WE SOLD OUR SOUL FOR ROCK N ROLL documentary on South Tyneside rock music.

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In February 2017 I transcribed interviews from the documentary and decided to put them out on a blog. I added some new interviews and updated the originals. Then more musicians got in touch. The blog has snowballed from North East bands like Beckett to worldwide musicians like John Dalton in California. To date it has reached nearly 40,000 views.

But how did I tackle this documentary and pull it all together ? Firstly I talked to a few musicians who passed over some of their archive of demo tapes, video’s and photo’s. Plus I already had a number of photographs I had taken through the 90’s. Then a lot of research was done in the Local Studies Library, South Shields. I remember during the 80’s reading a feature called Young Weekender in the Saturday edition of local newspaper The Shields Gazette. It featured interviews, releases by local and national bands, plus a list of gig dates around Tyneside. The library had all the Gazette’s on microfilm. It took a few visits but in all it was a good start. Then during May 2007 filmed interviews were arranged at The Cave in South Shields, formerly Tyne Dock Youth Club, where in the 1970’s some of the bands had rehearsed and performed as teenagers. 

I was surprised at the amount of people who turned up to tell their story, and what excellent stories they were. The title of the documentary is from a Black Sabbath compilation album and perfectly sums up the feeling I got when people were telling their story. Some bands even got back together after 30 odd year. After working on a few other commisioned projects, finally in 2010 a 30 minute version of the documentary was screened in South Shields, it was shown a few month later at The Cluny in Newcastle along with a film about the New York Dolls. In September 2011 a full version was shown at the Library Theatre in South Shields. 

‘We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll’ is on the Alikivi You Tube channel. To check out other films why not subscribe to the channel.

Gary Alikivi  2018

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.

ALL FIRED UP – with Danny Hynes frontman with Weapon UK.

10489830_10153099865827715_2885534848942166280_nDanny Hynes vocalist with NWOBHM band Weapon loves to tell stories, he mixes a pint of honesty with a large slice of humour… ‘Now we liked having a few explosions going off during our set you know, flashes, smoke bombs the whole lot. Well we just got on stage in Newquay, first few bars of our opener and a pyro went off between my legs…I almost became Danielle haha’.

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‘I’m sure you are well aware that Metallica were big fans of all things NWOBHM and in the early days they used to open their show with the Weapon song Set The Stage Alight. So when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and record company Vertigo were putting together the compilation album New Wave of British Heavy Metal ’79 Revisited, he insisted that Set The Stage Alight went on the album. Nobody from Vertigo called the band but they did contact Virgin Publishing who owned the rights to the song. They in turn asked our permission which, of course, we gave.’

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‘We are delighted it made it onto the LP. We are very, very proud of the song, written by guitarist Jeff Summers, and we think it’s stood the test of time. As I said Metallica used to open their show with the track so it was very influential to them. So much so that they ‘borrowed’ the beginning of it for their song Hit The Lights. In the very near future we have some really exciting plans for that track’.

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Who were your influences in music and was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘Probably the first time I saw The Small Faces on TV. I became a huge fan of Steve Marriott who I thankfully got to meet a few years before his untimely death. Influences ? It’s got to be The Small Faces, Free, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Tom Jones to name just a few!’

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘After my move from Dublin in the 70’s I lived in Birmingham for 5 years where I began my musical career playing lots of social and working men’s clubs in and around The Midlands. Also played local rock venues like The Railway and Bogarts in Birmingham.
Then I moved to London with my mate Baz Downes, and we formed Snatch. Other members of that band included guitarist Bob Angelo and the late Daryl Read on drums. Bob had also played with Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis. Snatch played all the usual London rock joints but folded after about a year as we just couldn’t get a record deal.
Then in March 1980 I put an advert in Melody Maker magazine and through that met guitarist and vocalist Jeff Summers. We formed Weapon, signed to Virgin Publishing and supported Motorhead on their 32 date ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ tour. Culminating with 4 sell out shows at Hammersmith Odeon. We were on our way.’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I can’t remember the name of the studios where we recorded the first Weapon demos but once Virgin showed interest they gave us time in their demo studio which was on board The Barge in Maida Vale, London. We then signed a 5 year publishing deal with them and recorded more tracks at The Manor Studios in Oxford which was Richard Branson’s country home. We also recorded at The Townhouse Studios in Shepherds Bush, London. Everything was looking up, it was all looking good, but as happens with a lot of bands it took a bad turn through lack of record company support. It all came to a head and ended with Weapon calling it a day in 1982′.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?‘There is lots of funny and not so funny stories here’s a couple for you! We were at Edinburgh Odeon on the Motorhead tour and had just finished our sound check. Jeff and Baz went to the side of the stage to tune their guitars when the cables on one side of The Bomber snapped sending it crashing through the flight case that the tuners were mounted on. An inch or two closer and we would have lost two members of the band!
Once we were playing a gig in Stoke and the stage was very low, I walked towards it through the dry ice, tripped and went head first into the drum kit… Happy daze!’

