CHATTERBOX: with musician Drew Gallon 2/2.

In this second part Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with new band Dawn after Dark.

At the same time as Shotgun Brides was ending, I was doing a few gigs with our former singer Kev Wilkinson’s new band – Drill. They were a wall of sound. Three guitars, bass and a drum machine. All on full volume.

Very entertaining and great fun, but I like having a drummer to bounce off so after a while I backed out and made way for Simon Moore to take up the reins and I left to concentrate on the new band I was in.

The new one had a different sound and feel to The Shotgun Brides, more rock focused with everyone’s influences coming to the fore, so we decide to leave the past behind and changed the name to Forgodsake.

We started writing songs and quickly went into the studio. The early demos got picked up by the rock press and independent radio stations and we got good coverage across Europe.

With influences that spanned punk, heavy rock, rock ‘n’ roll and the new grunge bands, Forgodsake played a load of styles all blended into one, it worked well. We toured with Skyclad, Dogs D’Amour and Mr Big among others, and headlining shows in various places around the country.

Also one-offs with the likes of Neds Automic Dustbin, Honeycrack and The Wildhearts. An eclectic mix, but some great bands and some really sound people. We also did a Marquee show with Johnny Thunders to close the circle.

As well as gigs out of town we played lots of local gigs, two of which were the pre- and opening nights at Trillians. The first night was for the brewery staff and we put the vocals through the CD PA – the Public Address system the pub played their Compact Discs through.

We were asked to advise the pub on what PA to get in to make it a viable gig for touring bands and we gave them the PA specs, but they decided to save money and put the band through their CD player. Luckily the free alcohol got us through the night.

The Vaux management were there and we told them it was utterly shit, so we got them to hire in Don Morton’s rig for the first public night and pinned everyone to the back wall. It was loud as. They then upgraded the in-house spec immediately so there was a decent PA there.

Forgodsake made two albums for Bleeding Hearts record label managed by Venom’s management company Bear Dawn. It was a subsidiary of Music For Nations I think, or was it licensed through them? They owned Lynx Studios in Shieldfield, Newcastle which had previously been owned by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.

Both albums were self-produced as our vocalist Kev Ridley was their studio engineer. The first with the original five-piece line up of Wallace/Binns/Gallon/ Ridley/McCormack on guitar. And the second record with me, Gary Binns and Kev Ridley singing and on guitar.

They got great reviews and I think both stand up after all this time. I was, and am, proud of the two albums, but we didn’t have that bit of luck you need, so nothing sold in great quantities.

I also recorded a few tracks on a Venom tribute album around this time, adding the bass to the tracks recorded to Abaddon’s (Antony Bray) original drum tracks by Kreator, Nuclear Assault, Candlemass and Paradise Lost. The album was called In The Name Of Satan. I enjoyed giving my mum a copy of that one. 

And then that was it for Forgodsake. Kev Ridley went on to sing for Skyclad, Chris McCormack formed 3 Colours Red, Steve Wallace put a new band together, Automatic, with his brother Mal on drums and a guy called Weeb on vocals.

Steve asked me to join Automatic, around ‘96, and we were back to our earliest roots. A high energy punk influenced band, with nods to the Clash and Compulsion.

Part way through my time in the band we got in Billy Gilbert as a second guitarist. The gigs were great and the audiences seemed to take to it well. We didn’t tour as such but played gigs around the country with a couple of Marquee shows thrown in and did local gigs with China Drum, Feeder and A, and a few with Stiff Little Fingers, including two Riverside shows and one at Newcastle Mayfair.

Automatic released one four track ep for Dental Records which Dave Hills, who manages Newcastle Trillians, may have recorded – not sure. We certainly recorded some stuff with him. Another album which unfortunately didn’t get released.

In 1999 I called it a day, but Automatic kept going for a while after. I headed south, working in Indonesia as a diving instructor for a while, then going to London and then Brighton where I now live.

Although I did do some recording with a group of musicians who came together for a week and hired a studio to see what we could come up with – Jef Streatfield from the Wildhearts, Paul Bate from Plan A, and Nathan Maddison from Hydra Vein. And that should have been it.

But earlier this year I was approached by Howard Johnson from Dawn After Dark, the ’80’s goth/groove/rock band who I saw back in the dim and distant past.

Howard is a journalist and had written one of the first Forgodsake reviews and we had become good mates after I moved down to London. So I’m now playing in a band again.

The first single came out on 27 August. We’ve got an album, headlining gigs and a short tour with Balaam And The Angel all before the end of the year with more planned for 2022.

I go to as many gigs as I can. Once you’re hooked it’s always part of your being, I just love live music. I tried to get bands together in Brighton, but it never seemed quite the same without Steve and Gary.

