ALL FOR THE RECORD – with Jack Meille, vocalist with Tygers of Pan Tang

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Music is life. It showed me I could follow my passion and make it my job. I’m a lucky guy.

Is there a country you haven’t played that you would like to ? Australia! That would be a dream come true.

How did you get the job with the Tygers ? In the past I have been lucky not to have had to audition for a band. Firstly, I was contacted by a Swiss management company who said a British band are looking for a new singer. Without knowing the name of who it was, I sent my CV and recordings from the album released by my band Mantra. So when I got the confirmation it was the Tygers and they wanted to audition me, I said to myself ‘Why not? Let’s do the first and hopefully, only audition of your life’. I went to Darlington on November 4th 2004 ….and got the job!

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Is there a good balance of characters in the band ? It’s a five piece band and we all have different characters, more important, very different musical taste’s. This is a bonus but sometimes it’s not easy to combine everyone’s point of view on a song, if you know what I mean. We are all very passionate when it comes to Tygers songs.

You just recorded the new album, how did that go ? It was tough, but rewarding. We were force to delay the recording twice because we didn’t feel we were ready to record. It wasn’t an easy decision to take but the best. The 11 tracks on the new album are the best we could ever record. I know it sounds like a cliche, but after all the hard work, we’re all very proud of the result.

How did you get on with the producer and former Tyger, Fred Purser ? I personally enjoyed every moment spent in the studio with Fred. He is such a talented guy and made me feel at home. I only had 6 days to record, and believe me it’s not very much when you have to record 11 songs plus a couple of bonus tracks. But I made it and have to thank him for that. Also we discovered we have a passion for craft beers. So after recording we managed to ‘indulge’ drinking some really good ones.

Who were your early influences in music ? I love rock ‘n’ roll from Chuck Berry to Slayer but the first record that really blew me away was Dark Side of the Moon. I have memories of me, about 4 or 5 years old, listening constantly to ‘On The Run’. The first record I bought, or should I say I asked my father to buy was the Queen album A Night at the Opera. Still one of my favorite albums of all time. I’m a record collector – the boys in the band can confirm that – so you can find me at festivals looking at record stalls. When it comes down to singing, the choice would go to Robert Plant, early David Coverdale, Phil Mogg, Paul Rodgers…the list may go on and on.

What has been your best gig with the Tygers so far ? There has been a few. I always enjoy playing the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany. A memorable day was at a festival in Northern Spain where we played a great set and then had the pleasure to hang around with Cheap Trick, then saw the set by John Fogerty with Ty Tabor from King’s X.

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Have you got any gigs lined up for the new album release ? During November we are going to play the UK and Europe. Before that we play Dusseldorf with Diamond Head, Doro and Saxon on 26th October 2019. (Since this interview Saxon have been forced to postpone all upcoming gigs in 2019 due to frontman Biff Byford undergoing heart surgery. Get well soon Biff).

‘White Lines’ will be the first single, released on 27th September on all platforms, and a 12″ vinyl limited release of 500 copies for all you collectors will be available from: http://targetshop.dk/…/tygers-of-pan-tang-white-lines-12vin…

For further information contact the official website:  http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2019.

THE FLAME BURNS ON for Davy Little ex- guitarist with NWOBHM band Axis


Davy was guitarist with Axis, who along with Fist, White Spirit, Mythra, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang were at the forefront of the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Axis released their first single in 1980 on Neat Records and appeared on various Heavy Metal compilations. He also played with The Pauline Gillan Band, Kashka and now his latest project Lies of Smiles…. I bumped into former Axis guitarist Mick Tucker at Crash Crallans funeral in 2008. Mick worked with Crash when he was drummer for White Spirit plus working together on Tank’s Honour and Blood album (released 1984). It was a terribly sad occasion, but we chatted about old times and new. In fact it was Mick who kick-started the Lies of Smiles project, he suggested bringing in his nephew Pat O’Neill (Black Rose guitarist) and Tony Thurlow (vocals, Berlyn, Panama). He said he would contribute to the album as well.

The opportunity to work with him and the other guy’s was certainly an incentive. So I got in Chris Wing on bass and keyboards and Keith Naylor on drums from my Pauline Gillan days. We started writing. Pat O’Neill already had the basis of four tracks. We then completed the other songs, which became Cross and Claw released 2010. Absolutely brilliant that I got to play with these great players. Mick guests on a track called Fallen, a beautifully crafted solo.

Pat is an outstanding guitarist as is his Uncle Mick, but Mick trained us both, while I am not in any way in that category of guitar player, I was trained well and I know how to get the job done.  The album was produced by Fred Purser at Trinity Heights studio. Fred used to be guitarist with Tygers of Pan Tang so we knew each other from back in the 80’s. He is a great producer, great musician, a joy to work with.

Do you look back on your time in Axis ? Well back in 2011 Jaap Wagemaker and the MD Steffen Boehm from High Roller Records got in touch with Mick Tucker about an Axis album. I believe their thing is releasing stuff from the NWOBHM era. They already acquired the rights to the single Lady/Messiah and asked if we had any old recordings. I gave them 3 live and 3 studio recordings. What a job they did of the vinyl and cd Flame Burns On, with an 8 page booklet and the original Axis poster for Lady.  They were a great company to deal with, no arsing around, just did the job in spectacular fashion.

What is the story behind Axis getting involved with Neat records ? After a year of gigging we had some interest from Neat Records. They had seen us twice in Sunderland, and then Newcastle Mayfair. I say interest but I always got the impression they weren’t interested at all. I can’t say it was great working with them. Everything was an information fog, if you didn’t see it, it wasn’t true. So my first impressions of record companies wasn’t a good one.

They didn’t think we were heavy enough for the Neat label so put us on a subsidiary label Metal Minded – go figure. Anyway I didn’t really care, it was a way to get something out. The single Lady did really well. Although it seems to be the B side Messiah that gets the more favourable press. We did go back in the studio later with a couple of changes to the line-up. This time Sam Blue was vocalist (Emerson, Samson, Ya Ya) and on bass was Phil Brady (White Spirit). We recorded Flame Burns on, You Got It and One Step Ahead, they have appeared on various compilations.

