SHINE ON – the atmosphere is right for a new album say’s Cloven Hoof’s bassist Lee Payne

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On the eve of the release of their new album on the 21st April on High Roller Records, I spoke to Cloven Hoof bassist Lee Payne ‘We are just about to release Who Mourns For The Morning Star. This new album explores the full sonic width of the band. There are epic tracks next to more hard hitting numbers that build and cover a whole spectrum of moods and atmospheres.

The album combines all the best qualities of the trademark Cloven Hoof sound played with precision and feeling with a vocal delivery that is off the scale. I feel it is our best ever album that we have done and really stretched ourselves on this one’.

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Who were your first influences in music ?  ‘The 70’s was a very good decade for me and I spent every penny I had buying albums and listening to music. Over the years I saw hundreds of metal bands. The first live show I saw was Rainbow at Birmingham Odeon in 1975, then Black Sabbath on the Technical Ecstasy tour in 1977.
For influences I thought Cream were great and I loved Alice Cooper but I always go back to the old tried and trusted favourites like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and Rush’.

Was there a defining moment when hearing a song or watching a band when you said ‘I want to do that’? ‘I got into music because of Highway Star by Deep Purple. I heard that song and it hit like a bolt of lightning. I was an immediate fan, no question about that. I knew I just had to learn how to play it! First I learned it on guitar then switched to bass because I wanted to play with Ritchie Blackmore one day haha’.

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‘I started Cloven Hoof way back in 1979. It was a fantastic time for me growing up in England at a very exciting time in metal history. Everyone would go anywhere to see a live band and with the British media supporting Heavy Metal it was an inspiring time.

Geoff Barton, who formed Kerrang magazine, was the most important writer at the time. He worked for a music paper called Sounds and all the metal kids bought it. Even before we had a singer I sent a tape to him asking what he thought of the music. He loved the fledgling Cloven Hoof sound and when we eventually got a singer I went down to London and was interviewed by him.

It was very prestigious and that gave Cloven Hoof respect even from day one thanks to Geoff. He tipped us for success in his Breaking through in 82 article along with Motley Crue and Venom’.

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What venues did Cloven Hoof play ?  ‘1983 saw Cloven Hoof touring throughout the length and breadth of the UK, earning ourselves a sizable underground cult following. In the summer of that year the band recorded a four-track session for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on Radio One and a similar session for a local radio station for DJ Mike Davies. Things were starting to happen for the band, we were really in the mix’.

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‘On the strength of the bands popularity Tyneside based Neat Records signed us to record the album Cloven Hoof. The album notched up figures of 24,000 units in 1984 alone. And off the back of some very successful overseas sales a European tour was organised. The tour was great and it culminated on the Shockwave Festival in Belgium.

The Dynamo Club in Holland was another good memory of the gigs abroad. These venues provided some of the most enthusiastic Heavy Metal fans we had experienced. The reaction from the crowd at the end of the set’s was astounding.
 A big highlight of our recent gig history was playing on the Sweden Rock Festival in 2014 amongst Heavy Metal greats such as Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘In the old days we used Mad Hat studio in Wolverhampton. I recently saw our old producer Mark Stuart and we had a great time reminiscing about A Sultans Ransom which we recorded in 1989. He agreed that it was a killer album and he was proud to be part of it, I think we all felt that. For our recent recordings we have used a variety of studios for putting down base tracks’.

‘We are with High Roller Records now and are really happy with the relationship, they care about metal and nothing else. They have some awesome names on their books Onslaught, Witchfynde, Exodus, Tokyo Blade to name but a few, we are in great company!

High Roller have been good to us, they were responsible for releasing Eye of the Sun for the first time on vinyl. The album was previously available only on CD but now it will be available on both formats and downloads. Through High Roller we also have access to one of the most respected audio engineers in the shape of Patrick Engel. He is an absolute wizard, when we got sent the final mix for approval – it was jaw dropping’.

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What’s next for Cloven Hoof ?  ‘We have a few gigs already confirmed this year, we can’t wait to take the new material on the road. On 25th August we’re playing at the Blast from the Past with Riot V in Belgium and the next day we’re at the Trueheim Festival in Germany. Then it’s the Britsh Steel Festival in October and we are hoping to get a few more confirmed for this year, can’t wait. Music is my life.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

TO HULL AND BACK – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara

‘In 1983 we won a Battle of the Bands competition and the prize was to record in a Professional studio in Huddersfield. We were very pleased with the sound quality and I think it captured the developing maturity of our song writing. So we took this demo to several record companies but they all said “It’s good but not what we’re looking for at the moment”.

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Paul Macnamara, guitarist with Hull based heavy metal band Salem, who from 1979 to ’83 were part of the NWOBHM scene with Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang and Iron Maiden. They reformed in 2009. I caught up with Paul when he came back from a Salem gig in Barcelona and asked him who were his influences 

 ‘Probably the biggest influences were Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore and American bands like Kansas, Boston, Sammy Hagar and Ted Nugent. I also listened to a bit of jazz and classical music that was my dad’s influence’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘Music was always on at home it was a big part of our lives, my dad played piano and guitar. Around 12 years old, I started learning a few chords on that guitar and I haven’t looked back.
I was taught classical guitar at school, which was great for picking up music theory and the technical side of things.
I had a band at school that played a few small gigs and at the same school was Adrian Jenkinson who is Salem’s bass guitarist and music producer. It was he who recommended me to the ex Ethel the Frog guys and so formed Salem in 1979’.

