SHE ROCKS

Recording Studio Manager Lisa Murphy talks about a new project for Women in Music Production.

Research has found that women make up a very small percentage of artists, songwriters and producers. I want to address this imbalance. This project is designed to support more women into the music industry by providing them with the opportunity to develop music production skills’ said Lisa Murphy, Studio Manager for Blast Recording Studios and Production Room in Newcastle

A six month project for aspiring female music producers to further their career in the music industry is starting in November.

The application closing date for this exciting new opportunity in Newcastle is Sunday 25th October, so get in touch now.

Lisa added ‘Working as a female music producer in professional recording studios in the North East, I want to share my skills, experience and contacts to open the door to more women working as music producers.

The course will include working on projects in professional recording studios, masterclasses from professional music producers and individual time in the studio to complete your projects’.

What do you hope the course will achieve ? ‘The aim is to enable four emerging female music producers to develop skills, knowledge and contacts in order to further their career. This will be achieved through weekly sessions with myself and other relevant guest speakers, hands on learning in a studio environment, and individual time for each participant in the studio on a weekly basis for them to practice their skills and produce work for their portfolio.

Also built into this programme will be a number of projects developed by myself to give the participants access to other studios, recording session musicians and selected bands in a larger setting with different equipment’.

What is the aim of the project ?The overall aim is to enable the participants to gain their first important steps into a career in music production, an industry that is heavily influenced by a producer’s portfolio of prior work and contacts.

The use of teachers and music producers such as myself and other selected professionals – local songwriters, sound engineers and musicians – female, whenever possible, will support this aim, demonstrating that there is a place for women in the music industry – specifically in technical roles in which they are currently under-represented’.

Check the website for full details and how to apply:

www.womeninmusicproduction.co.uk

Applications close: Sunday 25th October

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2020.

METAL CITY

With their new album Raven carry the torch, or flying V, for metal into the future.

Excuse the pun but Amazon has been flooded with orders for this new offering from Raven. Why ? Well the word is out.

The Chief Headbangers have tooled up heavy and fired an opening three track strike. No time to waste. Only time to kill. The band don’t attempt to keep their powder dry at any moment on the album. Live rounds to the end. Check out the Human Race sequence drop at 2 minutes in. One of the defining moments on this album is right there. Raven are carrying the torch, or flying V, for metal into the future.

New single Metal City with a glorious big chorus is quickly followed by a ballsy, catchy Battlescarred, with a cry of ‘Raise your hands, to the sky, stand and fall, You and I’. Added to a Gallagher trademark scream the song builds and reaches out for better times. Surely a future live favourite?

Slick, tricky guitar from Mark Gallagher with balanced precision drumming by Mike Heller rattle and crunch tracks and pound them into submission. It’s all tightly packed like a mighty coiled spring. There’s even a Motorhead/Lemmy tribute – nice touch lads!

The wide and expansive closer, When Worlds Collide with ‘You meet your maker on the other side’ has turned a potential plod into a triumph. The trio look back over Metal City and watch the sun set. Credits roll.

On this evidence Raven consolidate their title of Chief Headbangers.

Any contenders?

Gary Alikivi  September 2020.

THE ISOLATION SESSIONS

North Wales based Stoakes Media have put together an album to raise money for The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal.

The ‘Isolation Sessions’ features 10 reworked songs mixing folk, country and heavy metal by a number of musicians. The album features a version of the Joan Baez classic Diamonds and Rust performed by Sicilian guitarist Antonello Giliberto and Tygers of Pan Tang drummer Craig Ellis, a song which Judas Priest covered.

‘Priest’s acoustic version was the first Priest song I heard, and actually, Judas Priest were the first metal band I saw live’ said Danny Stoakes, who was in radio but the work dried up a few year ago, so decided to form Stoakes Media….

‘We interview bands, do album and gig reviews, post up to date music news. Since starting the website nearly two years ago I have interviewed some incredible people, seen some amazing gigs and even put together a musical Christmas Advent calendar last year, which was so much fun!

Danny added ‘We generally get out and about to gigs right across the North West, occasionally hitting Yorkshire and the Midlands. If it’s loud with plenty of guitars – we’re there!’

Can you reveal some of the tracks that made the album ? ‘Having interviewed quite a few musicians over the years, I had a few people I could call upon. Gary Moat, frontman of rock band Burnt Out Wreck was the first.

