GET YER STRIPES – a year in the life of a Tyger with Glenn S Howes

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On 1st December 2017 this blog has a full interview with Glenn where he talks about his early years as a musician in the North East. Guitarist for Tyneside metal band’s Avenger, Blitzkreig, Fist, Tygers of Pan Tang and playing European festivals like Headbangers Open Air, Heavy Metal Night and Keep It True.

As I’m in the process of tracking down former members of the Tygers I got back in touch with Glenn and we arranged to meet and talk about his time in the band….

In ‘97 I re-joined Blitzkrieg. They were already heavily involved with Jess Cox (former Tygers vocalist) through the Neat Metal record label in Wallsend. Jess was co-managing the band and arranged for Blitzkrieg to appear on the ‘99 March Metal Meltdown festival at Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA. Excellent bands like Sweet Savage, Vicious Rumours, Sepultura, Overkill, Biohazard and Anvil were on the bill.

On the flight over to Philadelphia I was talking to Jess and he mentioned that he had been trying to organise getting the original Tygers back together. He also wanted John Sykes involved. Robb Weir was in but in the end Sykes turned it down. Also the original drummer and bassist didn’t want to do it. I seem to remember they had genuine personal reasons not to join.

Jess just said to me Do you fancy having a go? I was to take on John Sykes role. I said yes! He also persuaded the then Blitzkrieg bassist Gav Gray to take on the bass role. Gav brought his good friend Chris Percy in on drum’s.

When we got back from the USA. I got a call from Robb asking for us to get together for a jam. Essentially checking me out (laughs). I tried to impress him with a few Eddie Van Halen licks (laughs). It went well. Rob said yes it’ll work lets go for it. Thank you Mr Halen.

I loved the Wildcat album back in the day and still think it was one of the best NWOBHM albums. In those days the Tygers were held in high regard and were tipped to be huge. I was so happy and excited to be doing this. So much so I served my notice with Blitzkrieg in ’99 and left them to concentrate on the Tygers that same year.

Where did you rehearse? We started rehearsing in a place under the Byker Bridge near Newcastle. We were booked on the bill for The Wacken Festival in Germany in August ’99, so rehearsals were for that gig during the Summer. I have good memories of those rehearsals.

We then found out we were playing the Friday night but were surprised that not only was it a headlining slot, but above Saxon! I still don’t know why that happened it must have been a mistake or Saxon must have wanted to get away earlier.

What are your memories from that gig?  They used a rotating stage mainly to get the drum kit’s ready for the next band. We were ready at the back watching Saxon who were mind blowing. I was thinking we have to follow that! To say my bowels were loose would be an understatement (laughs). But it was a great gig, we went down well and got a lot of favourable reviews for our set.

I remember the intro that Jess wanted to play I think it was The Planets by Holst. We went on, played a few bars but the lights weren’t on. The lighting guy was fast asleep. Snoring his bracket off, now this was a major festival with Saxon and Dokken on the bill. We were told the audience was nearly 20,000. There was certainly a sea of faces that’s for sure. Robb Weir just ran straight over to the lighting guy and kicked him in the bollocks. Bang, wake up (laughs).

For stage clothes Me, Robb, Gav and Chris were wearing nothing flash just like jeans and t-shirt you know. But Jess decided to wear a cheese cloth suit! I asked him why and he said he liked to change the rules. It made him look like Jesus. It wasn’t an ironic piss take either. Just weird.

I’ve done thousands of gigs in different countries. Small and massive crowds but that was one of the highlights of my career. Headlining, getting that kind of attention, it can be mind blowing. Then you get back home and back to reality. Your mates say Have you had a canny weekend then? Me: Aye just played in front of 20,000 people with the Tygers of Pan Tang in one of the biggest festivals in Europe. Not everyone actually believed me. (laughs).

You weren’t a rockstar then? No (laughs) there’s a whole myth around that in my opinion. There’s an expectation to be throwing a TV out the window, shagging groupies and snorting ants or other stuff up your nose. But the truth is that is only a small minority of bands who do that and get away with it. To be a musician in a rock band is more me.

When I’ve played Festivals which ever country I am in and your meeting, talking to fans who bring cd’s and your signing stuff for them, that is the best part. They are showing their love and respect for the songs you wrote and recorded. It’s amazing.