I’ve only two good memories of Neat. Meeting Chronos from Venom, before he was Chronos of Venom. He worked there and was friendly, articulate, mad on drawing, and he did tell me his band were going to be the heaviest ever! I also met Fist guitarist Keith Satchfield and had seen him play with Warbeck, Axe and then Fist. Great player and writer. When I was in the studio and keeping to the Neat sound of tinny reverby guitar, he told us how to set our amps up so we didn’t get the tinny reverby guitar! Rather kind I thought.

When did you first get interested in music ? I was 15 when I started listening to the first Sabbath and Uriah Heep album’s. When I was 16 I started work at the shipyard so had some money. We would go to Redcar Jazz Club and see Mott the Hoople, Atomic Rooster, Hawkwind and Curved Air.

I also met a great blues player in the shipyard, Kenny Relton. He had a band that did clubs, the White Folks Show band, he used to let me go to gig’s with them. They covered some great tracks, Mountain, Cream, Fleetwood Mac. I think that is really the point I thought this was a good idea. Ken would give me pointers and let me play his Gibson SGs, and L6S guitars. Ken is a great player still, I think he despairs that I play heavy metal (laughs). So I had a basic lesson in all the good things, work ethic, presentation, he was a ‘get it right’ sort of lad.

I also caught UFO and Priest early on at Sunderland Locarno. I actually saw the classic Schenker/Chapman line up. Plus of course one of my great loves Blue Oyster Cult. They influence me lyrically. I don’t think many British bands have the humour, the satire, razor sharp observations, the out there poetry. So my paltry attempts at conjuring images of Sci-Fi wastelands and Starscapes usually falls a bit short of the mark (laughs).

Can you remember your first band ? I had seen Axis live with their original line up. They were great musicians.  I always thought Axis were principally a good blues band, lots of Hendrix, Robin Trower, Wishbone Ash.

In 1979 I was looking for a band to join, I was 23 so late as a guitar player. I went to audition as second guitarist and I remember having to learn a couple of Scorpions, Deep Purple and UFO tracks. However it must be pointed out that I did arrive with a fair amount of cash from my welding job. There were probably better guitar players than me that applied, but I was older and had a decent job. I suspect I bought my way in. You know, give me the job please and I will buy this massive PA (laughs).

The chemistry was good and I got the job and Axis were the first band I was in. Mick Tucker was and is a ferocious guitar player. I knew I could work and learn from him, try to create something different. We had a darker design for Axis.
Who else was in the band ? I was surrounded by great musicians. Mick already had the line-up he wanted. Marty Day (drums) Paul McGuire (keyboards) John Cunningham (bass) Neil Grafton (vocals). They were all very patient with me as I had a pretty steep learning curve. Initially we did lots of covers, Blue Oyster Cult, Scorpions, UFO, Montrose, but our main aim was to have our own stuff as the main part of the set, it just took time.

Can you remember your first gigs ? First gigs were Thornaby Cons club. Lots of the NWOBHM bands played there like White Spirit, Limelight, Son of a Bitch who went on to become Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang and Vardis. The circuit was pretty good, the Warrington Lion, Sunderland Locarno where I sat on every toilet seat in the dressing room so I could have my arse where Michael Schenker once sat (laughs).

Me and our manager John Lancaster were big pals with White Spirit’s manager Mike Sanderson so we supported them a few times. Gigging was always fun with Axis. I was in a band that is all that mattered. We travelled the length and breadth of the country.

Any road stories from that time ? A memorable one was when supporting former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell at a local gig. We’re in at midday to set up a huge wall of Marshalls, drum riser, lights, smoke bombs the whole nonsense. Hey we were local heroes (laughs). Then Mr Bell and band arrived. You can imagine the headliner walking in and seeing this mountain of shit on the stage. But what a gentleman, we were young and full of it. He was very gently spoken and just said ‘This isn’t really the way it works lads’. Then much to our relief he said ‘but it’s fine, we don’t need much room, not bothered about a sound check’.

I remember it was packed to the rafters for Eric Bell, not for us, but we did ok. His drummer set up after us. Bass player rolled his amp on, Eric Bell rolled either a Vox AC30 or a Fender Twin on to the stage and blitzed the place. No arsing about, no demands, just played like true pro’s. What a lesson, what a professional. Of course we thought he was brilliant, his band were brilliant, his last words… ‘Pleased you enjoyed it, now you know there is no need for all that shit on stage, and don’t ever fucking set up before the main band gets there’ (laughs). A year later went to see him at the Redcar Bowl and he introduced us to his new band with ‘These are the cheeky bastards who set up before we even got to the gig’ (laughs).

Another time our bus had broken down so we had to hire a Luton van to get us to a gig in Wales. We were on the road to Tonypandy when the Luton stopped, back doors opened and we get out looking at a battered bridge over a gorge in Wales. If you were a sparrow you wouldn’t have landed on it! Apparently there had been a lot of storms that caused structural damage so there was a sign that read something like ‘Safe load..?’

Well this Luton with all the kit and us in it must’ve been well over the limit. To turn back would take hours, so our manager John Lancaster and soundman Paul Cleugh said… ‘Just jump in the back lads, we’ll turn round and find another way’. So we did, like fools. Back door shuts, van rev’s like it’s in a drag race, sets off with wheels screeching and us holding on to anything. We go 200 yards then stop and the back doors open. We have just gone over the bridge of death. Mr Lancaster and Mr Cleugh crying laughing to shouts of ‘Are you fucking mental’. I asked why they didn’t just let us walk across the death bridge. The answer was… “That would have been no fun at all”.

What happened to Axis ? The story ends with guitarist Janik Gers leaving White Spirit to join Gillan and Mick Tucker leaving Axis to join White Spirit. We found it hard to replace a guitar player like Mr Tucker, plus we had too many line-up changes in a short time. Axis called it a day. Mr Tucker later joined Tank and is still touring and putting great albums out now, they have a really healthy following.
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Where did you go then ? I joined the Pauline Gillan Band who were initially signed to Mausoleum Records, but then Powerstation got us out of that deal, so we signed to them. They were good people I liked them. They had Chrome Molly on their roster and later Little Angels. A couple of singles came from the album Hearts of Fire and we took it out on the road touring extensively around the UK and Europe. I brought John Lancaster the former Axis manager in as road manager. He was and is a great fixer. We also had decent management, a guy called Jim Sculley, also Black Rose’s manager. He worked his ass off for us and spent a lot of money. We did a Tyne Tees TV live music show called TX45 and that was good fun.