On a long drive home from a gig I was listening to AC/DC and had the bizarre thought. ‘What would AC/DC sound like if Oasis covered them?’ And the idea for the Whole Lotta Rosie arrangement was born. I saw Gary singing a version of Highway To Hell and I knew then, I had to do this song. ‘The Isolation Sessions’ was born’.

‘Then I wanted something solitary to open the album, so I think that opening line from Comfortably Numb is perfect and really screams isolation – ‘Hello, is there anybody in there?’

Any songs from your favourite bands ? ‘Yeah, I saw Spike from The Quireboys play You Can’t Always Get What You Want – he is an incredible frontman. We recorded our version of that song. Also Sweet Mary Ann is another of my favourites. We thought we’d go all out Country Nashville, Pedal Steel’s ‘n’ all!’

Are there any unexpected songs on the album ? Learning to Wheels was one put together in lockdown. It’s a mash up between Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and Wheels by the Foo Fighters.

Danny also made room to record a home grown track…Unsafe Building by The Alarm, who are a great band, Mike Peters is a fellow North Walian! I think the words resonate perfectly. It’s definitely a song for these unprecedented times that we are experiencing’.

Did you enjoy putting the album together ? Yeah, The Wild Rover Blues was a fun song. Matt Pearce from Voodoo Six adds some great slide guitar and my mum even cameos on it! This is a great song to play live and over the years I have played it solo and played in plenty late night sessions with 20+ other musicians’.

How has the album been received ? ‘The support we received has been overwhelming, being featured not just in the UK, but all over the world – Germany, Spain, Mexico, the music media are really getting behind the project.

I am overjoyed that everyone has got involved in this project. All the artists have done this for nothing and Progressive Gears have put the album on their band camp completely free. Apart from the handling fee that Band Camp take, all the money is going to the Covid charity, which is amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough for getting involved and am so pleased with the result’.

Founding member of Judas Priest, K.K. Downing, added “I would strongly urge everyone to check out the album, not only for its much needed cause, but for the enjoyment you will have from listening to it. Much respect to all involved in this creation and my sincere thanks to you for your support.”

Order via the Progressive Gears band camp:

https://progressivegears.bandcamp.com/album/the-isolation-sessions

Or head over to the Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/theisolationsessions

Interview by Alikivi September 2020.

SHE’S A KNOCKOUT


New single released by pop/punk outfit Caffeine
2020 sees the return of London based Caffeine with new single She’s A Knockout. Guitarist J and bass/vocals, Scott McKewan, got in touch and talked about the new single…She’s a Knockout’ is about trying to get up when you’re at your lowest point. There’s bit of a juxtaposition going on as lyrically it’s a cry for help, but musically it’s a call to arms’.  

At the beginning of the noughties the band were playing Wembley Arena, touring with The Offspring, The Dickies, Rancid and Blink 182. They released two albums and toured America three times… Touring the States was incredible’ said J ‘We ended up going back and forth and never took it for granted. The scrapes we got into and the stories are pretty endless’. Have you got one that tops the list ? ‘I think giving away our entire back line of guitars, bass and amps to the crowd at the last American Bamboozle festival we played was the craziest thing we must have done. I remember handing my Ibanez to this 12 year old, I’d never seen an EMO kid so ecstatic. The things you do on tour eh!’  

In 2006 Caffeine went on hiatus, Scott formed The Candle Thieves and J started Calling All Astronauts… ‘Back then Caffeine were an incredibly hard working band’ said J ‘We played everywhere in the UK umpteen times and were constantly touring. When the U.S thing happened we perhaps concentrated too much on trying to get a foot in the door over there. The UK scene and venues were changing and the time felt right that we needed a break’.   Scott added ‘Definitely. From what I remember there was no big falling out, it was more like a natural progression at the time. As J said we’d been lucky enough to tour America a lot but it perhaps felt like we’d done all we could for that point in our lives’.   