(Ethel the Frog had their song ‘Fight Back’ released on the compilation album ‘Metal for Muthas’ alongside Iron Maiden, Samson and Angel Witch)

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs ? Salem started rehearsing in a garage in a little street off Spring Bank in Hull, then we moved to the Hull Truck studios on the High Street.
Our first gig? well that was in the Autumn of 1980 in Hornsea a couple of miles up the coast supporting a band called The Crack. It was in a venue called The Floral Hall the gig wasn’t very memorable, to be honest there was hardly anyone there, just girlfriends and the other band…you’ve gotta start somewhere haven’t you!

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What venues did you play ? ‘We played in pubs and clubs in the Hull area, we travelled all around the North we got to Leeds, Sheffield, Grimsby, Cleethorpes and even as far as Darlington!! In 1982 a friend put me in touch with Neil Jeffries who was a journalist at new Heavy Metal magazine Kerrang. He recorded an interview and got it published in the May issue so we got a great turn out for the Darlington gig. It made a big difference to sales of the single. That’s a great memory from those early NWOBHM days’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first recording sessions were in the well established Fairview Studios in Yorkshire, where many famous people have recorded great records there, so we were in good company. Notably in 1979 they had Def Leppard recording their EP – whatever happened to them haha.

Fairview also made records for Witchfynde and Tokyo Blade who were part of the NWOBHM scene.
The first time we went in the studio was on 4th January 1981. This was a massive learning curve for me, I thought I could play the guitar ok, but the discipline of the studio was something quite different so we really had to be focused.

That demo cost about £200 which was a small fortune to us, it was about two weeks wages for me!  The studio looked like an old garage from the outside, but on the inside it seemed to bristle with complicated gear and technology. We recorded four tracks there, Coming For You, Cold As Steel, Fool’s Gold and Make The Grade. We were there for the whole day and felt shattered by the end’.

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‘The next time we recorded in Fairview was April ’82, that was for our single Cold As Steel / Reach For Eternity. By now we had Simon Saxby in on vocals and second lead guitarist Mark Allison to create a fuller sound. Not that memorable apart from Simon keep getting the lyrics wrong. As we were recording the reverse chord on the beginning of Reach for Eternity, I counted the band in, then when I nodded my head, my headphones flew off ! (Back then Salem were selling the double A side single for £1.20)

Then in September ’82 we went to Adda Studios in Hull that was with a new drummer Paul Mendham who completes the current and well established line up. Adda cost us somewhat less than Fairview as it was, let’s say, not as sophisticated. But still we recorded six tracks that day. There was The Keeper, Fighting For The Cause, Coming For You and a few others.

The last demo was at September Sound in Huddersfield. This was a much bigger place because they normally had silver and brass bands there, but now they were hoping to get into rock music.  This time we recorded five fairly new songs: Rock Fever, Save The Night, The Other Side of Hell, The Hangman’s Noose and The King Trilogy III’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘We supported a few touring bands when they came to Hull. There was Budgie, Magnum, Diamond Head and Tygers of Pan Tang who are still gigging now. The only time we got a mention on the front page of the local Hull Daily Mail was when we DIDN’T support the Alex Harvey Band, they turned up with their own support!

We used to experiment with pyrotechnics, thinking back, if the Health and Safety Executive had known we would have been in a lot of bother. I remember one gig we played in Sheffield there was so much smoke from the flash bomb it just hung around on stage so we couldn’t see anything at all!

Our ‘flash bombs’ comprised an old camera flash bulb wired to the mains electric, then flash powder poured on top and as we made our dramatic entrance to the Hall of the Mountain King one of our faithful roadies would throw the switch and BOOOM!! The crowd didn’t expect a mini nuclear mushroom cloud!

In hindsight, we could have travelled further, our horizons weren’t wide enough. So we never met with other bands apart from the touring bands we supported. One thing we could have done was have a manager to help promote the band, get bigger gigs and that illusive record deal. I tend to do all of that now!

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘Since re-forming Salem in 2009 we have been very busy, and have released two studio albums on the German label Pure Steel Records. We have played festivals in UK and Europe, gigged in places like Paris, Athens, Brussels, the Headbangers Open Air in Germany and we went to Sweden and played on the MuskelRock festival. We have just played the Brofest in Newcastle alongside Mythra, Tokyo Blade and really enjoyed that gig.

We’ve just come back from a gig in Barcelona, soon there’s gigs in Belgium, down to France then back to the UK and we’re looking to add more dates to take us through the year. We are also currently working on the next album which is sounding great! So, yes we are still very active, that is the plan to take it as far as we can’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

SALEM: Increase the Pressure, 20th September 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

LONG LIVE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – with ex-Animals guitarist Steve Dawson.

Steve Dawson played guitar for several UK bands including Saracen, Bordello and 60’s icons The Animals.

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I met up with Steve at his workshop in South Shields and Lou Taylor happened to be there on a social visit. We all got talking about a time in the early 80’s when Lou, as well as singing, was doing the lights and pyro for a lot of bands playing around Tyneside.

