TYNE & WEIRD – with author Rob Kilburn

Folklore, urban legends, strange happenings and eccentric characters from history are all brought to life in Tyne and Weird, Rob Kilburn’s first book.

I asked 27 year old Seaburn lad Rob, what inspired you to write this book ?

‘I feel it’s important to be aware of some of our own history and I think on a personal level it was about finding inspiring characters and stories from the North East’

‘I started Tyne and Weird on Facebook a couple of years ago with the aim of building up an audience. I started sharing stories from around the North East that I found interesting, exploring quirky, strange history and some darker themes’.

Did you come across any surprises when researching the stories ?

‘I think the sheer amount of history unique to the area was a bit of surprise. The more you dig into archives and connect with community you realise how much of the world is connected to our little part of England’.

Have you a favourite story in the book ?

‘One story I found particularly interesting was the two lads from Gateshead who allegedly captured the Loch Ness Monster on camera’.

Is there a story set in South Shields ?

‘Yes, there are stories from all over Tyne and Wear. South Shields has had a number of interesting visitors like Buffalo Bill, Houdini and Jimi Hendrix to name just a few’. 

Have you an idea for future projects ?

‘Yes, I am currently working on a sequel which will also look at areas in the North East outside of Tyne and Weird. There is a lot of weird out there and some of the stories in this one are fantastic’.

Where is the book available ?

The book is available on Amazon or you can get it directly from me here:

Interview by Gary Alikivi   March 2021.

NO REGRETS – with Paul McCarte from Hartlepool band, demon summer

In a previous interview with Paul (link below), he talks about his former band Procession imploding after two albums, there was also a failed attempt at getting a record deal with ZTT. I got back in touch with Paul and asked if he sees it as an opportunity missed to step up in the music business.

We were all in our early twenties, young and headstrong, and we knew that ZTT had a reputation for totally changing the sound of a band a la Frankie Goes to Hollywood. We were definitely not up for that, so we were hoping they liked us for what we were.

Their A&R guy saw the potential but seemed more interested in me than the band, and that was never going to fly with me, despite everyone in the band thinking I should go for it. I would have ended up like Seal just adding my face and voice to big ZTT produced tracks.

We were sure something else would present itself – because as one door closes another one opens. I’ve always been in it for the music rather than any kind of fame. Being creative is the whole point and we’ve made some wonderful music together since our time in Sarm West studio/ZTT.

It was their loss as we created two albums in the immediate aftermath, armed with no money in tiny studios with 100% passion and belief. The songs still sound marvellous and don’t seem to have aged.

I’ve tracked down three of the Sarm West/ZTT recordings on tape and am intending to release them on our Bandcamp when we have cleaned them up and remastered them.

After Procession called it a day, McCarte dusted himself down, and along with Nick Crozier (guitar) and Ken Napper (bass) started working on a new project together.

demon summer was born out of a desire to continue making music together. To begin with Ken Napper was just pitching in but like a moth was attracted to the bright light of what me and Nick Crozier were creating and just kept turning up and slinging his bass on.

This was fine with us as we’re all lifelong friends but at that point Ken had no desire to develop things toward a new band, although that is where me and Nick were headed.

Where did the band name originally come from ?

In 1999 we wrote some new songs as a four piece with former Procession drummer Mark Lloyd, recording them at Polaris studio in Hartlepool and this three track session saw the first use of the name demon summer.

I had a dream just before the recording session where we went to see New Order playing and got to meet them afterwards. The singer asked me if I was in a band and when I said yes he asked the name, to which my reply was demon summer. I wrote it down when I woke up, Nick liked the name so we used it on the Polaris session tracks.

After the session Mark Lloyd left to drum on his project (NEEB). Me and Nick Crozier realised changes need to happen in order to move on so I hatched a plan to get Ken Napper motivated again.

We needed a bass player and drummer so I asked a friend, Eddie Rees – who was playing bass in a local punk band if he wanted to join. He was very interested, so that part was sorted. We arranged a meeting with Ken Napper and told him we had replaced him on bass but what we really needed was a drummer.

Ken had always been able to play drums but never had the chance so he jumped at it and committed fully to the project buying himself a drum kit. We rehearsed with the full line up of myself, Nick, Eddie and Ken, at that point we became demon summer.

Roadhouse, London advert for 15.02.04

Where were your first gigs and what venues did you play after that ?

Our first gig was on 12 December 2001 at The Studio in Hartlepool and it was sold out as it had been a long time since we played. We had released the one EP earlier in the year so locally everyone knew about us and our second gig was supporting Icelandic band Leaves at The Cornerhouse in Middlesbrough.

We’ve played over a hundred gigs and festivals with a lot of famous venues among them such as The Cavern in Liverpool, London venues The Borderline, Roadhouse, The Garage, Underworld, plus Carling Academy Liverpool, The Cluny Newcastle and a few Universities but probably our favourite venue has been The Empire in Middlesbrough.

Did you support any name bands ?

We played gigs with Doves, Echo & the Bunnymen, Longview, Bloc Party, The Boxer Rebellion, The Ordinary Boys, Maximo Park and toured extensively from 2002 to the end of 2005. After that we mostly played in the local area. An odd little thing that demon summer were involved with is providing all of the music for the Morrissey documentary The Jewel in the Crown.

Are there any gigs that stand out ?

Playing The Empire was always fantastic. We were the opening band at Middlesbrough Music Live in 2004 and it was packed to the gills, also in 2005 when we played there during the tour for the single burn, it was a special night. The Borderline in London was really full and we got a great reception.

Also great memories of playing at the Tall Ships festival with Doves and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Did you record any of your material ?

We built our own studio called PulseArt on the top floor of my house which is where the one EP, debut album Sideshow and singles empty heart and burn were all recorded between 2001 and 2004.

