HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE ? (#3)

Following on from the last batch of HYHTO stories here’s a few more from Fred Purser (Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang), John Gallagher (Raven), Michael Kelly (Southbound), Chris Ormston and Nev (Punishment of Luxury). First up is a story from former Axis guitarist Davey Little…..When supporting former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell at a local gig we’re in at midday to set up a huge wall of Marshalls, drum riser, lights, smoke bombs the whole nonsense. Hey, we were local heroes (laughs). Then Mr Bell and band arrived. You can imagine the headliner walking in and seeing this mountain of shit on stage.

But what a gentleman – we were young and full of it. He was very gently spoken and just said ‘This isn’t really the way it works lads’. Then much to our relief he said ‘but it’s fine, we don’t need much room, not bothered about a sound check’.

I remember it was packed to the rafters for Eric Bell, not for us, but we did ok. His drummer set up after us. Bass player rolled his amp on, Eric Bell rolled either a Vox AC30 or a Fender Twin on to the stage and blitzed the place. No arsing about, no demands, just played like true pro’s. What a lesson, what a professional.

Of course we thought he was brilliant, his band were brilliant, his last words… ‘Pleased you enjoyed it, now you know there is no need for all that shit on stage, and don’t ever fucking set up before the main band gets there’.

A year later went to see him at the Redcar Bowl and he introduced us to his new band with ‘These are the cheeky bastards who set up before we even got to the gig’

Full interview from June 2019

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/06/28/the-flame-burns-on-for-davy-little-ex-guitarist-with-nwobhm-band-axis/

In May 2019 was an interview with folk musician Chris Ormston……I’ve recorded various compilations of Northumbrian music but my first big break if you like was when I got a phone call one night in 1990… ‘Hello, it’s Peter Gabriel here’. There is a rumour going round that I told him to f*** off because I never believed him (laughs).

But it was him and he was after some piping on his next recording. So I agreed to go down to his studio in Bath. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted and just said bring every pipe you’ve got. We worked in the studio until he found the sound he liked, which was Highland Pipes.

The pipes were mixed down and recorded onto the first song on the album Come Talk to Me. Sinead O’Connor sang on the track although I never saw her. He had brought in various musicians and sounds to add to what he had already recorded. That’s the way he worked. I got a credit and a flat fee for the work and really enjoyed the experience. Gabriel I found was very thoughtful and reserved unlike his stage performances, as a lot of musicians are.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/05/11/pipes-of-peace-with-northumberland-musician-chris-ormston/

 In April this year I spoke with Nev (PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY)……When our Laughing Academy album was being released endless gigging ensued and part of our excursion took us to The Milky Way and Paradiso venues in Amsterdam, and eventually via Cologne and Dusseldorf to the great city of Berlin. The Wall still stood and divided East and West Germany, so great things could happen here! Although our Berlin Wall encounter at Checkpoint Charlie was a bit scary.

Steve Sekrit now had long hair and a strange beard, which didn’t balance with his passport photo and only after a long exchange with an authoritarian, now in possession of a copy of our album Laughing Academy, were we able to pass across the border.

Thankfully he looked at the images on the outer sleeve cover as the inner gate fold sleeve would have offered no means of verification.

Our gig in Berlin that evening was at the Kant Kino and access to the famous venue was a long walk across a suspended structure overlooking parts of the bustling street below. It was a brilliant, receptive, bouncing crowd, full of anticipation – it was a very memorable gig.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/04/06/funk-off-the-punishment-of-luxury-further-tales-of-musical-adventures/

Next is a story from Fred Purser (ex-Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang) taken from an interview in December 2018……We were on tour in the USA and I turned 21 in Boston. It was a blast. Great fun. We were out there on the same tour that The Police had done, they had done the circuit twice and they broke. Squeeze had done it, they broke. Unfortunatley after the first circuit of that tour we were over worked, burnt out.

Virgin were a great label but turn over for albums was quicker in those days and they wanted another one quickly. Just too much. Sadly we split. In hindsight if we had just taken a holiday maybe four weeks off and come back refreshed, that would of worked.