I’ve seen people doing the rock star thing. Maybe that’s just their extreme personalities or its done for sensationalism. That’s up to them and I don’t criticize them for it. I like socialising and having a really good time but I’ve never snorted ants or thrown a tv out of a window (laughs).

I’ve just watched The Dirt movie about Motley Crue, was it all true? Did it give a musical background? and who were Mick Mars guitarist influences etc? No one really knows. There was no depth to it. As I’ve said a lot of this type of thing is done for sensationalism and to perpetuate the rock star myth. It sells.

Did you record with the Tygers? The Wacken show was recorded. Jess took the tapes back to Neat studio and we redone just a few bits. Jess arranged all of that via his label. That was licensed out to Spitfire Records and released in 2001. Basically the full set from Wacken gig.

We did have a few new song ideas for a new album but nothing materialised from those sessions. I would have liked to have put some new stuff out. But it wasn’t long after that Robb decided not to take this version of the Tygers forward and leave behind the Jess Cox version. Much like he did when Deverill took over I suppose.

How long were you in the Tygers? Not long (laughs). About a year I think. The initial discussion between Robb and Jess was for there to be another album like the Wildcat era but it didn’t pan out. Looking back there wasn’t anything negative around the band and certainly no animosity that I was aware of.

My only thinking is it just didn’t feel right for Robb. Maybe he would of liked the original members in the band. I’m not sure, better to ask him. I always got on well with Robb and for me he always had the right vision for the Tygers and I respect that.

I think Jess worked on a few other projects after that. He contacted me and talked about another Wildcat type project but by that point I wasn’t interested as had other projects on the go and it all seemed a bit late.

What do you think of the Tygers now? Since Robb created that new line up I think he has done a cracking job. They have been solid with some great musicians in the band. Before they went from the Wildcat era into the Deverill and Sykes period, Robb talked of needing something special to move the Tygers on and he was honest with that.

Sykes and Deverill certainly added that extra ingredient. Deverill was a great vocalist and frontman. I think Robb did the same the second time around post Jess Cox. They have brought out some impressive albums.

I joined other NWOBHM heroes Fist as frontman/guitarist in 2013 and I stayed with them for over four years. We played a show with the Tygers and Avenger at The Cluny in Newcastle. I stopped and watched the initial part of their set and was gobsmacked at how great they are. An amazing band.

Looking back can you walk through that Wacken Festival Day? I can pick out the whole Tygers period. Good memories of rehearsing together then travelling over to Germany. The night before the gig me Gav and Chris went out on the town and were drinking with the locals, they were amazing and found them really friendly.

We got a taxi back to the hotel and Gav and Chris went to bed and I stayed up for a tab (cigarette) as I smoked in those days. I sat outside the hotel and a guy got out of a taxi who I recognised but wasn’t sure as it was around midnight and dark. He walked up to me and said in an American accent Hey man do you mind if I sit down, are you going to the festival?

I then realised he was one of my heroes, Don Dokken. We sat and chatted for hours. We talked about everything. Family, where we lived. We talked about music, guitars etc. He was a really cool guy.

Next day we bumped into each other backstage How ya’ doin’ Glenn. You know it was another highlight from the gig meeting him. Me, Gav and Chris were really happy to do it. Jess had his spotlight. Robb done his thing. Yes happy times. Fantastic memories.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

Recommended:

Steve Lamb March 25th 2019.

Jon Deverill Jan 22nd 2019.

Micky McCrystal Mar 17th 2017 & Jan 3rd 2019.

Fred Purser Dec 30th 2018.

Robb Weir Nov 5th 2017 & Dec 19th 2019.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws Aug 24th 2017.

Tygers of Pan Tang in Gaurdian Studio May 3rd 2018.

Steve Thompson June 27th 2017.

NEAT BITES – Making Records in Wallsend

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Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East England. The label was established in the late 70’s by Dave Woods, who was the owner of Impulse Studios. It was notable for releases by Venom, Raven and Blitzkreig who are acknowledged as major influences on American bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Songwriter and producer Steve Thompson helped set up Neat and produced the initial recordings…

One day Dave Woods came in and said there’s a band who are making a bit of noise out there why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT. Now we know it is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and the tide was coming in that very evening haha’. 

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ROBB WEIR (Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘In 1979 we recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’  It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers giving the Neat label a direction.

Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label. Don’t Touch Me There was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference so the next pressing was 4,000 ! Then studio owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. So MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single!’

BRIAN ROSS (Blitzkreig) ‘I remember the first time in Impulse Studio was great we made it feel like our second home. It came highly recommended as Tyne Tees TV used it to record their jingles there and we recorded a jingle Hot n Heavy Express which Alan Robson used on his radio show. It went well so we extended it into a single. NEAT put it out on a compilation EP.

Now this studio was the label to be on, and I mean in the country not just the North East, I’ve recorded many tracks there as Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. It’s a shame it’s not there now’. 

ANTONY BRAY (Venom) Conrad was tape operator at NEAT doing a few days here and there and he bugged the owner Dave Woods about getting spare time in the studio for the band. He kept asking him ‘can my band come in on the weekend ? Woodsy got so sick of him he just said ok, just do it, but pay for the tape. So we recorded a three track EP and we thought it might get a little review somewhere.

I was still working at Reyrolles factory then and one morning I wandered in and someone had a copy of the Sounds. Couldn’t believe it, there’s a two page spread about our EP, f’ing hell look at this. When Woodsy saw it he thought, I hate the band, think they are bloody awfull – but kerching!’

KEITH NICHOLL (Impulse studio engineer) ‘With Raven, their playing was always intensive but there were loads of stories and quite a few laughs. I think they simply wanted to do a better album than the first and then again the third. Any band would. Can’t remember if there was an official tour but they did loads of gigs. Good live band’.

HARRY HILL (Fist) ‘The first single we put out was Name, Rank and Serial Number and You Never Get Me Up In One of Those on the b side. We done a lot of reheasal and prep work so we were tight, ready to record.

When we done Name, Rank we were on Northern Life TV. The cameras came down filmed in the studio that was 1980. Strangely the only piece of vinyl I have is our single The Wanderer. We started putting it in our set so yeah, went in and recorded it. Status Quo released a version a couple of month after us but honestly thought our version was better haha’.

GARY YOUNG (Avenger) ’I worked in the Shipyards near my home town but for about a year before that I worked at Impulse Studios in Wallsend which was where Neat Records were based. Due to this I was involved in a lot of recording sessions and some of them for what are now landmark albums like Venoms – Black Metal and Ravens – Wiped Out. I had my first experiences of recording there with my own bands and helping people out on random recording sessions. They were great times’.

DAVY LITTLE (Axis) ‘I remember Fist guitarist Keith Satchfield was in when we were recording. He was always track suited up. Getting fit and going on runs in preparation for a tour. I had met him a few times when I was younger I used to go and see Warbeck and Axe. Always thought he was a cool musician and writer. Plus a nice fella.

We were very inexperienced and new nothing about studios. He  gave us advice on how to set up amps. Was very supportive I never forgot that. Also when we were in there a very young moody boy was working there. Making tea, helping get kit in. Always drawing. Asked to see some of his drawings. All dark, tombstones, skulls, flying demons…nice kid tho’ said he didn’t think we were very heavy metal. I agreed.

He said “one day I am going to have the heaviest band ever”. I met Chronos years later in a club in Newcastle when he was fronting the mighty Venom. A nice lad’.

STEVE WALLACE (Shotgun Brides) ‘There was a kid called Richard Denton who grew up in the same area as us and he was working A&R at Impulse records in Wallsend. He persuaded the owner Dave Woods to take us on. We went into Impulse Studio and recorded the track Restless, that was engineered and produced by Kev Ridley in 1987. The b side of the single was Eighteen.

We recorded the song bit by bit, tracking it up. Unlike a few other bands it wasn’t recorded by playing all the way through and off you go add a couple of overdubs, no it was fully tracked. It eventually ended up on a NEAT compilation album’.

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MICHAEL MAUGHAN (Phasslayne) In the summer of ’85 Phasslayne were approached by Neat Records. Dave Woods was the main man there. What happened was we recorded a demo at Desert Sounds in Felling which they really liked so the label asked us to record a live no dubs demo in their studio in Wallsend. On hearing that Dave Woods signed us to do an album.

But just before we got our record deal our singer left and everyone looked at me so that’s how I ended up doing the vocals. I think Keith Nichol was the engineer. For guitars I used my Strat and Maurice Bates from Mythra loaned me his Les Paul. We called the album Cut it Up, it’s on vinyl’.

