HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE ? (#3)

Following on from the last batch of HYHTO stories here’s a few more from Fred Purser (Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang), John Gallagher (Raven), Michael Kelly (Southbound), Chris Ormston and Nev (Punishment of Luxury). First up is a story from former Axis guitarist Davey Little…..When supporting former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell at a local gig we’re in at midday to set up a huge wall of Marshalls, drum riser, lights, smoke bombs the whole nonsense. Hey, we were local heroes (laughs). Then Mr Bell and band arrived. You can imagine the headliner walking in and seeing this mountain of shit on stage.

But what a gentleman – we were young and full of it. He was very gently spoken and just said ‘This isn’t really the way it works lads’. Then much to our relief he said ‘but it’s fine, we don’t need much room, not bothered about a sound check’.

I remember it was packed to the rafters for Eric Bell, not for us, but we did ok. His drummer set up after us. Bass player rolled his amp on, Eric Bell rolled either a Vox AC30 or a Fender Twin on to the stage and blitzed the place. No arsing about, no demands, just played like true pro’s. What a lesson, what a professional.

Of course we thought he was brilliant, his band were brilliant, his last words… ‘Pleased you enjoyed it, now you know there is no need for all that shit on stage, and don’t ever fucking set up before the main band gets there’.

A year later went to see him at the Redcar Bowl and he introduced us to his new band with ‘These are the cheeky bastards who set up before we even got to the gig’

Full interview from June 2019

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/06/28/the-flame-burns-on-for-davy-little-ex-guitarist-with-nwobhm-band-axis/

In May 2019 was an interview with folk musician Chris Ormston……I’ve recorded various compilations of Northumbrian music but my first big break if you like was when I got a phone call one night in 1990… ‘Hello, it’s Peter Gabriel here’. There is a rumour going round that I told him to f*** off because I never believed him (laughs).

But it was him and he was after some piping on his next recording. So I agreed to go down to his studio in Bath. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted and just said bring every pipe you’ve got. We worked in the studio until he found the sound he liked, which was Highland Pipes.

The pipes were mixed down and recorded onto the first song on the album Come Talk to Me. Sinead O’Connor sang on the track although I never saw her. He had brought in various musicians and sounds to add to what he had already recorded. That’s the way he worked. I got a credit and a flat fee for the work and really enjoyed the experience. Gabriel I found was very thoughtful and reserved unlike his stage performances, as a lot of musicians are.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/05/11/pipes-of-peace-with-northumberland-musician-chris-ormston/

 In April this year I spoke with Nev (PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY)……When our Laughing Academy album was being released endless gigging ensued and part of our excursion took us to The Milky Way and Paradiso venues in Amsterdam, and eventually via Cologne and Dusseldorf to the great city of Berlin. The Wall still stood and divided East and West Germany, so great things could happen here! Although our Berlin Wall encounter at Checkpoint Charlie was a bit scary.

Steve Sekrit now had long hair and a strange beard, which didn’t balance with his passport photo and only after a long exchange with an authoritarian, now in possession of a copy of our album Laughing Academy, were we able to pass across the border.

Thankfully he looked at the images on the outer sleeve cover as the inner gate fold sleeve would have offered no means of verification.

Our gig in Berlin that evening was at the Kant Kino and access to the famous venue was a long walk across a suspended structure overlooking parts of the bustling street below. It was a brilliant, receptive, bouncing crowd, full of anticipation – it was a very memorable gig.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/04/06/funk-off-the-punishment-of-luxury-further-tales-of-musical-adventures/

Next is a story from Fred Purser (ex-Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang) taken from an interview in December 2018……We were on tour in the USA and I turned 21 in Boston. It was a blast. Great fun. We were out there on the same tour that The Police had done, they had done the circuit twice and they broke. Squeeze had done it, they broke. Unfortunatley after the first circuit of that tour we were over worked, burnt out.

Virgin were a great label but turn over for albums was quicker in those days and they wanted another one quickly. Just too much. Sadly we split. In hindsight if we had just taken a holiday maybe four weeks off and come back refreshed, that would of worked.

The perception is that it can be a glittering world, we didn’t complain about it then because it was a great opportunity. But looking back it was very tiring travelling hundreds of miles every day sitting on your backside for 8-9 hours in the back of a van. When I was young I used to read the Sounds and read the back of albums and think it would be very glamourous. But the reality is it can be quite mundane.

When I joined Penetration we were getting £25 a week. Before we played The Marquee we got a telegram from Ian Dury to wish us luck. But he was only on £25 a week when Hit Me with Your Rythm Stick was number one in the charts! Obviously that money would filter in later on but the record company put a lot of money into the band and until you reach that break even line your just on the recoupment phase. They want their loan repayed before you see any money. So they would pay you per diems of £10 per day so you can get food and essentials.

There would be bands in great recording studios impressed by it all, rightly so, but in the background is the ching, ching sound of the money register. They are accruing a debt to the record company, and they want it back.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/12/30/square-one-in-conversation-with-songwriter-producer-fred-purser/

I spoke to John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers RAVEN in October 2019…….For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…..and we weren’t good footballers.

The running joke was ‘C’mon let’s git in a van and gan doon  t’ London!’. 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. We had worked hard for years so when the opportunity arrived we dove in head first. Getting the Neat deal changed everything totally then when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us.

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/09/heeds-doon-with-john-gallagher-from-chief-heabangers-raven/

Next is a story from Michael Kelly (SOUTHBOUND) in March 2019……We recorded some songs at Impulse Studio’s in Wallsend. We done several tracks to send to record companies and also arranged to go to London, appointments had been made to approach Virgin, Rocket, A&M, Decca, Island, WEA and others. We thought that someone must take a liking to us.

I remember going into one record company’s  office and I Feel Love by Donna Summer was playing and another office was playing Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello. This doesn’t sound like us as we were playing AOR music. After days of stumbling around the streets of London we headed home with hope that someone might pick up on what we left them.

When we got back to the North East we were offered an interview on Radio Newcastle. The interview was filled with jabs about New Wave/Punk taking over from normal rock music. I must have had blinkers on because we were in the middle of a musical revolution that was sweeping across the country. Our music was becoming old hat and as one record company said…You’re 2 years out. We had lots of replies from other record companies like …We have to pass on this…or Our label has its full quota of artists. It was very frustrating.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/13/all-right-now-with-michael-kelly-former-drummer-with-north-east-band-southbound/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

More stories on the blog with a full list of interviews on the about page:

https://garyalikivi.com/about/

 

 

 

METAL CITY – new album from Chief Headbangers, RAVEN

First time I came across Raven was around 1980/81 when I saw them playing live on TV through the window of a Chinese take away. I went in to see if the old woman knew who they were. She popped up from behind the counter and fired back screaming above the music ‘They very loud. They Raven’.