The perception is that it can be a glittering world, we didn’t complain about it then because it was a great opportunity. But looking back it was very tiring travelling hundreds of miles every day sitting on your backside for 8-9 hours in the back of a van. When I was young I used to read the Sounds and read the back of albums and think it would be very glamourous. But the reality is it can be quite mundane.

When I joined Penetration we were getting £25 a week. Before we played The Marquee we got a telegram from Ian Dury to wish us luck. But he was only on £25 a week when Hit Me with Your Rythm Stick was number one in the charts! Obviously that money would filter in later on but the record company put a lot of money into the band and until you reach that break even line your just on the recoupment phase. They want their loan repayed before you see any money. So they would pay you per diems of £10 per day so you can get food and essentials.

There would be bands in great recording studios impressed by it all, rightly so, but in the background is the ching, ching sound of the money register. They are accruing a debt to the record company, and they want it back.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/12/30/square-one-in-conversation-with-songwriter-producer-fred-purser/

I spoke to John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers RAVEN in October 2019…….For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…..and we weren’t good footballers.

The running joke was ‘C’mon let’s git in a van and gan doon  t’ London!’. We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was, in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig.

We just worked, playing shows, writing songs. One thing we’ve never had is a lack of song ideas. Often a riff from a sound check turns into a song. We had worked hard for years so when the opportunity arrived we dove in head first. Getting the Neat deal changed everything totally then when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us.

It was great to get to play a stadium show with them in São Paulo a few years back and hear James (Hetfield) tell the crowd how much they appreciated Raven taking a chance back in 1983 and taking Metallica on tour with them. That meant a lot to us.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/09/heeds-doon-with-john-gallagher-from-chief-heabangers-raven/

Next is a story from Michael Kelly (SOUTHBOUND) in March 2019……We recorded some songs at Impulse Studio’s in Wallsend. We done several tracks to send to record companies and also arranged to go to London, appointments had been made to approach Virgin, Rocket, A&M, Decca, Island, WEA and others. We thought that someone must take a liking to us.

I remember going into one record company’s  office and I Feel Love by Donna Summer was playing and another office was playing Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello. This doesn’t sound like us as we were playing AOR music. After days of stumbling around the streets of London we headed home with hope that someone might pick up on what we left them.

When we got back to the North East we were offered an interview on Radio Newcastle. The interview was filled with jabs about New Wave/Punk taking over from normal rock music. I must have had blinkers on because we were in the middle of a musical revolution that was sweeping across the country. Our music was becoming old hat and as one record company said…You’re 2 years out. We had lots of replies from other record companies like …We have to pass on this…or Our label has its full quota of artists. It was very frustrating.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/13/all-right-now-with-michael-kelly-former-drummer-with-north-east-band-southbound/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

More stories on the blog with a full list of interviews on the about page:

https://garyalikivi.com/about/

 

 

 

PIPES OF PEACE with Northumberland musician Chris Ormston

I’ve recorded various compilations of Northumbrian music but my first big break if you like was when I got a phone call one night in 1990…

Hello it’s Peter Gabriel here. There is a rumour going round that I told him to f*** off because I never believed it was him (laughs). But it was and he was after some piping on his next recording.

So I agreed to go down to his studio in Bath. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted and just said bring every pipe you’ve got. We worked in the studio until he found the sound he liked, which was Highland Pipes not Northumbrian.

ORMSTON

What’s the difference ? Highland Scottish pipes are mouth blown and mainly played outdoors. Northumbria Pipes are small, indoor instrument, blown by bellows. Not wanting to get too detailed here but you’ve got a drone going on which is a constant note playing behind so you’ve got your basic harmony going on behind the melody.

The best pipe music is actually quite simple in it’s structure so it’s always chording and dischording against the drones.

How did the recording session go with Gabriel ? The pipes were mixed down and recorded onto the first song on the album Come Talk to Me. Sinead O’Connor sang on the track although I never saw her. He had brought in various musicians and sounds to add to what he had already recorded. That’s the way he worked.

I got a credit and a flat fee for the work and really enjoyed the experience. Gabriel I found was very thoughtful and reserved unlike his stage performances, as a lot of musicians are don’t you think ?