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What studio did the band use to record the album ? We went into Fairview studio in Willerby near Hull. It was like Club Paradise compared to Neat. In reality we did what we could, but we weren’t great writers. Powerstation did bring in some outside writers and we recorded some of that stuff. Not sure what happened with it, may have appeared on a compilation.

Have you any road stories from your time in the Pauline Gillan band ? I remember playing in Watford and we had a very famous guest backstage, the drummer from The Sweet, Mick Tucker – not to be confused with Mick Tucker from Axis/White Spirit/Tank. He was very straight with us.. ‘I’m looking for bands to produce, I want to take you into the studio and record that song you do, it has hit written all over it’. The song in question unfortunately was Eric Martins Just Another Pretty Boy and it had been a hit for Mr Martin in the USA. We covered it in the set and he could obviously spot a tune, but unfortunately we couldn’t write one. He didn’t finish his beer (laughs).

Whilst on tour we had a particular Spinal Tap incident in Scotland. We stayed in a great hotel for a few days in a place called the Bridge of Allan and got to meet Jack Bruce (Cream) – he lived there. We bought the biggest bass cab you have ever seen off him. This particular night our management had got us a fill in gig, rather than sit on our arses in a nice hotel we had to get out and work. It was a workingman’s club and we knew we were in trouble when we looked at the juke box. All country and western, the stage had silver and gold tassles at the back. They told us to do two 45 minute sets. Which we didn’t ever do, I mean the night before we had played Glasgow Apollo a real hard rock venue.

Anyway we set up, soundchecked and you could see the bar staff with their mouths open at the sheer volume. Lots of shuffling from the committee men. That night we emptied the place in around 5 minutes, but like troopers we carried on at full tilt. I noticed two white haired old dears sat right at the back, drink in front of them, just staring at the stage. Between a break in a song I said to Pauline ‘When we’re finished I’m going to buy them a beer. Who would have thought the two oldest people would stay through this’.

We came off stage, got changed and were told by the committee that our services would not be required for the second 45 minutes, fine by me. I went to ask the two old people what they wanted to drink just as their carers arrived with their wheelchairs… they couldn’t get out if they wanted to (laughs).

But it was hard for Pauline being constantly compared to Ian (Gillan) who is one of the greatest rock singers of a generation in one of the greatest bands of a generation. But in Pauline’s defence she never wanted to call it The Pauline Gillan Band that was the record company insisting. But it worked and we got great gigs, festivals in Europe, great hotels. Oh we also got backstage passes for some spectacular Deep Purple gigs on the Perfect Strangers tour. We did our best as Pauline did, she was great to work with, fun, articulate and liked to party. I enjoyed that time immensely.

I only have good memories of the Pauline Gillan Band. We seemed to gig forever, that made us a tight band and we had fun wherever we went.

Did you work in any other studios ? After Pauline Gillan I recorded with a band, Kashka. That was for Curain Records who put us in Fairview Studios, the Producer was John Spence.  We had Dave Bell, guitar, Chris Wing, bass/keyboards from the Pauline Gillan Band and our friend Mick King on drums. We worked with two great girl singers Lorraine Crosby and Jackie Fox, and we really found our thing as writers. The usual thing tons of interest. Isn’t there always? Even from the Queen management, they called and said Brian May was interested. We got a lovely letter off him saying he had crashed his car whilst listening to the tracks! He particularly liked the two girl’s voices.

So story goes he took it to America with him. However the view from their company in the USA was that they had factories churning out great girl singers and this type of AOR. As it happened neither of the girls could commit to gigging. They both had decent well paid careers as singers, we couldn’t afford them and they understandably didn’t want to do anything on a flimsy promise of stardom.

What are you doing now ?  I always think Lies of Smiles is what I wanted Axis to develop into. You know the Starscapes, Warscapes, God as an Alien, Lucifer misunderstood. Aliens as controllers of the human race and all that heavy metal bollocks in all its glory.

On both albums Cross & Claw (2010) and Dreams of the Machinoix (2015), Lies of Smiles have produced two huge granite slab’s of classic 80’s hard rock enhanced by Ronnie James Dio ‘Mob Rules’ era vocals. Both album’s benefit from slick, solid, meaty production courtesy of Fred Purser at Trinity Heights studio in Newcastle. Ticking all the boxes of any respected heavy rock/metal album.

There may be another Lies of Smiles album, 3 is a good number, it’s enough to tell a story! Dependant entirely on the boys in the band, we have the means to do it so it’s just time and commitment, and for no other reason than to create. Simple as that.

What does music mean to you ? Maybe it’s mathematical, the laws of physics and mathematics apply to the planet, the Solar System, the Universe. ‘There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres’. (Pythagoras). Thing is music is entirely intertwined with mathematics, even a basic major chord can be described mathematically.

But just listening to it is one of the most important things in life. It touches people and has a deeply profound effect on people’s emotions. It elevates people, makes them happy or sad, brings back vivid memories of times and places. The creativity, comradeship and feeling of creating something from absolutely nothing. Looking back it was all fun, still is. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Contact the band on their official website:  https://www.liesofsmiles.com/home

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2019.

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 2nd 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 on Wallsend

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Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East England. The label was established in the late 70’s by Dave Woods, who was the owner of Impulse Studios. It was notable for releases by Venom, Raven and Blitzkreig who are acknowledged as major influences on American bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Songwriter and producer Steve Thompson helped set up Neat and produced the initial recordings…One day Dave Woods came in and said there’s a band who are making a bit of noise out there why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT. Now we know it is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and the tide was coming in that very evening haha’. 

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ROBB WEIR (Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘In 1979 we recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’  It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers giving the Neat label a direction. Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label. Don’t Touch Me There was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference so the next pressing was 4,000 ! Then studio owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. So MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single!’

