good though, I had a bit of a tiff with George Michael, told Ricky Martin to F**k Off with his Persian Rug, and many a drinking session that seemed like a good idea at the time.

 

What you are doing now Chris ? I’m still doing the same thing really, music, events, tv. The business has changed radically in my time, and I’ve diversified into all sorts of areas. A lot of things go straight to Facebook or YouTube these days, but I’m still keen on regular broadcast tv, both here in the UK but also around the world, and there’s always something in development. I’ve even directed video games and London West-End theatre, hi-tech, 3-D, holograms, all sorts really. I love new challenges and to keep learning new skills. Of course my heaven would be to make a new music show, so watch this space!

For further information contact Chris at    http://www.chriscowey.tv

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2019.

GROUND ZERO – in conversation with Bri Smith & Bob Rowland from Tyneside punks THE FAUVES

The Ground Zero for Punk on Tyneside was 1977. For many kids there was no work, no hope and no future as the Queen drove by celebrating her Silver Jubilee. The only highlight that summer was when the King came to town – Muhammed Ali had his wedding blessed. But on one notorious night at the Civic Hall in Jarrow, a major turf war descended into chaos. It was a night that changed lives.

Out of the ashes came a band that signified all the anger and frustration on Tyneside. We know the story of the main protagonists, the Angelic Upstarts went on to Top of the Pops, gigs in New York and notoriety. But what happened to the others who were on stage that night ? First we need to go back and find out who lit the fuse of punk. On the east coast of USA the sound of raw guitar driven rock n roll was making a noise, and the UK was listening.……

Bri: It all seemed to happen so quickly. After listening to rock music in the early 70s Hodge, an old school mate introduced me to The Stooges, MC5, Ramones etc That stuff knocked me out. Hodge, who was learning to play guitar, was down London when the punk scene kicked off. He came back to Shields and told us about this punk thing happening down there with bands like the Pistols, Damned and The Clash. Another school mate Ski invited me round to his house to listen to the Pistols single ‘Anarchy in the UK’. It was so good we played it 10 times. Ski knew I had a bass, he had some drums, so we had an idea to start a band

One Friday night we met in the Mermaids Tale a pub in Shields, Mensi was always in there and we had a good bit crack with him about the punk scene that was kickin’ off. We arranged to go to Seaburn Hall near Sunderland to see The Jam. They were absolutely brilliant. Then we saw The Clash on the White Riot tour those two bands really influenced us. We saw lots of other bands around that time but those two stood out. So that was it, we all said ‘Let’s get this band together’. Hodge called the band the Upstarts and Mensi added the Angelic bit.

(The Jam played the Seaburn Hall on 17th June 1977, £1.00 entry. Price for act was £670. Vibrators & Penetration played 1st July £1.00 entry and on the bill for 8th July were The Saints & Straw Dogs £1.00 entry. Taken from the excellent book ‘A Promoters Tale – Rock at the Sharp End’ by Geoff Docherty with a forward by John Peel).

Bri: There was a DJ from Shields called Billy Cooper and he used to run disco’s around the town. He had a disco at Jarra’ Civic Hall and arranged for us to play our first gig there. A week beforehand some of the band and friends checked out the venue to see what gear was needed but when the lads got to the hall a gang attacked them. Next day The Shields Gazette reported that our mate Skin Brown had to get four stitches above his eye. At first we thought about calling it off but we said stuff it, and went ahead with the gig.

Bob: It was reported that they were attacked cos the way they dressed. What people forget is at that time if you walked around dressed like a punk you got filled in. If you had straight drainpipe pants and short spikey hair you got a strange look.

Bri: On the night of the gig the place was packed – you could say there was a bit of an atmosphere when we arrived. It was the Angelic Upstarts first and only gig with the line-up of Tommy Mensforth up front, Col Hodgson and Mond Cowie on guitars, Leon Slawinski on drums, John Halliday on sax and me on bass. You couldn’t hear the sax much that night but I can remember Hal wearing a white boiler suit. The place was packed full of Jarra lads we also brought a big squad up from Shields.