KEV CHARLTON (Hellanbach) ‘We got a deal with NEAT records to record our first album. That was the best time. After rehearsing for months getting the new songs together we recorded the album which is a very proud moment in my life. Now Hear This came out in ’83 and was produced by Keith Nichol.

I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards. It was one of the weirdest times of my life because it came out to amazing five star reviews and some of the big bands weren’t even getting five stars. I remember sitting in the toilets of Wallsend shipyard reading the reviews in Kerrang and Sounds, thinking this will be the last time I’ll be in the shipyard….but it wasn’t !’ 

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To read a comprehensive story of NEAT records get a hold of the book ’Neat and Tidy’ by John Tucker. It examines the history of the label, its bands and their releases including interviews with many key players in the Neat Records’ story such as label boss David Wood, producer Steve Thompson, Raven’s John Gallagher and Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn from Venom.

https://www.johntuckeronline.co.uk/neat-and-tidy-the-story-of-neat-records.html

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2018.

Recommended:

Brian Ross, SATAN/BLITZKREIG, Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

John Gallagher, RAVEN: Staring into the Fire, 3rd May 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH/BESSIE & THE ZINC BUCKETS: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

1980: The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

Guardian Studio: Defender of the North 3rd May 2018.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS – with Peter Whiskard bassist for North East eighties metallers Alien.

The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NENWOBHM) was immortalised on the ’One Take No Dubs’ 45 released by NEAT Records in 1982. The 12” featured Black Rose, Avenger, Hellanbach and Alien.  I talked to Peter Whiskard bassist for Felling metallers Alien…

‘Derek our singer had a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to life. During a gig at the Mayfair he found himself the unwilling target of several beer vessels – thankfully plastic – thrown by a miscreant in the audience. He jumped off the stage, felled him with one blow and jumped back onstage without losing his composure or his place in the song’. 

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I sang from a very early age and learned classical piano. An early indication of my chosen instrument was when I occasionally played piano duets and always seemed to gravitate to the bass part.

A defining moment was when I hit adolescence and something seemed to click when I was jamming along to records. Needless to say the classical piano was abandoned. My influences were from the sixties and seventies, early Status Quo, Free, Cream, Bad Company and The Velvet Underground’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what were your experiences of recording?  ‘I started playing gigs when I was fifteen with friends in the Felling area of the North East. I believe our first gig was at a youth club in the same building where we rehearsed. We didn’t really gig much and the last one was at the Sixth Form Common Room Disco!

I went away to University and when I returned I formed a band called Bad Luck with the former singer. We did many local gigs and recorded a few tracks at Neat’s Impulse Studios where I met label boss Dave Wood. A self financed 45 single release came from these recordings. Unfortunately this band didn’t last long.

Then I answered an ad in the paper for Alien in 1982. The place where a lot of Neat bands rehearsed was the Spectro Arts workshop in Newcastle and I remember once overhearing the tremendous noise of Venom practising one day when we were offloading our gear. The band had a chequered history in the time we were together but we were offered recording at Neat Records for the One Take No Dubs EP. We still had to pay £50 for the privilege – Dave Wood was notoriously stingy.

The recording took perhaps only part of a day because the essence of it was to have a ‘live’ feel and there would be no extravagant nonsense like overdubbing and repeating the process to seek the ‘perfect’ take. Hence the title ‘One Take No Dubs’.

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‘The engineer for the earlier trip to Impulse with Bad Luck and the Alien session was Keith Nichol – a lovely guy who was patient and skilful. The band played together in the studio – this was opportune for Alien’s style as we were capable of flights of improvisation as can be heard in the middle section of ‘Who Needs the Army’, one of the up to now unreleased tracks from that session.

In the recording session we were in fine form, especially Ron Anderson the guitarist who recently has sadly died. A track from the recording called ‘Absolute Zero’ also appeared on a compilation cassette called ’60 minutes Plus’ sold only through Sounds and Kerrang. A Neat Singles Collection featured the track ‘Could Have Done Better’ from One Take No Dubs’.

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What can you remember of Impulse Studio ? ‘Impulse Studios lived behind a fairly anonymous doorway in Wallsend, Newcastle. It was a small place, the studio walls were covered in the ubiquitous polystyrene tiles for absorbing acoustic sounds. There was an office where the day-to-day running of the business took place and also a special ‘green room’ where Dave Wood would make his deals and entertain the celebs.