40 year later the Chinese take away isn’t there now but our Chief Head bangers are still hard at it in the mix.

I got in touch with John Gallagher (bass/vocals) and asked him what can we expect from the new album ? The album is a quantum leap forward for us with a brace of killer new songs linking that ‘Wiped Out’ energy and feel to a 21st Century state of the art production. It’s the first studio album that our new drummer Mike Heller has played on and he’s just off the charts on this!

You sound very pleased with the results… Yeah the songs and playing are a definite step up – we really raised our game and are extremely pleased with how it’s turned out. The new album will be released on September 18th. We’ll also have a single out very shortly too.

Have you any live plans going forward ? If all goes well we are looking at Euro dates in February 2021.

No holding back then ? Can’t wait!

Interview Gary Alikivi  July 2020.

Check the official website for details: http://www.ravenlunatics.com/

Follow on twitter : @official_raven

Links to previous interviews:

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/05/03/staring-into-the-fire/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/09/heeds-doon-with-john-gallagher-from-chief-heabangers-raven/

 

TOON TUNES – with former Newcastle Dingwalls manager Chris Murtagh

A comprehensive list of gigs at North East venues are being put together, and recently to add to the growing list, pages out of a booking list and diary from gigs at Dingwalls in 1983 turned up on line. Entries included:

26.3.83 – Big Country Fee: £240 – 282 @ £1.50. Excellent band and performance. Perfect timing with release of single. Excellent debut in the North-East.

3.3.83 – Raven & Hellanbach Fee: Raven £300 – Hellanbach £60 – 269 @ £1.50 Terrific stage show. Very good heavy rock band with good repertoire. Good following.

Raven bassist John Gallagher told me about the night… ‘I just remember the place being chilly…at least until we got started! There was a decent turnout and we were promoting the ‘All for One’ album. I don’t remember much more to be honest !’ …well it was nearly 40 years ago. But to find out more I contacted the manager at the time and owner of the book, Chris Murtagh….I don’t have the diary now as I’ve sold it but have a digital copy of the acts who appeared. Like the other Bierkellers around the UK the entertainment promoter Harvey Goldsmith bought all the venues for £1 and re-christened them Dingwalls. Yes only a £1 but Harvey had to service their debts and running costs. They were in the basement of office blocks, mine was in Waterloo Street, Newcastle. It had a capacity of 1200.

I was manager of the venue during 1983, it was Dingwalls from January to June when it went into liquidation and reverted to Vaux Breweries, the biggest creditor. Then from June to December Vaux changed the name to the Bear Pit but I was retained as manager.

How did you get the managers job ? I’d done several promotions there and had threatened to sue Goldsmith for breach of a contract for cancelling one of them. Turned out his General Manager offered me the job instead. I was the only manager who was also a promoter. All the other Bierkeller managers at Sheffield, Hull, Liverpool, Bristol and London were ex-Mecca managers and older than me. They got two for the price of one in me being manager/promoter and Chris Donald from very early Viz comics did all my publicity.

What was the Newcastle venue like ? It was like being buried in a hole in the ground for months without seeing daylight. When we closed and tidied-up well after midnight, we’d go and chill out at Rockshots upstairs till about 3am. Then back at work about 4pm the same day. My bar manager once dragged me to the City baths for a massage which connected me back to my body that I’d totally lost track of.

Martha Reeves was booked for May ’83 and your diary entry reads….Martha chatted me up in the office. Didn’t know where to put myself. She could have eaten me for breakfast. Motown comes to Dingwalls. Brilliant professional show.

What can you remember from that day ? Martha Reeves terrified me as I must have been the youngest manager she’d come across and she was a very experienced older woman.

In the diary for June, Murtagh booked female group Girlschool with support from North East heavy metal band Satan. His notes of the gig included… Girlschool arrived for their first headline tour after supporting Motorhead. They didn’t have any money and asked if I could help them out which I did. Nice girls who put on a good show but treated rubbish by their record company.

Satan a good local heavy metal band with a good following. I’d previously promoted them, famously at the St James & St Basil’s Church in Fenham where the posters read ‘Appearing live on stage, Satan.’ That pulled in a good congregation.

Also that month Dr Feelgood came to Newcastle with support from North East band R & B Spitfires….Full on red-hot rock band with commitment and attitude. Real pros – no messing about with sound checks – Brilliant. Wilko went to college up here so he had his own following.  Local band Spitfires acquitted themselves well in such company.

More entries to the diary with some excellent comments about the bands and gigs….22.4.83 – Gun Club + Sisters of Mercy. Fee: £511.25 – 548 @ £1.50. Sisters, good appreciative following, hypnotic beat with drum machine, bass and guitar. Led by Joey Ramone lookalike. Effective visual presence.

Gun Club, should have been called ‘Gin Club’, Jim Morrison just before he died. Good presence, good songs, terrible sound.

6.5.83 – Miami Steve. Brilliant American band. Shame about Steve and the material. Bruce Springsteen can keep him. Stayed in the tour bus only coming in to play the gig. Oh and don’t touch his bandana. Precious bastard, up his own arse.

10.5.83 – Bad Brains. Turned up 6 hours late so most of the audience left. Refused to pay them which set-up a stand-off between the band and my security. Lots of martial arts posturing until it finally dawned on them they would get severely plastered if they stayed. Bad brains indeed.  

16.5.83 – The Vibrators + Red Alert. Not overly impressed by the reformed Vibrators. Canny lads though. Their guitars were nicked before they went on, then retrieved by Red Alert, who were themselves a very impressive act.  

After you left what happened with the venue ? Harvey Goldsmith owned Dingwalls but his CEO was Peter Gross, an accountant, who’d run a chain of restaurants called The Great American Disaster in London. At each of the venues he’d bring a brewery in as sponsor. In Newcastle’s case it was Vaux Brewery who gave him three quarters of a million pounds. When the receivers Ernst Whinney were brought in because Harvey was going into liquidation for about the seventh time, I talked to him on the phone. ‘You’ll be alright my boy’, were the last words he spoke to me.

The venue reverted to Vaux Breweries with them being the biggest creditor. When Paul Nicholson CEO of Vaux arrived, he asked what Harvey had done with all the money. I said he’d stuck a black plastic crow on the wall and extended the stage. You’ll notice every poster advertising a Goldsmith promotion has a little fat man in the corner. That’s Harvey. He also used a black crow as the logo for Dingwalls. ‘I hope that bloody crow lays golden eggs’ was Paul’s reply.