Are you working on new material ? ’We are! It’s been so cool picking up the guitars again’ said Scott. ‘To be honest though me and J are so close that even if we put down the guitars and just hang out it’s a win-win situation. We’re recording in the U.K with Andy Hawkins at The Nave Studios producing it. He recorded our stuff back in the day and we’ve always trusted his production. The record should see the light of day early 2021’.   
She’s A Knockout is released via Supersonic media on September 25th 2020.   Contact the band: www.twitter.com/Caffeine_HQ www.facebook.com/caffeineuk https://open.spotify.com/artist/6ZZDj0FDKbX5FEDbACDvC6?si=mBCrfUWZRj2ip9afzcjpjQ

Interview by Alikivi  September 2020.

DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA

New single from Calling All Astronauts  

Divided States Of America sees London based electro-goth-punks in their lab cooking up a noxious potion of sneering punk with a heavy mix of rap and metal. The video drops in American TV news clips of burning flags, cars, and chaos on the streets – all hacked together under 3 minutes.

Moulding together a huge sound clash between Nine Inch Nails and Killing Joke, I asked David B (vox/keys/production) have they been an influence ? Both of them have been a massive influence on us. I saw NIN when they first played at The Astoria and then six months later my mates were in a band called Pig, and toured with them, so I got to see them several times. I’ve always loved Killing Joke, I think they are the most underrated band ever. They still make amazing albums 40 years after they started, and my mate Reza plays keys for them.

Why do you feel strongly about the state of the USA and the current resident of The White House. Is there anything to like about President Trump ? I feel Trump started this rise of the right with some of the dodgy alliances he did, and it paved the way for Boris to ape it in Britain, people like that embrace everything I find abhorrent in society.

Before teaming up again as Calling All Astronauts the band members worked on various projects. J Browning (guitarist) pounded the road on USA and European tours as a member of Pop-Punkers Caffeine, sharing stages with The Offspring, Blink 182, AFI and Rancid.

Bassist Paul McCrudden joined goth stalwarts The Marionettes headlining festivals and shows throughout Europe. While David taught himself to be a record producer. How did that go ? I was very lucky to have two mates who had produced a lot of well-known albums, and they were both happy for me to ring them and ask questions – so I did. I also watched countless tutorials on you tube by big name producers.

I think I was getting close on our second album, but on the third our latest, Resist, I had a stroke of luck. Paul (bass/guitars/keys) had known Alan Branch (double Grammy winner/ NIN, Depeche Mode, U2) since they were teenagers, Paul played him some of the tracks, and Alan came over to my place and gave me a one on one crash course in mixing.

When we were in the studio recording the new single my 3 year old daughter Daisy makes her musical debut. Alan was mixing the track and asked me to record a straight version of the chorus for the end. Daisy heard me doing the lines over and over and proceeded to run round the studio singing the chorus, a mic was quickly handed to her and the rest is history.

Check out the results on Divided States Of America released via Supersonic Media on September 18th 2020.   

Contact the band on: www.twitter.com/caa_official 

Facebook www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts 

YouTube  www.youtube,com/callingallastronauts Spotify  https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t

Interview by Alikivi   September 2020

METAL TOON, METAL CITY

Video filmed in Newcastle for new single from Chief Headbangers, Raven.

On Tyneside during the ‘70s and ‘80s rock music was heard from Sunderland to South Shields, bounced over the river Tyne to Whitley Bay and Wallsend – the vibrations were felt in Newcastle. A North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal was coming in.

Not just riding, but steering the wave were Fist, Hellanbach, Mythra, Tygers of Pan Tang and Venom pushing metal to its limits and discovering a new energy. Another one of those bands was Raven.

Now based Stateside, but originally formed in Newcastle in 1974, early gigs saw the trio cutting their teeth on North East live circuit of working mens clubs. Headline gigs at Newcastle Mayfair and Dingwalls gained the band a solid live reputation. The gates were opened, and the band went onto UK support slots with Iron Maiden, Ozzy and Whitesnake.

By the early ‘80s two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ were recorded in Impulse Studio, Wallsend on the Tyneside label, Neat Records. Then a call came in from America.

Raven were at the very forefront of speed metal spawning the big four beasts from the United States – Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and dragging Metallica out on their first, and scorching, tour across the USA. We know where they ended up. These were life changing moments. Raven knew their future was Stateside and subsequently signed to Megaforce and then major label, Atlantic.