One such gig was for Venom who were playing Hebburn Quay Club. ‘They used a hell of a lot of pyro and they blew the electrics in the whole club’. You’ll have to ask Lou for the full story, it’s worth hearing.

We said our goodbyes to Lou who had to leave at that point, and as Steve put the kettle on he said he’ll tell me a few stories but ‘only promising the good ones, you’re not hearing the bad or the ugly haha!’
First he remembered a gig he played with Saracen back in 1981…

‘This particular gig was at West Cornforth. We always took a massive road crew, (which included a very young Glenn Howes ex-Fist vocalist and guitarist), because we had so many lights along with all our backline. We’d hired a Luton van, drove to the venue, and dropped off the equipment.

Vocalist Lou Taylor and a few of the crew stayed with the gear while the rest of us decided to go into a nearby town for some ‘supplies’. I was sitting in the front of the van between Les Wilson our bass player and Dave Johnston our drummer who was driving. In the town, we got what we came for and started back to the gig.

It was a hot sunny day and Davey, typically, was acting the goat, you know, the usual rambunctious rock drummer behaviour. He was driving along this country lane doing about 10 miles an hour, jumping out the van running alongside then jumping back in. He did this maybe three times while I was talking to Les, not really paying much attention to his antics, when suddenly Les shouts ‘There’s no driver!’

I could see in the wing mirror that Davey had jumped out, lost his balance, and fallen over. Now the van was hurtling down the country lane gathering momentum and veering over to the edge!! I leapt into the driving seat and pulled the steering wheel back over and slammed the brakes on while Les was frantically pulling the handbrake. Davey came running up seconds later as we both shouted ‘Just drive the van for Christ’s sake!’
Drummers!?!

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Who were your influences? ‘My influences were, and indeed still are, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix. The first record I bought was Voodoo Chile by Hendrix. I remember hearing it for the first time on the TV when he had died and it blew my mind, it was one of those truly inspirational moments.

When I was 11 my parents bought me an acoustic guitar for Christmas. The brand name was ‘Lark’ and it was made in China. They got it from Saville’s in Keppel Street, South Shields at a cost of £8. However, it was an electric guitar that I really wanted and a year later I got a Columbus Telecaster copy, again from Saville’s.

I also acquired a 30W amp and separate 50W cab from an uncle, it was an obscure brand and only had a very clean sound. I would later get a pedal that enabled me to get a dirty sound! Shortly after I moved on to using the popular low budget FAL Phase 50 which wasn’t much better as an amp, but it had a little more power’.

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When did you start your first band? ‘Around 1975 me and school class mate Brian Rickman started a band, it didn’t have a name at that point but he was on bass and I was of course on guitar. We were playing songs by bands like Status Quo, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and we rehearsed in Ricks bedroom in Wenlock Road, South Shields. We had a couple of drummers and singers come and go until my friend Glenn Coates joined on vocals. Another friend, from Tyne Dock Youth Club where we all hung out, Keith Macintosh, joined on drums and we started to rehearse in a little back room in the club.

We would later rehearse upstairs in the Lambton Arms pub in King Street after being given the heads up from another band who were friends of ours and rehearsed there themselves – Zarathrustra, who later became Mythra.

By then I was using my new guitar, my first proper Fender Stratocaster, which I’ve still got, and my Marshall stack, (100W amp and two 4 x 12 cabs), basically what my heroes were using. It was inheritance money that enabled me to buy this equipment before leaving school.

After much rehearsal and sounding pretty sharp, we finally played our first gig in 1977 calling ourselves Midnight Lightning at The Tavern in Crossgate, South Shields. It was a 14-18 year olds disco and it turned out to be absolutely shocking because we had little experience outside our rehearsal space back at the club.
On that night though we learnt what not to do – Don’t have too much to drink before the show; monitors are essential when you’re not playing a small rehearsal room. We were so far away from each other we could only hear ourselves! We were paid off mid set and duly devastated at the time.

I could go on and on about the mistakes we made, but hey, a harsh lesson about live sound that was to give us valuable experience for future gigs and we certainly took a lot in that respect from that first booking.
After recovering from the depths of despair we contacted some Youth Clubs around the town and arranged more gigs which were better suited to us.

By now my guitar sound had also evolved with the addition of a WEM copycat and Jen Phase Shifter, alongside my Colorsound Tone-Bender and Jen Cry Baby Wha.

Sadly, after about half a dozen gigs I left the band for reasons I can’t even recall. Thereafter I was asked to join a band called Kadanza with Vince High on vocals. Glenn and Brian eventually joined up with Martin Metcalf and John Lockney, later to become Hollow Ground. Kadanza weren’t together long and never gigged but I had started to write my own material by then and had acquired a second Fender Stratocaster, which I also still have. That was around 1978-79.

Sometime in ’79 I was approached by Les Wilson who in turn introduced me to Davey Johnston with the intention of forming a new band. Another school friend, Lou Taylor, brought along a tape of himself singing a Judas Priest song and it was surprisingly good, so yeah, we thought why not give it a go, let’s get this ball rolling’.

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What are your memories from your early gigs? Saracen took off at a rate of knots. Lou had a lot of connections as he worked in a Sound and Lights company and through that he got to know managers and promoters at various venues in the North East. The gigs were coming thick and fast.