BRIAN ROSS (Blitzkreig) ‘I remember the first time in Impulse Studio was great we made it feel like our second home. It came highly recommended as Tyne Tees TV used it to record their jingles there and we recorded a jingle Hot n Heavy Express which Alan Robson used on his radio show. It went well so we extended it into a single. NEAT put it out on a compilation EP. Now this studio was the label to be on, and I mean in the country not just the North East, I’ve recorded many tracks there as Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. It’s a shame it’s not there now’. 

ANTONY BRAY (Venom) Conrad was tape operator at NEAT doing a few days here and there and he bugged the owner Dave Woods about getting spare time in the studio for the band. He kept asking him ‘can my band come in on the weekend ? Woodsy got so sick of him he just said ok, just do it, but pay for the tape. So we recorded a three track EP and we thought it might get a little review somewhere. I was still working at Reyrolles factory then and one morning I wandered in and someone had a copy of the Sounds. Couldn’t believe it, there’s a two page spread about our EP, f’ing hell look at this. When Woodsy saw it he thought, I hate the band, think they are bloody awfull – but kerching!’

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

HARRY HILL (Fist) ‘The first single we put out was Name, Rank and Serial Number and You Never Get Me Up In One of Those on the b side. We done a lot of reheasal and prep work so we were tight, ready to record. When we done Name, Rank we were on Northern Life TV. The cameras came down filmed in the studio that was 1980. Strangely the only piece of vinyl I have is our single The Wanderer. We started putting it in our set so yeah, went in and recorded it. Status Quo released a version a couple of month after us but honestly thought our version was better haha’.

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

DAVY LITTLE (Axis) ‘I remember Fist guitarist Keith Satchfield was in when we were recording. He was always track suited up. Getting fit and going on runs in preparation for a tour. I had met him a few times when I was younger I used to go and see Warbeck and Axe. Always thought he was a cool musician and writer. Plus a nice fella. We were very inexperienced and new nothing about studios. He  gave us advice on how to set up amps. Was very supportive I never forgot that. Also when we were in there a very young moody boy was working there. Making tea, helping get kit in. Always drawing. Asked to see some of his drawings. All dark, tombstones, skulls, flying demons…nice kid tho said he didn’t think we were very heavy metal. I agreed. He said “one day I am going to have the heaviest band ever”. I met Chronos years later in a club in Newcastle when he was fronting the mighty Venom. A nice lad’.

STEVE WALLACE (Shotgun Brides) ‘There was a kid called Richard Denton who grew up in the same area as us and he was working A&R at Impulse records in Wallsend. He persuaded the owner Dave Woods to take us on. We went into Impulse Studio and recorded the track Restless, that was engineered and produced by Kev Ridley in 1987. The b side of the single was Eighteen. We recorded the song bit by bit, tracking it up. Unlike a few other bands it wasn’t recorded by playing all the way through and off you go add a couple of overdubs, no it was fully tracked. It eventually ended up on a NEAT compilation album’.

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MICHAEL MAUGHAN (Phasslayne) In the summer of ’85 Phasslayne were approached by Neat Records. Dave Woods was the main man there. What happened was we recorded a demo at Desert Sounds in Felling which they really liked so the label asked us to record a live no dubs demo in their studio in Wallsend. On hearing that Dave Woods signed us to do an album. But just before we got our record deal our singer left and everyone looked at me so that’s how I ended up doing the vocals. I think Keith Nichol was the engineer. For guitars I used my Strat and Maurice Bates from Mythra loaned me his Les Paul. We called the album Cut it Up, it’s on vinyl’.

KEV CHARLTON (Hellanbach) ‘We got a deal with NEAT records to record our first album. That was the best time. After rehearsing for months getting the new songs together we recorded the album which is a very proud moment in my life. Now Hear This came out in ’83 and was produced by Keith Nichol. I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards. It was one of the weirdest times of my life because it came out to amazing five star reviews and some of the big bands weren’t even getting five stars. I remember sitting in the toilets of Wallsend shipyard reading the reviews in Kerrang and Sounds, thinking this will be the last time I’ll be in the shipyard….but it wasn’t !’ 

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

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

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2018.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

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

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

1980 – THE YEAR METAL FORGED ON TYNESIDE

It’s one year on from the start of this blog, with over 18,000 readers, 150,000 words, 115 posts and more to come. But enough of the stats – this one rewinds the clock back to 1980.

Skipping through Spotify or You Tube today people have the choice to listen to different styles of music. Billions of songs at your fingertips. But there was a time when music lovers listened to only one genre – creating different tribes. The 70’s brought in hard rock bands Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead and the hairy rock tribe followed. Disco filled dancefloors with Donna Summer, ‘Le Freak’ by Chic, a real Saturday Night Fever. But they were followed by the Disco Sucks movement in America. One night in 1979 at a ball game in Chicago, rock radio DJ Steve Dahl took to the field with his anti-disco army and blew up thousands of disco records. A publicity stunt he thought would bring in an extra 5,000 people to the game – it brought 70,000. Where they a tribe of firestarters, or was it the 98cents entry fee if you had a record under your arm ready to burn? The disco tribe never recovered. By ’78 the Sex Pistols had played their last gig in San Fransisco and at the start of ’79 Sid Vicious died in New York. By the end of the year The Clash had called out to London. Was the punk tribe dying out ? What did 1980 hold for the tribes ?

Post punk, Ska and Two Tone were heard around the country – they were all three minute hero’s. But a new tribe were gathering pace – one that followed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The movement started in the late 70’s in the UK and reached international attention by the early 80’s. The DIY attitude led to self-produced recordings and new independant labels setting up. The movement spawned many bands with Iron Maiden and Def Leppard becoming international stars. Bands from the North East were also delivering the goods. Newcastle had chief headbangers Raven, on the coast in Whitley Bay were Tygers of Pan Tang, and across the river Tyne in my hometown South Shields – Fist, Mythra, Hellanbach, Hollow Ground and Saracen were all recorded on vinyl by the early 80’s. Neat records were based in Wallsend and close by in Durham, was Guardian Records. Venue’s like Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair and the City Hall had regular visit’s from rock/metal bands and the tribe followed. 1980 was the year metal was forged on Tyneside.