Between March 12th and 17th 2004 we recorded in Liverpool’s Parr Street Studio laying down four new songs, three of which – founder, mary celeste and created were released last year as the Parr Street Session. The session was engineered and mixed by the renowned Liverpool sound engineer Michael Hunter who has worked with some of the biggest bands out there such as Supergrass, Marillion and The Charlatans.

In 2005 we recorded the follow up single to burn which was a re-imagined poppier version of empty heart along with a song called you draw the line, all recorded at Tower Street Studio in Hartlepool.

But our record company Waterside Records folded just afterwards so we never released it. We remastered the songs and released them last year as the single empty heart two.

Between 2011 and 2015 we recorded the second demon summer album in PulseArt and this will be released later in the year preceded by the first single it’s a trap.

When did the band call it a day and why ?

Technically demon summer have not disbanded. Mark and Andy wanted to return to NEEB to work on an album so we agreed to put gigging on hold and just record the album which myself and Nick would produce with a very loose ‘We’ll talk about what to do next when it’s finished’.

What are you doing now ?

We all work on various projects. Mark and Andy have alongside their band NEEB been working under the moniker ATM and also Subliminal Vineyards with Tony Waite, Mark Hand and Mark Folland. Andy Wain (keys) also works under the alias Pixelate. Myself, Nick and Eddie have been working on a new project since 2015 which we would have played live by now but for the pandemic.

Check the demon summer back catalogue:


Link to the first interview with Paul McCarte:

DEAL OR NO DEAL – for North East musician Paul McCarte | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2021.

FROM NEWCASTLE WITH LOVE – part one of an interview with actor & musician Brian Rapkin.

Life in the North East started in 1973 in a basement flat in Leazes Terrace near St James Park, Newcastle. Waking up each morning to a kitchen sink full of slugs was not ideal, so I moved to Fenham sharing a flat with fellow-teacher Ged Grimes, guitarist in Hedgehog Pie.

I was teaching at John Marley Upper School where I entertained Bob Smeaton (former vocalist with Newcastle band White Heat, now music TV director, link below) and his class by reading chapters from The Exorcist.

Later in the ’70s came the North East punk scene, when I was living in Brighton Grove, Newcastle singing and writing songs as Brian Bond with Punishment of Luxury. We had a single out on Small Wonder records then got a major deal with United Artists – an album Laughing Academy and three singles – and toured UK and Europe. EMI dropped us in 1980 and I left soon after to form Punching Holes.

In part two Brian will be talking more about his music, this post will focus on his acting career. I asked him when did you start acting ?

My brother, sister and I used to put on short plays for mum and dad when I was small living in Staines near London where I was brought up. That thrill of performing to an audience had begun. There was no school drama even though I tried to get my English teacher to organise it. All that remained was sport, and boxing was mine.

My dad trained me and I won two cups in school, read books about it and loved Henry Cooper, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston and Mohammed Ali. I was obsessed. At 13 I won a bronze medal and made the school boxing team.

Training was dire in the bad winter of ‘63 – endless gym circuits, cross-country runs in the snow wearing boots and heavy backpack. I got flu and they dropped me from the team after two matches. I lost them both, along with my killer instinct. Sometimes an illness jerks you into making changes. This one dragged me out of a rut into acting.

I was in an all-male school, so at 14 my acting debut was in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, along with Stephen Milligan, the Tory MP who died naked with an orange in his mouth and a plastic bag over his head.

The first paid acting job was at 20 working for Bowie’s mentor Lindsay Kemp at York Arts Centre. This was soon followed by a role in the 1970 Edinburgh Festival as the virgin Sir Galahad in Mort d’Arthur. I trained method-style for the part by remaining chaste until 21.

1971 involved acting in a different role. I found an ad in The Stage and applied to be a clown in Cottle & Austen’s Circus. The first performance in Surrey was adrenalin-packed but they didn’t like my ‘grotesque’ make-up so they toned me down and made me an auguste, a tramp clown. It lasted three days, the ringmaster went into a sulk after I spurned his advances, so he refused to give me the training he’d promised.

Brian as a young clown in 1967 at Warwick University.

When did you sign professionally?

I signed up as an Equity actor in 1975 whilst as a variety performer singing and playing guitar and keyboards in Mad Bongo theatre group, based in the North East. As a stage actor, the best roles were in a production about the trial of Oscar Wilde. We toured it around North arts centres and colleges. It was a disastrous opening night in Kendal but then we pulled it all together and it was much praised.

The first speaking part in film acting was in BBC’s Machine Gunners (1982) as a Polish officer.  I didn’t have to audition but chatted to Colin Cant, the director, a lovely man who gave me the part after I told him of my Polish ancestry, which was almost true.

In 1995 Brian appeared in Tyne Tees TV programme Stranger than Fiction, associate producer was Vin Arthey who features in an earlier blog. (link below)

How did you get the part ?

Dave Holly was my agent and they liked my Russian accent, the role as a 1920s Soviet intelligence officer was a dream. In a sense it was like going back centuries to revisit my family’s Russian roots as a Rapkin.

The scene involved interviewing William Fisher, the Geordie Russian spy born in Benwell, and decide his suitability as a Soviet agent. I thought smoking a cigarette would help the atmosphere and it probably did, but as a lifelong non-smoker it was hard to do.

The location of the scene was the main assembly hall in Heaton Manor School, where ten years previously I’d been a teacher. My son was about to enrol at this school and the location was ideal – dark, polished wood everywhere, and a floor where footsteps could echo, perfect for a top-secret meeting between a spy and his handler.

What other roles did you have on TV ?

Byker Grove allegedly cost £1000 a minute to shoot, and this may be why most of my role as a sadistic supervisor – in black clothing, brandishing a long stick – ended up on the cutting-room floor.  I was overseeing a group of youths doing community service and had to shout at them. We did the scene twice.

Take 1: The sound meter leapt into red and distorted, so had to be done again.

Take 2: One of my lines was marred by a slight fluff. Mathew Robinson the director said ‘Next scene!’

