THE HOUSE THAT OLGA BUILT – interview with The Toy Dolls frontman

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In 2019 The Toy Dolls will celebrate 40 years of being in the business but back in 82 The Dolls played in the foyer of live British tv music show The Tube, broadcast from Tyne Tees Studio in Newcastle. While ripping through ‘She Goes to Finos’ behind the band was a huge yellow backdrop and bank of tv screens. Presenter Muriel Gray said “That incredibly energetic and slightly mad bunch are The Toy Dolls. A Sunderland based band. They were signed with EMI but unfortunately EMI let the contract lapse after only 12 month and one single. But happily a two man Newcastle based recording company called Volume snatched them back from impending obscurity. Well hope they are favouring(?) any damage done in the foyer”.

When did the music bug hit you Olga ? ‘I got into playing music after watching Suzi Quatro on Top of the Pops. I knew from that moment what I was gonna do! Be a bass player. I saved up for a bass guitar for a year by doing a paper round, but when I went to buy it, it had gone up by £1! So I just bought a guitar instead’.

Early influences for Olga were Dr Feelgood, Status Quo, The Pirates…’Also listened to Slade, Suzi Quatro, The Sweet, Eddie & the Hot Rods and most of the early Punk bands, The Jam/Clash/Pistols’.

Since 79 many drummers have been and gone, plus a few bassists, but the line up for The Toy Dolls in 2018 are Olga: Guitar & Lead Vocals. Tommy Goober: Bass & Vocals. The Amazing Mr Duncan: Drums & Vocals. Olga and Duncan both live in London and Tommy lives in Germany.

 

Back in Sunderland during the late 70s Olga played in local band ‘Straw Dogs’ then formed The Toy Dolls… ‘Started in October 1979 and for a long time we just played locally around the North East UK. Then the Angelic Upstarts gave us a support slot on their UK tour, to whom we are eternally grateful. In 1985 we met our manager, Dave (RIP). He got us gigs worldwide for the next 30+ years’.

When you were based in the North East where did the band record ? ‘At first it was Guardian Studios in Pity Me, Durham. That was where we always went from the beginning and for many years to follow. I think it was about £40 a day then, which was expensive for the early 80s. We recorded singles mainly, until 1983, when we recorded our first album Dig That Groove Baby’.

 

At a time when Eurythmics, George Michael and Spandau Ballet were regularly hitting top ten and the Band Aid single was number 1, The Dolls crashed the UK singles chart in December 84 with a cover of ‘Nellie the Elephant’. It entered the chart at 16 and reached number 4. They also filmed a music video for one of their songs at Penshaw Monument in their home town of Sunderland. The band also recorded some TV appearances…‘Yep quite a few. The usual pop shows in the UK like Razzmatazz, Top of the Pops and quite a few TV shows in Germany, Holland and Switzerland’.

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Ha, too many to mention. One story I will never forget is the first time we played in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A skinhead managed to climb over 4,000 people, through the security, got on stage and smashed me in the face, knocking my tooth out. And he was a fan can you believe! He even came backstage after the gig to say how much he loved the show. No apology though!’

 After being involved in music for over 40 years what does music mean to you ? ‘What else am I gonna do ! Busy writing a new Toy Dolls album at the moment, and almost finished! “Music was my first love and it will be my last”…. Ha, pass me the sick bucket, though its true!’

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Along with writing a new album, the rest of the year has a couple of live European dates in December including a sold out show in Geneva. With a feature on the bands website ‘Ask Olga’ where fans ask questions about touring, records or Olga’s chewing gum – he’ll always be busy. Go on ask him!

http://www.thetoydolls.com/index.html

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2018.

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DEFENDER OF THE NORTH – Guardian Recording Studio stories #4

Gaurdian Sound Studio’s 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 well known recording studio. From 1978 some of the 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 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

MYTHRA – Death and Destiny 7”EP 1979. Tracks: Death and Destiny, Killer, Overlord, UFO.