We hadn’t really done any ground work with the smaller venues but we ended up going straight in and playing the Newcastle Mayfair, Tiffanies, Sunderland Mecca, Spennymoor Rec, West Cornforth which was a staple rock gig at the time. We played the legendary Legion Club in South Shields and packed it, I mean really packed it.


We also self-promoted a gig at the Bolingbroke Hall and booked a 4K PA, Lou got there early and set the lights up but when the PA Company turned up they said sorry we’ve double booked, and only brought 400 watts! Well that was woefully inadequate. The night was a total disaster! Yep that was a bad one. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you’.

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What are your experiences of recording? ‘Right from the start Les and Dave had wanted to get in the studio but I thought we should have developed our sound a bit more, let it breathe a bit, walk before we run so to speak. But yeah, we went into Guardian Studios in Durham where our friends, Mythra, had recorded their Death and Destiny EP. We booked a day there and recorded 3 songs. Speed of Sound, Fast Living and Feel Just the Same.

After that initial recording session, we were invited to attend a meeting with the owner Terry Gavaghan who proposed an idea to us about putting our tracks on a compilation album, called Roksnax. It was going to feature local bands Saracen, Samurai and Hollow Ground. Hellanbach were also at the meeting as they too were invited to take part, but they had no money (a requirement of being a part of the project!), also they had something going with NEAT records which was an obvious conflict of interest’.

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‘Most of us were friends from school or through the scene, you know, being thrown together in this cauldron of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. So, we decided yeah, ok, let’s go for it. We needed a fourth song for the Roksnax project and booked another day to record Setting The World Ablaze. The album was basically a ‘live’ performance in the studio with minimal overdubs. I spent my 21st birthday in that place…I’ll never get it back’.

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How long did Saracen last? ‘In the end the Saracen thing burned itself out really. Also, a major contributing factor was another band from the Midlands had the same name and had already recorded an album Heroes, Saints and Fools. They were getting reviews in the music press and it would have been confusing to go on.
After that it lost its momentum and we felt it was like going back to square one. That really put the final nail in our coffin because all the work we had done was pretty much nullified. We decided to call it a day’.

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Where did you go after that? ‘Well I went to London in January 1983 where I was sharing a flat with Lou Taylor who had been there for a few months already; I’ve never eaten so many fried breakfasts in my life. Lou put me in touch with a band called Bordello doing original stuff but after a few gigs it never worked out.

I remember doing a showcase for CBS. We really went for it, putting our heart and soul into it you know. A guy called Dave Novek came along to have a look at us, we really laid it on in a good studio. But we found out that we ‘weren’t quite what they were looking for’. A couple of weeks later he signed Sigue Sigue Sputnik!’ Go figure Haha!’

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What are you doing now and are you still involved in music? ‘I came back from London in ’87 and after stints with various local bands I was playing in The Animals from ’95 with original members Hilton Valentine, John Steel and later Dave Rowberry (who replaced Alan Price) and Jim Rodford from Argent and The Kinks. I had got myself another Strat to tour with and we went all around the world which lasted until 2002. I’d never even been out the country until I joined them at 35 years old.

Not long after leaving The Animals I got a job in Marshall Amplification’s revered R&D Department in January 2005 as a design engineer utilizing my knowledge of electronics to create new amps for my favourite manufacturer of guitar amplification. Talk about leaving one dream job for another! I stayed for nearly ten years but decided to move on in 2014 a couple of years after Jim, who I’d come to know as a dear friend, passed away.

Now I am running my own amplification business and currently performing around the UK with musicians in various projects. It’s in my blood and always will be. I wouldn’t want it any other way!’.

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After pulling on his guitar in the rehearsal room 40 years ago, and the continued service in the music industry since, Steve isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Maybe he’ll always keep the bad and ugly locked away never to be released.

Interview by Gary Alikivi taken from the documentary ‘We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll’ and in conversation on 2nd February 2017.

ROCK THE KNIGHT (part two of an interview with Lou Taylor)

Over 30 years ago Lou Taylor was vocalist for a number of British Heavy Metal bands notably, Saracen, Satan, Blind Fury and Persian Risk. I asked him about some experiences he had in recording studio’s.

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‘When Satan recorded an album around 1984 (‘Court in the Act’ with Brian Ross on vocals, he is featured in an earlier post LIFE SENTENCE) the record company Roadrunner said we had done really well off the back of the first album and asked us to do a second one, they put us in a studio in Middlesex. It was Touch Sound Studio and the engineer was Roy Rowland and our producer was Steve James, the son of comedy actor Sid James. We didn’t believe him at first but sure enough he showed us some photos, yep it was him haha’.

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‘Another time was when Blind Fury recorded the album Out of Reach and released it in ’85. The style of the record was Satan with added flash and brash, the production delivered the tunes with a great sense of grandeur. This album let out a really big epic sound which got the chance to escape on this record. It was a big step up from the Saracen stuff I’d done at Guardian studio.

Prior to the albums release we were invited to record versions for the BBC Radio 1 Friday Rockshow, we added a couple to the session that were not yet recorded Hard Times and a rework of the Saracen tune Feel Just The Same.

