DIAMOND GEEZER – with former music manager & promoter Jim Sculley

There was one particular savage night when everyone seemed to be fighting. I was worried about one lad who’s face was just awash with blood. I wiped the blood with a tea towel. ‘You been knifed mate?’ I asked. ‘Nah’ he replied ‘I nutted someone and his teef stuck in me forehead’

Who said working in the music biz was a glamourous job ? Jim Sculley was born in West Hartlepool, County Durham where he had a decent education…But when I bought my first guitar, studying went out of the window (laughs).

Jim joined local band The Mariners as lead guitarist in 1962 and was working at Hartlepool Steelworks at the time…After lot’s of gigs and personnel changes, the band changed its name to The Electric Plums. Then in 1964 I went for a proper job and answered an advert to train at an old established jewellers shop called Lamb’s. He was a great employer who trained me well and sent me to night school in Billingham to study Gemmology, the science of precious stones.

I repaid him by doing the dirty on him by going in business with my night school teacher. We set up a jewellers in Billingham Town Centre in 1971. I found out afterwards from an ex-colleague at Lambs that the boss admired my bravery for setting up our own business and bore me no malice at all!

Business boomed and they quickly gained 3 more jewellery shops and 2 more partners… I was still dabbling in music at the same time but by then had left the Electric Plums to join a girl fronted band called The Partizans. Around ‘68 we changed name to Whisky Mack. This band was good doing night clubs and social clubs, supporting known artistes such as Karl Denver, the Dallas Boys and Tony Christie.

The band were offered a German club tour but Jim thought it was time to call it a day…The shops were doing well and I couldn’t jeopardise my future for a few months gigging abroad. So around late ‘72 we trained up a new guitarist for the tour and I said goodbye. But a few years later, I was back on the road in a couple of duo’s…couldn’t leave the old grease paint behind (laughs).

How did you get involved in promoting ? I wasn’t a great follower or even an avid listener of rock music at that time. However I’d got into the habit of going to rock gigs at Thornaby Cons club and being a guitarist, started to appreciate the quality of musicianship in rock. This was around ’79. At the club fans were telling me that there was a lack of venues in the area, and that local promoters were finding it difficult to coax new bands with any pedigree. A light lit up! Could I make any money at it, and did I fancy the challenge?

What venue did you use for the first gig’s you promoted ? I was putting the word around for local bands to play my new weekly gig in The Swan ballroom in Billingham. Getting an agency licence wasn’t easy in those days, there were financial checks, but within a month J.S. Promotions & Agency was born. ‘Rock At The Swan’ was an instant success with local bands queuing up to play. They would take a percentage of the door take after costs were taken off for an advert in the local press and pa hire.

After a few months we were getting requests from bands from all over the country due to word of mouth. And not only from bands. Agents were wanting to send bands with newly signed record deals on the road, but were having difficulty finding promoters who would take a chance on unknown bands.

Another light bulb moment hit me and I jumped at the opportunity. Provide new blood for the fans and possibilities for local bands to support a signed band.

I asked myself I’m working with big agents who need venues to blood their bands. Why don’t I track down more venues and offer these big agents a full tour for their new bands. It made sense because these agents didn’t really want to take time to blood these bands on the road. They would wait till when the album was out and selling, then take over and put them into major venues.

So I set to work on the telephone and scanning through tour adverts in Sounds and Kerrang. Eventually sorting myself a good amount of venues that I knew I could form into different size tours. It helped when talking to each promoter that I was promoting a venue, same as them, and knew the score. I could be trusted and they knew that. It was a very important point.

By 1981 J.S. Promotions & Agency was well established. I was sending bands here there and everywhere. The Swan gig was bouncing and the jewellery shop was doing great. I often look back and wonder how the hell I kept myself going! Suppose it was because I was still young and kept quite fit. Be a different story today (laughs).

Did you book any big name bands at The Swan ? I ran that Swan gig for about 7 or 8 years and some biggish names have been on that stage. It was a nice venue, being a ballroom, and a decent sized fire regulation limit of 200 plus people. Bands like The Groundhogs featuring Tony MePhee were regulars and would always fill the place. I worked them a lot tour-wise. And what about this for an eye opener of a gig – in 1983 aged 17, son of Led Zep’s drummer John Bonham, Jason formed his band Airrace.

I got a call from his agent asking for a Billingham Swan gig as part of the band’s first tour. Money no problem, they’d just accept percentage door-take. But on one condition. So that the band would be judged on their merits and not the Bonham name, no mention of Jason Bonham could be used in any advertising. Of course I agreed and the band turned up on the date…in a great big pantechnicon van!! Wow!!

I have never been so up and close to a back line like it. Wall to wall, ceiling to ceiling Marshall amps. Not for volume but for clarity. Great sound, great gig, and a reasonably full room, rock fans aren’t stupid, they read the rock mags. And I have to say what a genial gentleman Jason was, no airs or graces, happy to chat to all the fans after the gig.

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New Wave of British Heavy Metal was at it’s peak during the early 80’s. Did you come across any of the bands in the Teeside area like Axis or White Spirit ? In 1982 I’d taken a shine to a rock band I’d given a few gigs to, Black Rose, they were in the Iron Maiden kind of mould at the time and wrote their own material. They had a manager called Barry Clapp but were disappointed they weren’t making any progress. They asked me to manage them. I talked with Barry who gave me his blessing, admitting he’d had enough.

By 6 months we had a single out on the Teesbeat label called No Point Runnin’ coupled with Sucker For Your Love. One of the Sounds reviewers loved it and wrote a nice piece about it which propelled it to no.19 in the rock charts. The band then appeared on two compilation EP’s in the same year. One Take No Dubs on Neat Records, and the other on Guardian Records, called Roxcalibur.

(The album included Battleaxe, Satan & Marauder. ‘One Take No Dubs’ had Alien, Avenger & Hellanbach).

In 1984 the Midlands rock label Bullet Records signed the band. They produced a self-titled EP, also the Boys Will Be Boys album. A single of the same name was taken off the album. All through this studio activity the band were gigging heavily in the UK and Holland where they have a strong fan base. I went with them to a gig in the Dynamo Club in Eindhoven. Brilliant gig.

Coming back from that gig a funny thing happened at the Dover customs. Me and 4 band members were in my Mercedes. We were kept at least half an hour, as the officers were searching the car, under it, in the boot, under the bonnet. They couldn’t believe that a long haired heavy metal band would not have something suspicious on them especially travelling from HollandI had an awful time explaining to the customs officers that none of the band actually smoked, rarely drank and nobody actually bought anything from duty free (laughs).

In 1985 Bullet folded so the band returned to Neat Records and recorded a superb EP titled Nightmare. Then a year later…eureka! The band were noticed in the USA. Neat Records engineered a deal with Dominion Records (an offshoot of the massive K-Tel Records) for a studio album recorded at Neat. Walk It How You Talk It, was pressed, packaged and ready to be distributed. We were in talks to arrange an American tour. After all the hard work since 1982 we’d made it.

Then a bombshell phone call from Neat. The powers that be in America hadn’t done their homework. There was already a band called Black Rose who’d registered their name in the States, they were threatening to sue. Our label Dominion Records took water in and pulled the deal. Neat wouldn’t fight it, so everything was scrapped. Not long after, myself and the band parted company. Gutted to say the least.

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Did this disappointment put you off being a manager/promoter ? No. I managed The Pauline Gillan Band, from about 1984. I knew two members who lived in the same town as me, Bilingham. Davy Little, a great ex-Axis guitarist, and Chris Wing on bass who could play anything you gave him. He wasn’t called the Wizz for nothing. I’d caught the band at a couple of gigs and was impressed. They asked me along to a rehearsal and I think we all knew when I left them that I’d be their manager.

I had them gigging extensively right through the UK. Including gigs at the London Marquee. We were contacted by a promoter in France who was organising a music festival at a place called Neuvic not far from the Dordogne region. He’d heard about the band through the music press and decided we would add nicely to the festival line-up. Actually we ended up as number 2 to the headline band.

It was a magic time both for the band and the fans. In 1985 we managed to secure an album deal with Powerstation Records based in York. The album Hearts of Fire was recorded in Fairview Studios in Willerby near Hull. While recording the album, Gerry Marsden of the Pacemakers fame popped his head in. ‘Can I pinch 10 min’s of your recording time lads, I’m appearing locally and I need to record an advertising jingle’.

Well 10 min’s later, that was all the recording done for the day because Gerry insisted on taking all of us, our roadies, the recording technician, him, his management and entourage down to the pub in the village for the rest of the day. Booze and snacks all paid for. And what a gentleman he was, so friendly.

Gerry told us a great story about one of the pop successes of that time Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who had a number one hit with Relax. On the B side was Ferry Across The Mersey which of course was written by Gerry himself, and that he’d received thousands of pounds in PRS royalties. ‘I love that band’ he laughed.

Did you promote any punk gigs ? There was a few gigs that were memorable for the wrong reasons. Many punk gigs, big names, but mostly trouble with a capital T. Around 1980/82 I was approached by a guy called Don who had just bought the then defunct Rock Garden club which was one part of the Marimba night club in Middlesbrough.

Now having owned some before Don knew everything about pubs and night clubs, but knew nothing about the live music scene. So he asked me, adding a financial carrot, to book bands and run live music nights. I agreed but advised him that a new name would be a good idea. So it was a warm welcome to The Cavern.

As part of our licence the Police made us search the punks for weapons and glue, the preferred drug of the day for punks. My missus Marg would handle the takings and tickets at the door and take the glue from them. We weren’t allowed to keep the glue, but return it to them after the gig. One night we couldn’t help laughing when this little 5 foot skinhead surrendered his polythene bag from his sock, then quipped ‘Now dont forget will ye…mine’s the Evo Stick’ (laughs).