Steve is in Penetration and Gary is working with Pauline Murray and Rob Blamire in The Invisible Girls. Maybe we will get up on a stage together one day – never say never.

To get a free download of the new single Maximum Overdrive join the mailing list at www.thedawners.com

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/M6dbQajOwsI.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

CHATTERBOX: with musician Drew Gallon part 1/2

Now based in Brighton, Gallon originally lived in Newcastle playing on the music scene during ‘80/90s. This first part features his time in glam punk bands Sweet Trash and Shotgun Brides.

A group of mates from Walbottle High School in the west end formed a band in 1982. We were young and punk influenced, and briefly toyed with the name Razor Cuts after the last line of a Buzzcocks song.

My dad wanted us to call ourselves Luke Puke and the Sickeners ? He’d obviously read the wrong press when he formed his opinion on punk rock. But it was never going to last because we had four guitarists and a synth player.

Eventually everyone went their own way leaving just me and Steve Wallace to soldier on, Steve now plays guitar for Penetration. We were in most bands together and he thinks I’ve got a crap memory so he’ll no doubt tell me I’ve got the timeline wrong and bands muddled up. 

I decided to swap a guitar for bass, and Steve and I looked around for other kindred spirits and found a lad in our local pub, Mickey Parris. We also found a local drummer called Gary Binns. He was playing in a heavy rock band but as soon as we heard him we knew we had to have him in the band, so we convinced him that his future lay with us.

We were listening to New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers, Hollywood Brats, and that’s where the band name stemmed from. English glam, The Sweet, and a term used for American glam, Trash Rock.

Drew and guitarist Steve Wallace.

So the first band I was in was Sweet Trash who rehearsed at a place called The Scout Hut. It was a lonely building in the middle of a field. An old two-storey house which had the rooms downstairs knocked into one. We could play as loud as we wanted for as long as we wanted without disturbing anyone – it was perfect.

We started off playing covers. Some never made it to a gig, like Time Warped Garden Of Love by Cuddly Toys, but others did. First gig we played The Stones Get Off My Cloud, The Pistols No Feelings and Bodies.

Over time we played stuff by New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, and in later bands R.E.M. and The Clash. Towards the end of Shotgun Brides we played one that Sounds magazine referred to as our ‘rapidly becoming famous encore’ which was one of our songs – Stop Looking – into bits of Whole Lotta Love, Babylon’s Burning, Silver Machine and Bomber, then back to Stop Looking to finish off. It was quite long.

We did a couple of gigs then Mickey departed and was soon replaced by a singer called Carl Smith who I spotted on the #73 bus. He looked right for the band, but unfortunately only lasted for a little while then left. 

We played as a three-piece for a gig or two around this period, which would have been mid-’84, then we got a lad called Keith ‘Cosmic’ Forster in as second guitarist and he and Steve shared vocal duties. The jigsaw was finally completed when we got Kev Wilkinson in as singer.

We played loads of gigs in pubs around the area. The Mitre in Benwell, The Cyprus in South Shields, Talk of the Tyne in Gateshead. We played the opening nights of Edwards Bar at the Crest Hotel and that started things moving for the band as it used to get packed.

We also played at Sunderland Mayfair and did a few gigs at Newcastle Tiffanys with The Vibrators and one with Guana Batz, as well as headlining gigs.

We were managed at the time by Tony Fiddes who ran The Monday Club in Tiffanys and The Drum Club in Sunderland Mayfair and I think it was him who got some of the North East TV crew Malcolm Gerrie and – I think – Chris Cowey to come down to see us play in Newcastle’s Edwards Bar.

Our gigs were always raucous affairs with a load of weirdly dressed overly enthusiastic northerners going for it in the audience, with the band very much the same. So that was how we got the slot on TX45, the local show filmed in The Tube studios at Tyne Tees.

Looking back on it now we calmed down a bit for the programme and it looks quite tame compared to how I remember the gigs, but they did get a great shot of Kev diving into the audience at the end of the two-song set to close the show.

With Tony managing we did a self-financed single called Burn It Down which was recorded at Steve Daggett’s (ex Lindisfarne) studio in Gosforth. I think it might have been the first single cover designed by the lads at Viz records, but unfortunately they took a sensible approach and there aren’t any Viz characters lurking in the background.

We also played out of the area, about the time of TX45 we did our first decent London gig, on the same bill as Flesh for Lulu, Turkey Bones and the Wild Dogs, and Dogs D’Amour.

But Sweet Trash had ran its course and we were getting into other types of music. So one October night in 1985 we went on stage as Sweet Trash and then changed our name to The Shotgun Brides for the encore.