I asked if we could do it again. No was the answer, we gotta move on. The only line of mine that survived was ‘Oy! Back to work!

Ant, Dec, and Jill Halfpenny, were just kids. I was watching the filming at one point and they were performing a scene. Mathew said ‘Cut! Let’s do it again but speak more slowly this time.’  Jill said ‘But that’s how real Geordies speak!’ and he said ‘Yes, but this is being networked all around the UK, from Cornwall to Scotland. Everyone in the country’s got to understand everything that you’re saying. OK? One more time. Action!’

I was a cockney detective in Spender in 1990. I was in the opening scene with Jimmy Nail and Amanda Redman in a train carriage. Nervy, with the crew squeezed into the aisle between the seats, Mr Nail chivvied the crew along.  ‘Come on everyone, the actors are on tenterhooks here.’ That helped my nerves. I was the new boy on the block.

During a move from one location to another, I missed the coach for Less Important Actors and had to share a trailer with Jimmy and Amanda. They chatted about past experiences. She mentioned that she’d toured with the Rocky Horror Show. I tried to join in the conversation ‘I love that show. What part did you play?’  She turned towards me, stared at an empty space and forcing a smile, said ‘I’m sorry?’  There was an awkward pause.

I repeated it, this time less confidently. Jimmy Nail waded in with a put-down reply ‘What part did you play?’… ‘The lead, of course!’. End of conversation. Cue to look out of the trailer window. Tumbleweed floats by.

Playing a Maitre D in ‘The Round Tower’ by Catherine Cookson 1998.

Have you any stand out memories from filming ?

One day as an extra for a TV drama I had to get costumed up at 7am in the Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay. I wasn’t used in a scene until 4pm, so the best thing was to watch the filming and chat to others involved. One of these was Jimmy Garbutt, a leading actor in When the Boat Comes In and one of the elders in the Superman film with Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando.

He regaled us with tales from Superman. On the first day of filming Brando was shaking each actor’s hand saying ‘Hi, I’m Marlon Brando’ – as if they didn’t know. When it came to shooting a scene, one of the other elders was Trevor Howard, who’d been with Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty. Howard was furious because Brando hadn’t bothered learning any of his lines, and he’s had them written out in large letters, sellotaped to their set.

Doing a couple of Catherine Cookson films, The Round Tower and The Man who Cried, was challenging, and it was enjoyable to dress up and play Sir Walter Raleigh to Charlie Hardwick’s Queen Elizabeth I in CITV’s Kappatoo, elegantly laying a cloak on the puddle for her majesty to step on.

Once I was an extra in Supergran in a crowded pub scene. We had to drink from pint mugs and our glasses were filled with shandy. One of the extras, a stocky Geordie actor from Walker, took a look at his glass and barked at the Production Assistant ‘Ah’m not drinkin’ that!’  

The PA – a slim, well-groomed man from the South East of England – bellowed in a high-pitched voice: ‘Remove this man from the set, please! Take his costume, thank you!’ Great days.

What are you doing now ?

I stopped acting for a living at 35 – too precarious, always touring in vans, no money, nowhere decent to live. I got married, started a family, taught in Cairo for a while then went back to Newcastle to teach and do whatever film or TV work came along.

From 1985 I taught drama in schools for 5 years, then post-16 students in a college for 30 years. Last year I took voluntary redundancy and now there are possibilities of work linked to the acting world.

In part two soon read about Brian’s alternative career as a musician in the bands Punishment of Luxury and Punching Holes.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2021.

Interview with Bob Smeaton:

THE BOY FROM BENWELL – with Film & TV Director, Bob Smeaton | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Interview with Vin Arthey:

RUSSIA’S GEORDIE SPY with author Vin Arthey | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

GLASTONBURY TOR – More than just a Hill by author, Dan Green

Mysteries of the world are fascinating subjects and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark.

Former South Shields resident Dan Green, British author, broadcaster and researcher has already shared some of his experiences on this blog including poltergeists, UFO’s and fairies. He recently got in touch about some more unpredictable events that he has experienced.

Of all the apparent mysteries I have investigated and had to leave unsolved, this is certainly high up on my list. Even higher is Glastonbury Tor, a 158 metres high conical shaped hill in Somerset. Placed on a ley line, it has the reputation of being a fairy hill, with alleged strange properties with an entrance to Fairyland, no less, somewhere on its eastern slope.

I’ve visited the Tor at all times of the year both with people and on my own. I can vouch for my own strange experiences such as the first time I ascended to the summit at about 11.30pm and almost immediately there was a brief silent silver flash only feet above my head. Nice welcome.

Minutes later on the left hand slope I watched a 5 seconds silent bombardment of what I described at the time of grey ping pong balls. Obviously they weren’t physical but without being a psychic I saw them clearly. Years later I learned that other people have also watched this ping pong phenomenon. What could they have been? And how can they produce themselves?

More strangeness awaited me starting in 2005 and lasting the next five years. I was ascending the Tor on a July afternoon like I’d done umpteen times when suddenly I became overpowered with a great fear, so much so that I had to crouch down to the grass, unable to progress any further.

My body was awash with what I can only imagine a panic attack must feel like. I had no idea what was happening to me and was so fearful – unlike me – I had to retreat back down the pathway.

I wrote the experience off as it just being one of those weird things and had put it to the back of my mind when I visited next, the following July. Proving that lightning can strike twice, the same thing happened to me again at exactly the same point. For the following five years I experienced the same intense trepidation at the same point, unable to go any further.

On the last occasion two surprised family members watched me scale down the slope to crawl further along and then come up on the path again, when past the troublesome spot. They thought I was playing some sort of game.

In 2010 everything returned to normal for me and I happily skipped over the spot, going backwards and forwards just to be sure. What on earth (or maybe under earth) had all that been about?

Dazzling white ‘something’ at the base of the Tor.