The Rock Garden had always done well with punk bands and there was still a good punk fan base in Cleveland, so I decided to alternate heavy rock with punk nights. But battling was always on the cards at punk gigs – never at rock gigs.

First night at The Cavern, if my memory serves me well but I’m not absolutely sure, was well known punks The Destructors supported by a local band. We had a strong security crew (about 8 men) one was a friend, Ron Gray who was an ex-European kick boxing champion. As it happens on that first night, we needed them all! We’d got word through a contact that a mob was coming down who had bad blood with another load of fans. Still I wasn’t worried, we had plenty of cover didn’t we ?

Support band had only been on about five minutes when the crowd split into two armies. A bit like the parting of that biblical sea. And then the charge! Marg was stood on a beer crate in the corner directing our bouncers, screaming ‘over there’ and ‘side of the stage’ and then opening the emergency door for me and the lads to eject the brawlers. She was a good help on band nights.

My claim to fame was to convince the Police to allow me to book the Angelic Upstarts who’d been banned in Cleveland for over a year. I knew the police were pleased with our record of not allowing any trouble to spill outside and that was the reason we were given permission to stage this particular show. And what a cracker it was, and believe it or not hardly any crowd trouble.

Other memorable bands were GBH, Penetration and Conflict. I liked Colin the singer of Conflict. He insisted we keep the entrance fee down so that his fans could afford it, even taking a smaller purse himself.

Did you promote punk gig’s at any other venues ?
Early 80’s I was co-promoting a punk gig in the ballroom of the Park Hotel in Redcar and managed to attract a really well known punk band from the late 70s, UK Subs. I booked local band Dogsbody or was it Dogsflesh as support to bring a few extra punters in.

Anyway one of the Subs members copped off with the girlfriend of one of the support band and took her to a room upstairs where the band where staying for the night. The support band went upstairs and a huge battle ensued with carpets ruined with blood and drink. It took an hour or so to restore order.

Then the Park Hotel manager presents me with a bill for a huge amount. I can’t remember how much but remember shaking in my boots. As promoter I could have been held responsible in some ways I suppose. But I turned on the Subs road manager and threatened to get the police and the newspapers involved, which would probably curtail or cancel the rest of their tour.

Anyway he rang the band’s manager who agreed to foot the bill. Job done. I tried hard to stick to rock gigs after all this trouble, but have to admit the memories of punk will always bring a smile.

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If you can choose one, what is the best gig you have promoted ? Slade in about 1984 at Durham University’s Student Union Hall. Massive sell out, queues right down the road. Great gig but didn’t get to meet them. Went to the dressing room straight after the gig but they’d already left for the hotel.

Have you any regrets as a promoter? Turned down a Tina Turner gig as part of her resurgence tour. Thought the fee was too high. A couple of month later Private Dancer released and the rest is history. That was my Decca/Beatles moment!

There is a regrets number two. I was in the Marquee Club with one of my bands in 1985 and took a call from Bronze Records who wanted to show me a band. I went to Camden next day to see them and basically it was a country & western star, can’t remember the name. Anyway, country wasn’t my scene so turned it down.

Then he produced a picture of Tom Petty who was coming over soon to tour. The price was reasonable but I knew he hadn’t released anything for about 3 years so turned that down too. Another Decca/Beatles moment!

What does music mean to you ? For all I was playing on stage continuously for about 17 years, and it was part of my life for so long after that -management, agency and promotions, I don’t really listen to a lot of it nowadays. Weird eh!

But after thinking a little more about it, I’ve concluded that it’s the actual making of music, the playing of it, watching other people playing it – construction really. I was never one for lyrics, it was always the tune, the riffs and chord structures that got me excited. That’s why I tend to like songs with a nice hook to them.

I played my guitar at home quite often untill I had a medical problem with my finger which made it totally inflexible. I can’t even form a chord now, which actually makes me quite miserable! My last time playing on stage was backing local singer Johnny Larkin at a Help For Heroes charity gig about 7 years ago.(pic. below)

Having said that we’ve booked both days of the upcoming Hardwick Hall festival. And I do watch Fridays on BBC 4 and we went to The Sage to see Mott the Hoople a couple of months ago. Sod it … looks like music still means a lot to me.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2019.

THE HOUSE THAT OLGA BUILT – with Toy Dolls frontman

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In 2019 The Toy Dolls will celebrate 40 years of being in the business but back in 82 The Dolls played in the foyer of live British tv music show The Tube, broadcast from Tyne Tees Studio in Newcastle. While ripping through ‘She Goes to Finos’ behind the band was a huge yellow backdrop and bank of tv screens. Presenter Muriel Gray said “That incredibly energetic and slightly mad bunch are The Toy Dolls.

A Sunderland based band. They were signed with EMI but unfortunately EMI let the contract lapse after only 12 month and one single. But happily a two man Newcastle based recording company called Volume snatched them back from impending obscurity. Well hope they are favouring(?) any damage done in the foyer”.

When did the music bug hit you Olga ? ‘I got into playing music after watching Suzi Quatro on Top of the Pops. I knew from that moment what I was gonna do! Be a bass player. I saved up for a bass guitar for a year by doing a paper round, but when I went to buy it, it had gone up by £1! So I just bought a guitar instead’.

Early influences for Olga were Dr Feelgood, Status Quo, The Pirates…’Also listened to Slade, Suzi Quatro, The Sweet, Eddie & the Hot Rods and most of the early Punk bands, The Jam/Clash/Pistols’.

Since 79 many drummers have been and gone, plus a few bassists, but the line up for The Toy Dolls in 2018 are Olga: Guitar & Lead Vocals. Tommy Goober: Bass & Vocals. The Amazing Mr Duncan: Drums & Vocals. Olga and Duncan both live in London and Tommy lives in Germany.

Back in Sunderland during the late 70s Olga played in local band ‘Straw Dogs’ then formed The Toy Dolls… ‘Started in October 1979 and for a long time we just played locally around the North East UK. Then the Angelic Upstarts gave us a support slot on their UK tour, to whom we are eternally grateful. In 1985 we met our manager, Dave (RIP). He got us gigs worldwide for the next 30+ years’.

When you were based in the North East where did the band record ? ‘At first it was Guardian Studios in Pity Me, Durham. That was where we always went from the beginning and for many years to follow. I think it was about £40 a day then, which was expensive for the early 80s. We recorded singles mainly, until 1983, when we recorded our first album Dig That Groove Baby’.

At a time when Eurythmics, George Michael and Spandau Ballet were regularly hitting top ten and the Band Aid single was number 1, The Dolls crashed the UK singles chart in December 84 with a cover of ‘Nellie the Elephant’. It entered the chart at 16 and reached number 4. They also filmed a music video for one of their songs at Penshaw Monument in their home town of Sunderland. The band also recorded some TV appearances…‘Yep quite a few. The usual pop shows in the UK like Razzmatazz, Top of the Pops and quite a few TV shows in Germany, Holland and Switzerland’.

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Ha, too many to mention. One story I will never forget is the first time we played in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A skinhead managed to climb over 4,000 people, through the security, got on stage and smashed me in the face, knocking my tooth out. And he was a fan can you believe! He even came backstage after the gig to say how much he loved the show. No apology though!’

 After being involved in music for over 40 years what does music mean to you ? ‘What else am I gonna do ! Busy writing a new Toy Dolls album at the moment, and almost finished! “Music was my first love and it will be my last”…. Ha, pass me the sick bucket, though its true!’

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Along with writing a new album, the rest of the year has a couple of live European dates in December including a sold out show in Geneva. With a feature on the bands website ‘Ask Olga’ where fans ask questions about touring, records or Olga’s chewing gum – he’ll always be busy. Go on ask him!

http://www.thetoydolls.com/index.html

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2018.

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GARAGELAND UK – with former punk vocalist Ian McRae

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During the 1980’s Ian McRae was vocalist with two Newcastle punk bands. The Mysterons and Phantoms of the Underground ‘Hearing Pretty Vacant and Neat Neat Neat absolutely changed my life. Once I got into punk, I like many others just wanted to be with my mates and forming a band seemed an obvious idea. Although we didn’t have a clue how to go on’.

How did you get interested in playing music and was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘I think I must have been 10 years old when I remember seeing Jerry Lee Lewis on black and white tv……’Whole lotta shaking going on’…It was fantastic to see. That was my pivotal point. I later listened to The Damned, Pistols, Clash, Stooges, The Doors and early punk stuff’.  

When did the band get together ? The Mysterons were formed when I was at school around 1980/81 and the original line up was myself on vocals, Micky Ruddock on guitar, James Bowes drums and Tom Emerson on bass. Later The Phantoms of the Underground were formed and again me and Mikey guitar, David Craig on bass and David Stobbart on drums. I didn’t style my vocals on anyone really, wouldn’t know how to. But I did admire both Iggy and Jim Morrison because of their freedom they used while singing.

Me and Mikey loved bands like The Rezillos and The Undertones. I also had the LAMF album by The Heartbreakers. ‘One Track Mind’ for a rock n roll pop song it was the best single I heard. We also loved the Ramones with their fun lyrics and fast songs. In very early gigs we did a version of Loose by the Stooges. We played that most shows’.

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The band wrote their own songs, who wrote the lyrics and the music ? ’Music was written mostly by Micky and I chipped in with the words. He would have a riff going and we kinda clicked together and end up with a song’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or did you travel long distances and did you support name touring bands ?  ‘Initially as the Mysterons we played The Garage, The Bunker and other small places in Newcastle. As the Phantoms formed our first gig was at at Spectro Arts with the New Kicks. We then did The Station several times, Broken Doll, Bunker, Edwards Bar, Peterlee College, Middlesbrough University and The Guildhall in Newcastle.

