FIRESTARTERS – The North East Connection from Raven & Blitzkreig to Megaforce & Metallica

In the book Heavy Tales, Jon Zazula tells the story of how he and his wife Marsha founded Megaforce Records in 1983 in New Jersey, USA, and released one of the most important albums in Heavy Metal history – ‘Kill ‘Em All’ by Metallica. This post looks at the North East connection.

I read the book in a couple of hours – I couldn’t put it down, it contains detailed accounts of the couple working with bands who would go on to release some of the most important albums in Heavy Metal history.

One historic story was how they helped kick start the Metallica machine, who eventually went on to sell millions and pack out stadiums across the world, and 40 years later, still be at the top of their game.

Jon & his wife Marsha (pic Mark Weiss)

In the early ‘80s based in an indoor flea market in New Jersey, Rock n Roll Heaven was a record store that Jon ran with his wife. “I gave it that name because I wanted to specialize in music by dead people and pay homage to them – John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix”.

With his business head on, Zazula had a multitude of ideas bursting around him, and with an unstinting help and belief from his wife Marsha, the ideas for the record store were becoming reality.

One day a friend returned from a heavy metal show in San Francisco with a demo tape “Johnny you gotta hear this”.

He put it on the tape deck in the store and out of the crackly speakers the first song played “What the fuck, this is amazing”. Zazula immediately new the next step and put it into action.

With some earnings from the record store he brought Metallica over to the east coast to fuse ideas together and play live dates with Raven, Venom and Twisted Sister.

Raven’s Chief Headbanger John Gallagher told me…

“For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…and we weren’t good footballers”.

“It all changed when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening up for us”.

Raven at The Metro, Chicago, Dec 8 1983. Pic courtesy Gene Ambo.

Not long after Zazula added more store takings to a second mortgage on the couple’s home and paid the production costs on Metallica’s debut album. Was he stretching his resources too far and taking a huge financial risk ? “I never shipped an album in my life. Unbelievably, I ended up paying the studio bill before I left with the finished tapes”.

The original title was Metal Up Your Ass and pictured a dagger coming out of a toilet on the cover. The distributors backed away saying retailers wouldn’t stock it. Jon broke the news to the band, bassist Cliff Burton shouted

“Man, fuck those big business guys, fuck the suits, we should just kill ’em all”.

“It was a brilliant moment, that was the Metallica way” said Jon.

Lightning had struck and Megaforce propelled both bands forward to the major labels, with Raven signing to Atlantic while Metallica optioned for Elektra.

The Metallica connection to the North East didn’t stop there. Leicester band Blitzkreig, got a deal with Neat records and subsequently based themselves in Newcastle.

Brian Ross (vocalist) told me a story that isn’t in the book.

I didn’t know that Metallica were massive fans of Blitzkrieg. In 1985 I was in the studio recording the first Blitzkrieg album. When I came home, my wife Mandy said there’s been an American guy on the phone and he wanted to talk to you. I asked who it was, ‘Somebody called Lars, he didn’t say much but he’s calling back later’.

Staying true to his word, the drummer got back in touch.

“Hi Brian it’s Lars Ulrich from Metallica here, I wonder if you’d mind if we do a cover version of your track ‘Blitzkrieg”. 

“I had no problem with that at all” said Ross.

“and then spent ages on the phone telling him the structure of the song, the chord progression and dictating the lyrics. It’s a good version they’ve put their slant on it and they done it because they love the song. They put it on the American version of Kill ‘Em All and Garage Inc”.  

Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As lived by Jon Zazula out now on kindle or paperback.

Gary Alikivi  June 2021.

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’.

PHASSLAYNE NEAT

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.

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.

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’.

3

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’.

4

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’.

blitzkreig

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.