In 2008 I went to Glastonbury to investigate the experience of local man Mike Chenery. On February 2007 at 4.33pm on a bright day he was walking up Orchard Lane at the foot of the Tor when he noticed all the singing birds had suddenly stopped their throng. It’s the sort of thing that happens at times of a solar eclipse.

He was at the vantage point of one of the un-arched sides of the Tower at the top of the Tor and as he glanced up at the deserted summit he saw a dazzling white something that he told me glided a short distance from within the tower. At first it showed itself as linear, long and very narrow, moving its perspective to face his direction and then widening.

Mike always carries his digital camera with him and quickly took a pic before the apparition popped off. When I met him he still had the pic saved on his camera. What had he photographed? Not a camera glitch, for a close up shows definite contours, neither an optical effect.

Interviewing Mike I have no reason to doubt his story or integrity. Could this be the most amazing photo ever taken on the famous Fairy hill?

I was once told by an ex-mayor of Glastonbury who preferred anonymity of how one night he witnessed what he described as a spaceship when he saw a reddish orange light appear above the Tor before sinking into the summit. He reassured me that he ‘Wasn’t on anything’.

As well as speaking with a good few other individuals with their own drug and alcohol free experiences, I’ve had further Tor experiences of my own, but they are so personal and likely unbelievable to a listener that I prefer keeping them to myself.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, and as much as I would like to say that Glastonbury Tor is nothing more than simply a hill, my own experiences clearly won’t allow me. Would it you?

Dan Green 2021

Read more Dan Green investigations:

HIDDEN TREASURE on Tyneside with investigator Dan Green | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

MIND GAMES ? Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Edited by Gary Alikivi  February 2021.

WEY AYE BROADWAY – with singer, songwriter & actress Jan Graveson

Durham born Jan Graveson created a momentum from a very early age taking her from stage, TV and onto film. She has multiple TV credits for popular series and dramas including Eastenders, A Touch of Frost, Byker Grove, Heartbeat, and Casualty.

Jan, under her first stage name of Shainey Khan, also appeared alongside Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy, Timothy Spall and Kevin Whatley in Hasta La Vista, an episode of the second series of Auf Weidersehen, Pet.

‘That’s where I played my first speaking role as Wendy, Oz’s birra fluff. I got recognised in Newcastle straight after the show was broadcast’.

The scene was shot in the fictional club Cannibals, which actress Lesley Saint John talks about in her February 2020 interview (link). Lesley played shadey businessman Ally Frasers girlfriend.

TALKING PICTURES in conversation with actress Lesley Saint John | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Reverting back to her own name, Jan also completed live stage work in theatre and musicals leading to Broadway.

‘After the last show in Toronto the producer Bill Kenwright came up to me and said ‘Yer going to New York kid’.

I got in touch with Jan and asked if she would like to tell a few stories about her life as a singer and actress.

I’m really busy out here shooting in Bollywood. I was always singing in bands, I was in a ton of bands when I was living in the UK and going to London and playing regularly. Singing was always part of my life. Now I’m singing in Bollywood, India, I’m also in a band in Goa.

I hate this lockdown were going through, it’s like they’re blocking out the music. But hey Gary, the Durham pit yackers are in Bombay now (laughs).

Between her busy work schedule Jan was able to highlight her career so far. First I asked where did it all begin and are you from a musical family?

Music was just something I was tuned into, it was part of my life. I was brought up in a house with a piano and music going on till 2am. My dad was a pitman and used to sing in the working men’s clubs. Our neighbour Aunty Katie used to come to our house and play the piano in the sitting room when he was practicing for the next show. I was always staying up late listening in.

I started playing piano when I was around 3 year old and my mother said I sang before I talked. It was all by ear until I was 7 and my Dad’s money from singing in the clubs helped pay for real piano lessons and tap dance sessions.

My Dads father was also a singer, he used to sing down the mining club at Hordon Colliery and my mother’s mother was also a singer. She was Welsh and had a beautiful voice.

‘Wendy with Moxy in Cannibals’ a scene from AWP during the episode Hasta La Vista.

Acting was another discipline you got into, how did you start on TV?

When I was young I got a hunger for working on TV and acting. My Dad was a member of the acting union Equity. I joined when I was 12 and got a provisional card after doing 52 weeks singing in the clubs. I went up for acting jobs by sending hand written letters to Tyne Tees TV.

I started to get a few small walk on rolls and then Auf Wiedersehen Pet was my first real role. I loved doing that it was a hoot from start to finish, it was really good fun. We shot it all in Nottingham. I played Oz’s ‘birra fluff’. I was recognised in Newcastle after the show went out.

I stayed in touch with Tim Healy (who played Dennis Patterson, in AWP). Tim was one of the founding members of Live Theatre in Newcastle and that is where I learnt all my theatre skills. That was with the likes of Robson Green and the amazing director Max Roberts.

I performed around four or five plays there and have to say they were some of the best years of my career and life. Learning acting and comedy skills, and just rehearsing plays at the theatre was amazing. Max Roberts, Tim Healy, Val McClaine, Davey Whitaker – God bless him – used to pop in and watch us and give us notes on our sessions.

That took me onto the BBC soap Eastenders, where I played a lead role.

Working with an agent, Jan landed a dream role in Britain’s number one TV soap. She became a household name and was awarded winner of Best Newcomer to British TV Soap by BBC.

When I left I was looking at forming a career with Warner Brothers as a singer/actress but they just saw me as a soap opera actress, it all went pear shaped really.

After that bump in the road, live stage work and big, bright lights of musicals were in your sights. How did you end up on Broadway ?

I went into my first musical in 1991 called Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. It’s a working class story set in Liverpool with songs and music in it, not your typical huge stage set of glitz and glamour. My audition for that was with Gem (former Oasis guitarist). He came into the Albury Theatre in St Martins Lane, London. I sang Will You by Hazel O’Connor and I didn’t use the pianist for that I took Gem along on guitar. I got the part and was in the West End show.