The Shotgun Brides played quite a few gigs around Bradford and Leeds playing with the likes of Salvation and Loud and ended up being managed by Andy Farrow at Far North Music.

We signed to Neat Records and did an album that was never released, and a single called Restless, both with Keith Nichol at the controls. We lasted about three or four years with various line-ups, playing gigs around the North East and further afield, but eventually the usual musical differences raised its head and The Shotgun Brides played their last gig at the end of the ‘80s.

It was still me, Steve and Gary, but with Kev Ridley on vocals and Chris McCormack on guitar. We thought that keeping the name would attract some people in, and we still had some t-shirts left over to sell.

I’m not sure where Shotgun Brides last Shields gig was. Some social club I think. We probably did play The Venue in South Shields, and I’m sure Forgodsake did too.

Read the second part of the interview where Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with Dawn after Dark.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

TYNESIDE ON MY MIND with musician Ed James

In the Newcastle music scene in the ‘70s we used to go to The Gosforth Hotel and watch Last Exit with Sting before he went off to London. A great musician Dave Black, had a band called Kestrel, was also in the Spiders from Mars, and had a big chart hit with Goldie, I knew him well, he used to call me ‘cop oot’ because I spent more time on my day job than music.

(Ed’s day job was C.E.O of a global construction company, he stepped down to run his own business which is now in the safe hands of his son Chris).

Sadly, Dave died a few year ago so that’s when I retired the ‘suit’ and went full time in music and producing a podcast with my writing partner, Ed Thompson.

I’ve always played over the years, I was very shy when I first started playing I played with my back to the audience. But being on stage and playing live you push it and tend to play a bit faster. It’s all about rehearsing and when you arrive on stage you are very comfortable with the rest of the band.

In the ‘90s I was working in Denmark where I got a regular gig in one of the bars, they called me the ‘Singing Suit’ owing to my daytime job. It was all Irish songs, stuff like ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ you know.

Around 2004 I was playing guitar and harmonies in an original folk rock band, Morgan La Fey, we went on a small European tour. I was too busy working to follow it through full time but I was still writing songs and have a book full of lyrics.

I wrote a song called ‘Love Will See Us Through’ for the diabetic research charity because my Grandson is a Type 1 diabetic and it’s a serious disease, no child should have to deal with that.

A few of my songs have been picked up by charities, Cancer research took up ‘This Sweet Life of Mine’. I wrote it for a friend of mine who died of cancer a few years ago.

When he was told he had terminal cancer he said he was going to carry on working. But he said when you see people and they know you are ill they have that look in their eyes which says they are seeing a pitiful person. He said I will not let that define me. I thought that was a brave sentiment.

TOON TUNES

Currently I’m putting together a number of songs called ‘Together Alone’ about lockdown and the sentiments around it, it’s on a personal level but will appeal to people because of what we have all been through. That will be out in the next month or so.

For recording I was after an analogue type sound and we worked hard at that. I like Irish music with my Irish roots but I also like to change things around and get different sounds.

Earlier albums I played lots of different instruments, some influences were flamenco and then I’d play the Irish bouzouki. It can have a middle eastern sound, almost world music.

PRESS RECORD

I record with Tony Davis at Newcastle’s Cluny Studio. We brought in a few session musicians when we needed them. I had everything written and ready to go when entering the studio.

I ultra-rehearse a song, you’ve got to put the time in. We recorded one or two songs per day then you have mixing and mastering.

I love the recording process it’s almost as good as playing live when you hear the whole song coming together after laying down a guide vocal or guitar and adding the layers. Although there comes a time when you stop adding sounds or harmonies because you can make a bit of a mess.

Tony is an excellent engineer he can cut it and fix the piece that sometimes you just can’t get right – in the end he used to say ‘Fuck it, we’re there!’

HEAR & NOW

For live gigs I’m making contact to 300 community concerts where venues are out in the sticks and can hold from 50-150 people, it can be big back gardens or community fields. They come out of their houses to really listen to you, they love it.

I have three different sets I’ll be playing. Ed James Sings will be covering a number of Car Stevens songs, Ed James in Concert where I will be playing my original songs and Jammin’ with James where I put on shows with guests and we all take to the stage for the finale.

 Link to the show:  https://www.ents24.com/north-shields-events/cullercoats-crescent-club/ed-james/6293966

Next year I will be looking to add UK festivals to that list. I’m a planner for these things and have a few friends around the country so will be able to stay overnight at someone’s house near the venue.

HOWAY THE LADS

After seeing Ed Waugh’s show The Geordie Songbook about Ned Corvan and Geordie Ridley, my writing partner, Ed Thompson sent me a few poems and one of them was ‘Howay woman, man Howay’ about his Dad going to working men’s clubs. I put a bit of piano to it and it worked well.

