ROKSNAPS #4

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle.

The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souvenirs – and some people took photographs on the night.

Here are more Roksnaps from John Edward Spence pictured above with Janick Gers in 1982.

‘The first gig I went to I was 15. It was on the 31st of October 1977 at the Newcastle City Hall and the band was Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The support band were called Kingfish. Rainbow came on really late and we missed our last bus home so one of friends had to phone his dad for a lift’.

‘Around October ’78 I decided to take my camera to a few gigs. I had a job so I bought a roll of film and some flashcubes, my camera was a Kodak 126. I couldn’t take it to every gig as the film and flashcubes used to make a dent in my pay packet’.

‘I used to go to loads of gigs at the City Hall and the Mayfair of course, that was my favourite venue. I was also lucky enough to see the bands associated with the NWOBHM, just loved the music around then’.

‘I don’t go to many gigs now. I always try and watch The Tubes when they come over, in fact the last gig I went to was to see The Tubes supporting Alice Cooper at Leeds, great gig’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

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

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

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

GUN FOR HIRE – interview with Tyneside bassist Ed Thomas

Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs ? ‘At first we’d rehearse at low volume in various band members bedrooms, with the drummer keeping time by slapping his legs, then he graduated to using a dustbin. A couple of times we rehearsed in a garage belonging to Ginger’s parents.

I was 18 when I played my first gig with The Cups a bit of a South Shields supergroup that lasted until ’86. Guitarist Ginger and Stidi on drums both going on to be in The Wildhearts. Then I joined Gunslinger in ’88 and we used Baker Street Studio in Jarrow to rehearse until our singer Macca’s brother opened The Rock In, also in Jarrow. I lasted in them till 1990’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When I was fourteen myself and most of my friends all wanted to play guitar. It seemed that everyone did back then. I think it’s because we had nowt else to do! There were no computers or consoles and only 3 channels on the telly. All we had was music and it was only natural that we’d want to emulate our heroes’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I was a massive Kiss fan and I loved Ace Frehleys loose, laid back style. Low strung Les Pauls, man, you can’t beat ’em! Although I play bass I didn’t really have any bass influences and I started playing by accident!

I knew Ginger from The Wildhearts when we were 16 and he wanted a bass player for his band so he asked me to do it cos he said I was a crap guitarist. To be fair, he was right, so I suppose he was the reason I started playing bass and kept at it because I found it to be much more fun than guitar!’

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What venues did you play ? ‘My first gigs with The Cups were at The Legion club and The Cyprus pub in South Shields, wild nights in there! There were a few great venues in Shields in the Gunslinger days, Fist drummer Harry Hill had just opened the Queen Vic and that was a favourite, always jumping! There were also Cagneys in Tyne Dock and Laceys in Laygate! Quality! Heh heh. In Sunderland there was the Old 29 of course and I think it was called The Ivy House’.

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Gunslinger with Ed in the middle.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I only recorded a couple of times with Gunslinger. Once in ’88 at Baker Street Studio which had all the cutting edge gear but we couldn’t seem to get the sound we were looking for so it was a bit of a disappointment. Tracks were Holdin’ On, She Said and Gunslinger.

Then around ’89 we recorded twice in Micky Clark’s little 8 track studio in Frederick Street, South Shields and those recordings were much more successful! Much closer to the edgy feel we wanted so we done Gunslinger, Holdin’ On and She Said along with High Risk, Broken Dreams, Falling to Pieces, I Got a Feeling and I’m sure there were one or two more thats coming back to me, yes Shock Treatment, Play it from the Heart and Nothing to Show. But yeah really enjoyed that session’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘The Ivy House in Sunderland! I think we were the first band they’d had on there so they had no idea what to expect. We got in trouble for parking outside. The landlord wouldn’t let us use the front door so we had to go in through the cellar and up the steps into the bar, and he nearly had kittens when he saw our gear. He said ‘that lot looks far too loud for in here’.
It was only a little place so we stashed our guitar cases in the cellar and by the end of the night we’d had enough hassle from the fella so we filled our cases with cans from the cellar and carried our guitars out separately!’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I had an 8 year break from music after Gunslinger. I got a proper job and everything! Back in 2000 though I felt the urge and to be honest it never really went away. I’ve been in cover bands ever since, Kneejerk Reaction around 2003-09 then The Enzymes until 2013, Horizon from 2012-16, The Rawmones for one year in 2012 and at the moment I’m playing in Andromeda and The Spacehoppers, as well as helping out with my mates PA hire business. I’ll be involved with music til the day I drop!’