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Have you any plans for Weapon in the future? ‘Weapon UK, as we are now known for legal reasons, are still very much involved in the music business. During the past few years we have played shows in the UK and all around Europe and another tour is planned for September this year. We are also on the bill at the two day ‘Grim Up North’ festival in Bury.
On the recording side we have a new single coming out soon and very shortly we will start work on the new album at Scream Studios in London. Yeah the future is looking bright and busy for Weapon UK !’

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The full line up for WEAPON UK is
Danny Hynes (Vocals) – Original member 1980
Jeff Summers (Guitar/Vocals) – Original member 1980
Darren Lee (Drums) Joined in January 2015
Tony Forsythe (Bass/Vocals) Joined – January 2017

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All the information on tour dates, record releases and back catalogue is available through the official website http://www.weapon-uk.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TYTAN: Back in the Ring, 25th May 2017.

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

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

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

 

NEW GANG IN TOWN – When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator

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Not a band I choose to listen to but the first time I heard Metallica was in the early 80’s when I used to go to a Rock night at Sunderland Mecca. The DJ used to play a mix of standard rock tracks and plenty of AOR thrown in. On the last night I ever went there I was looking at what records the DJ had lined up. I noticed a 12” cover with a black and red design on it but couldn’t make out the name. There was a lad next to me who pointed to the cover and said in a sharp tone ‘That’s next’. I was still squinting at it trying to make out the name ’Oh aye, what is it’. Then he replied in a very deadpan voice ‘Them my friend, are the new gang in town’. I smiled not knowing what he meant, I turned to the DJ who was pulling the record out of the sleeve ‘He’s right, this record… will wipe the floor’. He placed the vinyl on the turntable.
The last few bars of Heat of the Moment by Asia were fading out then followed a few seconds of silence which is very uncharecteristic for any DJ. Normally they have a seemless fade and mix into the next track. But no, not this time. It was as though the DJ wanted to give the last song enough time to fully leave the room and prepare the audience for what was to come. A sort off respectful time of silence and contemplation.
I looked onto the dancefloor. It was midnight. Optimum time for the floor to be filled. But it was empty. This whole sequence seemed to be in slow motion. Above, the lights were slowly changing colour from blue to green. I could hear people ordering drinks at the bar. Glasses clinking. A distant laugh. Then a crackle from the speakers. The lad next to me raised his eyebrows. No turning back. Sound of thundering drums. Hit the Lights.

The next few posts are interviews with bands who influenced Metallica. First up is Danny Haynes vocalist with Weapon UK.

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!’

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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!’

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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’.

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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.

 

STILL GOT THE FIRE – with Mythra Guitarist John Roach.

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John Roach is guitarist with UK Heavy Metal band Mythra. On the eve of the release of their new album he took time out to reveal where it all started…
‘Around 1973 I used to go to Saville’s Music shop in South Shields on a Saturday afternoon to look at the records, and where they displayed guitars. I particularly remember the Silver Sparkle of a Burns Flyte gutar that was in the window. Another source of inspiration for our musical fantasies was a furniture shop that sold Hammond Organs. We read leaflets from Yamaha and the Bell Musical Instrument Catalogue, I mean this was musical equipment pornography haha.
At that time, I had an Audition electric guitar and 5 watt amp from Woolworths. I quickly grew out of that and it was replaced with a second hand Les Paul copy.
It got serious though in 1975 when I met Maurice Bates who played guitar. He had a Mackay 100 watt Amplifier and a 4 x 12 cabinet!
It was then that we formed a band, with original bassist Peter Melsom’s friend Kenny Anderson on drums. He was a reluctant drummer, in fact he bought a pair of drum sticks and used to play them on anything hard, technically he was what we called a fireplacer, he rattled away on anyones mantlepiece ha ha.’