January
Canadian rock band Rush released their 5th album Permanent Waves and UFO released their 8th album No Place To Run.

On 17th & 18th Newcastle City Hall saw a concert by UFO with support from Girl. Over at the Mayfair AC/DC had Diamond Head opening on the 25th, and at Newcastle University Def Leppard were on the 26th supported by Witchfynde.

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February
This month will be remembered for the passing of Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC. He was only 33 when he died on the 19th. On the same night Rainbow played Newcastle City Hall. They also played on the 20th with support on both nights fom Samson. The City Hall also had a visit from Uriah Heep with support from Girlschool on the 6th.

Newcastle Mayfair promoted Heavy Metal Fridays with Tygers of Pan Tang plus Southbound and Axe on the 15th with Saxon plus Crypt and Mythra on the 22nd. Def Leppard played on the 29th with support from Witchfynde.

March
Three rock/metal albums were in the shop’s this month – On Through the Night the debut from Def Leppard. Van Halen’s 3rd Woman and Children First and Scorpions release their 7th album Animal Magnetism.

Newcastle City Hall saw Gillan on the 6th. April Wine with support from Angelwitch on the 10th and Judas Priest with openers Iron Maiden on the 20th. On the 21st both bands play the Mayfair which has an 18+ entry. The City Hall also saw Pat Travers supported by Diamond Head on the 30th. Over at The Castle Leazes Havelock Hall were Tygers of Pan Tang with openers Magnum on the 4th.

April
AC/DC found a replacement for the recently deceased Bon Scott, bringing in Geordie vocalist Brian Johnson. This month they enter the recording studio to work on the new album.

In this month 3 albums of note were released. The debut from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest 6th album British Steel, and Heaven and Hell from Black Sabbath. Their first with vocalist Ronnie James Dio.

Sammy Hagar with openers Riot played at Newcastle City Hall on the 12th. Def Leppard plus Magnum and Tygers of Pan Tang on the 20th then Saxon on the 21st.

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May
Saxon released Wheels of Steel their 2nd album. Whitesnake release their 3rd album, Ready n Willing and Kiss release their 8th, Unmasked.

Newcastle City Hall saw visits from Thin Lizzy on the 1st & 2nd. Scorpions with openers Tygers of Pan Tang on the 13th, Black Sabbath with support from Shakin’ Street on the 18th & 19th. Over at Newcastle Mayfair were Iron Maiden and openers Praying Mantis on the 16th. Also on the 23rd were Fist, White Spirit and Raven.

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Mythra, Fist and Tygers of Pan Tang in the Sounds charts in May 1980.

June
This month’s studio albums you could choose from I’m a Rebel – Accept, Danger Zone – Sammy Hagar, Demolition – Girlschool, Metal Rendez-vous – Krokus, Head On – Samson, Scream Dream – Ted Nugent or Tomcattin – Blackfoot.

Newcastle City Hall saw visits from Rush supported by Quartz on the 12th. Whitesnake with support from GForce on the 13th & 14th. Van Halen with openers Lucifers Friend on the 17th. Sunderland Mayfair had Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis on the 11th. Then Fist on the 20th.

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July
AC/DC release Back in Black the new album with Brian Johnson.

At Newcastle Mayfair was Trespass on the 18th and an all dayer at Bingley Hall in Stafford on the 26th – The Heavy Metal Barndance. Headliners Motorhead were joined by Girlschool, Angelwitch, Saxon, Vardis, Mythra and White Spirit.

August
This month saw the debut album Wild Cat released by Tygers of Pan Tang. Also records by the Michael Schenker Group and Stand Up and Fight from Quartz.

Newcastle Mayfair saw Ted Nugent supported by Wild Horses on the 7th. Fist plus Raven on the 15th with Diamond Head and openers Quartz on the 29th.
South Shields Legion welcomed hometown band Fist on the 14th.

16th of the month saw the first Monsters of Rock festival held at Donnington Raceway in Derbyshire with Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, April Wine, Saxon, Riot and Touch.

Reading festival on the 22nd-24th had headliners Rory Gallagher, UFO and Whitesnake with Gillan, Iron Maiden, Samson, Def Leppard, Ozzy Ozbourne, Angelwitch, Budgie, Samson and Tygers of Pan Tang.

September
Sadly, the Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham dies aged only 32.

The debut from Ozzy Osbourne was released this month while Strong Arm of the Law, the 3rd studio album by Saxon and their 2nd this year was released.

Newcastle Mayfair had Angelwitch on the 5th, Tygers of Pan Tang with support from Taurus and radio DJ Alan Robson on the 12th and over at Newcastle City Hall were Ozzy Osbourne plus support band Budgie on the 17th.

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October
Released this month were the 3rd album by Gillan – Glory Road and Chinatown the 10th album from Thin Lizzy.

A full month of gigs at Newcastle Mayfair. Gillan with openers White Spirit and Quartz on the 1st. Scorpions supported by Blackfoot on the 10th for over 18 fans. UFO supported by Fist 15th & 16th. Ozzy Osbourne 17th with Budgie and Raven. Motorhead with support from Weapon on the 29th & 30th. AC/DC plus Starfighters on the 31st.

At Newcastle City Hall were Michael Schenker Group supported by Dedringer on the 2nd. Scorpions plus Blackfoot 7th & 8th. Over at Sunderland Mayfair UFO and Fist on the 21st and Ozzy Osbourne the 28th.

November
This month saw the release of Ace of Spades the 4th album from Motorhead, a double from Whitesnake – Live…In the Heart of the City and the debut from Fist, Turn the Hell On. There was also Roksnax on Gaurdian Records. A compilation album produced at Guardian Studios in Durham, UK. The album features 4 songs each from South Shields bands Hollow Ground and Saracen and Teeside based Samurai.

Newcastle City Hall had visits from AC/DC supported by Starfighters on the 4th & 5th. Triumph with openers Praying Mantis the 12th and Iron Maiden on the 25th with support from A11Z.

December
Concerts at the Newcastle City Hall this month by Girlschool on the 5th with support from Angelwitch, also on the 16th Saxon with support from Limelight.