Fast forward 40 years plus and the band are still hitting it hard with new single ‘Metal City’ from their forthcoming album. The music video was filmed on Tyneside capturing iconic structures like the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and even St James’ Park home of Newcastle United. I asked bassist and vocalist John Gallagher did filming stir up any memories when you were at the locations ? It definitely stirred up some memories especially with one part of the shoot. We were driving to one of the locations when I mentioned “I grew up down that street there” and our video guy Paul said “Then let’s check it out!” So the footage with me playing the bass is in the backlane in Benwell where we played football as kids.

After ‘Top of the Mountain’ this is the second track released and both are very strong opening singles, I asked John are the band putting down a marker for what the listeners can expect from the rest of the album ? Very much so. Top was the perfect choice as the first song as it sounds like one of our early songs dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!! And Metal City is not only the title track but it’s a real anthem type song. (Yep, added to trademark Gallagher scream, check out the geet big chorus!)

The rest of the album runs the gamut from crazy fast songs like The Power, and a tribute to Lemmy in Motorheadin’. Added to super aggressive tracks like Human Race and Break plus a bit of an epic in When Worlds Collide. So there’s variety, and all heavy with ‘all killer, no filler’.

How do you look at this album compared to previous releases ? This one is a belta! We actually think this album is the best thing we’ve ever done, for a band that’s been around the block as long as we have that’s really a case of laying down the gauntlet to many of the other bands of our era who are putting out ‘ok’ albums.

The band have just released new European tour dates, when was your last gig pre – covid ? Our last shows were on the Monsters of Rock cruise which departs from Florida. We did the pre-party show in Miami and a show on the cruise. Always great fun, and we actually did Chainsaw for the first time in about 30 years. We can’t wait to test drive these new songs on stage!

Watch the video on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtKKmm6ibOM&list=RDjtKKmm6ibOM&start_radio=1&t=20

Check official website for tour dates and album release:  https://ravenlunatics.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2020.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #5

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Thomas Young VC (1895-1966).

Thomas was recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. As a stretcher bearer Thomas saved countless lives of army colleagues on First World War battlefields. He was presented with his VC on the 29th June 1918. This is his story.

My name is Thomas Young although I was born Thomas Morrell on 28th January 1895 in Boldon, North East England. When I was young my father was killed in a mining accident so my mother remarried a man form Whitburn called Surtees Young. We lived at Cliff Terrace, Ryhope. I left school early to become a miner. When I was 18 I joined up with the Gateshead Territorials then in 1914 transferred into the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. I was a stretcher bearer.

At the start of the War, I was posted to the Western Front and reached Boulogne in April 1915. We were immediately thrown into the Second Battle of Ypres. I also served on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele. At the Somme I was wounded by a bullet in the left thigh and was evacuated to England. That put me out of action for a while but went back to France a few month later.

I was awarded my VC after a day on a battlefield in March 1918. It was all going off in broad daylight – rifles, machine-guns, shell fire, it was pretty heavy let me tell you. There was a number of casualties but I managed to bring back wounded comrades. Some I couldn’t move because they were badly injured, so I dressed them right there. When the wounds were dressed as much as I could I carried my marras back. I saved nine lives that way.

I went back to Durham for a spell of leave and they laid on a surprise for me. Officials from the coal mine took me home along the Scotswood Road in a pony and trap. My home was dressed with flags and bunting. I met The Earl of Durham who gave me a watch, some War Bonds and a silver cigarette case. A civic reception was laid on in Saltwell Park in Gateshead. There must have been thousands turned up that day.

After the war I went back to work in the mines but couldn’t keep my job because of my war wounds. I took on a new job at the mine as bath attendant and got £9 a week. But due to my health problems and financial worries I sold my VC medal, luckily a DLI officer saw it in a pawnbroker’s shop so the Regiment bought it back.

Thomas Young died at a hostel in Whickham on 15th October 1966, and buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard, High Spen, Durham with full military honours.

A memorial to Thomas Young was unveiled in July 2007 and can be seen in the grounds of High Spen primary school. In 2018 a commemorative memorial stone at Cotswold Lane in Boldon Colliery was unveiled to honour the memory of First World War hero Thomas. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources : Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #4

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Henry Howey Robson (1894-1964)

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In this series of Tyneside VC medal recipients, was this man the youngest ? At the age of 20, Henry was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 14th December 1914. This is his story.