(Us was Gabriel’s sixth studio album, recorded in Real World Studios and released in 1992)

GABRIEL

What is your background ? I live in Ovingham, Northumberland although I was born in Jarrow. I’ve played the pipes since I was 15 but before that I played the recorder at school which I picked up quickly and got good at, all learnt by ear.

Teachers were always trying to teach me to read music but I was making good progress by ear. They sent me to the grammar school to have lessons on the clarinet. But in those days music was all about learning exercises and rehearsing not very interesting pieces so I didn’t have much commitment to it.

What first got you interested in music ? My dad was a music teacher and his brother made a name for himself as a semi-professional operatic singer. So music was always around when I was growing up. My dad died when I was 13 and I didn’t pick up the Pipes until I was 15. Later I found that my dad and my uncle wanted to learn how to play the pipes.

He was originally a joiner and my uncle was a butcher but they were both saving up money to go to music college. They ended up in the Royal Manchester College of Music and trained as music teachers. My dad played and taught piano, so there was classical music in the house and it was interesting because he never pushed me into playing anything.

Sure he gave me a few lessons but never said Sit down and you must practice this. He made it sound more interesting if I would just try it out you know.

CHRIS

Where you listening to any other music ? There was the operatic stuff from my family but I didn’t take to it and I started listening to Glam Rock (laughs). Slade were my thing then Prog Rock with Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes and a band called Gryphon. Occasionly still listen to that.

You look back with affection for it, as it was part of your formative years. It’s hard to look back objectively because some of it might have been rubbish but it meant something to you then.

We talk about the moment at a concert when the lights go down, then the ‘roar’ of the crowd and the band launch into their first song. Yeah my mother used to say at Newcastle City Hall there was an excellent organ at the back of the stage that was totally spoilt when all these beat groups stated to play there (laughs).

Funnily the first rock concert I went to was around 1979 when I was studying Geography at Liverpool University and I saw Lindisfarne (laughs). It worked out really well in Liverpool because there was a good traditional music scene with lot’s of informal sessions most night’s of the week plus the folk club’s. I sort of learned the trade there.

It was a big challenge because I’d been playing the Pipes for around three years and in order to play I had to join in with the Irish music sessions. That was a steep learning curve to adapt to suit the Northumbrian Pipes.

I remember the first Garden Festival was held in Liverpool and I was playing with a Highland Pipe band at the time. We got a gig there, played our set and walked off. The first person I see is the actor John Pertwee dressed as Worzel Gummidge he said ‘Ooh arr Pipes, I love the pipes especially Northumbrian’.

I ended up having a long conversation about Northumbrian Pipes with Jon Pertwee staying in his role as Worzel Gummidge (laughs).

What was the last gig you played ? The last gig I played was at the Morpeth Gathering with Katrina Porteous. (Featured interview Some Kind of Magic, April 27th 2019). There is a folk crowd who you reguarly see at the gigs, within that there are people who like different traditions of music and dance such as Scots or Irish folk as well as Northumbrian.

The Morpeth Gathering is one place where all that comes together. People travel from all over the North East and come down from Scotland for these events. The performance with Katrina went really well. We’ve worked together on-and-off for 20 years.

Originally we were both commissioned to do something for Northumbrian Language Society and we worked on that separately first then found out when we came together it all worked in a live setting. We’ve worked a lot like that.

What have you got planned this year ? I do a bit of teaching on the Pipes so there will be more of that. I’m off to Germany in July and Ireland in October with Newcastle Poet Keith Armstrong, that’s part of a Cultural Exchange trip. (Interview with Keith on More Than Words, April 15th 2019).

In August I’m playing on a festival down in Sidmouth, Devon. Not a part of the country that I play very often so really nice to get down there.

I’m going to Devon by train rather than plane. One time I flew over to Amsterdam and security there knew what the Pipes were and said Ahh Doedelzak – that’s the Dutch word for Bagpipe. (laughs). Surprisingly, it’s usually the staff at Newcastle airport that don’t know what the Northumbrian pipes are!

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.