There was a venue in Leeds with Chelsea. Gene October said over the mic that we were the best live band he had seen in years. He offered us support slots for 2 nights at the Marquee, but we had split up two weeks before ! We played with Subhumans, Chelsea, Amebix, Antisect, and others at the Station and the Bunker.

We toured Northern Ireland with Toxic Waste through the Rathcool music collective playing Belfast and the Antrim coast, Port Stuart and Portrush’.

How did that come about ? ‘We had a mate come manager, a guy called Conner Crawford. He was from Belfast and knew of the collective in Rathcool and set up an exchange with a punk band there, Toxic Waste. We played over in Northern Ireland and brought them back to Newcastle. We done that tour on giros, we were all signing on the dole. It was the only time we got payed for gigs. We were charging like 3 quid entry and got 90% of the door takings!

We played to 700 plus at Portrush, and got our first taste of a real encore, it felt mad. They were chanting for us to come back on….fantastic! Then we went to Rochdale and Oldham with The Instigators from Wallsend and played some gigs there. Also reggae played a big part. Matamba, were a reggae outfit from Leeds we befriended. They were an awesome band. We all packed into Newcastle Guildhall for a gig…great times.

Also played with Conflict at some point, where we did a gig at Birmingham University with bands from The Station in Gateshead’. 

What were your experiences of recording ? ’In the studio we didn’t have a clue really. We had no management or direction. Instead of recording two excellent songs we just recorded 8 in one go. With no overdubs. Our first was a demo at Spectro Arts 8 track studio that cost us £90.00. Then we done a demo in Desert Sounds in Felling that cost £70 for 4 tracks. Then back to Spectro to record a live demo in one take that cost £70’.

Have you still got copies of the demos and did you sell any ? ’I have a tape of all the demos, which needs to be put onto CD. I will be doing that soon through a local studio and try to clean it up. Maybe put out a single on vinyl. Maybe an album – but that would be to ambitious and costly.

We sold demos at gigs and through Volume Record shop in Newcastle. We sold over 700 tapes which was time consuming as I had to copy them all on a tape to tape, then photocopy the covers. It was all do it yourself in those days’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘There was a few moments I remember from then. At a gig in Belfast people turned up wanting our autograph! That was weird, never been asked for a signature before. Subhuman listened to our demo but didn’t like it at first. When we played with them they apologised, said we were brilliant and would have liked to record us.

At a gig in Leeds I went to the chippy and when I came back I had to buy a ticket to get back in. Yep I paid to see myself..haha’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  ‘I run a youth project in the North East. A few years back we had a great scene going with band nights twice a month. Looking back on that time being in a band is like being in a family. It takes over everything and was a fantastic time in my life.

You have to trust people with everything as you are sharing ideas and inner thoughts through writing songs. You also rely on each other as if someone let’s you down you can’t play, which is the whole purpose of being in a band in the first place.

When it’s over its like a divorce, people who were close mates falling out, not speaking or trusting each other. It’s a learning curve, but well worth it when you look at what you did…..and the fun you had..happy days!’

Contact Ian at http://www.galleryyouthproject.org

Flyers by Netty and Northeast Underground. Pics by Brett King.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, Angels of the North 12th March 2017.

Neil Newton, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, All the Young Punks 4th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS, Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS/WILDHEARTS, Comfort in Sound 15th February 2018.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES – with former Slutt bassist John Hopper

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Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East UK. The operation worked out of Impulse Sound Studios. Neat were arguably the most instrumental NWOBHM label in the UK. The label is notable for early releases by North East chief heedbangers Venom, Raven and Blitzkrieg who are acknowledged as major influences on American thrash metal bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.

One of the lesser known albums was from SLUTT. A gang of twisted metallers from Tyneside with their make up, leather and studs. They released one album in 1988. The original bassist John Hopper talks about those times…I remember signing the record contract in the rehearsal rooms. Our guitarist Antton walked in and said ‘right sign there’. We did, then got on with rehearsing. We didn’t think of asking someone to look at it first. It wasn’t ‘Right I’ll let my solicitor see it first you know ha ha’.

How did the band get together? ‘For a number of years Glen and myself worked at the Roman Fort in South Shields and the wages from there helped finance our instruments. Me on bass, Glen Wade on drums and a friend was interested in doing some vocals. We played some rough versions of Kiss songs, we were friends just messing around. Our singer had a friend over in North Shields who knew a guitarist… ‘He would be perfect for your band’ he said.

Next thing a guy with a guitar, trem and long hair came over. That was Antton Lant. We didn’t know about his brother Conrad or Neat records but soon we got to know the connection with Venom. Anyway our first gig as SLUTT was I think at The Cyprus pub in South Shields. Later we went on to do a showcase for NEAT at Tiffanys’ nightclub in Newcastle. So that was our first step.

In 1987 we played at The Queen Vic pub in South Shields and got paid £300 which we used to rent lights, dry ice etc. That gig was a blast..and was videotaped ..and the audio exists’. 

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How did the record with NEAT come about ? ’We first done a 4 track demo tape at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. We just recorded it live all in one room but additional guitar or anything that was needed we would drop that in later. The line-up was Antton on guitar, myself on bass, Glen on drums and our original vocalist. On that demo Glenn had the use of a Ludwig kit owned by Tony Bray from Venom – we asked them first like! That was in 1986 and the tracks from that demo were lifted and put on the album which was released in 87.

That was the first version with the LP and remains unreleased but its archived. The album needed the new singers vocal on it. Antton was friends with a singer so Peter Seymour (RIP) came in, we rehearsed and it was great. Things were becoming real you know. We got forms for our passports as we were going out on tour, NEAT paid for those. Like any band we just wanted a break, yes we were fortunate with the link we had with Neat but we still had to put the time in, the rehearsals.

The years going across the Tyne to North Shields, picking up Antton and his Marshalls, then coming back through the Tyne Tunnel to the rehearsal studio. Sometimes twice a week. SLUTT was full on, and commitment was first and paramount’. 

(The album was released on vinyl in 1988 with Neat catalogue number 1043. The album includes Angel, Breakin’ All the Rules, Revolution, Thrill Me and more).  

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Who came up with the idea’s for the songs ? ‘The music was from Antton and the vocalist. The rest of the band would write some lyrics too. We went back to the studio and recorded Peters vocals over the original master tapes. If some things didn’t sound right they were quickly changed. Kevin Ridley engineered and Conrad Lant produced. I remember Conrad sent me out for something to eat a few times he liked his squid and chips!

But yeah they had both worked on the demo tape and then the album which was a totally different feel. There was more pressure, there was more ‘Sorry lads them backing vocals are not in key can you do them again’. There were plenty of sound effects put on it, backward drums and live crowd noises. We had a visit from a guy who ran the Venom fan club in France. There is a piece on the track Revolution, about the French revolution and this guy just spouts out something in French and we put it on the track, it sounded great. In all it took about seven days to record I think’. 

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Who else was in the Neat studios then? I was amazed and sucked in to the Venom thing that had gone on in NEAT. We had heard their records and by 86, 87 they were a big band and basically this was their studio. Funny every other band there the Avengers, Atomkraft all wore leather and studs it was like a blueprint – we were similar to the leather and studs look.

The Atomkraft lads were knocking about. Venom’s Tony Bray was always there and guitarist Jim Clare came in with an amp for Antton. He used it for his solo’s. It was only a small Galion Krueger but totally ripped the place apart you know. Venom manager Eric Cook (RIP) came in once or twice as I say Neat belonged to Venom and all their gear was there. I walked past one room and inside was bits of the stage show that they used. Another was Dave Woods’ office he was like the headmaster in his room…ha ha’. 

Did you promote the album ? ‘In 1988 just after we released it we done a few gigs in Poland. Nasty Savage were the main headliner, with Exhumer and Atomkraft. They were doing a European tour and we flew in for the Poland leg. We arrived in Warsaw and went to the train station. The train was like an army train, it was separate carriages with compartments and we got split up. Myself and Glen sitting next to total strangers, us with our tight jeans and long dyed black hair etc.. strange.

Eric Cook (RIP) came along and took us to the food carriage. I got a bowl of soup with a raw egg in the middle. Well we hadn’t eaten for hours. For the rest of the gigs we had our own mini bus with a driver. It was only the journey from Warsaw to Katowice we got the train because it was a long trek’. 

‘Eric Cook took us over there he was with us all the way and Tony Bray was the Tour Manager as Venom were in between albums or something. The tour was an eye opener because a serious edge kicks in. The first gig was at the Spodek Arena in Katowice in the south of the country. The arena is a huge ufo shaped building. The festival was called Metal Battle and started at 10 in the morning.

We were the first English band on at 12.30. We only got half an hour at the most with no sound-check. The whole thing was broadcast on Polish Television. I remember at one point we were on stage and a woman with a handbag came on ha ha… I’m sure Eric or Tony pushed her on. The first couple of songs the front rows were fists raised, jumping up and down, there was 15,000 people there, it was unreal.

The second gig was at an ice rink in Poznan. It took about 4 hours to get there in our mini bus. It was the same bill but we weren’t looking forward to the gig. We weren’t sure about the make up that we were wearing then, so we talked to Nasty Savage about it and they said ‘Just do what you did yesterday, keep it the same, it’ll be ok’. He was right the crowd went berserk. Eric came back to the hotel with a bottle of champagne ‘Well done lad’s best band of the night’. We got paid and it was ok set ‘em up, vodka and orange, bottle of champagne, just live it up cos we aren’t taking anything back ha-ha’.

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Press day in Poland with Nasty Ronnie, Ian Davison (Atomkraft), music journalist Dave Ling & Tony Dolan (Atomkraft).