I left after one year and in 1992 Bill Kenwright asked me back to do the tour to Liverpool and Toronto, Canada. After I did that Bill was looking at New York but it wasn’t certain that he could get the five visas needed.

After the last show in Toronto Bill came up to me and said ‘Yer going to New York kid’. It was a total Wow moment. That’s how I ended up on Broadway, was nominated for a TONY award and my whole life went on its head out there.

Multiple roles on touring musicals have glittered Jan’s career including Cabaret, Rocky Horror Picture Show, 42nd Street, Copa Cabana and All That Jazz.

What advice would you give to anyone looking for a career in show business ?

It can be done if you work hard enough. I’m constantly busy, I fly through life. I tell everyone I’ve never had a singing or acting lesson, I’ve never been to an acting school or institution.

I followed my dad when I was little, I watched and learnt everything from him. There was no acting school in London for me. I did my stagecraft at Newcastle’s Live Theatre.

In the early ‘90s I played Catherine Cookson at The Customs House in South Shields, it was a fantastic gig. I had to age all through that play right up to 75 year old. It was a wonderful cast and we had a lot of fun doing it. I’m a big fan of John Miles, he wrote the music for it, it was a pleasure to work with him – and having a few knee’s up’s at his house on Tyneside (laughs).

But playing that part was a challenge which is what you have to keep doing. It’s hard work and not been easy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What are you doing now and have you got anything planned ?

Now I’m writing a web series which is a musical set in Mumbai and based on my life, featuring the North East in the ‘70s. I’m writing the music for it now. It’s really exciting.

I’m also a mentor here in Mumbai and Goa and running workshops in acting, singing and tap dancing. In April I’m starting gigs in a prominent venue in Bombay. I love music, singing, song writing, actors, musicians, I love it all.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   March 2021.

GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #6 Ghost in the Machines

Guardian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog – they were home to a well-known recording studio.

From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7”. 1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior made singles or albums. On this blog there is a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian and there has also been stories of a ghost of a young girl who was knocked down outside the studio.

Dave Wilkinson (Spartan Warrior): We recorded at Guardian Studio in ‘83/’84. My abiding memory of recording there is that the studio was said to be haunted. There were occasions when although we’d been booked into the studio during the day time, the producer Terry Gavaghan, would often have us recording throughout the evening and into the early hours of the following morning.

Terry would tell us about various sightings of the ghost of a little girl and there had been occasions when peoples headphones had inexplicably flown off across the room during a take.

On one occasion we were recording a track called Witchfinder for the Steel n’ Chains album and Terry thought that it would be cool for the five of us to record a satanic chant at the opening of the track.

The control room had a large glass window next to the mixing desk and from there you could see into the room in which the band was set up to record. It was quite dark in that room and I think it was only dimly lit with a red light. 

So after a lot of the usual ghostly tales we all went around the vocal microphone while Terry remained in the control room with a lad who was helping him in the studio. We had a few runs through this chant and it was an unrehearsed shambles, but he called us back in to the control room to have a listen.

Terry set the analogue recordings running and we listened back. Then the tape machine just ground to a halt and he pointed at the digital clock which measured the length of the track and it came up as six minutes and sixty six seconds… 666.

Terry looked really worried and said you can’t have a clock showing 666 seconds and he was telling us something sinister was at work probably brought on by the satanic chant.

He said that we ought to abandon the idea before anything horrendous happened. He said the chant could bring about terrible things if blood was spilled. I think he actually said ‘all you need is blood’. 

Then the lad helping Terry got up to go into the kitchen to make us all a cup of tea and he banged his head off one of the monitors and split his head open. That was it – blood was spilled and we were all terrified.

It was almost certainly a wind up. I’m pretty sure Terry could have done something to make the clock show 666 but the lad did actually split his head open. The chant never made the album.

Read the full interview with Dave Wilkinson here:

Guardian Recording Studio stories #2 with Sunderland metal band, Spartan Warrior | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Glenn Coates (Hollow Ground): When we were recording the tracks for a compilation album, Roksnax. We stayed overnight but if I knew what was there I wouldn’t of stayed.

One night the lads were in the kitchen making coffee and Terry Gavaghan and myself were sitting at the mixing desk in the control room of the studio. We looked through the glass partition and seen a sort of electric blue figure that came right up to the glass in front of me, its face didn’t have any features, no face, no mouth, nothing. Then it moved back and turned to the side revealing its shape of an old woman with a stooped shoulders and back.

I felt pretty calm watching this go on in front of us, then suddenly it floated across the room and stopped at the wall. Then it turned back and floated back across the room and through the drum booth and finally disappearing through the wall. Terry looked at me and said ‘Did you see that’ my hair just stood on end. The whole episode lasted about a minute.

Terry has been known to set up a few pranks for other bands but how could you set that up ? I know what I saw. I’ve heard that the ghost was an old woman who tried to help the young girl that was knocked over. I don’t know if you believe things like that but I certainly saw it.

Read the full interview with Glenn Coates here:

ROCK OF AGES | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Read more Guardian stories here:

Guardian Recording Studio stories #4 Metal on Tyne with Mythra, Saracen & Hollow Ground | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

If anyone has any information about Guardian or recorded in the studios get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

DEAL OR NO DEAL – for North East musician Paul McCarte

If you tune into space rock of Ride/Spiritualized/My Bloody Valentine, you’re on the right dial for Hartlepool band Procession, who in 1992, went into Sarm West studio in London and recorded a 12 hour session for Trevor Horn’s record label ZTT – Where they going to be another North East band who snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory ?

Vocalist & guitarist Paul McCarte looks back and tells the story of that time.

‘Going full time was always going to be hard and we were hanging our hopes on landing a record deal. The engineers on the day loved us, they said we were just the kind of band the label should go for as we were something different’.