During our set Skin Brown turned Hodge’s guitar up really loud so Mond pulled his lead out and Hodge walked off stage. Then the fighting broke out. It ended up a riot because of the previous trouble. I spotted me mate Kev Charlton in the audience and pulled him out. We got most of the Shields lads backstage cos they were getting battered off the Jarra’s. It looked like they had it all planned. Next day word got round and the whole night and band became more notorious with the punk and violence thing. We weren’t asked back.

After that gig Mensi and Mond went down a different path, got signed to big record labels and lived in London. Our band The Fauves were formed and we played mostly in the North East but were finished around 81. Nowadays Hal lives in Los Angeles he’s a top film producer and Ski lives in Spain, he’s an electrical engineer.

Who were your early influences in music ?

Bob: We knew each other from the shipyards, we were apprentices together. I had been playing in other bands for a few years so it was good to hear Bri was in a band looking to do something. By then I’d heard the Damned and The Clash and thought they were amazing. It changed peoples consciousness of you didn’t have to sit and play in your bedroom for four years until you were a virtuoso. It’s a cliché but put three chords together and make a band, then it is all about getting the confidence to put a band together.

Bri:  I was into the rock scene but the Stooges, Ramones, Clash etc really influenced me in the early days. Kev Charlton (Hellanbach/Bessie & the Zinc Buckets) was living next door. I was always buying records Kev was never away from the door ‘Can I borrow this, can I borrow that’ ya knaa. Then when I got a bass he was around again, knocking on my door ‘Right I’m getting one of them’ (laughs). We used to blast out records and play guitars in my bedroom. This was maybe around ‘75 or ‘76 just before the punk scene. We had a great time when we were young ‘un’s, listening to music constantly. Kev’s not a bad bass player now, he’s left me for dead hasn’t he (laughs).

In the early days where did the Upstarts rehearse ?

Bri: We started rehearsing at The Dougie Vaults in Shields, we got chucked out so we went to the West Park pub and they chucked us out as well. This was a time when people didn’t want anything to do with punk you know, we ended up rehearsing in Percy Hudson Youth Club. In the early days Hal (John Halliday) and Mensi wrote most of the lyrics and everyone mucked in with the riffs. Hodge (Col Hodgson) was struggling a bit on guitar so Mensi brought Mond Cowie in. That’s when we started rehearsing a few times a week.

The Jarrow gig caused a split in the band. Who went with who ?

Bri: After the gig Hodge was a bit pissed off and wanted out. I was good friends with Ski and Hodge so stayed with them and we called ourselves The Fauves. Mensi and Mond went their way, got Micky Burns in on bass and Decka Wade in on drums. There were no hard feelings and we all remained friends. Sadly Hodge died last year and Mensi said if it wasn’t for Hodge there wouldn’t have been any Upstarts. Which was good to hear him say that and remember Hodge.

After the Jarra Civic Hall gig the Upstarts started gigging regularly around the North East and at Bolingbroke Hall in South Shields where we were lined up to support them. We couldn’t find a good guitarist so we got a hippy lad called Micky Carr to help us out. Micky had long hair so to hide it we put a bathing cap on him (laughs). But in the end we were pulled from the gig. To this day I don’t know why.

I left the band for a while and two lads from Newcastle came in, and eventually supported the Upstarts at Bolingbroke Hall and the pigs head made it’s appearance. (See previous interview with Angelic Upstarts, ‘The Butchers of Bolingbroke June 1st 2017)

Did The Fauves have a manager to arrange gigs?

Bob: Nah we didn’t even have a van. We used to pile our gear in a car. When the Upstarts left for London and got signed there was a vacuum left in Shields. People came to see us and we built up a bit of a following. We had a rehearsal place in the upstairs of The Neptune Hotel in Shields. It’s not there now but it was a massive pub and we used to put on gigs downstairs. It was great that the manageress let us have the run of those rooms.