Basically, Harvey used all the money for running costs. If he’d taken the time to run the venues himself it might have worked, but he was too busy touring the Stones, Dylan, Bowie etc and left the running to Peter Gross, who was clueless about the music industry. Vaux wanted to appoint their own manager of what they now branded ‘The Bear Pit’. My staff refused to work for them so I was retained as manager.

Murtagh came across North East manager and promoter Geoff DochertyMy first encounter with Geoff Docherty was when he was looking after Preacher, a band led by Tony Ions. I needed a rehearsal place for my new band Fan Heater and Tony who I’d played with in Slaughter House, suggested I approach Geoff to see if I could share their rehearsal rooms in the derelict Hydraulic Crane pub on Scotswood Road, Newcastle.

Not only did Geoff give us the pub but he said he’d get us a gig at the Marquee Club and Rock Garden in London supporting The Showbiz Kids who he also managed. ‘Oh yes, of course you will’ I thought being very sceptical. I couldn’t believe it when he was as good as his word. Total respect.

What did you do after Dingwalls ? After leaving there I continued promoting in Newcastle, Leeds and tours around the UK, including with my own band. 1994 I became a director of the pan-European touring organisation the Newcastle Free Festival inaugurating Cities of Culture, including being the first festival to perform under the Berlin Wall when it came down in 1989.

That same year, as part of the festival, I brought over the Peruvian band APU. 30 years later I’m still their manager. This also drew me into World Music which I’ve promoted ever since. As part of being a promoter, I worked as an A Level sponsor for the Home Office for over 25 years issuing visas for non-EEC artists to tour the UK. I still enjoy playing all over the world and organise festivals and events internationally.

Contact Chris on the official website:

www.line-up.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2020.

THE DAY I WAS TOLD OFF BY FREDDIE F***ING MERCURY with singer & songwriter Sam Blue

When I was in Ya Ya we recorded some of the album at Maison Rouge in Fulham. Next door Roger Taylor was recording The Cross album. So we used to regularly meet the Queen guys. There was a bar in Maison Rouge – part of it’s appeal – and one night I was sitting there on my own with a drink and Freddie Mercury plonks himself down on the stool next to me.

He asks how it’s going, Brian and Rog said it was sounding great. I didn’t know what to say…it was Freddie ‘F***ing’ Mercury! So I just said I was a bit bored…’They’re working on guitar amp and bass sounds, so I had nothing to do’.

Freddie looked at me and said quietly, ‘Never ever say you’re bored, there’s always something to do and there are people out there who would give there left arm to do what you’re doing’.

I didn’t know what to say. I was being told off by Freddie Mercury.

You know what, I’ve never said I was bored since, because he was right. We had a drink and chatted about all things singing, which singers love to do, what a wonderful person. Turns out, he knew lots of people I knew and worked with, some of them part of Freddie’s inner circle – funny old world isn’t it.

To the tune of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ (Talking Heads) You may ask yourself how did a boy from Tyneside end up here ? Now living on a houseboat in Twickenham, west London, Sam Blewitt has great stories from his life in music including Ultravox, Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, hitting number 1 with Mike Skinner & the Streets and not forgetting his formative years singing in rock bands in the North East.

But first I asked him what got you interested in music and are you from a musical family ? I’m not really from a musical family, but my Dad played the guitar, he’s pretty handy on the keyboard now. What got me interested was my mates in Gosforth, where I grew up, we talked about music the majority of the time.

Also my Aunty Lily worked for a company who changed all the singles on the jukeboxes around Newcastle and Gateshead, she would drop by in her mini-van and drop off piles of singles.

This would have been around ‘68 or ‘69. Me and my sister would pile them up on the record player and listen to every song day after day. I loved the Beatles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, The Animals.

We also used to watch all the Saturday night shows on TV, like Cilla, Lulu – I even remember the famous one where Jimi Hendrix starts Sunshine of your Love in the middle of Hey Joe.

There was music everywhere – or so I thought.

Can you remember your first gig ? My first proper gig was at the Cooperage near the Quayside in Newcastle with my first band Moulin Rouge. It was just a party for a friend of one of the band members. We had been rehearsing for a while and it was an ideal way of us starting out properly.

Moulin Rouge gigged anywhere we could to be honest – The Newton Park Hotel with Newcastle band White Heat, The Mayfair, the Old 69 and the Locarno in Sunderland and some workingmen’s clubs. I remember playing a few times in Whitley Bay sharing headline slots with The Tygers of Pan Tang and supporting Geordie at the Mayfair. The line-up changed a few times and we eventually recruited Rob Hunter on drums, who was also a great singer and songwriter. He left to join Raven.

I left Moulin Rouge to join Fastbreeder with Fred Purvis, Dave Drury and Andy Taylor – who later moved on to Duran Duran. They were a great little rock band and we did the Mayfair a couple of times and some workingmens clubs, but after Andy left it sort of fell apart.

 Did you travel out of Tyneside ? I joined a band in Cleveland called Axis, they were set up like a proper professional band, and we played a few gigs around the country. Once again a guitarist left, that was Mick Tucker he joined White Spirit.

I then joined Emerson, which included brothers Stu and Bri Emerson, Dru Irving on keys and Jon Sellers on drums, later replaced by Charlie McKenzie. We worked hard with writing sessions and rehearsals every weekend.

Once again we picked up gigs where ever we could like the Whitley Bay Esplanade and some cool ones supporting bands like Nazareth, Budgie, Robin George and Heavy Pettin’. We got quite a few slots in the capital at the Royal Standard, Dingwalls and the Marquee, this led to a lot of interest from the industry in London.

But the band started to break up after a year or two, Bri left and I started getting offers from bands in London. We kept the band going for a while with Norman Appleby replacing Bri Emerson. I eventually left and joined LA Secrets, after a short stint with them I joined Paul Samson’s Empire, that was fun but again only lasted a few months before I joined a band called  Ya Ya.

I spent 4 years with them and we were signed to Warner Brothers and released an album called Ya Ya, it got rave reviews. But unfortunately it failed to sell in great numbers. We released a few singles from the album which were fun to promote.

By this time it was 1989 and the band broke up. Looking back on my time in Ya Ya we had toured a fair bit and recorded with some great producers. We supported Roger Taylor’s band The Cross, for a whole tour of the UK, which was fun and got to meet all the Queen guys.   

Where there any offers after Ya Ya ? I worked as a session singer and songwriter for a few years, working with some amazing writers and producers, trying to form new projects. Then in 1992 I joined Ultravox and stayed with them until 1996. In that time we released one studio album Ingenuity, and one live album.

I then worked with Vinny Burns – who was the guitarist in Ultravox at that time – on his solo album The Journey. We then joined forces as Burns Blue, to write and record our own album What if.