I was born in South Shields, North East England on 27th May 1894. We had a home in Hampden Street where my da’ Edward was a coal miner and my ma’ was called Mary Morris, they first came from Sunderland. It was a big family. I had six brothers and a sister. I went to Mortimer Road School in the town and after I left I joined da’ in the mines.

When war started I joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots and went to France. I was awarded the VC after being on the battlefield in Belgium. What happened was we attacked a German position and I saw one of our men wounded so went out and brought him back. Guns were going off all around. It was really heavy fire. I done the same for another soldier but got shot. I didn’t give up and went out again but got hit again. I was in a bad way so they took me back to camp and I was evacuated to England.

I went back home to South Shields where I had a good time. I met the Mayor at a civic reception in the Town Hall. I got the Freedom of the town and was presented with £73 raised through a Shilling Fund. Then I visited my old school and was presented with a gold watch by the kids. I returned to war but was wounded in France and never returned to the front.

After the war I worked a couple of jobs. I was in the shipyards and as a steward on oil tankers running between Britain and South America. I wanted to go to Canada so I sold my medal to a doctor for £80. This paid my way and I arrived in 1923, a new life started.

I started work as a streetcar conductor with Toronto Transportation. Then in 1924 got married to Alice Maude and we had a son and four daughters. Then I became a civil servant working in the Parliament Buildings in Ontario, then done six years as a Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature. Before retirement in 1954 I was an information clerk, showing visitors around Parliament.

Civic reception with the Mayor at South Shields Town Hall for Henry.

In the ‘50s Henry returned to England a couple of times for the VC celebrations. His VC had been bought by a solicitor from Dunfermline, who lent him the medal to wear at the 1956 VC Centenary in Hyde Park, London. It’s reported that the medal was never returned to the solicitor.

On 4th March 1964 Henry died at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto. He was buried in the Veteran’s Section of York Memorial Cemetery, Toronto.

In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were presented to the Royal Scots Museum in Edinburgh Castle by his daughter, Mrs Patricia Gaskin of Toronto.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 a commemorative stone to mark Private Henry Robson’s bravery, was unveiled in Robson Way, South Shields.

Sources: Ancestry, Durham at War, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

EARTH WORKS for Teeside artist Andrew McKeown.

A current photography job I’m working on is documenting the regeneration project near the seafront in the North Marine Park, South Shields – really handy because I only live 2 minutes away. Within the building and restoration work pieces of public art are planned so I got in touch with the artist commissioned for the work…..I am currently working on designs for a large contemporary steel Beacon in North Marine Park, South Shields. The Beacon takes inspiration from the Lawe Top Beacons built in 1832. The words on the Beacon preserve maritime trade names and celebrate the character of the people of South Shields. The words and trade names have been suggested by the local community.

Do you always involve the community in a project ? Involving local communities is an essential part of my working practice. I have over 25 years of experience and knowledge in this area. For previous projects I have devised a wide range of community consultation programs involving local people and schoolchildren, from presentations through to hands on practical sculpture workshops and longer artist in residence programs. This work helps me refine ideas and sometimes new ideas are formed which develop into final sculptures.

It’s also equally important that local people have an opportunity to work together and create something positive for their community, to gain a sense of pride and ownership in the process and the final artwork. The processes involved in the engagement work is as important as the resulting artwork.

An interesting example of this approach can be seen in the sculpture ‘Breaking the Mould’ which takes the form of a giant seed which has emerged from an old industrial mould. The mould is broken and no longer useful but the last cast to be made is a new natural life form. The symbolism creates a striking resonance with the former and future uses of many of the 21 regeneration sites across England and Wales called Changing Places.

(The £60 million Changing Places program transformed 1,000 hectares of post-industrial derelict land into parks and open spaces).

Where did the idea come from ? During dialogue with East Manchester Ladies knitting group I distinctly remember writing some of the things they were saying to me, like ‘turning over a new leaf’, and ‘Breaking the Mould’ as we discussed their desire to move on and leave behind the scarred industrial landscape, changing it into a urban park and community facility through the Changing Places project.

What got you interested in art, was there a ‘wow’ moment when you saw something ? Not really, my upbringing was probably the biggest influence on that. It was a very creative upbringing.

McKeown grew up in a working class area of Middlesbrough, Teesside, UK, as the youngest in a family of four children…. We had a large garden where my father, a lifelong steelworker grew an abundance of fruit and veg. My mother was a primary school teacher and we were always building, making, cooking and exploring.