We were on the ferry to the Isle of Man to start a series of shows there for the bikers and Tommy Vance was introducing our songs on BBC Radio 1 Friday Rockshow saying this was our radio debut, what will we be like in a years time, and how good Blind Fury were you know stuff like that, you couldn’t have been happier. It looked like the trail was blazing’.

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Did you get offers from any other bands ? ‘When I was based in London and vocalist for Blind Fury we would go to pubs which hosted rock nights, and pop into the Marquee to watch a band, meet up with a few mates and have a right laugh. We were all gigging on the London circuit and these were usefull places to make contacts.

We’d talk about what was happening on the scene, who was playing where and who with, you know thats where you heard of bands maybe splitting or looking for new members’.

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‘One night I was talking to another notable vocalist, I mentioned I’d received a call from Jet records, he said you’re not alone mate. Word going around was that they were looking for an unknown frontman who they could mould for a band they had on their roster. ‘They’ was actually David Arden, son of Don Arden, manager of Black Sabbath. It was music journalist Malcolm Dome who worked for Kerrang and Sounds, who referred me to Arthur Sharpe and in turn David Arden.

For a few days I was going to the studios, singing some material, they asked me to cut my hair, wear certain clothes and take a tape home, learn it come back, and sing a few tracks. A demo was made but I wasn’t invited to join on a more permanent basis. The rock journalist Dave Ling revealed this story in one of his features’.

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‘There was also a Blind Fury gig at the Tramshed in Woolwich where a number of A&R men from Jet Records watched us. This is where not only me but the band where shall I say in a bit of a mix with Jet and our record company Roadrunner. At the same time we also had a few drinks with American female rock band Madame X and found that Jet were also interested in them. So that added a bit of spice to the mix. It was basically between them and us.

We didn’t know how it would end, to be honest, as a band we flirted with Jet, our heads were turned and Roadrunner could see this. I hold my hands up, I was pushing it, I could see we were moving up to another league, but the rest of the lads didn’t want to lose what we had. Jet records knew they had to buy us out of our contract with Roadrunner so that was a hassle they didn’t need. Not long after the phone stopped ringing from Arthur Sharp’.

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‘As a band we had a few discussions and it was a very difficult decision to make, amicably I may add, that we went our separate ways. Blind Fury returned to being Satan while I joined Persian Risk, Tony Martin got the Sabbath job and Jet Records signed Madame X. You can say it was a whirlwind that we were in, and who knows what might have been…c’est la vie’.

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What happened with Persian Risk did you gig or record with them ? Persian Risk were on the London gig circuit, I was also starting Perrys, my rock club in London. But my first gig with Persian Risk was on a Saturday night headlining at the Marquee, you couldn’t get better. I loved it all, the sweaty metallers, denim, leather, hair all over yeah loved it. We would headline our own gigs and also support bigger bands when they came to London, loved my time in that band.

But it came to an end when my stage style was questioned by one of the band, it wasn’t the same as the previous singer Carl Sentance who was more of a perfect fit really, all muscle and fist pumping macho style ha ha sorry Carl. Strange because we got on well musically I just think live I was just so different from what they had before. But still had a good time’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I’m still friends with some of the people I’ve met, I’m friends with Satan and still in touch with Metallica and currently playing in the North East with Ronnie James Dio tribute band Heaven or Hell. I’ve managed to make the love of my life the job of my life, I still get up on stage, sing and get paid for it. That’s entertainment’.

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From watching Ronnie James Dio at Newcastle City Hall in 1976 did Lou think that a decision he made as a kid all those years ago would come true? You bet ! Long Live Rock n Roll.
PART TWO of the interview with Lou Taylor. Taken from the documentary We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll also in conversation in South Shields 26th January 2017.

Added information from Raw Talent feature by Dave Ling in RAW magazine.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

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

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

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

Robb Weir,  TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

ROCK THE KNIGHT (part one of an interview with Lou Taylor)

Over 30 years ago Lou Taylor was vocalist for a number of British Heavy Metal bands notably, Saracen, Satan, Blind Fury and Persian Risk. He recalls a story from the 1980’s with a link to Metallica…

‘When we were rehearsing in London Bridge Studios we were visited by the boys from Metallica and went on a couple of binges with them. One night our guitarist Russ Tippins went out drinking in London with their guitarist James Hetfield. I was told that we received a phone call from the police saying can you come and collect them because they were locked up in West End Central police station, they had been playing guitar on top of the canopy of Piccadilly Theatre.

It was curious that time when I met the drummer Lars Ulrick he said I’ve met you before Lou, but I’ve never been to San Francisco, he said I’m not from there I came from Denmark originally and a few years ago I came to Tyneside to watch Raven and other Heavy Metal bands. I remember speaking to you when you were in Saracen actually that night you were operating the lights at a gig in Newcastle, think it was for Raven. I was chuffed he remembered’.

Who were your influences and how did you get involved in music ? ‘It was seeing Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall in 1976, knocked my head off. Went to see them again in ’77 and that’s where I made my decision, I would love to be able to sing like that guy up there, on that stage, blew me away.

I got a knock on the door from guitarist Steve Dawson who said I heard you can sing, well I don’t know if he’s being hanging outside my bathroom window, but he said why not come down and have a bash with us.
We rehearsed at Redwell School and I couldn’t hear a single word that I was going on about but suddenly I’m in a band.