Who were Procession ? Along with Paul, members were Terry Booth (guitar 86-93), Nick Crozier (guitar 93-95), Ken Napper (bass 86-94), Andy Wain (keyboards, sequencer programming & bass guitar in 1995) & Mark Lloyd (drums & rhythm programming).

‘We’re all still good friends today and guest on each-others recordings. We have three studios between us and all make music in various guises’ said Paul.

How did Procession first get together ?

The band started around the end of ’85 by myself, Ken Napper and Terry Booth. Our first gig was in December 1986 at Hartlepool Sixth Form college supporting the top local band at the time – Fluke. We played as a four piece, there was myself, Ken, Terry and Andy Wain with a drum machine.

What venues did you play after that ?

Our second gig was the realisation of our first ambition, which was to play The Town Hall and we shared the stage with another young band from the town called Taste.

After playing quite a few gigs around town our first gig outside Hartlepool was a battle of the bands at Rafters in Manchester, famous as the place where Rob Gretton found Joy Division. Predictably a Manchester band who brought a big crowd with them won on the night, can’t remember who they were. We took a fifty seater coach to the gig so we had a good showing from our fans and mates on the night.

Our next big ambition was to play The Riverside in Newcastle as we loved the place. We achieved that in 1990 eventually becoming very popular with the venue and playing there often as one of the North East scene bands at the time. In their recommendations for the year we were picked as ‘most likely to’ in Paint it Red magazine circa 1992.

What size venues were you playing and was there more than a bus queue of punters turning up to the shows ?

Our favourite venue, and the place we had the biggest following, was The Arena in Middlesbrough. It was known originally as The Rock Garden, and famously where The Sex Pistols played. The upstairs capacity was 400 and when we played on the club nights from ’92 – ’94 it was always really busy.

We began to play more widely in the North East area, we were friends with Newcastle bands Hug and Puppy Fat and The Poppyfield from Darlington. We got on really well with Shrug, also Rhino from Middlesbrough.

Although we were part of the Newcastle scene, the fact of the matter is that all touring band support spots at The Riverside went to Newcastle bands and we were never offered an opening slot.

Have you any road stories ?

We toured extensively from ‘91 to ‘94. It was fantastic fun and a great adventure. Sleeping on the beach at Eyemouth around a campfire, driving out of Leeds after playing The Royal Park and camping in the middle of nowhere. Having a flat in Fife while we toured around Scotland was a blast as we had our DJs on tour with us so every night was party night.

When we played the Cafe Drummond in Aberdeen our guitarist Booie was comatose the next morning so we picked him up in his sleeping bag and left him in the middle of the street while we went and loaded all of the gear out of the venue. Then we all got breakfast buns and parked 100 yards away and watched people having to step over him while he slept through it all.

Did you record any of your material and what was your experience of recording studios ?

Like every other Hartlepool band we recorded our first material at Durham Street Studio. In 1990 we recorded 8 tracks at Teesbeat Studio in Stockton which we made into a Procession tape and that became the first thing we ever sold at gigs along with a run of T shirts and badges. We were never happy with the recordings so we don’t count it as our first album, more of a demo.

Going full time was always going to be hard and we were hanging our hopes on landing a record deal so we next recorded three tracks at High Level Studio in Newcastle around ‘92 and used them to hit the record companies in London. We arranged as many meetings as we could over a weekend.

We got in to see Simon Aldridge who was A&R at ZTT and he really liked us.

(ZTT were a UK record company owned by record producer Trevor Horn, his wife Jill Sinclair and NME journalist Paul Morley. First major signing were Frankie Goes to Hollywood).

Simon came up to Hartlepool a couple of weeks later to watch us in rehearsals and took us out to our local indie nightclub ‘The Gemini’ and bought our drinks all night. A couple of weeks later he booked us into Sarm West and we did a 12 hour session for ZTT on the same day as The Beloved were recording.

Durham born and Sarm West studio owner Trevor Horn, had already been the mastermind behind multiple big hitters on the mainstream including ABC, Pet Shop Boys, Godley & Creme, Simple Minds and Frankie Goes to Hollywood – that just scratches the surface on a man who sound tracked the ‘80s. Read more here:


Not many bands get a chance of recording in a quality studio and being heard by one of the UK’s top record producers, what did you think about your time in Sarm West and the big break that the band had worked for ?

We didn’t enjoy the experience as we felt Simon was rushing us, trying to make us into something we weren’t ready to be. I told him as much when we had a sit down in the café.

He wanted to chop bits out of our songs there and then and expected us to just be able to do it. If he had told us he wanted a three minute edit of our song Victoria Day before we got there, he could have had it.

The engineers on the day loved us, but when Simon was out of earshot they told us ‘we were just the kind of band the label should go for’ as we were something different. We knew at the end of the session that Simon wasn’t going to be able to sell us as a band to label owner Trevor Horn, who in the end had the final say. He played the songs to Horn – he didn’t like us, so that was that.

How did you feel when the Big H turned you down ?

We were very excited about it all right up until the time Simon Aldridge had us in the studio. He seemed to change from being pally to pushy. I had a long talk with him and said we felt we were being tortured instead of nurtured.

I remember saying to him ‘listen to Ride’s first two albums, ‘Going Blank Again’ (1992) is much more broad in scope than ‘Nowhere’ (1990) which has a raw and unpolished sound. They had been allowed to grow into working in bigger studios.

I tried explaining ‘we have an unorthodox and difficult sound now, but then watch us grow’.. He replied ‘I don’t think I can’.

After initially showing enthusiasm for the band was Aldridge now heading full steam in reverse ?

We weren’t mouldable like other ZTT bands, and the lads were all sure he just wanted me, and tried to convince me to play along. But I couldn’t do it as the idea of leaving them behind was unthinkable to me. We were a gang – and still are.

It took Simon a few weeks to confirm Trevor didn’t like us and by that point we had decided to go full time and do it ourselves. Members began to tire of having no money and we had to replace original guitarist Terry with Nick which was tough as we all loved Terry to bits – he took it very hard. Nick was touring within two weeks of joining the band which in hindsight, was an impressive undertaking.