The family lived only a couple of miles away from the shipyards, coke ovens, blast furnaces and rolling mills of British Steel and the chemical plants of ICI… If we were feeling energetic, we would walk or cycle to Redcar beach or Eston Hills where iron ore was mined to fuel the industrial revolution.

At school, art was always my favourite subject and this inspired me to attend art college and then a Fine Art degree in sculpture at Coventry Polytechnic.

Following education, Andrew worked as a community artist delivering school and community based workshops and small art projects…These were low budget projects such as one-off workshop days and artist in residence projects. Gradually larger projects became available and I was able to create my own artwork with the involvement of local communities, rather than solely community generated art.

What inspires you ? The industrial processes of casting and mould making influence my work in both a practical and conceptual way. I often create multiple cast sculptures in iron, steel, bronze, aluminium and stone – these are very durable materials for external artworks.

McKeown uses recurring themes within his work of growth, change and renewal…. I like to work within the environment and this often means I have to build identity and add character to a space that has very little. Often I am working in empty fields or urban parks that only have a few shrubs and paths or working off landscape plans while looking at building sites and piles or earth.

Rather than creating one giant sculpture I often use the available budget to create a family of related sculptures that link to each other and draw your eye to the environment they are in. Other times I create entrance features that hope to draw people into a space. I prefer that people can engage with my sculptures becoming almost part of them for a brief moment.

On average how long do you work on a project for a client ? This is very hard to answer but the larger projects can be spread out over years to plan and develop. Then when it comes to manufacturing this can take as little as 2 months or if I am making patterns and moulds for casting this might take six to eight months.

Is there a satisfying moment during the art process ? I think the most satisfying time is when I have the right idea for a project. One that I know that I like and know the client and the community are going to like and buy into. This can often be the most draining and difficult process and it can take a lot of research and community work similar to the Breaking the Mould idea which came after maybe 8 months of research and community engagement.

What else are you working on ? I am currently finalizing designs for a Teeside Retail Park called ‘Rolled into One’. For this project I am engaging the local community to provide colloquial job or occupation names from the local iron and steel industry. Up to one hundred of these names will be applied to the outsides of the steel box section arms of the sculpture. There are many unique and interesting names such as Welder, Plater, Catcher, Striker, Roller, Breaker, Burner that will be used and many more. I am currently consulting the local community including my family and friends.

I’m also working on a few other projects, one called ‘Crossing Points’ for Groundwork North East River Tees Rediscovered project, another project is for Middlesbrough Council within its Creative Factory artistic interventions project – my pieces are called ‘Endless Convenience’.

Andrew lives and works in the North East of England and is available for public and private commissions throughout the U.K. and internationally.

For more information and images for previous artwork visit:

www.andrewmckeown.com

https://www.facebook.com/andrewmckeownsculptor/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2020.

FIGHT AMONGST YOURSELVES – interview with Neil Thompson from The Carpettes

 

When did you first get interested in music ? When I was a kid I loved listening to records and watching singers like Billy Fury and Joe Brown on TV. I had my first single when I was 2 – and I also saw my first gig when I was 2, which was Billy Fury at Sunderland Odeon in March 1962. By the time I was 11 I had about 150 singles in my collection.

I saw The Kinks at Sunderland Empire in 1969 and that was the start of me going to gigs in the North East – Led Zep at Newcastle City Hall, Queen at Sunderland Locarno, Sabbath, Genesis, Lizzy, Budgie, Nazareth, absolutely loved them all.

When was your first gig in a band ? My first gig playing in a band was as a drummer. We were called Brown Sugar and it was on the 22nd November 1974 at Newbottle Church Hall, County Durham. We played Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones songs to kids that wanted Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath – we went down terrible. When we finished the vicar locked us in the back room cos they were banging on the door wanting to beat us up.

I played drums in that band for another four gigs and in the meantime started playing guitar/vocals in another band. We were doing Status Quo/Thin Lizzy covers and I played nine gigs with that band. The last one was my first pub gig at the Sunderland Royalty in March ‘77.

By this time I was getting into the punk scene and one night I was in The White Lion in Houghton, County Durham and George was there – bassist from Brown Sugar. We hadn’t seen each other for a good while and first thing he said was ‘Have you got the Ramones album’. I said I did, so he said ‘Well do you wanna be in a punk band then’. The problem was that I was a drummer, but he’d seen one of the gigs where I played guitar and sang and thought I was good enough. We did our first gig as The Carpettes in June 1977.