‘The last gig was in Gdansk in the north, a very industrial town. We went down great there as well. It was just the first date where it didn’t happen for us. Rock journalist Dave Ling covered it for Metal Hammer. I remember doing one of the press conferences with Antton. I didn’t like it though. All the big bright white lights and your make up is all smudged.. ha-ha’.

What was the next move ? ‘By now we had done the album, got back from the Poland gigs and were in rehearsal doing some new material. There was talk of backing Wrathchild at Newcastle Mayfair and doing a few other things but sometimes they don’t come off. There are highs and lows all the way through. So now our drummer Glen becomes uninterested with the band so he goes his own way.

We get a new guy in on drums, very talented he was. We were over in Byker at Dons rehearsal rooms. After a period of rehearsals and photo sessions my head just started to drop you know. The dynamics of the band were changing, we were doing things another way and really I just didn’t fancy it. So I stepped back from it all and the band went on.

How long was I in the band? Looking back I remember I was at Newcastle City Hall watching Motley Crue on the Theatre of Pain tour in ’85 and we were rehearsing around then. That was at The Green Rehearsal rooms in South Shields. So fast forward to the end, I think it was 1990 when I left the band’.

What are you up to now? ’Now I work in the print industry I have been for over 25 years. I still love music and always will, I’ve ticked that box’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2018.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

VENOM INC: Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, August 2017.

AVENGER: Young Blood, 17th September 2017.

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON ? with Anarcho/punks Decontrol

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Originally formed back in 1991 Decontrol have returned…‘Still loud, still angry and still hoping to see the devastation of the Tory Party’.

Based in the North East of England the line-up is Neil (drums), Nick (guitar), Bry (bass/vocals) and Paul (vocals)…’Here’s a story from on one of the first gigs we played when we reformed. Neil is very energetic behind the drumkit and was knackered near the end of the first set. At the break he got up to go to the bar for a pint of water to cool down. We’d done a bit of crowd banter and then got on stage and started up the second set.

We signalled to him at the bar that the song was about to start. So in one movement he grabbed a pint, ran to the stage, sat down behind the kit, picked up the sticks and started the song right on cue. A quality piece of timing. I doubt that we’d ever pull that one off as neatly again, haha’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs?
Paul: ‘Lyrics come from all sorts of areas. Social commentary is easy to do when you have so much shit going on in the world. War, animal rights, consumerism, religion, the system, facism; so much choice! Sometimes I might have an idea of how a riff should go, but for the life of me I cannot play guitar. I have to try and hum the tune…badly.

More often than not it’s the rest of the band who come up with songs and I have a surplus of lyrics I can fit into what they produce. I might come up with the odd idea about the composition, but I’d say it is 99% plus done by the others’.

Nick: ‘I just play and play and see what comes out. I’m no Steve Vai so I just write what I think will sound good for us. I do think the fact that three of us come up with tunes make our sound varied. It works for us’.

Who were your influences ?
Bry: ‘Hearing Black Sabbath as a kid and being taught guitar by my Uncle. I listened to Crust and Hardcore bands such as Discharge, Wolfbrigade, Sect, Chain Of Strength, also Death metal and grindcore’.

Paul: ‘I’d been into Slade/Sweet/Wizzard as a young boy, then Kiss as a teenager and by my 20’s thrash and hardcore. What made me get off my arse was when I saw ENT on Snub TV back in 1989. As well as going down to Bradford with Energetic Krusher that same year. I thought ‘I have to get into a band’ it took me a while, but I got there. When the band first got together I was heavily influenced by Conflict, Discharge and ENT. I liked the idea of projecting the vocals in a clear way. Nowadays, there’s a bit of Rudimentary Peni influence in there as well as a touch of early Hellkrusher, who are mates of ours’.

Nick: ‘Always listened to music but it always looked difficult. Then a mate gave me an old Kay Les Paul and 50 watt combo and showed me how easy it was to play the WASP track Tormentor and Killed By Death by Motorhead. I haven’t progressed much since then. Mick Ronson was the person I wanted to imitate, thrown in with some of Ian Hunter’s song writing. I just loved music, not any particular genre. I am just as much at home with country music as I am with hardcore. Peter Hammil deserves a special mention for just being involved with the oddest and most varied music ever created’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play?
Bry: ‘I started when I was 16, but I’ve played all over the world with various bands including Mantas from Venom. I filmed two music video’s with Mantas and appeared briefly on Japanese TV !’
Paul: ‘The band started playing in 1991. We’d supported the likes of Genital Deformities, Hellkrusher, Disaster and Hiatus. All the original gigs were in the local area at the likes of Images in South Shields and the Irish Centre in Newcastle. The furthest we got was Consett supporting Mutant, whose drummer, Neil is now in the band!
Nick: ‘Played in Kent with the mighty SORB, East Kent’s best crust band. Done other bits and bobs but they’re secret’.

What is your experience of recording/studio work ?
Bry: ‘I recorded quite a bit, and it rarely goes to plan!
Nick: ‘Love it and do little bits at home. I’d spend more time in a studio working if I had time’.
Paul: ‘I’ve only been in the studio 3 times (1991 for the original demo and our 2 albums since 2015). I was nervous at first, but once I get into that booth with the cans on my head, I feel pretty much at home. It’s been weird doing the albums as we’re usually feeding off each other in terms of cues, but been segregated can cause a bit of an issue. We’ve done well so far and can only get better!

Have you any stories from playing gigs?
Paul: ‘Oh, yes! one occasion last year made me laugh. We’d played down Nottingham and our driver (Tony) was knackered after a long day driving us around. Well after dropping the van off, we all had a fair few drinks. He left early to crash out back at the hostel. A few hours later we came back boozed up and try as we might, we couldn’t stay quiet. Bashing around the corridors with our gear and shouting as we entered the room. We put the lights on and there he was, still corpsed out. We thought he was dead haha’.

What are the future plans for Decontrol ?
Paul: ‘We’re currently halfway through writing songs for our third album. Which we hope to have out by the back end of the year. We’re also planning to record 4 new tracks and a cover song for a 3-way split CD with fellow Northerners Anord and our friends up in Scotland, Frenetix. That will come out April or May, we hope. We’re also featuring on a planned compilation LP for Antifa, with an alternate version of a track from our second album. Not sure when that is due out but keep in touch on our Facebook page https://www.facebook/decontrolneuk.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, Angels of the North 12th March 2017.

Neil Newton, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, All the Young Punks 4th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS, Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS/WILDHEARTS, Comfort in Sound 15th February 2018.

COMFORT IN SOUND – for Danny McCormack vocals & bassist with The Main Grains/Wildhearts

Music can heal and put the pieces back together again. It listens when no one else does. It’s alive. Music makes everything better…and it can trigger memories.

One of my earliest was listening to the radio and hearing ‘Leader of the Pack’ by The Shangri-Las. I asked Danny about his memories… ‘When I was younger I used to play my dad’s Johnny Cash cassette. I played it on one of those portable tape recorders under my pillow, it was my first headphones haha’.

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In an earlier interview with Danny (Death or Glory 8th September 2017) he talked about his time with The Wildhearts, The Yo Yo’s and current band The Main Grains. I asked him after your health problems and being away from music what does it feel like playing again ?

‘Well it’s taken it’s toll out on me you know with the drugs and that. I‘ve only got one leg left and I’m trying to learn how to walk around with crutches. But I’m getting there you know. It all started at Reading Festival in ’94’.

(Watch the clip on You Tube as The Wildhearts play the main stage and during ‘Everlone’ Danny injures his knee. At the end of the song the crowd are chanting his name. Then Ginger (vocals/guitar) steps up to the mic… ‘You probaly thought Danny was turning into a hippy sitting down but he’s actually dislocated his knee so we gonna wait until the end of the gig and pop it back in’. Danny plays the rest of the set sitting on a flight case grimacing in pain).

‘We were live on stage, first song I jumped up in the air and bang, landed awkward. My leg bent the wrong way. The road crew said ‘we’re gonna take you off’ I said ‘no fuckin’ way just get me a Jack Daniels and a line of coke’ haha. Afterwards I went to hospital and was operated on, it’s been really weak since then – but I did finish the gig!

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His current band The Main Grains are JJ on guitar, Ginna on drums and Ben on guitar with Danny on bass and vocals… ‘When we first got together it all fit in place. You know playing now is really fresh and exciting again and I’m doing it for the right reasons. Rehearsing, preparing and planning for gigs. I’m loving it, I’m in love with music again’.

The Main Grains have recently finished a tour with Tylas Dogs D’Amour, how did that come about ? ’I’ve known Tyla since Bam Bam was in The Wildhearts so that was going back to ’92. When I got The Main Grains together I got in touch with Tyla and said we’d be up for any gigs that are coming up, he said yeah no problem man. He kept to his word and got in touch a few month ago and mentioned the December gigs. We were more than willing to go for that.

Normally a tour can be weeks at a time but this one we were doing 2 or 3 dates on with a couple of days off in between. It was good because with the gigs like that you have a few days to recover, come home, shower, get changed and get some proper food in yer. We started at the beginning of December and went up till Edinburgh on the 22nd.

But with the Ryan Hamilton tour coming up in March that’s different cos we’re 10 days on and 1 day off. Supporting Tyla’s Dogs was brilliant. The Dogs crowd are same as our rock n roll crowd so yeah went down really well, it was great. Great bunch of lads, drinking buddies with a gig in between (laughs)’.

With the rise of Spotify, You Tube and others what impact has the internet had on music ? ’It’s totally changed the game. You can make a video yourself, put it on the internet and have worldwide release, overnight. Before you had to have a record company and certain amount of backing to get a video shown on TV. But our track Unscrewed has had 25,000 hits on You Tube so far which is not bad for an unsigned band’.