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

ON THE HOOF – Lee Payne bassist with Cloven Hoof

‘We play from the heart and soul and after every show I can throw my stage clothes against the wall and they stick there!’

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Originally formed in 1979 in the West Midlands, UK, New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Cloven Hoof went on to record 5 studio album’s including this year’s release on High Roller Records ‘Who Mourns for the Morning Star’. To support the album they have lined up 3 gig’s starting on August 25th in Belgium supporting USA hard rock legends Riot. I got in touch with Cloven Hoof bassist Lee Payne as he was preparing for the gig’s…

‘A lot of logistics need sorting out with Hoof as the line up is Anglo-American. We are always mindful of one another’s commitments before committing to anything. We usually plan 6 month ahead to avoid problems, that way gigs are hand picked and we only do the ones we really feel enthusiastic about. 100% commitment and dedication is demanded by all band members and a lot of effort goes in by all concerned to make it work – especially as we have a continent to divide us.

The good side to this of course is we can play in America and Europe easily because we have a base camp in both territories’.

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‘All the band meet up about a week before a show in England and go into 7 days solid rehearsal. We practise 12 hours a day continuous to get the set slick. In truth we have it down in about a day but use the rest if the time to work out fine details and stagecraft’.

‘No one has ever forgotten their passport so far thank goodness, but we have a fair share of scares along the way with touring. Once due to fog in Milan we had to take 6 flights to get home to England due to rescheduling. You have to be super dedicated to your craft to take these things in your stride.

Endless hotels waiting around and travelling is the biggest drag in any musicians experience. We all live for the time on stage when we can kick ass and get off on the music along with the fans. It makes all the hassle seem worthwhile’.

After the Belgium gig the Hoof go to Germany where you are headlining the Trveheim Festival. Have you played any of these gigs before ? ’We normally try to break new ground and play new venues and territories to keep things interesting. On occasions some festivals are so prestigious that you feel you should perform at them more than once. Sweden Rock Festival was incredible last time so we would play it again in a heartbeat. The same for Keep it True, Headbangers Open Air, Bang your Head, Sword Brothers and Up the Hammers. They are institutions these days so we would be silly not to play at these festivals when asked.

In fact I think we will play Sword Brothers again next year as a point in question. America will be our prime target 2018 so it will be very exciting to play there at long last. Brazil and South America is another place we are eager to tour to help promote the re-releases on the Classic Metal label’.

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For the third gig the band travel to France for the British Steel Festival on 7th October playing on a bill with Tytan, Satan’s Empire and headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon. How do the band write the set list, decide what songs are in/out and is tempo important to the set order ? ’The set list is tricky because we have so many songs to choose from these days. We always exclude someone’s favourite song unfortunately but it can’t be helped. There are only so many songs you can fit into a set. 90 minutes is our longest set time because any longer and we run out of energy.

We like to keep up a high tempo set and it takes it out of you burning up the stage. The fans tell us what they want to hear via the website so we are governed by them what to include in part at least’.

‘We always start off with a fast song either Inquisitor or Astral Rider that everyone knows because we have the fans attention right from the start. Then we introduce a new number early on before the usual stage favourites. A show has to be structured and flow so the audience can interact with you at the right pace. We let the singer suggest the order songs are in to protect his voice.

We always finish with Laying down the Law because it is a famous audience participation song and an old classic. You have to balance the back catalogue and tracks from new albums seamlessly. At least that is our aim, something for everyone in fact. Old fans and new can come to our shows assured we will all rock out together and they will hear at least something they are familiar with’.

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What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ? ‘We are lucky enough to have whole families attending our shows these days. Some have been fans for over 40 years and have followed us right from The Opening Ritual up to the present day. We do see a lot of familiar faces but lately we have seen a lot more young kids on the front row. It seems there is a revival in NWOBHM that is very encouraging and it bodes well for the future.

Music can defy age limit or nationality and that is what is fantastic about metal. Young kids get off on our energy level, it is still high octane from start to finish. Not many bands out there can match our drive, power and stagecraft’.

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Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Cloven Hoof played their first gigs ? ‘Definitely! In the old days I would come off stage and still be full of energy to run a marathon. It would take me hours to come down I was so pumped up with adrenaline. Now I am totally shattered! lol. But I am quietly pleased I can still rock out with the best of them. As long as I can run about the stage like a crazy man and deliver the goods then I will do it till I drop.