We also done a song about the three Cullercoats brothers who went off to World War One and never came back. That worked well so we decided to make an album of Geordie songs.

Some have serious subjects, some recount events that have happened on Tyneside while others are reflections of Geordie life. There are some great stories out there. The album should be out next year.

I have a radio plugger who gets me on local BBC radio around the country so that opens up our music to a new audience which is great – although I doubt I’ll get 2 million streams on Spotify to make a hundred quid (laughs).

For more info/pics/gigs/discography check the official website: https://edjamesmusic.co.uk/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021.

CRAWDADDY COOL with Emma ‘Velvet Tones of Teesside’ Wilson

“I’m finally back gigging and my first London/Surrey gig is on Friday 23 July at The Crawdaddy Club, Richmond Athletic Ground, Richmond Upon Thames said an excited Wilson as she introduced the impressive line-up for her band.

I’ve known Mat Hector (drums, Iggy Pop) for about four years, he used to come and play when he was off the road and I had a monthly residency at The Monarch in Camden.

He introduced me to Mark Neary (bass, Noel Gallagher) and Terry Lewis (guitar, Mamas Gun) who are both super guys and ace players. Mark and Mat are great as a rhythm section and Terry is such a great guitarist, I’m so looking forward to the gig.

I also have Robert Hokum guesting for a few numbers on guitar and vocals, he is a tremendous Blues musician and the curator of the Ealing Blues Festival.

Have you played the Crawdaddy before ?

Yes as a guest with other bands and then had my own gig there in 2019 where I invited Pete Brown (lyricist, singer, percussionist, Cream) to join in. He was amazing and sang all the Cream classics, we also did a few duets, he’s a great mentor of mine.

So since then Mike Rivers, promoter of the Crawdaddy, has been saying “You must come back” and here we are, this is the venues first gig post lockdown so I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun.

Wilson’s latest record is a duet with British vocalist Terry ‘superlungs’ Reid (famously turned down the Led Zep job and recommended his mate Robert Plant). The double A side received European and Stateside airplay plus a 4 star review.

After the nomination for the UK Blues Award, DJs who weren’t aware of me before have looked me up, been in touch and played the tracks. So far it’s been heard in Atlanta Georgia, New York, Germany and Holland plus all over the UK, with the Independent Blues Broadcasters playing both tracks a lot.

It’s really exciting to hear the songs in the context of a radio show up against big hitters like Van Morrison and The Stones, musicians who are contemporaries of Terry. I think Terry’s involvement has definitely created a buzz, he is still absolutely on fire musically and gives me such spirit to create.

With his brilliant playing, singing and production the tracks sound really punchy and what’s cool is most DJ’s play one of the tracks one week and the other the next. They are very different but compliment each other well.

‘See You in the Morning’ is a vocal duet with Terry and it seems to have really tugged at the heartstrings of a lot of people, Andy Snipper of Music News.com said “it has shades of Brief Encounter”.

Nuthin’ is more driving with much more angst and described by Dennis Roberts legendary Soul & Blues Broadcaster as “Gritty and powerful with echoes of Howlin’ Wolf”.

The tracks are still very much alive and I’m being approached daily for copies and interviews. I try to personally contact everyone, DJs, Journalists, fans. We need them to keep the vibe going and I never take for granted people enjoying my music.

Music is so personal, it’s really an honour if someone else responds to your song by buying it or playing it.

Are you looking forward to getting on stage again ?

Absolutely – I have my mic and outfit ready, and that never happens, I usually grab it on the day. I’m looking forward to that surge of energy that is unique to being on stage.


Friday 23 July 8pm start with tickets available here for £11
https://www.wegottickets.com/event/519309

or £13 on the door.

The Crawdaddy Club, Richmond Athletic Ground, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey TW9 2SF

The single is available on all digital downloads: www.emmawilsonband.bigcartel.com

Contact Emma for gigs:  emmawilsonbluesband@gmail.com 

or the official website:  www.emmawilson.net

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2021.

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

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

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

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

Jon & his wife Marsha (pic Mark Weiss)

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

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

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

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

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

Raven’s Chief Headbanger John Gallagher told me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Alikivi  June 2021.

NORTHERN MELODY with North East musician & ex- Kane Gang member, David Brewis

I’d been dining on a mix of punk/rock/metal so when The Tube came kicking and screaming onto our TV sets on 5 November 1982 it opened up a gateway to a world of different sounds – and sights.