Do you think social media is essential for any band ? ‘Yes I do all that, it’s relentless. You have to be on it to let people know what’s happening and it keeps you in the public eye. Especially when you are starting out again because I had years off the scene and just getting myself together in the last few year. But it needs to be done.

I moved to London when I was 19, I wouldn’t had to that if the internet was about then. Managers, record companies, journalists were all in London so we had to base ourselves there. The companies were all in London, New York or Los Angeles. That was the 3 main places, then Seattle was added with the Sub Pop label who were very influential back in the 90’s. Nirvana are still making them obscene amounts of money now with the re-releases.’

Danny was in The Yo Yo’s who formed in 1998 and were signed to Sub Pop who released their debut album Uppers & Downers in 2000. Before that he was in The Wildhearts with Ginger who was also originally from my hometown, South Shields. Danny has been rehearsing some new songs written by Ginger. How did you get back in touch ?

’We had fallen out and hadn’t spoken for 10 year but he called me up out of the blue and asked me to play at his birthday bash in December 2016. We had a great time so we’ve kept in touch and now The Wildhearts are going to be playing some gigs this year. It’s really exciting planning new stuff again it’s like I’ve got something really positive in my life to aim for you know.

I’ve done a lot of growing up lately, I’m clean now. I can talk to Ginger just as a friend, a human being. Together we’ve been through a lot you know’.

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(The Wildhearts are on the ’Britrock Must be Destroyed’ UK tour during May 2018. Line up is CJ & Ginger (guitars) Danny (bass) and Ritch (drums). Also added to the bill are Reef and Terrorvision. Dates during the Summer festivals are also being arranged).
‘I love the bloke to bits and I have a lot of respect for the guy. Back then we were thick as thieves man, we were very close. In the 90’s we used to go to a pub in London called The Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street in Soho. I loved that place. It was a sort of goth rock punky bar. People must have been buying us drinks cos I’m not sure how we could afford it – we were all skint! The owner of the pub had a boot of a cadilac car converted into a couch and the amount of times I ended up sleeping on it after the pub closed haha.

Next morning I would wake up and start all over again. We were always at The Marquee on the guest lists. There was a page in the Kerrang mag called View From the Bar and we were always trying to get our faces in there, that was a big thing getting in the gossip columns of the mags. The Wildhearts spent a lot of time in the studio’s and we released a load of records. Ginger must have written at least a couple of hundred songs by now.’

In our last interview you talked about The Wildhearts supporting AC/DC. What are your memories of that tour ? ‘We were support on the Ballbreaker tour in 1996. We done a couple of months with them. We got on great with their vocalist, fellow geordie Brian Johnson, he really looked after us. I watched them on stage every night, it was brilliant. Some nights I saw Brian full of cold, really bad, but they never cancelled a gig. Before he went on he’d take a sly nip of whiskey then straight into Back in Black. Brilliant.

I remember one night he came into our dressing room and said ‘Pack yer t-shirts lads we’re going to America’. We thought we had another few month on tour but sadly we ran out of money and left the tour earlier than anticipated. Gutted. But that’s the way it goes sometimes’.

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Have you any favourite songs or studio moments from that time?Earth Vs The Wildhearts album was a great time recording. Mark Dodson worked on it, he was great. He also done Anthrax stuff. Mick Ronson played slide guitar on My Baby is a Headfuck. Mick Ronson..Ziggys Spiders from Mars…unbelievable ! He got it down in the first take but we let him play on cos we just wanted to listen. It was the last thing he played on before he died. Really sad it was, he was a really nice bloke.

That song goes down really well at gigs, it’s a sing a long, quite simple in context with the rest of the album because some of those songs are quite complicated. Songs like Everlone had more to them you know. I like the song Mindslide. I love the sentiment of the song and I love the drumming on it by Ritchie, it’s phenomenal.

(Mindslide was a b-side to the single ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’ and Earth Vs The Wildhearts was their debut album released in August 1993).
’I love working in the studio getting the bass down then watching the layers of guitars and vocals added. I love watching the track build and listening back on the big speakers. Hearing the finished track it’s such a buzz, a real rush.

But playing a song live you get a cheer and it’s instant gratification. All the hairs on my arms stand up, it’s like being plugged into the mains. It’s better than any drug that I’ve tried, wish I could bottle it’.

What has music given you ? ’Well it’s got me around the world and it’s like a feeling of belonging. You go to a gig and I feel one of the crowd. I’m with my people, being part of a community of music lovers, and I can express myself in music. Being confident and comfortable in yer own skin which is important. It’s freedom. The ultimate that music has given me is freedom’.

Debut mini-album ‘Don’t Believe Everything You Think’ available on cd and ltd edition 10″ red vinyl NOW! http://maingrains.com/store

Next up for The Main Grains is a tour in March with Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2018.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, Angels of the North 12th March 2017.

Neil Newton, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, All the Young Punks 4th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS, Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

A LIFE OF BOOZE, BANDS AND BUFFOONERY with Steve Kincaide from The Bastard Sons of Cavan

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‘I was in Detroit in a band called Candyrag, it was 2001 and we were playing the Elbow Rooms, haunt of The White Stripes. A middle aged couple all dressed in leather splendor warned me of having a partner in the same band, then they invited me to a party to meet Iggy Pop. I politely declined only to find out from the promoter that Iggy was indeed in town and that the couple are old friends.  I should also have listened about having my girlfriend as a singer, as domestic issues do fly out onto the stage.

There is a video on You Tube where I get an almighty thump, deservedly so. The band originally started off as bored flatmates, the drummer used only a fire extinguisher at first movin’ up to a snare then a snare and cymbal. The band only split up when the singer KT (my girlfriend) got off with the USA tour promoter, but we all left friends tho’- there’s a whole other chapter for Candyrag alone!

That band released a 7″ which was recorded at Washington Arts Centre 2001 and yes it was, wham bam in an out recorded in a day. We got it played on the John Peel radio program, unfortunately Peely played it at 45rpm when it was a 33 !

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‘I am now upsetting the psychos and rockabilly folk with The Bastard Sons of Cavan. A band that has had a new line up every year since 2010, Buff Harris/Bull Fiddle and Ed Smash, drums. Both based in Wales so in effect I’m in a Welsh band whilst living in London.

We were booked to play a Biker Festival on the North East coast. It was one of our first gigs. We turned up, set up started playing, drummer joins in, guitarist pipes up, bassist froze. The plugs were pulled, but not because the bassist froze but because this set of bikers love Folk not Rock. They kindly paid us, however I still wonder why they ever booked us in the first place? ’

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What got you interested in music ? ‘I was living on a poor council estate in Chilton, County Durham, we had a broken record player and an acoustic guitar with one string. Back in the day it was Top of the Pops, not the music, but the look, it was 70’s glam after all. The only music I heard was when me neighbour blasted his Elvis records every Sunday. Nowadays it’s the latest thing that peaks my interest, whatever musical genre.

The first wave of Punk passed me by as I sat and simmered at home. I finally heard John Peel on the radio in ’78. Although I had never had any inclination to be in a band it was the second wave of Punk that made me wanna grab it with both hands. So I got myself a guitar from Bells the local music shop, they did hire purchase. Then I got a Crate combo from the catalogue. I learned how to play guitar then switched over to bass.

The downside was I had to leave school and go on the dole to afford payments. There weren’t a lot of jobs and I didn’t want to end up in a factory – punk had a lot to answer for and that’s my excuse’.

When you joined a band what venues did you play ? ‘The first band that gigged were Anti-Climax in 1981. The second wave of angry punk all mohawks and attitude, ideal for a bunch of lads in a Northern pit village. Those lads being Neil Campbell on vocals, my neighbour Gary Ward and Myself. Me and Gary used to switch from bass to guitar and anyone we could nab on drums – still an ongoing trend.

We mostly played in youth clubs and church halls around the North East. My Dad was the chauffer – unwillingly I may add. One night Anti Climax were at a local punk gig and we were asked if we could play a gig supporting Uproar in Peterlee the next night. We said of course, then did what every Punk would do. I stole me Dads car, did the gig, crashed the car and got a hiding off me Dad when I got the bus back.

This was short lived due to me finding out the merits of sniffing glue, and finding myself on the wrong side of the law. So I was taken out of public circulation for a while. I found myself relocated to Newcastle, with a much better scene all round. I got involved with several bands from full on punk to goth, even a stint in a 70’s covers band!

By 1989 I found myself in a Gateshead Psychobilly outfit The Sugar Puff Demons. We recorded a debut album Falling from Grace for Link records. When we went on tour, me being the newbee was the one laid out in the back of the mini van with the gear piled up all around.

But the band got thrown off that tour for upstaging the main act, and the singer went bat shit crazy. In the end we split up. This happened all within a year ! There were more short lived but very highly charged times in several bands with the longest being in Th’ Lunkheads from 1993-2000. They had an ill fated tour of France and a jaunt over the pond.

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‘In France we found the gigs being cancelled left right and centre at the last minute – and we were running out of cash. The lads were feeling low so I grab them and point them to the Pyrennes and say ‘how many folk on the dole up North have seen this ?’ Fortunately local band The Catchers helped us out, plus entertain us with their hot rodded cars. I was in the one that run out of fuel halfway up a mountain and had to cruise back down in reverse – just before the Police caught up!!

I remember I was in the toilet in a venue in Bordeaux when I heard a commotion. I got out and the Police had raided and arrested the landlord – no gig that night. In retrospect I believe wearing World War 2 German helmets may have been a wrong fashion choice for the band.