I give the fans everything, all the guys in this band and the audience knows that. We play from the heart and soul and after every show I can throw my stage clothes against the wall and they stick there! If they didn’t then you are not working hard enough, the audience deserve and demand your very best… and when they see Cloven Hoof that is what they get in spades!’

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For more info, merchandise, photo’s and tour dates visit the official website at clovenhoof.net

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

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

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

ROCKY ROAD FROM DUBLIN – but Bernie Torme has travelled well.

I was last in touch with Bernie Torme in March this year just before his gig in South Shields. (The Dentist, March 2017) He had just released a triple album Dublin Cowboy and was starting a UK tour to promote the record. I asked him how did it go, were there any stand out gig’s or surprises ?

‘It went really well, which was great for new boy Sy Morton on bass. The boy done good. Stand out gigs? Well for political reasons since you’re from the North East I’ll say South Shields! It was, but actually they were all fucking brilliant!’

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‘Edinburgh was a blast, we had my old bass player Phil Spalding from The Bernie Torme Band back in ’77 -’78 play one of our punk classics Secret Service and the great Doogie White got up to sing Smoke on The Water. That was wild’.

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What was the initial feedback from supporters to Dublin Cowboy ? ‘Really good, different people had different favourites, everyone seemed to dig the Dublin Cowboy track lots, and the acoustic album and live album. It was one of the best reactions I’ve had to any album, pretty pleased about that’.

In 1988 you worked with ex Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider in the band Desperado, how did that come about, what was it like writing with Dee and did you play live ? ‘It was great working with Dee, I love the guy, he’s one of a kind, great guy, great front man, awesome singer. The singer bit often gets ignored because he’s such a huge personality, but that man could sing the ass off anyone’.

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‘He asked me to do it initially because he had heard the lead guitar work I had done on the Mammoth album (I was the potential Mammoth that just wasn’t fat enough!) it was an interesting time, just before the bubble burst on the mega deals for rock stuff in the music biz. I couldn’t have given a fuck about all that, but it was important to Dee and his management.

So we careered through a few years of huge money and chaos. Dee on Atlantic being sued by Bill Graham (of Filmore fame), chapter 11 bankruptcy and out of the Atlantic deal. A new deal with Elektra, turned out a bad mistake!

We recorded the album, which they initially loved, then they dropped the band after having a million dollars spent on us because someone had a bad weekend or something. That’s the politics of New York cokehead music industry execs…. Fuckin eejits! Quite traumatic at the time, but you survive and ride on free’.

‘Dee was great to work with, huge talent, good writer, always loads of ideas, sometimes a bit of a control freak, but thats understandable, he was the guy who had to carry the can. Fucking giant, I love the man’.

‘Only gig we ever did was in Birmingham, I think it was the International club or something? Maybe wrong about the name, but it was definitely Brum. It was a showcase for Atlantic, but with an audience. Good gig. Motorhead wanted us as special guest on their Euro tour in ’88 or early ’89 but Dee wouldn’t do it. I really wanted to, I still think not doing it was a big mistake, it would have put a real world value on the band’.

Bringing your story up to date what are your future plans, any touring in 2018 ? ‘Thinking about that one….not sure, maybe end of the year. Perhaps not, life is a bit complicated right now’.

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Lastly, what has music given you ? ‘A life, dreams, happiness, unhappiness, friends, enemies, experiences and seeing places. Meeting great people, shit people and doing things that a shy kid with a stutter from Dublin could never have imagined in a thousand years! Gave me everything really, for which I am eternally grateful, I wouldn’t have exchanged my life for anyone else’s. It definitely did not make me rich though! Hey music are you listening???!!!’

For information about the Dublin Cowboy album and more check the official website http://www.bernietorme.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist 21st March 2017.

TO HULL AND BACK – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara

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

Salem - w Paul Conyers 1982
Paul Macnamara, guitarist with Hull based heavy metal band Salem, who from 1979 to ’83 were part of the NWOBHM scene with Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang and Iron Maiden. They reformed in 2009. I caught up with Paul when he came back from a Salem gig in Barcelona and asked him who were his influences 

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

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

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

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

Salem (1983)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

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

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

SALEM: Increase the Pressure, 20th September 2017.

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