Led Zeppelin release a press release about the break up of the band due to the death of drummer John Bonham.

Unfortunately a sad end to a frantic year, but what did the 80’s have in store for the tribe ? Again from the North East there was a little band forming. They had kept an eye on what was happening and now it was their time to strike. Venom were gathering their own tribe, but that’s a story for another day.

Gary Alikivi 2017.

Information from discogs and various websites. Thanks to everyone who supplied information, ticket stubs etc.

Recommended:

MYTHRA Still Burning 13th February 2017.

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

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

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

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

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

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

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

It’s Only Rock n Roll 1st August 2017.

Pyromaniax -Bombs, Flashes and Burnt Eyebrows 12th December 2017.

Have You Heard This One ? -10 best stories from this years interviews 18th December 2017.

 

 

 

STARING INTO THE FIRE – interview with Raven bassist John Gallagher

Tokyo 2015Raven were formed in 1974 in the North East of England by brothers John and Mark Gallagher and Mark Bowden. The band’s highly energized live show with a unique image and style of play has been described as athletic. But the first time I came across Raven was in 1980, they were on TV in a Chinese take away. I was with a friend and we were going to the youth club. We walked past the take away and noticed they had a telly on in the corner of the shop. We looked through the big window and saw a band on. They had long hair, it looked live, it looked loud, it must be Metal…!
We went in the shop, and it was loud. Suddenly the little old Chinese woman popped her head up from behind the counter ’They play loud, they Raven’ …That may be an alternative fact so I talked to someone who was actually there…’Once we did the ITV local news live..they also showed a video clip we did for Hard Ride and we did 4 songs for the Beeb’ said John Gallagher bassist and co-founding member of Raven.

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I’ll get straight into the questions John, first one, who were your influences and was there a defining moment hearing a song or watching a band where you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I do remember banging pots and pans while watching The Beatles on Ready Steady Go. But it culminated with Slade, and by then music was an obsession.
I was influenced by basically everything I heard on the radio or saw on TV and gravitated toward the bass guitar. Loving the styles and note choices of Andy Fraser, Ronnie Lane, Gary Thain, Jimmy Lea and Roger Glover’.

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What was the feeling around the band when you were recording at Neat and starting to play gigs, was it a time when things were getting a bit more serious as a band or did you still have a job to fall back on? ‘Until early 1982 I was working at the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) as a clerk and by then we were generating enough to exist on the handouts from Neat’

Have you any memories from playing at the Newcastle Mayfair ? ‘The Mayfair was our ‘office’. We must have played it about 6 or 7 times. Hellanbach were good lads when they supported us, I think we did 2 or 3 dates in a row with them. But it’s such a shame they tore down the Mayfair…what a loss’.

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What was the driving force behind the jump from Neat, a small independent to Atlantic a major label and the USA ? and did this create a friendship with Metallica ? ‘The driving force was the idea to do it right – to have a major record deal and a major agency deal in the USA. We’d seen how major deals had screwed up many of our contemporaries in the UK and wanted to do it right in the USA. Besides, Neat was at this point a total dead end. We were restricted by budget and attitude. That all changed when we made US contacts and did our first US tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us. It was their first tour, they were pretty green and learned a lot. We all got on like a house on fire, we actually opened for them in 2014 in front of 70,000 people in Brazil and got to hang out with them for a while. Amazingly they have changed very little!’

Raven:Metallica 2014

Creatively, what is it like now writing for your new album compared to the early Neat recordings ? Do the songs come quickly or do they take time ? ‘We have never had any problems writing songs. The only difference is that we all live far apart from each other. I’m in Virginia, Joe’s in Massachusetts and Mark’s in Florida.
So theres a lot of home writing then we get together and jam them out. Of course when we do get together, we jam and see what we can come up with! The only issues we have now is we have too many songs!’

Mark & John Montreal 1984

Any funny stories from your gigs ? ‘When our drummer Joe joined in 1988 we did the Nothing Exceeds like Excess album then went straight out on the road for 5 or 6 dates as a ‘trial by fire’…
At the Philadelphia gig we started with a little toe tapper called Die For Allah which is probably 250 beats a minute. The venue owner ran up on stage screaming into my brothers ear gesticulating wildly. Mark then started to die laughing barely able to play! I went over and shouted at him ‘what did he say, are we too loud’ he replied ‘no – he said we are too FAST!!!!!”

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Raven have a gig in the USA in October on a bill with North Eastern UK band Fist, did your paths cross back in the early days and have you been on the same bill before ? ‘Yes, we are one of the headliners on that Frost & Fire Festival in Ventura California on Oct 6th/7th and we know Fist well. They were the elder statesmen when we started I remember them when they were called Axe. We played a few shows with them and they were also on Neat and have always been a great band. It’s gonna be a lot of fun seeing them’.

Graspop fest Belguim 2016

Last question, what has music given you ? ‘Looking back, for young lads like us, there was really only two ways out of Newcastle…and we weren’t great footballers….so we chose music. It’s given us so much, the opportunity to travel the world, meet my wife, have my family and just the ability to sit in a room with a guitar and bang out some riffs and create a song. Just to know that you have MADE something. Also there’s people out there that want to hear it, and hopefully the music will help them get through the day, like it does for me.
We are incredibly lucky to be able to do what we do and do not take that lightly, so when we go out its 100% 24/7/365 mate!!!!’

Thanks for the interview John and good luck for the tour.

New album release, tour dates and all information available at the official website

ravenlunatics.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

Lou Taylor (BLIND FURY) Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

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

Steve Dawson (O/D SAXON) Men at Work, 28th May 2017.

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

Antony Bray (VENOM INC) Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

Kev Charlton (HELLANBACH) The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Dave Allison (ex-ANVIL) Still Hungry, 12th November 2017.