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘Once I had bought some decent equipment, thanks to my Dad, an Orange Graphic 120 amp and Vox 4 x 12 cabinet the four of us started rehearsing upstairs in the Lambton Arms pub in South Shields. We were called Zarathustra at the time and Maurice was the singer, in true Steve Marriot style. We rehearsed there for about a year working out songs and finding out how to be a band. It was at this time that we really committed to the band as we invested in a HH PA system and a Bedford van.
Through mutual friends we went to see a band called Highway or Freeway at a youth club the singer was called Vince High. They played some Free covers and Wishbone Ash. I can’t exactly remember how it happened but Vince joined us and we became a five piece. Coincidentally Vince and I both worked for Swan Hunter’s at the same shipyard in Hebburn.
We tried another drummer Barry Hopper, he joined and we became Mythra.
Our first couple of gigs were in youth clubs and then Maurice and I went out looking for an agent. We went to Ivan Birchall who had an office in Newcastle, he put us on his B list and we got loads of work in pubs and clubs all over the North East.’

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What venues did you play ? ‘I think we got a lot of work because we wanted to play all the time, we got short notice gigs where other bands cancelled. We played Saturday afternoon spots in the Old 29 pub in Sunderland. One of the things we had going for us that other bands didn’t, was a light show which Lou Taylor had built. (Lou went on to become frontman for Saracen, Satan and Blind Fury and features in a two part interview Rock the Knight Feb.26 & March 5th) For our gigs it seemed that every time we picked up Lou in the van he had more and more lighting equipment.
For a short time the local council hired out the Boldon Lane Community Centre and we played a few gigs there with fellow South Shields metal band Hellanbach. We had originally tried to hire the Bolingbroke Hall but that wasn’t available, I think punk band  Angelic Upstarts might have put paid to that venue.
A weird gig was at a club on the seafront in South Shields called the Shoreline. It was a late 70’s disco. We were a young heavy metal band playing Sabbath, UFO, Motorhead covers and our own original material. I don’t think the crowd knew how to take us.
I remember we were playing a gig in a workingmen’s club and the Concert Chairman called us on the phone to tell us we were too loud and to turn it down…thing was that the phone was on the stage! Now more recently with Mythra the gig stories seem to revolve around food varieties and quantities’.

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Where did you record the new album ? ‘For Mythra’s most recent album Still Burning we went to CP Studio in Poland. We started to write new songs and within a few months we had 13 songs which we whittled down to 12 which were recorded. The drums were done in two days with all of the guitars including solos and harmony parts, over the next four days. We then did the vocals and the bass.
We all played live and for practical reasons recorded the drums and DI guitars then we replaced the guitars one at a time and then the vocals and finally the bass. It was a lot of fun recording this way. We’re very pleased with the result it shows that there is life in the old dogs yet. The album is called Still Burning and demonstrates that Mythra still have the ‘FIRE’.

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What have Mythra got planned for the future ? ‘Mythra got back together in the summer of 2014 to see if we were any good. We were and we’re still here. Since our first gig in nearly 30 years in February 2015 we have recorded 17 new songs for two different albums. We’ve played in the UK, Germany, Spain, Belgium and have gigs planned this year in the UK, Greece, the Netherlands and California. Internationally, the interest and reaction to our gigs is great and we’ll keep going as long as that interest is there. I think for all of us in Mythra the best is yet to come’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2017.

Recommended:

Mythra: Still Burning, 13th February 2017.

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

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 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.