So we started Saracen and I don’t know whether there had been a void in my life but everything I breathed, touched, lived, everything I had to do was something with this band. Steve was a fantastic guitarist he knew the business so we started gigging in the neighbourhood’.

‘I saw lots of bands doing little venues and I had all these visions of grandeur. I wanted lights, smoke, I was fascinated with the show and the whole spectacle of the thing. I thought why can’t we do something like that we really needed to start banging the drum for this band.

I got myself a job at Sound and Electronics in Newcastle, got a load of gear off them on the cheap and started putting on these light shows with bangs and flashes so people didn’t come along just for the music they also came to see what this show was all about’.

What venues did you play ? ‘It all seemed to be going a little bit rapid partly due to the deception by myself generating all this promo and some of the venues that the other bands were supporting at, we went in there as headliners. We got gigs at Mayfair Newcastle, Mayfair Sunderland, we got down to Shildon, Whitley Bay. Along with other bands around like Axe, Mythra, White Spirit and Tygers of Pan Tang we were making a lot of noise in the area and turned some heads’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘One day we got a knock from a fella who said I’ve got a recording studio and we can do some business for you. In walked Terry Gavaghan. In fact it was the same studio that South Shields bands Mythra and Hollow Ground used. He said I can do this record for you, get you gigs, you’ll be on the radio, come down to the studio record a few tunes and all it will cost is £200.

He said it was going to have all the big names of the North East on the album, I was quite flattered. I saw it as moving up to the next level and felt excited to be in the studio and something happening for Saracen.

When we went down we first drove past the place and double backed on ourselves to find it as it looked just like an ordinary house, later we found it was two terraced houses knocked into one. But yeah it was just on the main street in a little town called Pity Me.

I can’t remember much from the sessions apart from recording my vocals quite late at night and the drum booth being tiny. When Dave was behind the drums we had to pass him refreshments every so often as it was such a tight squeeze to get in or out so he stayed on the stool until he finished his parts.

Terry was forever nipping out of the studio and coming back with a smelly cheese sandwich or something else to eat, and he loved to talk about the resident ghost – he had a string of yarns that could strangle the hulk !
On reflection we might have been better off recording at NEAT, as they were more loud and proud, you know the whole crash, bang and don’t forget the wallop.

But out came this album that Terry produced called Roksnax. Now it’s not the worlds number one album but everyone involved in it will agree that it is a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha’.

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Did you get offers from any other bands ? ‘It was late ’82 when I went for an audition to be the vocalist of Samson. To cut a long story short I didn’t get the job, but heres the story anyway…Samson had already released a couple of albums and were playing regular UK tours many of them as support. But unfortunately just as they were going to sign a major record deal with A&M their frontman Bruce Dickinson had just got a dream job fronting Iron Maiden, and look what they have done!

Maiden had also released a couple of albums and had toured extensivly with the likes of Kiss, Judas Priest and The Scorpions. So both bands were nearly head to head really as far as career progression goes. I’d say the strength of their management team was behind a lot of this, management pushed harder so Maiden were becoming more established and Samson had a few problems with theirs. Maiden were tipped to really go places and they chose Bruce to take along with them.

Back to the audition, I went to see the Samson new manager, Terry McClennan at Musicworks Studios in London, we went through a few songs, with the main man in the band, Paul Samson, listening in the background. I got positive notes from Terry McClellan but I got word that Paul wasn’t keen.

Problem was, my vocal style, it is a bit similar to Bruce and everytime he heard me it reminded him of their former singer which didn’t go in my favour after what had happened, probably felt like another stab in the heart really as Paul had worked so hard to get Samson to where it was and he would have felt the A&M deal was the final push needed to go on and headline their own shows.

Now Paul was a great blues, hard rock guitarist rather than straight ahead heavy metal and eventually he went with a guy called Nicky Moore whose vocal style was more suited to his guitar work. But in the end they still got a deal which I believe was with Polydor records’.

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Have you any stories from your gigs ? ‘After playing in a few bands on the London circuit, like Angelwitch, I moved back to the North East and joined Satan, and listening to them, boy they were tight, really sharp. We recorded a few bits and pieces then jumped on a ferry to do some gigs in Holland.

We took this thing around Europe and by then the whole British Heavy Metal scene was red hot so it was one mad scene of gig here, gig there and everywhere we went was a bit wildness, a bit debauchery, some stories you can’t tell. But we had a great time.

When you’ve played the Royal Standard in Walthamstow in front of fifty people and they aren’t interested, then you get out here where they are running after your car, sign my booby and all that, you really think you’ve made it, that’s gonna turn anybody’s head…and it did’.

Read Part Two of ‘Rock the Knight’ with Lou Taylor next week where he talks about Blind Fury, Tommy Vance, Malcolm Dome, Jet records, Persian Risk and more…
PART ONE of an interview with Lou Taylor. Taken from the documentary We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll also at The Word in South Shields 26th January 2017. Interview by Gary Alikivi. Added information from Maiden Voyage, Joe Shoomans biography of Bruce Dickinson.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

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

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

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

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: 5th November 2017.

LIFE SENTENCE: Addicted to NWOBHM with vocalist Brian Ross.