Broadcast from Newcastle, I was lucky to get audience tickets for the live music show and a band who appeared a few times were The Kane Gang, who in 1984 released three classic singles. I got in touch with Dave Brewis from the Gang who remembers those times.

Martin Brammer, Dave Brewis & Paul Woods.

We played live on The Tube a number of times, four I think. But the music video for Respect Yourself was filmed partly on the River Tyne at Wallsend near Swan Hunter’s, also on Newcastle Quayside during Sunday market and maybe in a room at Kitchenware. I think they did some camera shots on the Metro going over the bridge from Gateshead. I was wearing my Dad’s heavy overcoat that he bought in 1953.

Smalltown Creed was filmed in Seaham Harbour and at the Vane Tempest social club along the road where as 15 year olds we once rehearsed. Some other shots were done in and around Seaham, like on the Avenue and around and about. It was very true to our roots I suppose. Top of the Pops had to wait until our third single Closest Thing to Heaven, which we did twice.

One Tube show included Newcastle based independent label Kitchenware records. The programme featured interviews with Keith Armstrong from the label management team and performances from Hurrah, Martin Stephenson & the Daintees, an earliest known TV appearance from Prefab Sprout and The Kane Gang.

That first Tube thing was filmed in the Barn restaurant in Leazes Park Road. We had nobody managing us until our friends in Prefab Sprout mentioned Keith Armstrong who had already formed Kitchenware Records with some partners. He offered them a record and management arrangement, and originally our two bands were going to work on a label together.

So if Keith liked us we would go along with him, apparently he knew the business on a national level. Kitchenware were also established at promoting gigs that were seen as hip or different, so that was good – eventually he offered to work with us.

FIRST STRIKE

When I was three or four I heard a song on the radio called Singing the Blues, possibly Tommy Steele’s UK hit, Guy Mitchell also done a USA version. But that was it for me I wanted a guitar and wanted to play Singing the Blues. My cousin loaned me a plywood guitar, it was taller than me and it made a noise.

Then I heard The Beatles and I wanted a bass like Paul McCartney’s, then when I saw The Who on the telly I wanted to do all that. Then Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac and so on.

There was a school band that included a lad from Seaham called Martin Brammer who was a really great singer. We were maybe 15 and talked about writing our own stuff. We were serious.

Around the late 70’s early ‘80s I was offered a gig with North East band The Showbiz Kids – going to London to make it. I didn’t know them or why I was asked, so it seemed a crazy idea and definitely not up my street. Plus no way was I going to abandon what we were already doing.

I always hated the idea of going to London, it seemed really old fashioned and rock-ist. Nothing against London, but sharing rooms and having no money to live on was not my idea of being a musician. It seemed to be a rite of passage for a lot of bands who were the music press darlings, so we were against the grain. Plus we held the opinion that the London scene wasn’t what it used to be. It was changing and going through a dull patch.

GANG OF THREE

Maybe we were a generation that didn’t think that playing rock n roll for a pub audience was something with an artistic future. Although I thought we were a great live band, it just wasn’t all about the live thing for us. We wanted to make records, get on radio and in magazines.

After listening to Roxy Music, 10cc, Steely Dan, and Hall & Oates, live work for its own sake was not on the menu. But making a great album was. We figured we could do it if we didn’t compromise. I don’t think we ever doubted we could do it. We worked hard at writing our own songs and trying to be as good at it as the artists we admired.

Over the years Martin Brammer and I wrote together under various names then hooked up with Paul Woods and some other musicians and did some North East gigs. I had been to college in Newcastle and picked up work playing bass for local dance bands – four hour gigs after a full day’s work.

We were always working on our own stuff until 1982 when we became The Kane Gang and played an open air gig on Newcastle’s Town Moor as a three piece with backing tapes.

The Kane Gang didn’t want to tour until we were ready to headline, we didn’t fancy the thankless slog of being a support band, so it was after our first couple of records, just before our first album when we did tour, although we did several local one off headline gigs before that, like Newcastle Tiffany’s.

Single cover for ‘Respect Yourself’.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE

First experience in a recording studio was fascinating and a little intimidating. When I was 18 I used to rent a couple of hours now and again in Spectro Arts Centre, Newcastle, where they had a synthesiser and a four track machine.

Our first real recording experience as The Kane Gang was in Palladium Studios, Edinburgh. It was run by a musician so very easy to fit in. Everything seemed to have a million different coloured knobs, and looked very complicated but I knew how tracking and overdubs worked from listening to records.

I could pick out different guitar and keyboard lines and figure out harmonies. I had studied arranging too, so that side of it was ok. I knew how to play along with tracks and layer sounds, but I had little idea about shaping the sounds, in those days the engineer did that for you.