1997 we landed on American soil, Detroit Rock City – only to be whisked off by security and questioned. We claimed to be just visiting and sticking to our guns we got through it. Only to find that the promoter had got cheerleaders with L..U..N..K..H..E…A..D..S on their shirts waiting for us. Eventually we did the gig but I was ill with food poisoning. Someone scrawled Lunkheads are drunks on the toilet wall, which was not far wrong as the promoter had enough empties to keep him in groceries for a month.

Lunkheads first demo was recorded in a barn on a old 2” reel to reel, it was made more interesting as it was a pub due to shut down and several kegs of cider and lager needed emptying – job done. Those recordings may resurface soon on vinyl through Trash Wax records as part of their Garbage Grails, better late than never’.

Did you support any name bands ? ‘Over the years I have supported many bands of various genres from ? & The Mysterians at the Magic Stick in Detroit to Wonk Unit at The Angel in Durham. Played in venues long gone now like The Mayfair and The Broken Doll in Newcastle. Every one of them a blast whether playin’ to just the bar staff or 2,000 punters who don’t know who you are!

When I was in Blood and Thunder ’87 ish we were supporting UK Subs in Carlisle, during I Wanna Be Your Dog some old codger grabbed the mic and started singin’ – well it was only Charlie Harper, bless’.

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What was your experience of recording studios ?The Cluny studio in Newcastle was the first time. I was in a band called Peroxide in 1986. Very professional and very posh surroundings to us bunch of punks. The desk was sixteen track total separation but the sound was very sterile. Luckily we were a tight three piece outfit so it went smoothly. Can’t remember the cost to be honest but it wasn’t cheap. The tracks were gonna end up on a split vinyl E.P. (Bloodsucker on Other records) but by the time that was sorted out we had changed our name to Blood and Thunder. Only one track was used State Rebel, a cringe inducing anthem that to listen to now I have to have a belly full of whiskey’.

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‘Th’ Lunkheads first single for Japans Barn Homes records was recorded at The Soundroom in Gateshead with friends Dave and Fiz producing and engineering. Fortunately I got community service in said studio – as they say killing two birds with one stone. Now The Bastard Sons of Cavan record at Western Star in Bristol, resulting in three albums all on the Western Star label.

In Newcastle I went to several studios all with varying degrees of failure, trying to find value for money. Then I found First Avenue in Heaton which I stuck with for many years ’til that eventually changed for the worse. No disrespect to Dave Curle he’s a champion engineer, the place just leaves me cold.

Anyway we got £1,000 from the record label to record an album so we hauled the P.A. into the studio and recorded it all live. The whole thing cost ninety quid so we split the remainder, including with the engineer, and lost a few days from our lives. The label from Colorado was well pleased with the results…phew! Much as I love the studio I prefer playing live and putting on a show’

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‘Whilst in The Campus Tramps we recorded two E.P.’s. One for Barn Homes Japan and Knockout Records Germany. Both recorded at the Bunker in Sunderland on 8 track. However the producer/engineer got the monk on as one of the labels used his name on the promotional adverts. Him being a well known singer in a well respected hardcore punk band won’t help his cred helping us low life Thunders/Ramones influenced trash! Not mentioning any names but his band rhymes with mace and it has leather in it.

The first session we lost the master tape so we had to use my ropey cassette copy to master the record. The second session had to be remastered at First Avenue as the original was apparently too high…go figure’.

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Did you record any TV appearances or music video’s ? ‘The only time I’ve been on TV was for a late night chat show about tattoos. When I found out I was the star attraction and not in the audience with my girlfriend and band mates (Steve Straughan – now punk superstar, Keith Lewis, Snarling Horses) I demanded a taxi home to get some decent clobber on…i.e. a pair of brothel creepers and some very loud Hawaian shorts!!

The Sugar Puff Demons did try and produce a music video for Burn The Church. I still have several VHS tapes full of footage of us miming our damnedest around Jesmond Dene, anyone out there willing to make something of it, go ahead.
 The Bastard Sons of Cavan do indeed have a video available to enjoy on You Tube recorded by TuffJam it was a day of insanity. The bassist failed to turn up so we blagged a family friend to stand in, splendid!’

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Any stories from the gigs over the years ? Where do I begin ? I may say in my defence I did drink quite a lot of Thunderbird and some of these events have been relayed to me second hand. Like hanging the guitarist out of a second story window in Edinburgh, setting fire to the quiff of the singer in a restaurant, getting thrown out of the gig during the soundcheck in London – only to be let in to do the gig then promptly thrown out again and making Eugene (Rezillos) Reynolds carry the P.A – after he pulled the do you know who I am stunt.

We all love a party but one at some student digs in Sheffield in 1989 got out of hand and the Police were called. Instantly I hid under the bathroom sink which was quite a squeeze as I’m over six foot two. Chuck the singer of Frantic Flintstones gets under the bath. He’s five foot nowt. Police arrive and turf everyone else out. There was quite a bit of friction amongst the bands the next day due to me and Chuck having all the creature comforts as they all sat outside in the van freezing.

I was in a band called Burning Hells and had a few years of crazy times that involved drinking bleach, bleeding eyes and overall stupidity. But in 2004 we done a gig in Barrow-in-Furness. The car was crammed with all the gear and we hit the road, only to break down in the middle of the motorway and in the middle of nowhere. We got the car off road and I lie down on the bank taking in the sun waiting for the AA. Only to be informed the car is not taxed, tested or insured – action stations !!

We locate the problem, it was a leaking fuel pump, fixed problem with good old gaffa tape. We’re back in business and did the gig’.

‘In 2006 I was in Hangmen helping out on double bass supporting Tiger Army on tour. The previous year I did a warm up gig in Manchester and ended up at a student party. Blustering in I pick up a pint glass, urinate in it, promptly drink it all and declare this party started. At one point there was a chicken on my head and I was crowned the King Of Xmas. The cat was fed all the cheese and the fridge emptied. I bumped into the students again and they said I owed them a xmas dinner, I promptly bought them a bottle of red wine instead’.

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What are you up to now ? The Bastard Sons of Cavan are still bothering stages and studios in whatever guise. I have King Konker still waiting to get outta the traps, they are two guys, two girls playing garage punk trash. Action Seekers, a Stooges rip off which is basically my 16 year old stepson Louie playing all the parts that I’ve wrote.

Last but not least Cleatus Stillborn, an experiment of fusing Lynyrd Skynyrd with Psychobilly. I’m back on bass with two seasoned musicians Alex (a Doncaster bloke who spent most of his life in California) on vocals and guitar plus Lenny (whose Mother was Led Zep’s secretary) on drums.
Oh did I mention Billy Childish wrote a song for me way back in 1992 “My name is Kid Kincaide…you use your own!!”

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Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT: Guns, Maggots & Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Steve James, Under the Skin, 9th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

EVO, No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

BEAUTY & THE BOLLOCKS – UK Subs & Hi Fi Spitfires guitarist Steve Straughan

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‘Since joining the UK Subs I am more busy than ever, which I love. The UK Subs have a 40th anniversary gig in November, a UK tour then a 5 week tour of Europe. I’ve got a lot going on and always have since I first picked up a guitar after hearing Never Mind the Bollocks. Blew me away. It still does today’.

Who were your influences Steve and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that ? ’1970’s music was healthy at the time but nothing was opening the doors for me. Music was always there in the background like the glam rock thing, but it just wasn’t grabbing me. It was like black and white tv, nothing special.

But when punk came around it gave me that extra thing like colour tv. It just had that extra spark, that beauty. What can I say, it was incredible. I remember watching video clips from The Great Rock n Roll Swindle, songs from the Bollocks album – that made me want to do it myself.

Also listening to The Stranglers album, Rattus Norvegicus, and a lot of other punk stuff from 1977. That whole scene was electric. I rode the wave of punk rock to get into music first, then went back to the likes of 70’s glam to appreciate it. There was a keyhole to my musical heart and it was punk that opened it’.

‘Where I lived in Sunderland we had a healthy punk scene. Watching the likes of Red Alert at Monkwearmouth youth club was very influential. Watching lad’s from my area and who were just a little bit older made me realise that it can be done. Being in a band back then was more like being in a gang but extended with instruments. Punk gave you the ability to tell your story and release your frustrations’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’From the start I’ve been really busy gigging and recording. I haven’t stopped, over the years I’ve played in a number of bands. Way back in the early 80’s my first punk band Formal Warning played youth clubs and school halls in the Fulwell and Seaburn area of Sunderland where we lived. That lasted till around ’82.

As I got older I joined Red London and toured all over Europe. I then joined a band called Holy Racket. Again toured all over Europe. We played brilliant gigs but one great memory was supporting Rancid at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Loved that. I’ve played guitar for the Lurkers touring around Europe with them from 2009 until 2012. I was guitarist for a couple of years in the Angelic Upstarts we played many great gigs including a USA tour.

I formed Hi Fi Spitfires and toured a lot in the UK and abroad. One great tour was supporting TV Smiths Adverts and toured with 999 in Germany. We have supported everyone in the punk world really, like The Damned at the North East Calling gigs. Since joining the UK Subs just over a year ago, we have played extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA. Is that enough for ya’ haha’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Over the years I have recorded with all of those bands I’ve talked about. Best thing is I’ve kind of found my home when working with producer Fred Purser at Trinity Heights in Newcastle. Fred was once guitarist of the North East 70’s punk band Penetration.
Some of the bands who have recorded at Trinity are Angelic Upstarts, Toy Dolls, Red Alert, Red London, Holy Racket and Hi Fi Spitfires. Holy Racket recorded the album Anthems For The Doomed And Dazed there, North Rebel Radio and Subliminal Chaos all of which were released on cd.

We also recorded some material which was later released on a 7 inch single called Anoraxia.  Hi Fi Spitfires recorded the album England Screaming there which was released on cd and the album Nightraid which was released on cd and vinyl’.