Our relationship with Dave Wood soured somewhat as the singer felt we were being exploited financially. The band fell apart by ’83. We briefly reformed to do a gig at the Classic Cinema in Low Fell.  After Alien I joined a band called The Blues Burglars who were quite popular at the time’.

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Can you remember any high points for Alien, TV or music video’s ? ’I’m afraid we weren’t together long enough to get established to record any TV appearances or film any music videos. Although we did play some gigs with Raven and others at Newcastle Mayfair. I’m afraid I can’t remember much about the gig with Raven but I don’t think we hobnobbed much with the other bands. The audience was pretty appreciative as that was during the heyday of Neat Records.

We regularly played gigs in Felling such as the Duke Of Cumberland, and our gigs had a reputation for having a febrile atmosphere with an undercurrent of unpredictability. The singer was a powerful performer and had a great rock voice. We also had several friends in other bands on the Neat roster.

I knew the drummer from Hellanbach who lived round the corner, and went to school with the singer from Emerson and Axis: two Neat bands which are relatively unknown. The singer of Axis was originally born Simon Blewitt but is now called Sam Blue and at one point sang with Ultravox as well as singing on The Streets’ hit Dry Your Eyes!

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I have been a classroom teacher since I moved to Kent in 1986, but now I am semi-retired and teach guitar to Primary age students. I still play gigs regularly.

I’m afraid I’m now playing in a folk/country band called John Doggerel and the Bad Poets. We comprise me on bass, guitar, and assorted instruments including mandolin, accordion and ukulele! We are based near Margate. I recently remastered and released a track which wasn’t used from the original Neat session called ‘Who Needs the Army’. Now available at iTunes and all good digital platforms’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommended:

Brian Ross SATAN/BLITZKREIG: Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Micky McCrystal, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Gary Young, AVENGER: Young Blood, 17th September 2017.

FOX ON THE RUN – with new Thunderstick vocalist

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Viixen is the new lead vocalist for Thunderstick. The line up is Rex Thunderbolt (bass, backing vox) Baz Roze (guitar) Dave ‘Kandy’ Kilford (guitar) and of course the masked man Thunderstick (drums). I asked Viixen was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that…

‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. When I was little my mother would hear me singing and say ‘it sounds lovely but why do you have to change it’. I was always changing the words and the melodies. I sang in the choir at school and I used to enter school music competitions. Always coming second to a girl who sang opera.

I grew up in a small Shropshire town and had a religious upbringing so I didn’t have the exposure to bands that I could join. Then I got married and had children very young so it wasn’t until I hit 31 that I finally formed a band. I had recently got divorced and moved in with a girl who could play guitar. One evening she was playing the song Zombie by The Cranberries and I joined in with the vocals. It sounded pretty good so we decided to form a girlband’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I’ve always been a rock chick at heart. Listening to rock and metal makes me feel free and rebellious. Some of my favourites are Deep Purple, Kate Bush, Skid Row, Marilyn Manson and Evanescence. If the music makes me feel something… I’ll love it’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I have been in two bands before joining Thunderstick. We gigged mostly in London and Kent. I started gigging in 2010 and played in pubs and clubs. Then we started playing festivals which were amazing. I loved the big stage and having plenty of space to bounce around. We had a large biker following so we played various biker rallies and festivals.

I did a big gig for Gibson guitars during the London Olympics in 2012. The venue looked over the Olympic stadium and was pretty cool. I played at the London Hard Rock Café in October last year, which was a great venue’.

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Viixen has brought both her vocal strength and stagecraft experience to her new challenge; Thunderstick. The ex-Iron Maiden/Samson drummer is known for having strong female vocalists fronting his band and Viixen fits that role. He recently commented “I had been after Viixen for a while but the timing was never right, now in 2018 it will happen. The band is perfect for her, theatrics, energy and outrage allow her to express all of her personality’. 

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ‘Like most artists I tend to write lyrics based on personal experiences. However if the band has already written the music I search for how the music makes me feel and write from that perspective. It helps that I’m incredibly empathic. I feel other peoples pain deeply even if I’ve not experienced the emotion myself. To me music is what feelings sound like and it’s a fantastic form of self expression’.