 

THE HUNGER – Back on the Trail with NWOBHM band Warrior

Dave Dawson is Lead Guitarist of Newcastle based NWOBHM band Warrior. He started the band back in 1979 and called it a day in 1984. After a 30 year break Warrior got back together in 2014. 13576863_872181496219399_1889458279566840925_o

I’ve been playing a copy of their latest album ‘Invasion Imminent’ it thunders out of my speakers and keyboard’s have been added giving a subtelty to their sound. But don’t dispair Warrior fans the band are showing no signs of slowing down, actually turning up a notch. ‘What we’ve done is add a more sophisticated sound to Warrior especially with Rise of the Warriors and Black Middens although you can never take away from the early stuff. We have a more mature outlook in our music and lyrics now. It’s great playing the old songs live, they still sound fresh and now with a diferent guitarist in he’s added a new modern rock sound. We’ve still got THE HUNGER’. The current line up is D.D. on Lead Guitar, Ed Halliday on Vocals, Lead guitar is Gwaither Bloom, Bill Baxter on Bass with Drums and Keyboards by Elliot Sneddon.

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How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences?
‘I started playing the Side drum in a military band when I was 11. This is where I met Warrior members Tony Watson, Rob Mills and Paul Atkinson. I first picked up the guitar age 14 and have played ever since and I just love blues, rock and metal. In the really early days I listened to Slade and Mott the Hoople then it was heavier stuff like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. A massive influence was Michael Schenker, he still is. Then I listened to all the guitar shredding stuff, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen and Richie Kotzen’.

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? Warrior guitarist Tony Watson’s dad was a farmer, so he let us use one of the outbuildings on the farm. We could leave all the gear set up there, and use it as much as we wanted. Sometimes just to hang out, drink a few cans and listen to a tape. It was like a siege mentality, locked away for hours forgetting the world outside, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until we were ready to gig. It was a perfect set up for us. One of our songs Kansas City came from The Barn, it was from a jam I had with Tony, a riff came from it, we bounced off each other mixing the ideas then put some lyrics to it. The whole song came together very quickly. We eventually broke out of the Barn and started playing gigs during late 1980 and early 81’.

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What venues did Warrior play? ‘We done various local pubs, we played in the Newcastle College bar, there were three gigs at Newcastle Mayfair. Ken Booth our manager at the time sorted those gigs for us. That place was great to play but a bugger to load in. Carrying bass bins, amps all the gear from the entrance at the back of Stowell Street in through the kitchens, squeezing past the fridges finally onto the stage. Also played Sunderland Mayfair and Middlesbrough Rock Garden.
We done a couple of gigs with fellow NWOBHM band Satan, first one was at Billingham Swan and the other at The Beer Keller. I remember Lou Taylor from Satan gave me some nice words of encouragement and told me he liked my playing style – a bit Maiden-esque, which was nice of him to say. (Lou Taylor features in an earlier post ROCK THE KNIGHT) Also at The Beer Keller we played with Australian band Starfighters, Angus Young’s nephew played in them.
We went further afield to Blackpool, York and had some great gigs in the Lake District on Bank Holiday weekends. The pubs were filled with bikers from all over the country, that was absolutely brilliant, great memories’.

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What were you experiences of recording? ‘Our first demo recording was at Impulse Studios in Wallsend, we were in there all day and like the rest of the band I took my bait in, cheese and onion sarnies, packet of crisps bottle of pop haha. First session cost about £120, second session about £200 we were all working and chipped in for the recording but it still blew a hole in our pockets. When we recorded Dead When it Comes to Love EP we recorded live in the studio with no overdubs just a few takes and went with the best ones. I even remember what I was wearing, a tight black t shirt with purple hoops on, black pants and a pair of cowboy boots – yes I was ready to rock !’ (Around the same time Dave had just seen Y&T at the Newcastle Mayfair, maybe Dave Meniketti had on some cowboy boots and he was going for that look. I was at that gig and North East Heavy Metal legends Fist were supporting. Harry Hill drummer of Fist talks about the gig in a later post TURN THE HELL ON)
‘I remember getting a call around 1981 from NEAT records owner Dave Woods he asked me if NEAT could include our song Flying High on a compilation they were producing called Lead Weight. Well I was really chuffed about that, of course I said yes when he listed the other bands who were going to be on. Fist, Venom, Raven just those three names were enough, they were THE Heavy Metal bands from the North East and to be in their company was fantastic for Warrior. Yes really proud of that.
In 1982 we recorded Live in a Dive in a pub in Gateshead. That sound was really rough, very raw we didn’t go for the slick polished style them days haha. No it was definitly a live recording no overdubs. Actually the recording of that gig is much sought after now, it was originally only released on a cassette’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘In 1982 we played JR’s Rock Club in Blackpool. I remember the dressing room was a dive, rubbish all over, empty cans, filthy chairs. The bouncers were selling dope in the toilets to the kids, the whole club was filled with smoke and playing our song Flying High went down well that night haha.
Quite often after gigs we didn’t have much to eat and one time we had to share a tin of beans and a loaf of bread.
One time our manager Ken Booth hired someone to do some flash bombs. We thought yes this will look good. But when they went off they blew me forward, all the gear turned off and ripped a gash in the ceiling. It made the local papers, but that might have been the only time we were in them like !
We once played out in the Northumberland area in what looked like a giant cow shed, there was a decent crowd there and after the gig we stayed and slept on the stage, wooden floor boards with rolled up coats for pillows, aye happy days.
Sometimes instead of paying for overnight digs we would save a bit money by sleeping on the floor of the Warrior bus. But one night someone had stood in some dog crap, needless to say nobody got much sleep that night!’

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music? ‘Yes I am still very much involved with music. Although I never played in any bands for 30 years I had never stopped playing the guitar. It was at the 2014 Brofest gig in Newcastle where Warrior reformed. Brofest has such a diverse audience of ages and a lot of the crowd are from Europe’.10582825_716508445133858_3410407206647865527_o (1)

‘When we were on stage there were a few Spanish down the front along with Belgian, Italian and German, quite surprising to talk to them afterwards but really blown away that they come over from their diferent countries to see us and the other bands. We have played a few gigs in the UK since then including London and we’ve played over in Germany and Belgium’.

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‘German record label High Roller remastered and released our back catalogue Ressurected in 2016. We are about to release our new album Invasion Imminent that was a great experience to put together. Our drummer Elliott is the man responsible for production he is a very talented musician and has his own studio at home. It’s great what can be done at home now compared to analogue studio’s back in the day. Although we hired a place to record the drums and vocals then brought that back to Elliott, who mapped the songs out and pieced them together. We’re really pleased with the final product’.