Then came my time as a ‘hired gun’ session singer, I sang the Phat Beach/Naughty Boy version of The Baywatch theme I’ll Be Ready, which reached the top 30. Plus I sang for Mike Skinner & the Streets on ‘Dry Your Eyes’ which went to number 1 in the UK. This attracted the interest of many hip hop/grime artists and producers.

I sang with The Young Punx on their albums who were recruited to become Dizzee Rascal’s backing band for his 2009/10 tours and TV performances.

I was brought in to sing ‘fix up look sharp’, but ended up joining in with the band singing on most of the songs. We had Guthrie Govan on guitar, Hal Ritson on bass and keys, Alex Reeves on drums, Vula Malinga on vocals and a whole brass section – not too shabby.

I still collaborate with producers Hal Ritson and Richard Adlam on Young Punx, Avicci, Urban Myth and various other releases.

What was your first recording experience ? My first recording experience would have been with Moulin Rouge at Impulse studios in Wallsend. The line-up of the band was Me, Matty Rocks and Ian Wood on guitars, Ian Drury on bass and I forget the drummer’s name – it was a long time ago.

We done a 2 track recording for EMI records. They had seen us at a Melody Maker rock competition in Durham, and much to our surprise – we won, but they didn’t follow up their initial interest.

We were so naive, we didn’t really know what a demo was. The next time I recorded properly would have been with Paul Samson’s Empire, we had a day at the BBC Maida Vale studios in London, which was awesome.

Did you have a manager ? My first proper manager was Diane Wagg, when I first moved to London – we’re still mates now. Then Ira Blacker managed Ya Ya. When I joined Ultravox our managers were Simon Napier Bell and Sir Harry Cowell – a couple of real characters.

At the Jools Holland Hootenanny TV show in 2010 with Dizzee Rascal & the Young Punx.

What were your high points on stage – any magic moments ? My high points have been, playing on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage with Dizzee Rascal in 2010. I was his rock singer with his amazing band The Young Punx. We have no idea how many people were there, but something around 70,000.

In Ultravox we played some cool festivals too, one in particular in Bielefeld, Germany on the same bill as Roger Chapman, one of my musical heroes. One festival we played we were given a one hour slot to play, this was cut short, but we weren’t told and we hadn’t played any of the big songs like Vienna and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, then we were pulled off stage by the promoter and stage manager after about 45 minutes. I don’t think the audience were too happy, we made the promoter explain the situation – still don’t know if he did or not. It happens.

Have you any road stories ? One of my favourites was myself and Vinny Burns getting a bit merry after a gig, we went back to watch Asia who were headlining, they had lots of dry ice, so we took it upon ourselves to crawl across the stage under the dry ice without being seen. It was all going well until we ended up behind Geoff Downs (the keyboard player) and couldn’t see where we were going but we managed to get back across the stage without being seen. It’s an old UFO trick, great fun.

When Ya Ya were in LA to shoot our video for When the World Cried with Nigel Dick, who also filmed Toto and Guns n Roses, we agreed to meet him at our hotel to have a chat. Ray the guitarist fancied a dip in the hot tub on the roof, we had put a whole bottle of shampoo in the hot tub, we switched on the jacuzzi and he got in just for a laugh.

Nigel pulled up and looked up at the roof, all you could see was foam sliding down the side of the building. He said you could see it about a mile away. The hotel weren’t too happy – it was only soap !

There was a time I was backstage at Glastonbury when Bobby Womack walks up to me and says ‘You remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Slade!’  Before I could answer his trumpet player declared…’No man, he remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Led Zeppelin!’….then they both walked of, it was hilarious.

Post soundcheck in Barcelona with The Project band in 2019.

Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ? I’m currently singing with The Project Band, basically the guys from the Alan Parsons Project featuring Lenny Zakatek joint vocals, Stuart Elliot on drums, Laurence Cottle on bass, Richard Cottle on keys and Dave Bainbridge on guitar.

They’re great people and amazing players, just waiting for this pandemic to clear up and we can get back out on the road. I didn’t know much about the Alan Parsons Project, but local boy John Miles was heavily involved and I rate him very highly indeed.

I’m still working as a session singer, which I really like, you never know what they’ll throw at you next.

Finally, what does music mean to you ? Music has meant everything really. Hard work, fun, and a living. It’s a cruel mistress sometimes, some wonderful moments you never forget, days when you wonder what you’re doing there. I’ve met some fantastic people over the years, many great friends, lot’s of people to look up to. There’s always a challenge to look forward to.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   May 2020.

For more info contact the official website:

http://www.samblue.co.uk

LONDON CALLING: Nights at the Marquee Club

The heart of London’s music industry was the legendary live music club the Marquee, along with CBGB’S in New York, the club has been defined as one of the most important music venues in the world.

It would provide the catalyst to launch the career of many bands – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin – the list is endless. A&R men used to regularly visit the club to watch out for the next big thing and with plenty of bands looking to make it, the best way was to be seen on the stage of the Marquee.

Tony Iommi explained in Iron Man his auto biog…‘I was in rehearsals with Jethro Tull for the recording of their Stand Up album and one night Ian Anderson took me to see Free play at the Marquee. He introduced me to everybody as his new guitar player, so I thought, this is wonderful. I felt like a pop star. From being a nobody in Birmingham to people at the Marquee taking an interest – it seemed great’.

Graeme Thomson wrote in his biog about Phil Lynott – ‘It was do or die. Thin Lizzy were £30,000 in debt. Money was borrowed for their showcase gig for Phonogram at the Marquee on 9th July 1974. It was so hot that night that all the guitars went out of tune, but they played well enough to confirm the deal, even if the advance for a two album contract only cleared what they owed’.

Mick Wall’s biog of Lemmy featured the time Motorhead nearly called it a day. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark remembers ‘We found ourselves in April 1977 in the situation of breaking up’.

As a farewell gift to fans they would record a live album. They had a show coming up at the Marquee that surely would be the best place for them to bow out. But when they looked into the cost, they knew they had no chance. A farewell single was recorded instead.

‘The Marquee gig was one of the best we ever did’ according to Eddie. ‘Lemmy said the sweat was climbing up the walls trying to get out’.

Thoughts of it being their last were quickly forgotten about. Two weeks later they piled into a Transit van for the drive down to Escape Studios in Kent. They recorded the bones of 13 tracks, eight of which would become the album Motorhead.

Bands from the North East of England – White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, Fist, The Showbiz Kids, Punishment of Luxury, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, all travelled south down the M1 to the capital. Was playing London the catalyst for a life in music, or just a road too far for some ?

John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers, Raven  ‘The running joke was – c-mon lets git in a van and gaan doon t’London ! 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’.