 

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

1

Over 30 years ago Lou Taylor was vocalist for a number of British Heavy Metal bands notably, Saracen, Satan, Blind Fury and Persian Risk. He recalls a story from the 1980’s with a link to Metallica…‘When we were rehearsing in London Bridge Studios we were visited by the boys from Metallica and went on a couple of binges with them. One night our guitarist Russ Tippins went out drinking in London with their guitarist James Hetfield. I was told that we received a phone call from the police saying can you come and collect them because they were locked up in West End Central police station, they had been playing guitar on top of the canopy of Piccadilly Theatre.
It was curious that time when I met the drummer Lars Ulrick and he said I’ve met you before Lou, but I’ve never been to San Fransisco, he said I’m not from there I came from Denmark originally and a few years ago I came to Tyneside to watch Raven and other Heavy Metal bands. I remember speaking to you when you were in Saracen actually that night you were operating the lights at a gig in Newcastle, think it was for Raven. I was chuffed he remembered’.

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in music ? ‘It was seeing Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall in 1976, knocked my head off. Went to see them again in ’77 and thats where I made my decision, I would love to be able to sing like that guy up there, on that stage, blew me away.
I got a knock on the door from guitarist Steve Dawson who said I heard you can sing, well I don’t know if he’s being hanging outside my bathroom window, but he said why not come down and have a bash with us.
We rehearsed at Redwell School and I couldn’t hear a single word that I was going on about but suddenly I’m in a band. So we started Saracen and I don’t know whether there had been a void in my life but everything I breathed, touched, lived, everything I had to do was something with this band. Steve was a fantastic guitarist he knew the busines so we started gigging in the neighbourhood’.

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‘I saw lots of bands doing little venues and I had all these visions of grandeur. I wanted lights, smoke, I was fascinated with the show and the whole spectacle of the thing. I thought why can’t we do something like that we really needed to start banging the drum for this band. I got myself a job at Sound and Electronics in Newcastle, got a load of gear off them on the cheap and started putting on these light shows with bangs and flashes so people didn’t come along just for the music they also came to see what this show was all about’.

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

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘One day we got a knock from a fella who said I’ve got a recording studio and we can do some business for you. In walked Terry Gavaghan. In fact it was the same studio that South Shields bands Mythra and Hollow Ground used. He said I can do this record for you, get you gigs, you’ll be on the radio, come down to the studio record a few tunes and all it will cost is £200. He said it was going to have all the big names of the North East on the album, I was quite flattered. I saw it as moving up to the next level and felt excited to be in the studio and something happening for Saracen.
When we went down we first drove past the place and double backed on ourselves to find it as it looked just like an ordinary house, later we found it was two terraced houses knocked into one. But yeah it was just on the main street in a little town called Pity Me. I can’t remember much from the sessions apart from recording my vocals quite late at night and the drum booth being tiny. When Dave was behind the drums we had to pass him refreshments every so often as it was such a tight squeeze to get in or out so he stayed on the stool until he finished his parts. Terry was forever nipping out of the studio and coming back with a smelly cheese sandwich or something else to eat, and he loved to talk about the resident ghost – he had a string of yarns that could strangle the hulk !
On reflection we might have been better off recording at NEAT, as they were more loud and proud, you know the whole crash, bang and don’t forget the wallop. But out came this album that Terry produced called Roksnax. Now it’s not the worlds number one album but everyone involved in it will agree that it is a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha’.

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Did you get offers from any other bands ? ‘It was late ’82 when I went for an audition to be the vocalist of Samson. To cut a long story short I didn’t get the job, but heres the story anyway…Samson had already released a couple of albums and were playing regular UK tours many of them as support. But unfortunately just as they were going to sign a major record deal with A&M their frontman Bruce Dickinson had just got a dream job fronting Iron Maiden, and look what they have done!
Maiden had also released a couple of albums and had toured extensivly with the likes of Kiss, Judas Priest and The Scorpions. So both bands were nearly head to head really as far as career progression goes. I’d say the strength of their management team was behind a lot of this, management pushed harder so Maiden were becoming more established and Samson had a few problems with theirs. Maiden were tipped to really go places and they chose Bruce to take along with them.
Back to the audition, I went to see Samsons new manager, Terry McClennan at Musicworks Studios in London, we went through a few songs, with the main man in the band, Paul Samson, listening in the background. I got positive notes from Terry McClellan but I got word that Paul wasn’t keen. Problem was, my vocal style, it is a bit similar to Bruce and everytime he heard me it reminded him of their former singer which didn’t go in my favour after what had happened, probaly felt like another stab in the heart really as Paul had worked so hard to get Samson to where it was and he would have felt the A&M deal was the final push needed to go on and headline their own shows.
Now Paul was a great blues, hard rock guitarist rather than straight ahead heavy metal and eventually he went with a guy called Nicky Moore whose vocal style was more suited to his guitar work. But in the end they still got a deal which I believe was with Polydor records’.