What is your experience of studio work ? ‘I’ve done some recording work in the studio with the band and I love it! Especially when you’re recording your own material and you get to hear all your ideas coming together. It’s a magical experience!

Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ? ‘I have recently recorded a music video with my other band Black Roze. The song is called In the Darkness and it’s an autobiographical tale about the darkness of depression and coming out of the other side. The guitarist and I wrote the storyline and how we were going to capture the concept of the song. It did involve running through a graveyard in a wedding dress during mid winter but it was well worth it!

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Haha yes I have a few…On two occasions we have set up all the equipment, started playing and the electrics blew in the venue! One of them was my sisters wedding which didn’t go down too well!

Due to my head banging and stomping around on stage I’ve had some wardrobe malfunctions. I did a biker festival last year and wore a tight cropped top. At the end of the gig the guitarists mum ran on stage and told me my bra was showing. Looking back at the pictures I saw that I’d basically played the whole gig in my bra!

Recently I bought a new pair of goth platform boots from a charity shop, they were beautiful. I wore them to the gig and I was 6ft tall in them and I was boasting that I was taller than the other band members. Just before the second half one of the shoes gave way, the heel snapped and I fell over. A guy in the crowd fixed it with duct tape and I carried on. Next thing I know mid song the other shoe did the same thing. Leaving me feeling very small in my socks for the rest of the gig! At least the socks matched!’

For further information contact Viixen and Thunderstick on their facebook pages.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

PAUL DI’ANNO, True Faith  22nd April 2017.

THUNDERSTICK, Return of the Mask  19th July 2017.

YOUNG BLOOD – interview with Avenger and Repulsive Vision drummer Gary Young

Based in the North East of England Gary is drummer for New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Avenger, who he has played for on and off over 30 years. He is also a member of 4 piece Cumbrian death metal band Repulsive Vision who formed in 2010. Both bands have recently released albums.

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Avenger released The Slaughter Never Stops on Rocksector records in early 2016. Repulsive Vision released their debut album Look Past the Gore, and See the Art on 31st March this year on Danish metal label Mighty Music…(pic below Gary standing on left)

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‘Being lucky enough to get a release from a hard working label like Mighty Music has certainly been a great step in the right direction for us. We have really been delighted with the reviews and positive feedback that the debut has recieved. For Avenger the new album really made it special for us as for quite a few people this was their first introduction to the band’.

If we go back to when you started playing drums who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ’I started by jamming with a mate from school Dave Burn, who is now a well known and respected guitarist. He is currently lead guitarist for Paul Raymonds band. I think meeting Dave and playing my favourite tunes of the era was what started me off’.
(Nerd alert: Paul Raymond, keyboardist/guitarist began his career in the late 60’s songwriting and performing with bands Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, UFO, Michael Schenker Group & Waysted)

‘My influences were primarily classic heavy rock bands such as Thin Lizzy, Van Halen and Judas Priest – and a good bit of punk. But my primary influence to form a band, write and perform original music was 100% NWOBHM bands in the Tyneside area during the early 80’s. Seeing those lads get out of the North East and make such a profound impact on the scene worldwide was a huge motivation for me, and that continued after Avenger was formed.

For rehearsals we rented a room at Spectro Arts Center just off Pilgrim Street in Newcastle. A lot of bands those days used that place and it did create a feeling of community for all involved. Curiously this community was going to last quite a few decades although we didn’t know it at the time’.

With bands like Raven, Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist, Mythra and NEAT Records all based in the North East of England this led to the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal highlighted by music journalist Ian Ravendale reporting a ’Matrix of Metal Mayhem’ in the 17th May 1980 edition of Sounds. Interviews on this blog have featured all of these bands plus Steve Thompson producer at NEAT Records.

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What venues did Avenger play in ?  ‘Early on we used to play popular music venues in and around Newcastle such as the Newton Park Hotel and Tiffanys night club. I was also lucky to get off on tour when I was pretty young and play abroad.

A stand out gig from back in the day is Avengers debut gig in Europe at Dieppenbeek Belgium in ’83. We played as headline band on a show with maybe 7 other bands in what was a large sports hall a bit like The Lightfoot in Walker, here in Newcastle. As our time came to play the crowd started chanting our name – it was unbelievable and a bit scary but once we got onstage it was great. Thanks to social media, all these years later I’m reunited with the lads who organised that show’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ’I worked in the Shipyards near my home town but for about a year before that I worked at Impulse Studios in Wallsend which was where Neat Records were based. Due to this I was involved in a lot of recording sessions and some of them for what are now landmark albums like Venoms – Black Metal and Ravens – Wiped Out. I had my first experiences of recording there with my own bands and helping people out on random recording sessions. They were great times’.