We recorded our first single there in a day, three tracks and mixed a week later. These days it’s easy recording on a laptop, and costs nothing. Thirty odd years ago it cost serious money per day and was concentrated work. You had to get it right on the day, no fixing it later. And it had to sound great.

SONGS FOR EVERYONE

Sometimes writing came quickly or was a lot of work. Martin and I wrote and re-wrote Brother to Brother the first Kane Gang single, several times. That was our first proper song that was original to us. Then we found a style to work on and wrote when we could.

Smalltown Creed was a lot quicker but a different kind of thing – more funk and hip hop than anything. One day Martin had a piece of paper that had the words Papa papa, ooh ooh on which I thought was great and took to it immediately. It was unlike anything else.

Closest Thing to Heaven existed as lyrics first, Martin based it on a title suggested by Paul. We were trying to write a different song one night when we came upon a musical idea that worked for that lyric. It fitted really quickly and we had the basics of a song in an evening. It was developed and finished off over a few other sessions.

But the song in recognisable form took under an hour – we were certainly in the pub for 9.30pm. I know you don’t get awards for writing a song in half an hour but it would be great if you did. I thought it was a cracking record.

Having said that the more you write the smoother the process, but most songs took quite a few sessions and quite a bit of homework and fine tuning to get them to a state where we were happy.

CAPITAL GAINS

Kitchenware manager Keith Armstrong asked if we could re-mix Brother, Brother and the label would release it as an indie single. We did and Keith got us a singles deal with London Records.

The record went from a local pressing of 1,000 copies to major national distribution within a couple of months. That led to more songs being recorded and after a couple of hits our first album was planned, which seemed hard to get organised with London Records.

It seemed a no brainer to us, we already had two hits and six more songs recorded, and there was only a few more tracks to finish the album. The album was almost ready for November 1984 but was delayed, and the planned release was April ‘85 as there’s always a three month build up for reviews, interviews etc.

But seeing the finished thing was really nice, I think I popped into every shop I knew to see it in the racks or a poster on the wall advertising it. Yeah very satisfying after years of imagining to see it there.

CIRCUIT DASH

By now we had London Records promo team, what an incredible and nice bunch they were. The promotion was all over Europe and we always seemed to be going to a TV studio or a radio interview. We did TV shows for Brother, Brother and on Channel 4 which seemed amazing. Then on the second single Smalltown Creed, we did lunchtime BBC1 shows and more Channel 4 and got lots of radio plays.

We made a video for most singles and filmed a couple in the United States where we also done a Top of the Pops version, and Soul Train. Looking back it happened pretty fast – it was surreal at times.

ROAD RACING

As our single Respect Yourself was going up the charts we almost didn’t make the first gig of our premier UK tour in 1984. It was all planned for Edinburgh on Friday then Glasgow on Saturday – what could go wrong ?

We were booked on BBC1 TV show Crackerjack live with presenter Stu Francis, other guests were Keith Harris and his duck Orville. After we played the production team let us out early. The limo raced down to Heathrow because we were late – then the Friday rush hour ground to a halt as the airport was fogbound – great.

Eventually we got there and after jumping the queue we got on our flight which was a Tristar plane which luckily could take off in fog. We arrived in Edinburgh and went for a taxi but there were dozens of people ahead of us. Thing was the show had a curfew where you had to be on and off at a certain time and that was 30 minutes from where we were – and about 5 miles.

Next in line for a taxi was Billy McKenzie of The Associates and he heard our distress as we were offering anyone with a car £50 to get us to the show. Kindly he gave us his cab and we arrived exactly the time we were due on stage. We ran on still in our coats and started playing. I can’t remember the show – I think I was toast by then.

A week later it happened again at a Top of the Pops live appearance, we had to be in Sheffield the same night. Seven of us in a car screaming up the M1. 5 minutes to spare.

GUITAR WORLD

Now I’m recording some tracks with Paul Woods as Autoleisureland, a new project we hope to get out there soon. We haven’t worked together much, it was around 2018 when we met up and talked about recording and writing together again. Prior to that I was lecturing on a degree course at Gateshead College, and doing sessions and theatre shows, plus buying and selling guitars.

I’ve also made an instrumental album and two other Leisureland albums with Dean Newsome. I played bass for the lovely Ben E. King on his very last UK tour – that kickstarted me into wanting to write and record again.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2021.

COUNTY DURHAM DREAM with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards

Vincent Edwards.

From his home in Germany, Edwards recently got in touch and talked about his career in the music biz. Earlier posts have featured his 1976 chart hit Right Back Where We Started From and his smash in Europe Love Hit Me.