Harry Hill, drummer with Fist remembers…’We played the Marquee for two nights supporting Iron Maiden. We were going down an absolute storm, the place was packed. I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their manager was kicking off – You’re just the support band. You’re not supposed to go down like that –  We won him over in the end and he came into the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we gave them a run for their money’.

Residencies were part of the scene and a few North East bands got on the list including Dire Straits. This advert from March ’78 with admission fee only 70p.

Select dates for North East bands listed as playing the Marquee for 1976:

Halfbreed 15 & 29th January & 3rd March.

Arbre 4th April.

Back Street Crawler 11 & 12th May with AC/DC as support.

Cirkus 15th May.

1977:

Penetration 29th June opening for Heron.

also 30th July & 1st August opening for The Vibrators.

1978:

Penetration 21st June.

Punishment of Luxury 3rd October.

1979:

Showbiz Kids 3rd February.

Punishment of Luxury 13th February.

Showbiz Kidz 21st April.

Punishment of Luxury 7th May.

Showbiz Kids 19th May & 14th June & 14th July.

Punishment of Luxury 23rd August & 31st October.

1980:

Raven 5th, 6th, or 7th November with Taurus or Diamond Head opening for Gary Moore.

1981:

White Heat 29th April.

1982:

Angelic Upstarts 18th February & 12th August.

The Marquee at Charing Cross Road finally closed it’s doors in 1996 after first establishing the club in Oxford Street, then it’s heyday in Wardour Street.

 Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE with recently departed Tyger, Micky Crystal

After 7 years, two albums and playing numerous tours a statement was released by guitarist Micky Crystal on 23rd April 2020 which left fans of the Tygers of Pan Tang in shock as it came at a time when the Tygers were, after rescheduling lockdown dates, gearing up to going out on the road with new album Ritual…..

…..’I officially announce that I have left Tygers of Pan Tang and want to thank you the fans for all your love and support. I am proud of the music we have created and the things this line-up has achieved. I have developed and grown both as a musician and as a person and I feel this is the perfect time to open the door to a new chapter and new goals. I wish the band all the best for the future. Micky’

Only so much can be said in a statement so for more detail I got in touch and asked Micky if he has made the right decision…. Absolutely, you know I had a great time for the first few years but to be honest I think I cared too much and was starting to drive myself crazy really wanting it to be something that it wasn’t going to be. At the same time I feel fortunate that I’ve met some true friends within the band and been able to visit some of the wonderful places I have through playing music.

But unfortunately, cracks started to appear and gradually got worse particularly around making the Ritual album.

What were the problems for you ? I began to find things incredibly frustrating. The manager and the original member have been friends since the Sykes/Deverill days and while he did do some good things early on, it gradually had a very negative effect on the decision making. It became less of the democratic brotherhood that it was sold as when they asked me to join.

Increasingly towards the end, big decisions were made without everyone’s approval or in some cases we were deliberately not being told, there’s too many examples to individually list. The original member made it clear to me on numerous occasions that it was their way or the highway which only added to my growing frustrations after he had very little involvement in the writing or recording of Ritual.

That wasn’t a problem in itself, but it became painfully apparent that there was no appreciation for the extra work and hours put in by myself.  I started to feel more like a hired hand who was expected to write albums and do the hard work but have very little say or input regarding anything else – that just didn’t work for me.

In the end it was actually an old interview quote from John Sykes (former Tyger guitarist) that made me realise things would never change and it was time to walk away. “What happened with the Tygers was that I was getting fed up with them. Everything was a five-way split, yet I was doing most of the work and not getting the credit I should have done. They didn’t wanna listen to what I had to say – I told them to get rid of the manager”. (Interview with Killerwatt in Kerrang magazine 1984) 

Micky with Soren Andersen.

What are your plans now ? I’ve been working on a home studio and have been getting more into the production side of music which I’m really enjoying. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I was fortunate enough to spend a week with Soren Andersen last year and I learnt a lot from him so I’m putting a lot of the stuff I learnt into practice now. I’ve also got some online content for some guitar companies that I’m working on. Plus some online collaborations and a prog project that I’m pretty excited about too.

Have you been listening to any new music ? I’m listening to a lot of trap and pop music at the moment. People like Machine Gun Kelly and Post Malone in particular. I’m listening to a lot of Big Wreck too as well as all the usual rock stuff like Led Zeppelin and Ozzy. It really depends on the day to be honest, one day it could be Chick Corea the next day it could be Bring Me The Horizon.

What were your highlights in the Tygers ? Writing closely with Gav and Jack was a highlight, they both work fast and they’re very open minded when it comes to creative ideas.  Finding out that both the self-titled album and Ritual had charted was awesome combined with various magazine front covers for the first time in the bands history. Spending my 28th birthday on stage in São Paulo, plus I’d always wanted to play in Japan so getting to play there and go sightseeing round Tokyo was certainly a highlight.

The Lockdown – how are you dealing with it ? I’m still teaching from home via Skype and playing a lot and recording too so I’m keeping busy. Just trying to make sure I’m learning new things so it’s been ok.

Who knows what the future holds. I’m totally open to new projects and bands. I hope it involves a lot of music, recording, teaching, playing live. I love it all.

For more information contact Micky on his social media acoounts:

https://facebook.com/MickyCrystalOfficial/

https://www.instagram.com/mickycrystal/

https://youtube.com/MickyCrystal

https://jtcguitar.com/store/artist/micky-crystal/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  April 2020

 

HARD ROADS & NO EASY LIVIN’ for Canadain metal band Anvil

On the road to making their dreams come true heavy metal band Anvil knew they had to work hard and make sacrifices – there’s no substitute for rehearsal… ‘We done 7 days a week, 8 hours a day rehearsal for 10 month before the first gig. We played every shithole in Ontario and Quebec. It wasn’t easy back in the day being an original band. And we were loud as f***remembered guitarist Dave Allison in an earlier interview. (link below)

In his book The Story of Anvil, guitarist & vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow talked about the time when they saw Van Halen support Black Sabbath at Niagra Falls. Halen were an up and coming band with an intense excitement surrounding them. It had an effect on them Robb and I wanted success more than anything. It wasn’t about financial reward, success would mean recognition for our music’. To give themselves a chance to make it, Anvil knew they had to fly from their home in Canada and play London. Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow looks back on the days when forming Anvil, he and childhood friend Robb (drums) always talked about playing Londonit was one of our goals, to play in the same places that The Who and The Beatles played’.

A dream was about to come true as their record company Attic sent them to Englandon a trip that would prove life changing’. Attic agreed to finance a trip to the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donningtonwe were bottom of the bill headed by Status Quo, a privilege that cost us 30,000 dollars. We were already on the red line with Attic for life, so another 30 grand wasn’t going to make a whole heap of difference’.