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Brian Ross has been vocalist for a number of North East NWOBHM bands including Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig.  Brian looks back on the influences and defining moments in his career. 

‘We actually played what I think was my first gig at Wingate Youth Club in Durham around 1972. By the late 70’s I was in a band who were playing Led Zep, Judas Priest and Deep Purple stuff, I knew this was for me I could see it coming alongside punk. The kids were hungry for this noise, anger, excitement and a do it yourself attitude. It was definitely getting to me, getting in my blood, this raw and visceral sound was becoming addictive.

The term New Wave of British Heavy Metal had been coined by then, and yeah it really was a new wave and you’ve gotta go with it… and we did’.

Were there any moments in your career when you thought yes, this is what I’m here for ?
‘I joined a band called Satan, now that name has certain significance and imagery attached to it for some people, you know upside down crosses and that, but our intention was not to go down that road. We weren’t exactly listening to the church bells ringing out on a Sunday but believe me it has attracted a certain type of response from some people, shall we say maybe misguided.
But a big turning point was when I was frontman for Avenger we played a gig at the Dynamo Festival over in Holland around 1982 and there was a different feel around the place, bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden were becoming well established. I knew I was on the right direction of travel’.

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Who were your influences ?
‘Looking back I suppose the influence on my music career started back in the early 70’s with Marc Bolan, although before that I did catch The Beatles on TV and that had a big effect on me and everyone really, the whole culture with music making a real breakthrough.
You know we were at school just miming little shows with some friends which led us to picking up guitars. That’s where the bug started really, thinking yeah this could work, it was fun. The Bolan album Electric Warrior was in the charts then so we would have put some of those songs together. Then I heard Alice Cooper and the rockier stuff that was coming through like Judas Priest. So their vocalist Rob Halford was a big influence on my career but the defining moment was hearing Ian Gillan, I said to myself yes I want to sing just like him’.

How do you come up with ideas for a song ?
‘Sometimes you can get lost in the writing process you have to be dedicated to it, really immersing yourself in the subject. There is projects I’ve researched over many years almost to the point of obsession. One time we were recording and I was writing lyrics for the band. Ended up I got a mental block for a few days which was worrying but once I put myself away I stayed up all night to finish the lyrics.
It’s the dedication that got me through. But once they are done it’s done. Listening back to stuff years later I don’t go back and want to change songs, you know I don’t want to add or take away an extra verse or something like that’.

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Why did you end up recording a lot of your material at Impulse Studio/NEAT records  ?
’With the technology today you can get good results recording at home but it’s different when you are in the studio, the atmosphere adds to the creative process. 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, we recorded it at NEAT and they 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 rather like the Newcastle Mayfair and Mecca in Sunderland. Both venues I’ve gigged at many times and I think there is still an audience out there who are hungry for bands like us.

In 1983 Satan recorded Caught in the Act which at the time wasn’t well received by the reviewer in Kerrang, to be honest it’s a very scathing review which I still have.
But I look at things like that and use it to my advantage. If you are doing something you believe in you’ve got to keep going and believe in yourself. Really the review is an opinion of only one person. The fans view is more important they buy the records and turn up at the gigs’.

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What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ?
‘I suppose a really good thing to come out of this is that I’m bringing my son Alan through the industry, sort of passing the baton on as he is playing with us in Blitzkrieg.
This year with Satan and Blitzkreig we are writing new material and looking at going into the studio, maybe First Avenue or Trinity Heights in Newcastle and off the back of that will be a run of gigs. It’s in yer blood, it’s an addiction’.

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We finished the interview and agreed to follow up on details of his recordings on NEAT and the Satan tour of America 2016. We said our goodbyes then went off into the dark misty night on the banks of the river Tyne in South Shields, I think Brian can howl out loud he’s Sold his Soul for Rock n Roll.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: 5th November 2017.

STILL BURNING – interview with metal band, Mythra.

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Interview with Vince High and Maurice Bates of Heavy Metal band Mythra.
Maurice Bates ‘Pleasently surprised yeah to say the least and after 30 odd years we’re trying our best to do the songs justice. After the gigs people come up to us and say great we loved it. What’s better than that’

frontman Vince High ‘ Metalheads have their own community they build friendships and that is all pulled together by a passion for the music. There is an underground scene going and a lot of them are real enthusiasts. There is some fans who turn up at all the Festival gigs, they fly across Europe, the USA and South America to see the bands.

Yeah it’s humbling really that some fans travel a long way to see us playing live’ Maurice added ‘And I’ve noticed a camaraderie between a lot of the bands, they support each other at gigs, kind words you know, they say great gig, things like that. Yeah you can say we are having a great time’.

Back in 1976 Mythra began what became a life long journey and through a few line up changes over the years, today they have settled on twin guitarists John Roach and Alex Perry, bassist Maurice Bates, Phil Davies on drums and vocalist Vince High.

At the time of the first New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1979 they played on the circuit which included Raven, White Spirit, Geordie, Fist, and Son of a Bitch who became known as Saxon. In 1979 Mythra entered Guardian Studios to record an EP, with the backing of top music journalist Geoff Barton, Death and Destiny sold an absolute truck load and ended up staying in the UK Alternative charts for 12 weeks sitting next to the likes of Motorhead, Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division and UB40, it was all going so well.