We released our first album Threads, and a year later our second album Impact was recorded at Durham Street Studio in Hartlepool, again self-released on APR Recordings in 1994.

When did the band call it a day and why ?

We imploded in 1995, just as we were in the process of recording tracks for our third album. Plus there were many other factors, the biggest of which was losing our APR Rehearsal Studio due to the building being sold.

At that point we were full time musicians running a club called Weaveworld in the town to generate extra income, but it was a struggle to survive. Relationship breakdowns were also a big factor as none of us were bringing money in. Myself, Nick and Ken went on to form demon summer while Mark and Andy formed NEEB.

What are you doing now ?

We have the second demon summer album recorded featuring Mark and Andy from Procession, that will be released in 2021. We also have a new project with myself, Nick and Eddie Rees, which would have played live already if a certain global pandemic had not reared its ugly head.

For both Procession and demon summer we’re releasing the full back catalogue on bandcamp. Plus on social media outlets we are posting lots of never before released songs, a full history, photos, videos and flyers for both bands. Plus stories and memories about gigs and recording sessions (links below).

What does music mean to you ?

Everything – it’s the star around which my life revolves. If I’m not playing it, I’m listening to it or watching it played. Or buying it. Simply put, life sounds better to music.





Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #5 – Looking back at Sounds Music weekly: Tour Adverts

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.

The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds mixed rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with David Coverdale, Kate Bush or Angus Young.

Front cover Angus Young (AC/DC) 2.1.82

Album and tour adverts were a big feature for music weeklies, not only for much needed revenue from record companies, but they tracked the cycle of a band. The cycle would feed into each other – release a single – create TV/media coverage – release album – tour to promote. And repeat.

Large tours were the norm in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but since the ‘90s when enormodome arenas sprung up around the UK, there has been a massive sell off of smaller venues and subsequently less chance to see bands.

Looking through tour adverts I noticed the Overkill UK tour of Spring ’79 that Motorhead completed, by their standards, a short run of 19 dates. A visit to Newcastle City Hall was on March 26 and a review of the gig in Sounds by Paul Sutcliffe went like this….

‘It was very loud. The crowd roared and some yelled ‘It’s not loud enough’. Lemmy said ‘I can’t get it no louder. Shut your trap’. Then they played ‘Iron Horse’ which was as loud as the First World War if they crammed the whole thing together and held it in a phone booth’.

Tour advert in NME 4.10.80

During Autumn 1980 Motorhead ground out another 35 dates around the UK on their Ace Up Your Sleeve tour with two dates scheduled at Newcastle Mayfair in October. Support came from NWOBHM band Weapon. In May 2017 I interviewed Weapon vocalist Danny Hynes who remembers an incident from the tour…

We were at Edinburgh Odeon and had just finished our sound check. Jeff and Baz went to the side of the stage to tune their guitars when the cables on one side of the Bomber lighting rig snapped, sending it crashing through the flight case that the tuners were mounted on. An inch or two closer and we would have lost two members of the band’.

Tour advert in Sounds 24.10.81

In Sounds October ’81, Thin Lizzy are on the 28 date Renegade UK tour with two dates each at Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and three nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. They hit Newcastle on 10 December and didn’t close the tour until a week later in Derby. On the Vintage Rock website the author remembers the Newcastle date….

‘The Renegade tour was scheduled to call at Newcastle City Hall on 27th October 1981. The concert was postponed and Thin Lizzy actually played the gig on 10th December 1981, supported by Sweet Savage, a metal band from Belfast, who included Dio and Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell’.

Tour advert in Sounds 22.5.82

In the 22 May 1982 issue, is advertised a So What tour which included 18 dates around the UK for headliners The Anti-Nowhere League, with guests Chelsea, Chron Gen and The Defects.

The first date was at a place called Manchester Rotters who held a special matinee for under 18’s. Next date was May 20 at Newcastle Mayfair and the tour ended with two dates at the London Lyceum.

The past year has seen live events destroyed by the covid 19 pandemic and everybody who works in that industry has had their working life put on hold, but hopefully they can return soon – however many dates and whatever the venue.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

Info:  History & Tour Archive – The Official Motörhead Website (imotorhead.com)

Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 1981 & 1982 | Vintagerock’s Weblog. (wordpress.com)

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #4 – Looking back at the Music weeklies: Front Covers.

Van Halen front cover 26.6.82.

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.

The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds mixed rock and punk interviews from Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Debbie Harry/David Coverdale or Joe Strummer.

Joe Strummer (The Clash) front cover 27.12.80.

Turnover was high with a new issue in shops every week. We can’t underestimate the amount that researchers and journalists worked to put together pages of news, interviews and reviews, which also needed to be illustrated with up to date pics.

A team of music photographers stepped up to the challenge and packed the weeklies with iconic captures of Kate Bush, David Sylvian and Ritchie Blackmore, along with vintage shots of Black Sabbath and Van Halen.

A band on tour/single/album promotion cycle, would get a page or two inside. Or the much sought after moment  ‘Here I am, I’ve arrived ma’ I’ve got a real job’ – an eye catching image on the front cover.

Rob Halford (Judas Priest) front cover 8.8.81.

Sitting next to daily newspapers, the front covers of music weeklies decorated shelves of newspaper stands around the UK – and eventually your bedroom wall. The look and style had a clean simplicity. The name header was bold across the top and above that were names of bands who featured in that issue, small enough not to be intrusive on the main picture, but large enough to read.

For me newspapers and magazines featuring black & white images with grainy quality and true to life look, had real impact. Today shelves are full of shiny mags featuring plastic looking celebrities holding stuck on hair-do’s – all buffed up and polished within an inch of their lives. There’s always been a bit of showbiz, but how much camouflage do you need?