Guitarist Dave Allison told me in a previous interview… ‘Monsters of Rock ! What an experience. It was surreal, couldn’t believe we were actually there. By that time we were a well-oiled, road hardened, very confident bunch of guys. I think we were a little heavy given the rest of the line-up, but still the biggest thing we had done’.

The appearance at Castle Donnington with Hawkwind, Uriah Heep, Gillan, Saxon and headliners Status Quo was followed by two sold out dates at the legendary Marquee Club, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow remembers ‘This dark, sweaty venue in Soho in the heart of London was a legend in Heavy Metal circles. The gig was awesome, we blew people away. The energy in the room was totally intense. The dream I carried since my dad bought me my first guitar had come true. That night I felt I’d really made it’.

There was some downtime and relaxation for the band as they were invited to the Reading Festival ‘like Monsters of Rock another shrine to heavy metal. We weren’t playing but went along to hang out and watch the bands like headliners Iron Maiden and Michael Schenker’.

Feeding the media is part of the game and Attic set an interview up with music journalist Malcolm Dome. Rock photographer Ross Halfin was sent to capture a few shots for the article…. ‘Ross was a real kook, always trying to push the boundaries by getting musicians to do outrageous things. He said let’s get a picture of you opening the door and you’re naked just holding your guitar’. The photo was published in Kerrang magazine with a sign hanging off him Please Don’t Disturb.

In the chapter headed Big Time, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow reveals the moment that Anvil’s fortunes were changed ‘Signing with David Krebs, within a short time of putting our names on the dotted line, we were off to Britain for a tour with Motorhead. A week before that we played the Heavy Sounds festival in Bruges, where the overwhelming response from the crowd convinced me I’d found an audience that would stick with us forever.

I had their first three albums and went to see them at Leeds Queens Hall in May 1983 with Saxon, Twisted Sister, Girlschool and Spider. Hearing they were opening for Motorhead I got a ticket for the Newcastle City Hall gig, and what I can remember they went down well.  Looking back on that time was bitter sweet, as Lips remembers ‘During the UK tour with Motorhead in June and July ’83 we blew the crowd away. But by the time the 30 date tour culminated with three nights at the Marquee Club in London we were thousands of dollars in debt. One of our crew was carrying severe addiction problems and he blew all the money we were making on cocaine’.

Extracts from The Story of Anvil by Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and Robb Reiner.

Link to the interview with Dave Allison

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/11/12/still-hungry-dave-allison-original-rhythm-guitarist-vocalist-from-canadian-metallers-anvil/

Gary Alikivi  April  2020.

 

 

IT WASN’T ABOUT BECOMING ROCK STARS – in conversation with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

An interview with Steve is on the blog (The Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017 link below) where he talks about his songwriting and production work with Rodger Bain, Pete Waterman, Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, The Hollies, Neat Records, Sheena Easton (!) and more.

But before that he started out as bassist in North East rock band Bullfrog, who were active during the early ‘70s. I wanted to know more about his early days in music to add to his story. In November 2019 as chance happened he was in a recording studio in my hometown South Shields, so I arranged to drop in.

Before recording with engineer Martin Trollope, we had a half hour chat an’ a cuppa where I asked Steve was he looking to ‘make it’ at being a musician, getting a record deal and moving to London ? When I left school I was working at Consett steelworks and I learnt more there on how to be a record producer. I learnt how to communicate and in particular using humour. So I don’t regret going into the steelworks. But I think not having to work there might have been the motivator.

It’s interesting to look back because we saw everything through a lot younger eyes. If I’d been armed then with what I know now I would have been invincible – but we were young and naïve. Really my motivation and maybe not the other guys in the band who were all older than me, I just wanted to get into this making music thing and I figured I just had to get into a band. It wasn’t about becoming rock stars it was all about getting the first gig. Then get more gigs and to just do it.

How old were you then ? I was 16/17 year old and had a couple of stabs at rehearsing with people but it was going nowhere. There was another apprentice a year above me that had been at the same school so we sort of knew each other – a lad called Robin Hird. The first year you are in the training centre and the second year that Robin was in, you go out onto the plant.

We made contact and got talking about music, guitars and bands we liked such as Cream and Hendrix, then he sold me an amp. When I got it home the speaker cabinet was a drawer from a chest of drawers with some foam backing and a circular hole cut in with a speaker fixed in.

Robin said let’s form a band, I have a guitar and a bass which I’ll give to you. I agreed and then he brought a drummer, Mick Symons, to my parent’s house. I played them a few songs I’d been working on and Robin said ‘I told you he’s got talent’. I was in.

Where did you rehearse ? We got a room where the local brass band rehearsed, we shared the place for years. We started to live and breathe the band. I’m not sure that we thought about a record deal then because that was just a distant dream. The dream that was closer was to get gigging on the local circuit. So for us this was The Freemasons Arms in Consett.

We’d go there every Saturday night and watch who was on and say how much better we were. Then the obligatory fight would break loose, the glasses would fly, bodies, tables and chairs all over – that was Saturday night.

Can you remember your first gig ? We went to see a Mrs Eiley and she gave us a date for The Freemasons, it was her only gig. The week beforehand we went to the pub and got up to play with the band who were on, that was my first time on stage. I remember one of the songs we played was Sunshine of Your Love by Cream. The following week on our own show we stormed it. Afterwards I went home and told me mam, it was a life changing moment for me.

We got loads of shows after then but we always returned now and then to The Freemasons Arms. We once done a sort of homecoming gig there and the punters were queuing down the side street, along the alley – we got such a following.

Did the band talk about what you were going to wear on stage ? No, it just didn’t enter our imagination. Although we were doing some clubs we were doing them on our terms and not in sparkly suits. I suppose we would have dressed like Free, Sabbath, Deep Purple you know. The perception was that they were wearing the same clothes that they had just walked in off the street.

In those days we never played any pop stuff it was all rock, then we started introducing our own stuff and got away with it. Although when we had two sets of 45 minutes each to fill we never done a gig with just all our songs. You had to play The Hunter or Child in Time and you’d be stupid not to do them, the audience wanted to hear those songs.

Did you have a manager ? We had a few, but looking back I was doing a lot of the organizing, I wasn’t in charge but was doing a lot of stuff. This whole thing of a bunch of young guys going out on the circuit attracting the attention of some guy who might be a plumber but has more money than you and fancies a dabble in management, well we had a few of them who had no background in the music industry.

We had one guy called Skippy who said we need to have one of those moments like The Beatles on the rooftop. So one Saturday afternoon, it was reported in the Sunday Sun, we went down to Old Eldon Square in Newcastle broke into an office and ran a cable up to the monument in the middle and performed. It was the first time anybody had played there and it hit the papers. It didn’t end well for Skippy, he got arrested and deported back to Australia.