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Have you any stories from your gigs ? ‘After playing in a few bands on the London circuit, like Angelwitch, I moved back to the North East and joined Satan, and listening to them, boy they were tight, really sharp. We recorded a few bits and pieces then jumped on a ferry to do some gigs in Holland. We took this thing around Europe and by then the whole British Heavy Metal scene was red hot so it was one mad scene of gig here, gig there and everywhere we went was a bit wildness, a bit debauchery, some stories you can’t tell. But we had a great time. When you’ve played the Royal Standard in Walthomstow in front of fifty people and they aren’t interested, then you get out here where they are running after your car, sign my booby and all that, you really think you’ve made it, that’s gonna turn anybodys head…and it did’.

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIFE SENTENCE: Addicted to NWOBHM with vocalist Brian Ross.

1Brian Ross has been vocalist for a number of North East NWOBHM bands including Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig.  Brian looks back on the influences and defining moments in his career. ‘We actually played what I think was my first gig at Wingate Youth Club in Durham around 1972. By the late 70’s I was in a band who were playing Led Zep, Judas Priest and Deep Purple stuff, I knew this was for me I could see it coming alongside punk. The kids were hungry for this noise, anger, excitement and a do it yourself attitude. It was definitly getting to me, getting in my blood, this raw and visceral sound was becoming addictive. The term New Wave of British Heavy Metal had been coined by then, and yeah it really was a new wave and you’ve gotta go with it… and we did’.

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

2Who were your influences ?
‘Looking back I suppose the influence on my music career started back in the early 70’s with Marc Bolan, although before that I did catch The Beatles on TV and that had a big effect on me and everyone really, the whole culture with music making a real breakthrough.
You know we were at school just miming little shows with some friends which led us to picking up guitars. That’s where the bug started really, thinking yeah this could work, it was fun. The Bolan album Electric Warrior was in the charts then so we would have put some of those songs together. Then I heard Alice Cooper and the rockier stuff that was coming through like Judas Priest. So their vocalist Rob Halford was a big influence on my career but the defining moment was hearing Ian Gillan, I said to myself yes I want to sing just like him’.

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

3Why did you end up recording a lot of your material at Impulse Studio/NEAT records  ?
’With the technology today you can get good results recording at home but it’s different when you are in the studio, the atmosphere adds to the creative process. I remember the first time in Impulse Studio was great we made it feel like our second home. It came highly recommended as Tyne Tees TV used it to record their jingles there and we recorded a jingle Hot n Heavy Express which Alan Robson used on his radio show it went well so we extended it into a single, we recorded it at NEAT and they put it out on a compilation EP.
Now this studio was the label to be on, and I mean in the country not just the North East, I’ve recorded many tracks there as Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. It’s a shame it’s not there now rather like the Newcastle Mayfair and Mecca in Sunderland. Both venues I’ve gigged at many times and I think there is still an audience out there who are hungry for bands like us. In 1983 Satan recorded Caught in the Act which at the time wasn’t well received by the reviewer in Kerrang, to be honest it’s a very scathing review which I still have.
But I look at things like that and use it to my advantage. If you are doing something you believe in you’ve got to keep going and believe in yourself. Really the review is an opinion of only one person. The fans view is more important they buy the records and turn up at the gigs’.

4What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ?
‘I suppose a really good thing to come out of this is that I’m bringing my son Alan through the industry, sort of passing the baton on as he is playing with us in Blitzkrieg.
This year with Satan and Blitzkreig we are writing new material and looking at going into the studio, maybe First Avenue or Trinity Heights in Newcastle and off the back of that will be a run of gigs. It’s in yer blood, it’s an addiction’.

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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