Have you any stories from recording two Avenger albums Blood Sports and Killer Elite ? ‘A long time ago now this Gary! One mad story was Ian Swift (vocals) and Mick Moore (bass) doing a promo interview with Metro Radio for Blood Sports shortly after recording the album. They mentioned on air before the interview Avenger were coming in to the station to talk live about their new album Blood Sports. Well some Animal Rights protesters turned up on the night going mad about us being ‘pro’ Blood Sports -we were like no!! You’ve got it all wrong’.

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‘Recording Killer Elite, the most vivid memory was how much Keith Nichol the engineer mentored us during the recording. Encouraging us to try for better takes. Giving opinions on how to improve the dynamics of the songs, stuff like that.

It really brought home to me that there’s more to an engineer than tweaking knobs and sliding desk controls. An Engineer who is a musician will motivate a band and encourage the best performance within a bands ability. Keith done that with us 110%. After that experience I’d always prefer to record with an engineer who is also a musician’.

Did you film any tv or music videos ?Avenger filmed three promotional videos for Killer Elite which was unheard of back then for a band on an small indie label. Venom and their production team helped us out a lot on these shoots especially Venom drummer Tony Bray and their manager Eric Cook. They had done quite a few videos and had a far better idea than us about presentation and all that. They loaned us a fair bit of gear and managed the pyrotechnics for the video.

Looking back they are what they are, very 80’s looking videos but even now people constantly refer to them, so over the years they have been a really useful promotional tool’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ’There’s one or two stories that stick with me….funnier ones like playing with Blitzkrieg at Newcastle University and being paid in bottles of Brown Ale! We jinged down the street afterwards.
Another time playing in Holland when we were young lads. During the terrible winter of 1985 two Dutch girls asked me and one of the lads ‘do you fancy coming back to ours ?’. Being 18 at the time we said yeah. We got a taxi and ended up in a freezing cold rat infested basement under the student hall of residence. ‘Wait here we will see if the Night Porter is about because we can’t have visitors after 23.00’ they said. We waited and waited…Ahhhh it was a set up !…they left us in the freezing basement. This is before mobile phones. It was broad daylight when our Dutch friends found us’.

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‘Back in ’83 myself and vocalist Brian Ross were fortunate enough to be asked to play a one off show in Holland with a variety of musicians from other bands. Lads from Satan, Mercyful Fate and Deep Machine’.
(in Avenger at that time, Brian Ross has also been frontman for Satan and Blitzkreig. He features in the blog Life Sentence Feb.20th)

‘We travelled across to the continent which was the first time I’d ever flown in my life. We rehearsed a set of covers for a week then played the set to a full house the following Saturday. It was great fun, it was also the first gig I played where we were all payed a significant fee.

Because of this one off show we managed to return and play three shows ten months later as a full band, one gig in Belgium and two in Holland. This was Avengers first gigs outside the UK and they went really well. So much so that we were signed for three albums by NEAT the day after we returned from those gigs.
We returned to mainland Europe the following year playing more shows in Belgium and Holland. ‘The following year 1985, the band played its first gigs in America but on return sadly the band folded’.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?Avenger reformed in 2005 and have played abroad every year since, including our debut shows in Brazil in 2013. We really enjoyed some great gigs for the early part of the promotion of the last album.

Dates that stand out for me was the Triel Open Air just outside of Paris, Rock You to Hell Festival in Athens, Greece and sets at Brofest in our home town Newcastle upon Tyne. Not forgetting the SOS festival in Bury’.

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‘Repulsive Vision has been enjoying several prestigious supports in the last few years playing with their heroes Discharge, Benediction and Destroyer 666. But the gig highlight for sure was performing at Las Vegas Deathfest in June on the same bill as Vader, one of my personal favourites. That was absolutely great. Both bands have recent promo videos up on You tube for the albums and a quick search takes you straight to them for anyone who would like to check them out’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

Brian Ross SATAN/BLITZKREIG: Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.