Bri: We used to play a lot then and get support bands in. One of the bands said The Neptune was the worst place they had ever played. One guitarist told me he went to plug his amp into the wall and it still had like an old fashioned coil connection, he had to sort out an extension cos it was that old (laughs).

Bob: I remember we decided to play our own gig at Boldon Lane Community Centre in Shields. We booked the hall, hired p.a, got a support band, posters, the lot. We were amazed when hundred’s turned up.

Bri: We were playing regular gigs around ‘79 and used to contact Gary Bushell at Sounds newspaper and he printed some good stories about the band. He helped us out a lot. Then we started to play the Gosforth Hotel in Newcastle. A small punk scene was starting to happen up there.

Bob: We also became mates with a label in Newcastle called Anti-Pop who promoted gigs and made a few singles. We supported Arthur 2 Stroke and The Noise Toys up there. One Saturday afternoon we played a great gig at The Casablanca in Newcastle. There was three bands on, it used to attract quite a crowd ya’ kna’. Inside it was done out with wicker chairs, palm trees, ceiling mounted fans and a picture of Humphrey Bogart on the wall.

Bri: Yeah it was a great gig, really popular, but we didn’t know it was a gay club (laughs).

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Did The Fauves go in the studio ?

Bob: We always planned to do some cos it was the days of do it yourself. But we didn’t really have the money for it. Studios were expensive then. It’s one of my main regret’s that we didn’t record anything from that time.

Bri: We booked a session at Impulse Studio in Wallsend for a Monday and we picked two songs we were going to put out on a single. We went to our last rehearsal on the Saturday night and it ended up in a big argument.

What was that over ?

Bri: Nothing really.

Bob: We were just kids.

Bri: It was like ‘Hey we’ve got to get this right we’re in the studio Monda’.

Bob: I think it was a bit of frustration at the lack of getting nowhere. We weren’t making progress. We wanted to get signed and move on.

Bri: I remember going outside with Abbo, who was singer then, and just saying ‘Hey this isn’t working is it’. We drove home that night, you could hear a pin drop no one spoke a word.

That night in total silence the band left their rehearsal room under the railway arches in Newcastle. Next day a phone call was made to Impulse Studio cancelling the session. But Bri remembers a recording……

Bri: There was a reel to reel three track demo that was made at Impulse Studio. I think it was Hodge or Ski who took hold of it and tried to get some tapes made but it disappeared. There’s also a Newcastle radio interview hosted by music journalist Phil Sutcliffe, that’s also gone so we’d love to hear them again if anyone can help.

Bob: The band had just about folded by ’81 and to be fair me and Bri did go on to play and record in many other bands but The Fauves was the best band we played in. We were always disappointed that we never recorded anything with The Fauves so when we got together again 3 years ago I had in mind to record half a dozen original tracks that we done years ago. It went really well so we thought can we put enough material together to make an album. Subsequently we’ve made 2 albums and an ep since then. We recorded tracks at The Garage Studio in South Shields and the engineer Kyle worked with us to get the sounds we were thinking off.

Bri: Most of the songs off ‘Back Off World’ were written between  1978-81. There is a couple of new tracks and theres been a few line-up changes over the years but we think it has come out really well.

Bob: We’ve played some canny gigs lately and to be fair it’s probably been more enjoyable than first time around. We have a few gigs lined up with the new line up of

Mick Smith (vocals) Allen Hughes (guitar) Bri Smith (bass) &

Bob Rowland (drums).

The first one in Newcastle at Trillians on 11th November, then The Wheatsheaf, Sunderland 23rd November and the Philadelphia Club, Houghton le Spring 14th December.

For further info, gig dates, cd releases contact   https://thefauves.wordpress.com/

or via Facebook at  The Fauves punk band

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2019