‘We have always paid for everything ourselves, no record companies involved at all. If your serious about being in a band it’s obvious you have to record and release material. It’s not cheap to do it though. To record where we do it’s £220+ per day. On top of that there is the cost of pressing on cd or vinyl. The price of vinyl is unbelievably pricey. This is why I have only managed to do the vinyl route a couple of times. We are at the moment talking to a good friend who has agreed to put the money up to release our first album on vinyl like he did with our second’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘I could honestly write a book. Here are just two. A long time ago I played a charity gig in Sunderland. A friend of mine asked if he could come along as he had not seen any live bands before. I remember beforehand he was a bit nervous meeting the rest of my band. He kept asking if everything would be ok. I kept assuring him that everything would be cool and there certainly would not be any kind of trouble as it was a charity gig.

As I got ready and packed my guitars he went to the shop and got some ale just to take the edge off as he was quite nervous around new people. At this point I just thought he was having a couple of drinks.

Fast forward to the gig and just before we went onstage he told us how grateful he was for letting him come with us. About 5 songs in I was aware that something was going totally wrong by the people’s faces in the venue. I turned to my side to see my once very nervous mate running round the stage and pogoing naked. The security was called and he was escorted from the building. We were told to get off the stage.

I asked why and the bouncer said, ‘shut up, get your gear off, your barred’. After the initial shock I laughed my head off all the way home. I think we gave those people something extra thanks to my mate’.

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‘Years later I agreed for the same lad to come on tour with me in Belgium with the band I was in at the time Holy Racket. He assured me all the way there that he had learned his lesson and he wouldn’t do it again. There would be no repeat performance. I know he was very embarrassed about it.

During our performance on stage he was looking in a cupboard and found a horses head mask. He came running on the stage naked, with the horses head on and a sock fastened to his cock. I couldn’t play for laughing. I remember the audience loving it’.

‘Next stop for Hi Fi Spitfires are return recording sessions with Fred Purser at Trinity Heights, Newcastle. We are recording a 5 track cd called Doors To The USA. Yeah can’t wait’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Steve James, Under the Skin, 9th July 2017.

Evo, No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017. 2017.

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

DEATH OR GLORY – interview with Danny McCormack bassist The Main Grains/The Wildhearts

I’m with Danny at his home in Newcastle and notice a black and white photo on the sitting room wall, it’s a picture of The Garricks Head pub in South Shields… ‘Yeah my Grandma Pat used to have it’.

I remembered I had my first drink there when I was 16 year old. A pint of McKewan’s Scotch, after the first drink the froth covered the caterpillar growing on my top lip… ‘Yes it was a great pub sadly not there now. She used to have regular lock-in’s, the punters staying behind after hours for a few more drinks. A bloke with an accordion would be in, there was a piano player in the corner and we’d all be singing along with them. Smokey tunes, great times and wild night’s, yes, I can remember all that’.

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When living in London Danny McCormack was a member of The Wildhearts. During their commercial peak in the nineties, they recorded 4 albums with their 2nd release P.H.U.Q entering the album charts at no.6. The band also released a bucket load of top 30 singles and they appeared on British tv music programme Top of the Pops. Support slots with Manic Street Preachers, Guns n Roses and AC/DC, they also toured America and Japan.

Danny went on to form The Yo Yos and recorded 1 album, toured the UK, Europe and Japan then split in 2000. Since returning North in 2003 he has re-joined and left The Wildhearts several times, played with Dog’s D’Armour and with his younger brother Chris in Three Colours Red. The Yo Yos also made a brief comeback.

Those are just edited highlight’s of his life in rock n roll. But bringing the story up to date Danny has a new band – The Main Grains. Before meeting up I checked out some of their music and watched a video for ‘Unscrewed’. I thought it had a Ramones/End of the Century/ Phil Spector feel to it…
’Yes it’s our nod to Phil Spector in a way. The Main Grains are JJ on guitar, Ginna on drums and Ben on guitar with me on bass and vocals. They are Yorkshire lads so they come up to Gateshead where we rehearse. When we first got together it all fit in place, the playing is tight. That’s what you want.

We record the old fashioned way, idea’s on an acoustic first, then get in a room together to rehearse. Bounce idea’s off each other. We need the spark, the energy for it to come together. This time we are doing it ourselves.

We’ve had no record company input. So never signed anything, we own our own music. We make our own decisions and plenty people are coming to the gig’s so we are doing something right. We will work with promoter’s to put together a few more gig’s but we are in control, we’ll choose when we want to record and gig’.

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Punk was a big influence in your life, can you remember where you first heard it ? ‘The jukebox man would come around to my Grandma’s pub and say ‘Pat what do you want on the jukebox this week ? She said ‘All my usual’s you know the Patsy Cline stuff, but none of that punk rock music there’s far too much fucking swearing in it haha’. My ear’s pricked up like devils horn’s. What’s punk rock ? Then I heard the Pistol’s, Damned, Clash and just loved it. They absolutely blew my mind. I used to play them at low volume so my mother couldn’t hear the swearing.

I was playing The Toy Doll’s, still love them to this day, Angelic Upstarts – there was a lot of complaints about them being on stage kicking a pig’s head around with a copper’s helmet on it. But they were only singing the truth you know, reality, have a dose of this folks. I had a picture of them on my wall and there’s the ugly mugs of Mond and Mensi staring down at me haha. Yes I love punk’.

Did you have any hero’s in music ? ‘Nah I was never into the hero worship thing, never looked up to any of the musician’s or band’s really. The only hero’s out there are all the nurses, doctor’s and fireman. They face life and death decisions every day…that’s who real hero’s are’.

When did you get your first guitar ? ‘I got my first guitar one Christmas, it was a classical. The reason I play bass is because two strings snapped and I didn’t have the heart to say to my mam that I’ve snapped the strings because A, I’ll get a clip around the lug for snapping them and B, she couldn’t afford to replace them. I just used to play along with my records with the 4 strings like a bass’.

Then some mates got together and we done my first band called Energetic Krusher. Ali was on vocals, Hairy the drummer, Louie and Nick Parsons on guitars. Nick went on to do The Almighty. We made an album for a record label down London called Vinyl Solution. We had just split up but never told them.

Ali took us for a pint and told us about the record company interest, we all said yes of course we’ll do it. We were 15-16 year old with a record deal, it was brilliant. I remember going to school somebody video taped us in rehearsals. I was really chuffed’.

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‘We got the buzz then, first gig I ever done was amazing. It just felt exactly right. The crowd were going nut’s, we were going nut’s, it sounded tight, in time, in tune. That was at The Riverside in Newcastle.
Later I was working at King’s Music guitar shop in Sunderland it was a YTS scheme getting £27.50 a week. I remember that was my exact fare to get to London and join The Wildhearts’.

How did that come about ?Ginger from The Wildhearts had heard about Energetic Krusher through his mate Panda from South Shields and he came to see us play at The George Ropery in London. That must have stuck in his mind you know because when one of the guy’s left his band Ginger was straight on the phone to me, saying would you come down for an audition.
Well when I got there it wasn’t really an audition because I took some acid and got off with the secretary from the record company. He said ‘You’re in!’ haha. Ginger was a few year older than me and had already been down there a few years and had been in Beki and the Bombshell’s, The Quireboys and a few other bands. You know I was in a band with Ginger from The Quireboys, and Bam Bam from Dog’s D’Amour. At 15 year old I was down the front at a Dogs D’Amour gig then 4 years later I was in a band with him, it was like a dream come true. It was brilliant’.

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Where did you stay in London, did you have any digs? ‘I was squatting in Gingers cupboard in Finchley Road. The woman used to come round for the rent and she started noticing I was there a lot. Who’s he, where’d he come from she’d say. We were rehearsing in Jumbo Studios when we could. I was on dole money, we had nowt. We used to split and share our money to get by. It was £15 quid with Ginger one week then next week he would give me £15 back. It was that hard when we first moved down there.

First year we were dossing around cos the band were in litigation. Ginger had signed some deals that weren’t working for us. It was all lawyer meetings, what was going on here you know. We couldn’t record it was frustrating. But you know what it is, we didn’t give a shit, we believed in the band that much.

The songs were flying out of Ginger, he had an acoustic and played me a few tunes, what do you think of this one ? Then another and another, he used to blow me away. Coming out with classic after classic in my book. The guy’s a genius. Nothing but admiration for him’.

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Can you remember first recording with The Wildhearts ? ‘The first album was done in Wessex Studio’s where Never Mind the Bollock’s and London Calling by The Clash were recorded, bit of Queen stuff also done there, yes it was phenomenal. It was a great place. We done demo’s there originally and they were so good we used them for the album, we tarted the vocal up a bit. All done in a week and we had an album’.

The Mondo Kimbo EP was done down in Wales at Rockfield Studio, a very famous studio, a lot of bands recorded there. Around late ’92 we done a lot of small gig’s but the turning point was when we played with Pantera at The Marquee, that was a phenomenal gig.

After that we went out with Wolfsbane, Manic Street Preachers, Alice in Chains even Steve Vai. We were building a reputation as a good live band. We were playing tight, a pretty formidable unit. A stand out gig was supporting Guns n Roses in Japan. Ended up going there 7 times’.

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Did you film any TV appearances or music video’s ? ‘As a job, being in a band with a plank of wood and four wires hanging around your neck doesn’t quite cut it with your parents, cos they had proper jobs haha. So after we’d done Top of the Pops a few times and they’d seen me on the telly my mam and dad stopped asking if I was going to get a proper job. We used to have a great time on the show, the crowd would go nut’s. I don’t know where they were from but there was a few Wildhearts t-shirts in the crowd.