Vinny was brought up in the seaside town of South Shields where he listened to the ‘60s sounds of Sam Cooke before he joined his first band The Invictors. Then he joined The Answers who recorded two singles and were managed by Tony Stratton Smith.

‘Just after The Answers parted, amicably I might add, United Artists record company signed me and I went into a studio in Tin Pan Alley, London and recorded the track ‘County Durham Dream’, that was 1967. In fact it was the first song I wrote when I left South Shields, it reminds me as a kid every day at Shields beach looking out to sea – still makes me emotional’.

’Recording in the studio on drums we had the great Clem Cattini, on guitar was Big Jim Sullivan who later played with Elvis. Loved that time. You know ‘County Durham Dream’ achieved everything I wanted – it opened lots of doors and most of all let me know where I come from, still does now’.

The choice for the b-side ‘It’s the Same Old Song’ was written by Holland/Dozier/Holland. During the ‘60s they were the masters of Motown who wrote classics recorded by Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas and The Four Tops to name a few.

‘This led me to the next single which was ‘Aquarius’. That record was also on United Artists and I got a contract to open the musical ‘Hair’ at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London’.

Hair is a musical focusing on the long haired hippie culture and sexual revolution of the late ‘60s. The focus is a tribe of politically active hippies living a bohemian lifestyle in New York City fighting against conscription to the US army and the Vietnam war. The show has been staged worldwide with a Broadway revival in 2009, a West End revival in 2010 and in 2019 the production staged a UK tour.

‘That 18 month run was the greatest time of my life. There was Paul Nicholas, Elaine Page, Maxine Nightingale – who sang my hit, ‘Right Back Where We Started From’. Tim Curry was in with Olivier Tobias, Marsha Hunt, Sonja Christina and many more’.

‘I remember the opening night like it was yesterday – I danced with Princess Anne on stage. Yeah ‘Hair’ led to more show biz doors opening as a performer, writer and record producer. It’s still performed around the world today. Check it out on You Tube’.

Link to previous interviews:

RUN TO THE SUN with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vincent Edwards | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2021

SEE YOU IN THE MORNING – with singer & songwriters Emma Wilson & Terry Reid

During the past year Emma ‘Velvet Tones of Teeside’ Wilson has produced her EP ‘Loveheart’ and featured on a compilation album in aid of the NHS, ‘Songs of Isolation’. Other highlights were an interview on American radio and Cerys Mathews BBC Radio 2 Blues show playing her track ‘Wish Her Well’.

Emma & Terry Reid.

Her new project is a double A side single released 10 June 2021, and it features one of her vocal hero’s. ‘I’m a fan of Terry Reid full stop. I just love his tone and style –  it’s a dream come true’ said Emma.

Affectionately known as ‘Superlungs’ Reid has enjoyed a long career in the music biz. He has recorded six albums, featured on film soundtracks and toured with Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac and Cream.

In 2016 I was asked by Malcolm Bruce and Pete Brown to sing in the ‘Evening for Jack Bruce’ house band at Shepherds Bush Empire, London. I jovially said that I’ll only do it if you get Terry Reid. Of course Terry was already on the bill’.

Reid lives in the United States so he flew into the UK for the gig.

‘He turned up at rehearsals straight off the plane looking resplendent in white trench coat and silk scarf. He chatted with everyone and then sat down to talk to Pete Brown. Being a little star struck I walked over and told him we haven’t really met yet, but I did say hello outside the toilets at his gig in The Newcastle Cluny. Pete and Terry both laughed singing my clumsy words back to me saying that would make a great song’.

Wilson and Reid got on well, they chatted about music and the London gig. Emma recalls that night at Shepherds Bush.

‘Terry was lead on ‘White Room’ and I was on backing vocals. At first we (backing singers) weren’t initially on the song, I asked Terry if he thought we could be on it with him and he said ‘Let’s ask Mick Taylor’. Terry asked me to sing the part to Mick and he said ‘yeah ok, let’s do it’. We got on well and afterwards Terry and I kept in touch, I’m happy to say we’ve become good pals’.

Over the past year people have found lockdown pretty tough going but by keeping a positive outlook, Emma used the time sharpening her song writing.

‘I had a song ‘See You in the Morning’ and I thought Terry would sound great on it, so I sent it over and he loved it. To my surprise he asked if I had anymore and he liked ‘Nuthin’ which we worked on over facetime as he’s in California and I’m North Yorkshire. He’s totally transformed my demos by adding heart and soul – which is what he does best’.

‘I’ve loved the process of making music with Terry even though it was remotely. I hope people love the feel of the songs they are very different from each other. I think Terry’s influence on the recordings gives them such a cool feel and his vocal and playing are just sublime. I am delighted with how the songs sound’.