What venues were you playing ? The North East agent Ivan Birchall got us masses of gigs supporting name bands. Venues like Newcastle Mayfair, The Viking in Seahouses and the thing was I never drove the van so I just got picked up and we drove out into the wilds.

At The Viking we loved that gig it was a big trek to get there. There was Bellingham Village Hall and a really good one was St Johns Chapel in Weardale. I can only imagine that the populous was starved of entertainment because they went crackers when a decent band turned up.

I remember we supported Suzi Quatro at the Mayfair and this was just before she cracked it and everybody was gobsmacked at not only a girl playing the bass but she was really rocking it out.

We nearly always got booked into the right places but eventually got a gig where we ended up in a place where no matter how quiet you turned down they were going to hate you. We really should of seen it coming and not got up to play. The concert chairman came up to us and said I’ll give you half your money lads and off you go. The thing I remember was the shame of carrying yer kit out from a packed club.

Every now and then you would do a gig where there would be two bands. One night we played The Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay and there are two stages there. Now this was a sign of our ambition cos we used to try and arrive later than the other band so we could headline the gig – we were top of the bill at The Rex (laughs).

The other bands would do it as well cos we saw them driving slowly along the back lanes. Beckett were one of the bands cos I recognised their posh Merc – we only had a van. We done a gig with a band called Jasper Hart. The singer was Brian Johnson, the band must have been the forerunner to Geordie, and of course he ended up in AC/DC.

Most times we’d be out gigging and finish around 2am in the morning and coming back we’d go to a cafe near Central Station in Newcastle that was open all night. All the bands would go there, we discovered we didn’t need sleep

I remember visiting Ivan Birchall one day and up on the wall he had lists of the bands he had on his books. There was an A list and a B list. We were on the B list and I wasn’t happy. He said the A list are his priority bands, if a show comes in at short notice I go to my A list and as priority they pay me 15%, and the B list pay me 10%. ‘Do you wanna be on the A list ?’ I replied ‘I insist’. In one fell swoop I gave him 50% more commission (laughs).

Did you meet with any record companies ? Well it was a struggle. We had some demos and we were going to set the world alight so we went down to London, our first time there. To save money Robin and I booked return rail tickets travelling on a weekend cos it was cheaper then. But as we found out it was the day’s when record companies were shut (laughs). So we just had a weekend in London, the closest we got was Orange had a music store selling amplifiers and they also had a record label so we gave them a tape.

I remember typing hundreds of letters sending them out one at a time cos there was no photocopiers them days, I must have been a mug and the rest of the band were having a life ! I have some of the responses and out of the blue got a nice letter from Brian Auger, he was organ player with Julie Driscoll (Wheels On Fire). So clearly I wasn’t just sending to record companies. I think I went through the Melody Maker yearbook getting address’ and pitching stuff left, right and centre. It was a tape I sent out that finally got us a deal.

How did that come about ? Cube Records who were formerly the Fly record label based in Soho, London with Joan Armatrading, T.Rex, Procul Harem on their roster, so they had a big track record, then we came along (laughs). They ran an advertising campaign looking for bands so I sent them a tape about the same time we had won 3rd prize in a competition run by EMI. We went to a recording studio in Manchester Square, EMI’s headquarters in London, yes we had two record companies chasing us.

Cube told us that at EMI we would only be a small part of a big machine. But on the day of going to the EMI reception we thought we couldn’t make it cos we had a gig in Durham on the same night, but they organised a flight for us to get to London and make it back to Durham for the gig. Our roadies had set the gear up and just as we were going on stage we saw the concert chairman and told him we’d just made it here as we have flown up from London. I don’t think he believed us (laughs).

Cube Records were really keen and they came up to Durham to watch us live and we couldn’t have arranged it better. The punters were swinging from the rafters going ape shit, after our first set Cube came into the dressing room and they were gobsmacked. They signed us there and then.  Now we signed everything, publishing, recording, management to that one company and the one gig that came from that was for the Newcastle Odeon supporting Wishbone Ash.

What did you record on Cube Records ? I remember taking a guitar lick into the rehearsal room it was a Jazz sort of thing and Pete the singer said it sounded like riddly, tiddly, tum. So we wrote a joke song called that. Cube were looking for the first single and we had done some recordings with Rodger Bain (Black Sabbath) and Hugh Murphy who done a lot of Gerry Rafferty stuff but when they heard Riddly, Tiddly, Tum they said that’s the single. We were mortified, it was only done as a joke. No it’ll be a hit they said.

They allowed us to change the title to Glancy, Mick Glancy was our original singer who had been replaced by Pete McDonald. To promote it we pulled a stunt with Tyne Tees TV where we were driven around Newcastle in an open topped car, but we promoted the B side of the record, In the City, we were embarrassed about the A side. That put a nail in our coffin as far as the record company were concerned.

Unfortunately that was when the dream became muddied by what the music business is about. They had the means to get our songs out there but they weren’t as clever as they thought they were. Maybe releasing a novelty song was going to be a good idea but I’m glad I’m not saddled with it – and having to do a follow up (laughs).

About 10 years ago Glancy ended up on a compilation album called 20 Powerglam Incendiaries and went to the lower regions of the album charts.

How long did Bullfrog last ? Initially we started out as Mandrake until we found another band was going out under that name so we changed it fairly quickly. It got to the point where it became our lives. We were gigging every Friday and Saturday plus some mid-week nights. I’ve still got my diaries from then and we were going out for £15-£20. It was really exciting to be out there.

Our first gig was in 1969 and we were at it until ’74. We sort of got a taste of the big time making demo recordings and sending them out to the record companies, we did have a burning ambition. There were other local bands getting record deals and the scene was really vibrant.

Eventually we took to drugs, our drummer introduced us, there was a certain brand of cough medicine and if you drank the whole bottle it would send you crackers, we all done it bar the singer. I remember doing a show in the Amble Ballroom and that was a strange one cos the stage sloped to the front so the vibrations off my bass amp pushed it towards the edge. Anyway we finished what we thought was a great gig and when we got off stage the singer said ‘Guy’s lay off that cough medicine cos I can’t sing those songs at that speed’. Apparently we played all the songs at double speed (laughs).

When did you know the dream was over ? I remember doing TV show The Geordie Scene twice. One live and the other miming, and I felt really silly miming. I always hated seeing bands giving it what fettle and not even being plugged in. So I plugged mine in to make it look at least legit. But I was embarrassed and you’re not rock star material if you are embarrassed flaunting yersel in front of TV cameras. We almost cracked it but I wonder if I was cut out for it cos I went on to become more of a backroom boy – song writing and producing.

But there was also another North East band, Kestrel, who signed to the label and the label put their guitarist Dave Black together with our singer Pete McDonald essentially destroying two bands.