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‘Really looking forward to the next gig at the Very Eavy Festival in the Netherlands on 22nd April with Holocaust, Tokyo Blade, Vardis and a few others. Should be a good ‘un’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

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

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.

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

CAT SCRATCH FEVER – with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Micky McCrystal

One Friday night in September 1982 I was at the Newcastle Mayfair to watch Tygers of Pan Tang. 6 years later Micky McCrystal was born in Durham, UK, by 2013 he landed the gig of lead guitarist with the Tygers… how time flies…I asked him how do the older songs work with the new songs in the set today?

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‘Some of the songs were recorded 30 years ago but they still sound fresh and relevant alongside the new songs, I feel that it’s a very strong set that fans of the band past and present will love. I look at the gig as playing as a fan of the band and what would I like to hear if I was in the audience, we always try to give the fans what they want. The songs from Wildcat, Spellbound, Crazy Nights and The Cage albums have been classics for years so fans know how they should sound. It’s amazed me the amount of new fans who are just discovering the band and like the new songs and then go back and look at the history of the Tygers’.

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‘It’s about respecting the song, doing it justice and sticking to those key Sykes solo’s and licks that people are waiting for, otherwise I feel like people aren’t getting what they’ve come to see plus there’s plenty of opportunity for me to put my own stamp on the songs’. (John Sykes former guitarist 1981-82 albums Spellbound and Crazy Nights)

17321330_10154939271550731_56588470_n‘We’ll play songs like Paris By Air from The Cage album and I’ll do my best to add in the keyboard lines and synth parts like the original track but on guitar which it gives it a more modern edge that works great in amongst the new songs as well as the heavier tracks. It’s great to see the crowd enjoy the song and sing a long to the chorus as much as they would Hellhound or Love Potion No.9 especially the hardcore heavy metal guys or bikers who we wouldn’t normally expect to like this AOR song but yeah they sing every word, it’s great haha!’

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When I first started playing I listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, I used to sit and jam along to those albums for hours and hours and try and figure out their licks. Then I went back and started listening to the classic blues players like BB, Albert and Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf. The influence that seems to surprise most people is that I got heavily into country music especially players like Brent Mason and Brad Paisley. I try and keep an open mind so I love listening to John Scofield as much as I do Richie Kotzen or Yngwie there’s always something to pick up and learn’.

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‘My Dad was a drummer and always had vinyl in the house and he had a lot of guitar albums Hendrix, Larry Carlton but the one that stuck in my mind is ‘Friday Night in San Fransisco’ by Al Di Meola, Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin. I found it incredible that they had that level of technique but were so musical at the same time, it’s without a doubt one of my favourite albums ever. My parents always encouraged my interest in music from day one, they bought me my first guitar from a guitar shop in Newcastle, a Blue Aria Les Paul copy, I still have it today and it’s got a lot of sentimental value’

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What led you to joining the Tygers ? ‘Tygers bassist Gav Gray messaged me asking if i’d be interested in auditioning for Tygers of Pan Tang and of course I said yes. It turns out Satan guitarist Russ Tippins had recommended me for the gig. In the audition we played Keeping Me Alive, Hellhound and I think Raised on Rock. I received a message that night to say I was in and I learnt the rest of the set and began rehearsing for my debut show with the band’.

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Last year you played a tour around South America how did that go ? ‘It was my first time in South America and it was amazing, I loved it. The fans are incredible, they know the songs so well, they sing every word as well as the guitar melodies, some of the fans had actually had Tygers tattoos done specifically because we were playing. They live and breathe it, it’s amazing. Also the night we played Sao Paolo was my birthday and Jack got the band and the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to me which was really special. The centrefold sleeve of the latest album has a photograph of that gig so yeah that has special memories for me, I’d love to play there again’.

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How did the recording go for the new album ? ‘It was great, I had in my head that it would be a good idea to try and mix the flavours of the first four Tygers albums with a slightly more modern feel. We recorded in a great studio in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Blast Studios. We practically lived there for three weeks haha. The process was very organic, things changed right up to the 11th hour. I had written the solo for Never Give In and Craig walked in and sang four notes as I was about to do the take which ended up becoming the first four notes of the solo. The verse drum part for Devil You Know changed the day before recording it to a tom part. We trusted each others judgement and were open to constructive feedback, at the end of the day we were all there attempting to reach the same goal of making a great album’.

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‘We worked with a great tracking engineer, Mark Broughton who often works with Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. Soren Andersen mixed the album, he works with Glenn Hughes and Mike Tramp. I was very familiar with his work and was excited when I heard he was on board. For mastering Soren recommended Harry Hess of Harem Scarem. It was a great team and we’re all happy with how the album has turned out’.

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‘We released Only the Brave as a promo single for the album along with a music video that has now had over 100,000 hits on YouTube. We’re just about to release the second music video for the song Glad Rags. The storyline is fun and a bit more lighthearted (In no time at all Mickey whipped out his phone and showed me a clip from the video ‘Glad Rags’. The track has a radio friendly feelgood bounce with a very catchy sing a long chorus, the video is not bad either with dancing girls, smoke and mirrors) ‘I’ve got to mention the company Flashlight Films who have done a great job on both videos, they were great to work with and we hope we get this new video well over 100 thousand hits too’.

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Where would the Tygers like to go next ? ‘We’d love to go and play for the South American fans again. It would be great to get to Canada, North America, Asia. Anywhere there’s fans hungry to see the band we would love to play. We’re looking forward to an Italian tour in a few weeks time followed by a two week European run and then some shows on the European festival circuit. We’re super proud of the new album, so we’re excited to play the new album for people as well as the classics’.

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New album Tygers of Pan Tang available from the Official Site tygersofpantang.com also European tour dates for 2017.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 9th March 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 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 seperate 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 headlinging 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.

 

STILL BURNING – interview with Mythra.

mythra2017Interview 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 commeraderie 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. But 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 Gaurdian 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 Gaurdian 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 Gaurdian 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.