The single is available to download from all sites or order your physical copy from:  www.emmawilsonbluesband.bigcartel.com

or www.emmawilson.net

‘See You in the Morning’ (Wilson) Vocals – Emma Wilson & Terry Reid.

Bass, acoustic & electric guitars – Terry Reid.

Keys – Alessandro Brunetta, Drums – Graeme Robinson.

‘Nuthin’ (Wilson) Vocals – Emma Wilson.

Bass, electric guitars, drums, cabassa – Terry Reid.

Keys – Alessandro Brunetta,

Both tracks produced by Terry Reid, mixed by Larry Pederson & mastered by James Arter.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2021

STUDIO WORKS with Martin Trollope, from Harbourmaster Productions

START ME UP

I’ve been involved in music since I was 6 or 7 years old when I demanded piano lessons because I was a classic younger brother, and therefore a bit jealous that my older brother was getting them. A few years later I started playing the drums and performing in bands, which was the first time I’d played with other musicians and in front of audiences.

It’s safe to say I loved it, and it really cemented my love of music, to the point that when I was offered guitar lessons as part of an A Level Music Technology course, I snapped them up and never looked back.

I can pinpoint that particular moment in time as it really changed everything, especially as I became a guitarist and song writer in a band which naturally led us needing to record our music.


We were really lucky in those days that Tyne Dock youth centre in South Shields had a rehearsal space and recording studio inside, and as young people we were able to access their services for the absolute bargain price of 50p each.

When we started recording, it was like a whole new world was opened up to me and I had to learn more, so I persuaded the manager of the centre to teach me how to use the gear and then persuaded him to give me a job. And that was it really. I was hooked.

MUSIC FOR THE MASSES

I spent as much of my time in the studio as possible, and when I wasn’t there I was recording at home trying to hone my skills as much as I could. Alongside this, my core musical values were developing and I was realising how important it is for the arts to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.

I was lucky enough to work with a range of people from experienced professionals to first time hobbyists and realised how important it is to treat everyone equally give everyone the same amount of respect regardless of their background or experiences. Which leads to now.

DOCKED & LOADED

I’ve tried to take all my beliefs, values, knowledge and experiences and bring them all together into my new recording studio which is based in Prospect House, Simonside, South Shields. I offer recording, mixing, mastering, session guitar and bass, all for £15 per hour – which is basically the cheapest price I can manage.

Again, I’m lucky that my overheads are fairly low and only have to pay myself so I’m able to offer high quality services for this affordable fee. I really put as much of myself as I can into every project and very grateful to receive amazing feedback from everyone I work with. Head to my website for more info and just get in touch if you need anything at all.

harbourmasterproductions.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2021

GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #7 – Battleaxe – Burn this Town

Guardian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog – they were home to a recording studio.

From 1978 some bands who recorded in Guardian were – Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7”, 1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From ‘82 to ‘85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior made singles or albums. On this blog there is a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian including stories of a ghost of a young girl who was knocked down outside the studio.

Dave King (vocals, Battleaxe): Yeah still remember the story of the Guardian ghost sitting at the piano. Terry would say can’t you see it lads ? No was our answer (laughs). He told us to be quiet and still and then go and sit on the wall outside while the ghost was sat at the piano in the live room playing a silent tune. He would then disappear for half an hour to his other house next door. He was recently married at the time so was a young virile bloke like all of us back then (laughs).

His stories were great, he told us he had been given a guitar from Paul McCartney, and an old flying jacket of John Lennon given to him from the Beatles. Terry liked nowt like taking the piss (laughs).

I found him a really nice guy, very helpful with young and naive bands. But for recording he could never get the drum sound we were asking from him and that was with all the fantastic gear he had in there – although we did have a crap kit at the time. We never stayed overnight as some bands did cos we only lived a few miles away.

We recorded our single Burn This Town and Battleaxe in one long day and Terry took half a day to mix it. Think it cost us around £200, we all chipped in £50 quid each and Terry pressed 500 x 7 inch singles. It was an amazing feeling to have the band’s music published and out on vinyl.

Roger Lewis, a great Heavy Metal DJ pioneer at Radio Tees, was first to let rip Burn this Town over the airwaves. For some unknown reason Alan Robson from Radio Metro never took a shine to us at all, in fact blatantly slagged us off live on his Hot and Heavy Radio show.

However that single and the Burn This Town album got us a BBC Radio One session with Tommy Vance and interest from a host of other radio stations.

Read more Guardian stories here:

Guardian Recording Studio stories #4 Metal on Tyne with Mythra, Saracen & Hollow Ground | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

If anyone has any information about Guardian or recorded in the studios get in touch.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.