We reformed as Bullfrog 2 adding keyboards and a female singer but my heart wasn’t in it. I had lived this thing from being a kid, it was all consuming, but now at 22 after working with producers Hugh Murphy and Rodger Bain, who also introduced me to Gus Dudgeon, I thought I’m gonna pull back from this thing.

I could of kept going at it but wanted to switch to song writing which led me to production. And that is where I was meant to be because here we are today in a recording studio talking about it and I’m getting ready to record some of my new stuff.

New album ‘The Long Fade’ is available here: http://thelongfade.xyz/

Read the first interview here:

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/06/27/the-godfather-of-the-north-east-new-wave-of-british-heavy-metal/

Gary Alikivi November 2019.

PEDAL TO THE METAL with Steve Zodiac from rock n roll speed merchants VARDIS

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The late ‘70s saw Vardis slogging around the Northern workingmen’s club circuit – vital experience for what was to come. In 1980 they released a live album ‘100mph’ and embarked on a brutal touring schedule. Starting on a hot summer day at the Heavy Metal Barndance held in Stafford’s Bingley Hall with Motorhead, Saxon, Girlschool, Angel Witch and South Shields metal band Mythra, this was the high point for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal – What did you think of that time ? Very pleased and proud to be part of the scene, however we are just a rock n roll band really. We played hundreds of clubs and UK gigs travelling around in a van. We also played with many different bands over the years, like Hawkwind and Slade.

1981 was a year of momentum with total commitment from the band, they recorded and toured their first studio album ‘The Worlds Insane’, then got a call from BBC radio DJ Tommy Vance inviting them to record a session on the Friday Rock Show, they were regulars in the Heavy Metal singles charts and in August saw them opening the legendary Heavy Metal Holocaust festival held at Port Vale football ground.

I have great memories of all the bands who played, Riot, Triumph, Frank Marino, Ozzy and Motorhead. What are your memories of the day ? I remember that it was a very hot day. We opened the show and it seemed to pass in a few seconds. The crowd enjoyed it and so did we. Afterwards I said hello and had a brief chat with most of the others on the bill, however I had met most of them before at other events or in studios.

Did you hit the road in Europe and have you a following in any country ? Recently we’ve played in most EU countries, and gigged there during the 80’s. We also had releases in Japan but never visited. We still get fan mail from all over the world.

Did you have a manager and how did you get on with the record company ? Yes we had a few managers and they all took too much, too soon. They all let us down in the end and that’s the main reason why I walked away from the business for 30 years.

The early ‘80s saw a vicious two year court battle where Steve finally won back the rights to his songs, and in ’86 released the album ‘Vigilante’. It all went silent for nearly three decades until in 2014 the album was re-released on Hoplite Records and a headlining slot at Brofest and festival dates in England and Germany had the band back on form. They also played an emotional show in Wakefield, Northern England were it all began.

Have you had any magic moments on stage when everything went right ? We always strive to make every show the best so our last one we do is always the most magic. Every show is special to us and we are always improving on what we do.

What have Vardis planned for 2020? We have just recorded a new live album at the 100 Club in London and hope to get it out later in the year.

Contact Vardis on the official website:  www.VardisRocks.com

or social media: facebook/twitter or Hoplite Records.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2020.

YEAR OF THE TYGER – new album & tour dates.

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‘Ritual’ is the second album from the Tygers of Pan Tang with the line-up of Jacko Meille, Robb Weir, Micky Crystal, Craig Ellis and Gav Gray. After recording had finished in 2019 I caught up with Jack, Craig and Gav who talked about the album….When we got into the studio we were ready for it. We knew we were gonna make a great album – and we have.

Jack: It was tough, but rewarding. We were forced to delay the recording twice because we didn’t feel we were ready to record. It wasn’t an easy decision to take but the best.

Craig: Writing the material for the album had begun over a year prior, and regular writing and rehearsal sessions were going on right upto going into the studio.

During that time we would video and record everything for reference and when a song is complete I write out the drum notation so I get it completely under my skin.

Gav: On day one we set up, got some drum sounds and worked towards day two to have some drum and bass takes with guide guitars. Craig is in the live room. Me and Mick would be in the control room with Fred Purser. We had worked on the songs for months so when it came time to record them it didn’t take long. Robb added his guitar and Jackie flew in from his home in Italy to do the vocals.

Craig: Both Jack and I write the lyrics and melodies to the majority of the songs and because of that I automatically absorb a songs structure.

Jack: The 11 tracks on the new album are the best we could ever record. I know it sounds like a cliche, but after all the hard work, we’re all very proud of the result.

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The band recorded the album at Trinity Heights Studio in Newcastle, former guitarist with the Tygers, Fred Purser, is owner and producer. How did that go Gav ? Yeah lovely bloke, we got on really well, he loved my tea and morning hugs (laughs). Being in a two guitar band sometimes requires that ‘less is more’ and most times that’s true, the bass doesn’t need to be too busy, just a really solid rhythm is all that is needed on a lot of hard rock songs. My thing has always been for the rhythm and timing. I was never a practising musician, just a frustrated drummer !

Craig: What makes for a good recording session is the engineer and studio, and Fred Purser at Trinity Heights made the whole thing an absolute pleasure throughout.

Gav: It all worked well, everyone’s playing on the record is fantastic. The whole session and working with Fred was, for me, one of my best yet. It’s a great place to make a record.

Jack: I personally enjoyed every moment spent in the studio with Fred. He is such a talented guy and made me feel at home. I only had 6 days to record, and believe me it’s not very much when you have to record 11 songs plus a couple of bonus tracks. But I made it and have to thank him for that. Also we discovered we have a passion for craft beers. So after recording we managed to ‘indulge’ drinking some really good ones (laughs).

This year the Tygers have lined up a European tour in April and are on the bill at festival dates with Black Star Riders, Gun, and Angelwitch. For gig confirmation go to https://www.facebook.com/tygersofpantangofficial/

Craig: We’ll be doing songs from the new album and I’m particularly looking forward to gigging with the Festival sized backdrop we’ll have for those shows, the Ritual Mask in giant-size taking ownership of the stage!

Looking to 2021 they share a stage with Tank, Vardis, Kingdom Come and Acid Reign and a headlining slot has been confirmed at the Newcastle indoor festival, Brofest.

 For further information contact the official website:  http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

Full interviews at:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/09/23/slave-to-the-rhythm-in-conversation-with-gav-gray-bassist-with-tygers-of-pan-tang/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/09/24/white-lines-interview-with-craig-ellis-drummer-with-tygers-of-pan-tang/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/09/25/all-for-the-record-with-jack-meille-vocalist-with-tygers-of-pan-tang/