When Sounds front covers went full colour they never had the same impact. Check the cover from 1983 with Def Leppard and their tacky Union Jack t shirts and shorts – symbolising the ‘Leps UK invasion into America – or Joe Elliott’s outfit in the music video for their single Photograph?

Def Leppard front cover 1983.

1970s & ‘80s Newcastle City Hall photographer Rik Walton (links below), shot promo pics of North East bands Raven, Tygers, Fist, Venom and the Upstarts.

The Angelic Upstarts were doing a gig in Tynemouth and Phil Sutcliffe (journalist) from Sounds was doing an interview with the band. The Upstarts manager, who had a fearsome reputation, came up to me and said very calmly ‘Rik, I like you, and I want you to know, that if you have any problems me and the lads will sort it out’.

‘I felt that he’d be true to his word’.

Angelic Upstarts. Pic by Rik Walton.

Rik’s images also appeared in the Sounds and he remembers an assignment for the music weekly….

‘A couple of years later I went along with Sutcliffe on a Peter Gabriel tour for a few days doing an in depth story about him for Sounds. I remember playing croquet with Peter at 1am outside our hotel, being a public schoolboy he carried a croquet set around with him on tour.

He was a very nice guy. I found him very shy compared to his on stage persona. I did get to know him but always keeping a slight distance’.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021

Zenfolio | Rik Walton Photography

EYES WIDE OPEN – in conversation with photographer Rik Walton | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)


THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE EIGHTIES – Snapshot of Durham born musician & producer Trevor Horn.

“At the beginning of the ‘80s people knew about digital audio but they didn’t understand how it worked. Or what it was capable of. We were the first to stop EQ’ing to tape. Put the EQ on the monitors and record everything flat. That’s the secret.

None of that shit that you do for analogue where you pump up the top end and compress the hell out of it. Because if you put it down on digital like that it will forever sound like that. A lot of people crashed and burned with early digital because of it”.

Understand that ? No, only sound techies and music producers amongst us will get what Trevor Horn was saying in a video interview on The Art of Record Production.

I was reminded of the record producer when I was flicking through my singles and stopped at Video Killed the Radio Star by pop duo The Buggles. On Top of the Pops he was the wee man with massive round glasses. He didn’t have the look of a pop star, but it was a great tune and the song hit number one in the charts.

We had a really good learning period. Every trick we knew in the studio by then we put into ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and made it jump out of the tape’ said Horn.

While researching Horn, a lot of interviews say he was ‘The man who invented the 80s’  that’s a claim on the epic scale – just how true is it?

Trevor Horn has music in his bones. Being a child in the ‘50s his father was a semi-pro musician so Trevor picked up bass guitar at a young age. At 21 he relocated to London and earned money as a session musician. He played bass in a covers band, which featured keyboardist Geoff Downes – the other half of The Buggles.

‘Hiring a studio was expensive you had to get somebody else to pay for it. I had four years working for song publishers, one of them gave me regular work and £300-£400 pounds to make a set of demos of their songs. That would get me into the studio and by this time I would try this, and try that’ said Horn.

The Buggles released their debut album The Age of Plastic on Island records in 1979 – not only giving Island records their first number one record in Video Killed the Radio Star, but also a great start to propel Horn into the ‘80s. Even though he had his doubts about the record….

‘My voice never had the vaguest amount of soul in it, so on the record they made it sound like it was coming out of a radio speaker’.

In August 1981 the song was immortalised into music culture history as the first video to be aired on new music channel MTV. Then after a year in prog rock band Yes playing massive venues like Madison Square Gardens, Horn became a full-time producer and had commercial success with his first project.

Straight out the starting gate was pop duo, Dollar. He co-wrote and produced three singles which all became top 20 hits in the UK. He was making a mark on the charts and laying the groundwork for classic pop songs to come.

‘When I started out, when you wanted a rhythm track you had to play it, these days it’s a lot quicker cos of all this studio stuff we have’. 

Even greater success in the studio followed with The Lexicon of Love by ABC, reaching number one on the UK albums chart and hit singles followed ’Shoot that poison arrow through my heart’. He was bottling pop magic as even more commercial success followed.

Experimenting and finding new techniques in the studio helped create ear popping singles for the mainstream. Spandau Ballet Instinction and Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch won him a Brit Award  for Best British Producer in 1983.

One evening he heard Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and invited them to his studio. Three hit singles and two number one albums followed. By now he owned London’s SARM West, the go to studios.

In November 1984 he gave Bob Geldof and Midge Ure free use of the studio for the Band Aid song Do They Know it’s Christmas? Horn produced the B-side featuring messages from artists including David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Holly Johnson. He also remixed the 1985 version.

Horn was breaking new ground as he assembled one of the first studio rigs including a Roland TR-808 drum machine, a sequencer and a set of Simmons electronic drum modules. He spent £18,000 on a Fairlight synthesiser, one of only four in the country at the time.

‘I had a vision at the time which was Vince Hill meets Kraftwerk. I wanted to make electronic records that work in the mainstream. At the end of the ‘70s there was Elton John, Led Zeppelin, you needed something fresh to compete with it. I thought technology was the way, to construct something and the more control you could have in the studio the better’.

Horn resumed working with Yes as producer on their albums and another Brit Award for Best British Producer in ’85 and a run of successful records including Slave to the Rhythm with Grace Jones, the Godley & Crème single Cry, and albums by Pet Shop Boys Introspective, Simple Minds Streetfighting Years and in 1989 Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt closed the ‘80s.

So was he the man who invented the ‘80s ?

From leaving his home in the North East, forming The Buggles and producing countless hit records – his fresh and exciting outlook helped create a new way of working in the studio. His innovative production techniques alone, set him apart from others – yes, Trevor Horn sound tracked a decade.

Plus, it’s tip yer hat time, he was awarded a CBE in 2011 for services to the music industry.

Gary Alikivi  February 2021.

Research & interviews: Trevor Horn – The Art of Record Production.