In 1980 they were on a bill with Girlschool, Saxon and Motorhead playing to 10,000 hungry Metalheads, another sign that everything was looking up. The band were on the radar of the bigger record companies and positioning themselves for the breakthrough. But then they were dealt an absolute killer blow from an industry which is well known for it’s ruthlessness when it comes to business decisions.

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Vince takes up the story ‘Everything was going great, we had played gigs with Saxon, Tommy Vance was playing the EP on the BBC Radio One Rock show and we loved the Motorhead gig at Stafford Bingley Hall. To actually get on stage in front of 10,000 people is just unbelievable.

We’d gone from the social clubs to the Newcastle Mayfair to Stafford Bingley Hall in about six months. We were also lined up for the Ted Nugent UK tour in August 1980. Then 3 days before we were due to join the tour we got the news through that Mythra had been pulled and a band called Wild Horses got the support slots.

They were ex members of Thin Lizzy and Rainbow with a load of serious financial clout behind them. The upshot was that we lost the gigs and we started seeing a different side to the business, one which we’d never come across before’.

With the ‘what might have been’ stories out of the way here we are in 2017, Vince High and Maurice Bates get me up to speed on what has been happening in the Mythra camp over the last two years.

Vince ’A series of connections happened starting with our reunion gig at Brofest in February 2015, that Newcastle gig was the first show we had done in 32 years, the response to that gig was phenomenal, we were blown away. Our performance was filmed by a German TV company (available on YouTube) and next morning our guitarist Alex Perry was approached by Keep It True Festival promoter Oliver Weinsheiner who booked us to play in Germany in April 2016 which was an amazing gig.

Bart Gabriel, CEO of Skol Records and Gabriel Management EU also approached us after Brofest which led to the release of our ‘Warriors Of Time’ Anthology album on CD in November 2015.  It was thanks to Bart that Steffen Boehm of German label High Roller Records released the vinyl version as a double album and also signed us to record our brand new studio album ‘Still Burning’.  Bart brokered the whole deal’.

Have you found the gigs are different now?
Vince ’In a lot of cities over Europe they have a small underground following of Metal, it’s a whole communal thing now. Some of the gig promoters are fans or record shop owners, so they can get the word out and with the internet it’s made easier, it can spread like wildfire. The venues we play at can get in about 500 to around 3,000 people’.

Maurice ‘The Barcelona gig was great, loved that one. It’s a bit different now using the internet to advertise gigs, I remember back in the late 70’s we played a gig in our hometown South Shields and we had the young metallers Hellanbach supporting us, well to advertise we had to run around with a bucket of glue sticking up posters in bus shelters all around the town ha ha’

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In October 2016 Mythra entered MP studios in Poland to record an album which they never thought would happen. I asked them what was the difference in 2016 compared to their first time recording in Guardian Studios back in 1979 ?
’Apart from having less hair ! ha ha. Yeah obviously we are more mature as musicians and took onboard suggestions on the odd guitar solo or vocal chorus here and there.  But we were really firing the ideas around which was very dynamic. It took us about twelve weeks in all to have that album written, rehearsed and recorded’. said Maurice.

Vince added ‘It was a very intensive process. From coming together with initial idea’s to working them up to a song and getting them in shape, we were very disciplined, that work ethic and our passion got the best out of us.  We initially wrote 16 tracks and ended up taking 12 over to the studio in Poland. Bart Gabriel was producer for the album with Mariusz Pietka engineering, we got on really well with the team and it came out in our playing.

Compared to the Guardian recordings completed in our late teenage years there was more of a mutual respect and collaboration this time around as the band had more input into the recording’.
Maurice ‘In a way we were more relaxed about it even though within 10 days we got the 12 tracks recorded, 11 of them going on the vinyl album plus a bonus track on cd’.

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Does the album ‘Still Burning’ reflect Mythra now ?
Vince ’I wrote the words to the title track about the band as we are now, you know the whole team and how we feel after all these years, we felt we never really went away and the music was always with us so yeah Still Burning sums up where Mythra are right now. And really pleased with the album, we’re proud of it and how it’s turned out. The cover is special as well with great artwork by Italian artist Roberto Toderico’.

What next for Mythra ?
Maurice ‘We’ve already got more gigs lined up, Brofest #5 in February.  Over to Belgium in April, ‘Up The Hammers’ Festival in Athens in May were we’ll be playing more songs from the new album as it is released in April…can’t wait for that’
Vince added ‘We are flying over to America too in October, we are on the bill with our longtime friends Fist, playing in California at the Fire and Frost Festival. Jarvis Leatherby is the promoter there, he’s also in the band Night Demon and sings with Jaguar too. He is a big fan of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. We are looking forward to seeing some of our American fans and friends out there as they have a real passion for the music’.

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With that Vince and Maurice are off to rehearsals working on the set list. Who’d have thought that 40 years ago in a Northern working class town something that started then would still have a big effect on peoples lives now… the journey continues.

The brand new MYTHRA studio album ‘Still Burning’ is released on High Roller Records on 27th April.  It will be available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.

Interview by Gary Alikivi with Vince High and Maurice Bates,  South Shields 30th January 2017.

Recommended:

John Roach, Still Got the Fire, 27th April 2017.

Maurice Bates, Just a Mo’, 12th May 2017.

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 2017.