What was your first experience in a recording studio ? We did our first recording at Impulse in Wallsend that was in the summer of ‘77.  The demo is available on The Early Years, a CD released in 1997 on Overground Records.

Did you support any name bands ?  While we were living in the North East we gigged with Penetration, Punishment of Luxury and Angelic Upstarts. We also supported The Vibrators at Redcar Coatham Bowl. Among all this we played one gig in London at Leytonstone Red Lion in March ‘78 supporting The Leyton Buzzards. This was the only time, thank goodness, that I was spat at during a gig.

(The Carpettes released six singles and two albums from 1977 to 1980 including a 4 track EP in 1977 & ‘Small Wonder’ 7” both on the Small Wonder label. Two albums, Frustration Paradise & Fight Amongst Yourselves on Beggars Banquet).

How did signing with those labels come about ? We were on the Small Wonder label while we were living in the North East. That came about when we answered an advert in the Sounds music weekly for new bands and they liked us.

Me and the bassist, George, moved down to London in October 1978 and found a new drummer. But it was like starting from scratch when we moved down there but we signed to Beggar’s Banquet in June 1979. We stayed there until 1981 then moved back up North.

Did you appear on TV or radio ? We were on tour with The Inmates at the time and had to cancel one of the gigs at London to travel up to Manchester to record The Old Grey Whistle Test. They’d already played a track from the album on a previous show. The other band that was on was The Blues Band.

Did you have any high points in the band ? I don’t know about high or low points – all I know is that we got better and better as we gigged. Our new drummer, Tim Wilder, was a really solid drummer, he was from Oxford but he’d been a student at Newcastle University and was the drummer in The Young Bucks while living up North.

I loved going to The Marquee to watch bands but I didn’t really enjoy playing there to be honest. We did six supports there and they were hard work – there was always a ‘Come on then, impress us’ in the air !

We played four nights in November ‘79 with The Lurkers during their residency there. Each gig would have punks sitting on the stage with their backs to us and every now and then one would look around and stare at you – and then turn back around. I much preferred London gigs like The Hope ‘n’ Anchor and The Nashville.

By the very last gig for The Carpettes in June 1981 we were a really tight live act with four years gigging experience – you can’t beat live experience for getting better on stage. It’s no good sitting in the bedroom playing guitar – not gonna get you anywhere.

One story to tell is that one of our first gigs was supporting Penetration at Newcastle University in November ‘77 – and we were terrible ! It was far too early to be playing gigs like that but we supported them again at Middlesbrough Rock Garden in August ‘78 and went down a storm.

Have you any road stories ?  In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, and we also did a short UK tour supporting The Inmates. That UK tour was probably the best two weeks of my life. I was twenty years old, travelling around the country playing music and when we arrived at the venue all the equipment would already be set up by the roadies – heaven!

What are you doing now ? Well I’ve spent most of my life down London. I was in my own band called The Only Alternative – all my ideas and songs which was a bit selfish. But we had some laughs for a couple of years between the summer of ‘84 to the summer of ’86. We released an album in 1985 on the Midnight Music label.

Then with the 20th anniversary of punk happening in 1996 I got both bands back together, well sort of with different line-ups. Both bands gigged on and off until the end of 2003. During this time The Only Alternative recorded two more albums and two singles. I played drums on all of these recordings – as well as being the singer. The Carpettes released a single in 2002 and an album in 2003.

At the moment I have a three piece band called The Alternative Carpettes which play some of my songs from The Carpettes with some Only Alternative ones thrown in.

What does music mean to you ? Music means everything to me. All my life has revolved around music. I love all sorts of music. I love orchestral music like Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Love the ‘30s and ‘40s swing bands like Basie and Ellington. Rock ‘n’ roll, country, rhythm and blues of the ‘50s. I have a radio show playing ‘50s music every day.

I also love punk, metal, indie, 78’s, cassettes, records, CD’s.  I love it all. I don’t like TV or read books – my whole life is music!

Check out The Carpettes from this 1980 episode of the Old Grey Whistle Test.

https://youtu.be/LvUt7yeAepw

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.