We done it a few way’s, miming, live, sometimes just the vocal’s were live. But we never had a song where it stuck and grew. Our hardcore fan’s would buy the single’s and we would sell enough to get on the show, but never reached further in the charts’.

‘For the I Wanna Go Where the People Go video we filmed that in New York. We went there for 5 days to do the video and ended up living there for a couple of month haha. We were in a house in Brooklyn it was great fun. For the first month we were in The Chelsea Hotel.

One night after drinking in CBGB’s we jumped in the taxi and told the driver to take us to the nearest drug dealer. ’No problem get in guy’s’. The taxi was quickly surrounded by them. The deal was done and we returned to The Chelsea. We laid them out on the bed and looking through them we managed to score some salt and some pencil shavings haha… they must have seen us coming. We did get some spliff amongst the pencil shavings.

The drummer Ritchie put the radio on, lit some candles and we chilled out. The candle was on a wood shelf and he put something underneath so it wouldn’t burn through the shelf. But he put a paper plate under the candle. Well of course we fell asleep and the candles burned through, fell into my bag and set his hair alight. The fire caught hold on the old wooden floor, it was pretty big so I ran into the hallway in my under crackers looking for a fire extinguisher.

Next door and downstairs were making noises about all the smoke, now the fire brigade turned up, there was coppers running about and we were absolutely stoned.

The manager came and showed us to another room, he was very calm and said you’re in good company, the only people who’ve set fire’s in this hotel were Sid Vicious and Andy Warhol haha.
Eventually the record company starved us out of New York. They stopped the money going into the bank and we eventually went back to the UK to do Top of the Pops. You know I don’t think about those times all the time, just now that you’ve asked but I can see it in my mind and thing is I’m back in touch with Ginger now’.

Where did you go after The Wildhearts ? ’After The Wildhearts I toured America with The Yo Yo’s and the first drive was 3 days – never complained about touring in a van in the UK again haha. We went out with The Backyard Babies and The Murder City Devil’s. We done about 42 states in 5 month, that was brilliant. We were on Sub Pop at the time and I recorded around 20 songs with them’.
(Nerd alert: Sub Pop was a USA record company working out of Seattle, famous in the 1980’s for signing bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. In 2000 The Yo Yo’s released their debut album Uppers and Downers, it was recorded in Trident Studio’s, London).

‘They gave us the backing and at first it looked like a very good deal unfortunately it didn’t work out that way – but that’s another story. Those contracts look like they are written in Latin and I wasn’t trained as a lawyer. But hey, loved my time in that band, got to travel to Japan again’.

Danny has a lot more stories and will be returning in a few month time but 
before the interview we talked about musicians who have suffered with depression and addictions, or others who had recently passed away. Danny has had his own problems which are well documented elsewhere, but I felt there was no need to repeat them here…

‘What’s in the past is just that, you can’t change it. Just looking forward to playing some more rock n roll. Musician’s aren’t anything special. Me, I’m just a bass player in a rock n roll band. That’s who I am’.

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The Main Grains.

Catch The Main Grains live at The New Adelphi, Hull on September 22 and at Trillians, Newcastle on September 23. They are supporting The Professionals at The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton October 27 2017.

The Main Grains have a new single coming out on 7th November 2017 The Rain is Over, What We Gonna Do Now ? and Sock It To Me Baby.

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For more info, tour dates & downloads contact the official website maingrains.com or thru facebook or twitter.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Staughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

Evo, No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

UNDER THE SKIN with drummer Stevie James

Stevie James has been in a few punk bands over the years so he’s collected a lot of memories… ‘I’ve being tapped up by a midget in New Orleans, locked in squats in Genoa and our singer got stuck in a parachute once. I got altitude sickness on stage in Columbia and hid from Nazi skinheads in a loft in Poland. So many memories but if you venture out of your door you experience life in all it’s glory’.

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Where did it all start ? ‘I started off playing in bands as a kid, playing punk rock on drums. My first band was called The Betrayed and since then have played in so many bands including Hellkrusher, Grudge, Blunt Wound Trauma, Demon 340, The Fiend and The Varukers’.

Who were your influences ? ‘Like most kids growing up you start with the music your parents listened to. For me it was a family of two sides. My mothers music taste was diabolical but my dads was great. He listened to bands like Them, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. But he was also into heavier stuff like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Motorhead. It’s all music I still listen to.

My own music started with Damned, Specials and The Sex Pistols. I remember me dad playing Friggin in the Riggin to me uncle and thinking, I’m gonna get me lug dadded here but he just laughed. Then I discovered Angelic Upstarts and the UK Subs. Now I had a thread to follow I quickly discovered punk in all its forms and along with school mates, found the harder edged and politically motivated punk of the early eighties. Once I discovered that, it was life changing, I never looked back’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When we were kids we hung around in large groups on the streets, roaming all over the place. In the early eighties there was an old drum shop on Bede Burn Road in Jarrow that would chuck old sticks and drum heads in a skip around the back. We would go and raid it and see what we could acquire. Kids from my generation didn’t have access to much so even an old drum head would spark off the imagination.

We would play Crass records that one of our friends older brother had. The anger and politically charged lyrics was the first time I really related to someone else’s point of view. It was the beginning of my interest in music.

Around ’81 or ’82 we went to see The Phantoms of the Underground, Blood Robots and The Pigs in a church hall in Jesmond, and that was that. I remember having to lie to my dad about where I was going and when I got dropped off at home after the gig, I thought I was gonna get a clout around the ear, but he just said ‘get to bed lad’ and I escaped another hiding.

We decided after that to start a band and moved in to me dads garden shed for about three years. I built a drum kit from water barrels from me dads allotment. They were covered in towels perched on upside down chairs with the backs pulled off and the dowel from the backs for sticks. I had a snare drum shell with only a bottom head and no snare, so I turned it upside down and covered it with a towel. That was my first kit until I bought a proper kit from a lad at the paper shop for £30.

We did our first gig in my parents kitchen when they went shopping. We sold tickets for 25p and filled the house with kids from the estate. We borrowed the school drum kit and took it to mine in shopping trolleys. Me parents came home half way through the gig and caught us. Me old man said I had one hour and went in the living room and closed the door. He was alright about me music was me old man’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘When I got heavily involved in the punk scene it was very d.i.y and we would play gigs anywhere and everywhere. The bands we followed predominantly played at The Station in Gateshead, The Bunker in Sunderland and later The Broken Doll in Newcastle.

I played my first gig at the Anglo Asian club in the west end of Newcastle but we shook the floor so much they stopped us playing there. ‘We also used to play a lot at The Irish Centre in Newcastle’.

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‘When I was in a band that you could call serious we did our first gig at The Riverside in Newcastle but we played all over the country and some of us into Europe and America. I have played worldwide over the years, the punk scene is as far reaching as it gets and I’ve played with everyone from Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, to UK Subs, Discharge, Exploited, GBH, The Damned, Steve Ignorant from Crass, The Dickies, The Misfits, you name it. Those early days of kicking around the doors were special though’.

What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘We were about as clueless as it gets but what we lacked in knowledge we made up for in enthusiasm. I can’t remember prices but we recorded as cheaply and as quickly as possible in those days.

We used to go to Rednose Studio on the north side and recorded our first single with a band called Senile Decay, which was mastered at Abbey Road then our first album there with Hellkrusher on the Wasteland record which was released in 1990. The record company said it wasn’t good enough so we went to Baker Street Studio in Jarrow owned by local musician Howard Baker’.

‘I turned up with a pair of old drum sticks covered in gaffer tape and when the engineer asked me where my drums were, I told him I didn’t have any. I thought this was a studio so there would be some here. We ended up borrowing the kit of someone who stored it in the studio.

I later went on to study and become a sound engineer and record many artists over the years and in studios all over the world, including the amazing Rooftop Studio in South Shields. I went on to design and build The Cave Studio that is still standing to this day, which I’m proud of as it’s in my home town. I’ve always produced everything I ever did since I had the knowledge to do it’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Oh aye. So many, I wouldn’t know where to start. Most bands spend just about the full day travelling and drinking so they do everything three sheets to the wind but I don’t drink so I remember everything.

I’ve got loads of memories, like the time I slept in a convent, we’ve been escorted by police out of various cities and even over the borders of countries. There has been riots, kick off’s, we’ve blown so many circuit boards in venues it’s not funny.

I remember doing a gig with The Fiend and the guitarist Robby pulled into a petrol station to fill up the van and somehow managed to jam his keys into the van ignition and pulled off the steering wheel trying to get them back out. We had to leave the van on the forecourt and Robby got a lift on a moped to go get his car. Aye we still did the gig haha!’

‘We done a gig in The Ferry pub in South Shields where we were so loud we vibrated all the bottles off the bar. They could hear us down the road at another pub so they complained to the police. One time we went through the metal detector in Berlin airport and one band member accidentally had a butter knife in his boot, it didn’t go off but we were sweating buckets going through security.

We were on tour in America when one of us got pulled in Dallas for having the same name as a wanted terrorist! They showed us a picture of an Asian fella and asked if it was one of us before they would let us go into South America’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘Music got under my skin and never left me. I was involved in an accident that damaged my spine badly and it had an impact on my health in general. It was a long and arduous climb back up to a semblance of normality but it changed how I live my life and affected me profoundly. I can’t play anywhere as well as I used to as the damage is degenerative and I have to tread really carefully but I still play’.

‘I just can’t imagine my life without playing music in it. I will always play d.i.y punk just how its always been, and how it feel’s natural to me. There isn’t a single penny in it and it’s a chore like you couldn’t imagine. It can be frustrating to manage the logistics of it but I love it with everything that I am and always will, Cheers’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Staughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.