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JOHN ROACH (guitar): ‘With Mythra we saved some cash from our gig money with the intention of recording a demo tape to see if we could get any interest from record companies. We checked out Impulse and Guardian studios and decided to go with Guardian. From what I remember we were offered actual vinyl records for our demos, rather than cassette tapes’. 

MAURICE BATES (bass):  ‘The first recording session was a new experience and opened our eyes to another part of being in a band.The owner Terry Gavaghan was more of an engineer than producer, he just said to us no slow songs lads keep it up this is good ! 

JOHN ROACH:Guardian Studios was in a very small terraced house in Durham. If you entered from the front street you ended up in the main recording room, with a very small isolation room for the drums. Through a door you entered the control room which was actually the back of the house. Terry Gavaghan lived next door. He kept disappearing during the recording, going for something to eat or answer the phone to the big record companies!

MAURICE BATES: ‘We slept upstairs to the studio so we could get on with recording straight away in the morning. But as we were recording our own bit seperately, everyone else had to leave the studio so we ended up in the pub! Happy days’.

JOHN ROACH: ‘We released the vinyl EP in November 1979. It is well documented that this was one of the very first records to be released of what would become known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal’.

HOLLOW GROUND – Flying High 7’ 1980. Tracks: Flying High, Warlord, Rock On, Don’t Chase the Dragon.

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JOHN LOCKNEY (drums): ‘Because we had our own material we were trying to get the money together to get in the studio and record it. It was so nerve wracking then cos we were green as grass. Doing overdubs and things something we had never done before’. 

MARTIN METCALF (guitar): ‘One night we went to a Raven gig at Newcastle Mayfair and Steve Thompson who was producing at NEAT studios then, pulled me to one side and said there’s a deal at NEAT if you want. I liked the idea but told him we had just sorted something out with Gaurdian. We went down to the studio in Durham and recorded 4 tracks. It cost around £500’. 

JOHN LOCKNEY: ‘It really was great. I mean you’ve been brought up and bought singles. Now suddenly you’ve got one of your own. We were proud of the songs. We think they still stand up today and we went round selling them to local record shops. It’s still one of the proudest things I’ve ever done you know’.

MARTIN METCALF: ’I still remember the smell of the brown cork tiles in the studio and having to sellotape the headphones on my head when recording as they kept falling off ! In hindsight maybe NEAT would have turned out better for us in the long run’.

JOHN LOCKNEY: ‘We went back to record another 2 for a compilation album Roksnax. The production and the way we played was better then. We weren’t as green and went back again and done another 4 tracks for demos to flog around record companies. You can tell the difference how confident we were with more experience in the studio’.

SARACEN – Roksnax compilation LP 1980. Tracks: Speed of Sound, Fast Living, Feel Just the Same, Setting the World Ablaze.

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STEVE DAWSON (guitar): ‘We went into Guardian Studios where our friends, Mythra, had recorded their Death and Destiny EP. Most of us were friends from school or through the scene, you know, being thrown together in this cauldron of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. We booked a day there and recorded 3 songs’. 

LOU TAYLOR (vocals): ‘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 to the studio we first drove past the place and double backed on ourselves to find it. It looked just like an ordinary house, later we found it was two terraced houses knocked into one’.

STEVE DAWSON: ‘After the initial recording session, we were invited to attend a meeting with the owner Terry Gavaghan who proposed an idea to us about putting our tracks on a compilation album. It was going to feature local bands Saracen, Samurai and Hollow Ground. So we decided yeah let’s go for it’. 

LOU TAYLOR: ‘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. Terry was forever nipping out of the studio and coming back with a smelly cheese sandwich or something to eat, and he loved to talk about the resident ghost !

STEVE DAWSON: ‘The album was basically a ‘live’ performance in the studio with minimal overdubs. I spent my 21st birthday in that place…I’ll never get it back!’

LOU TAYLOR: ‘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’.

This needs to be confirmed by a visit down to Pity Me, but  a quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. If the studio was there I wonder if customers buying their tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Gaurdian Studios contributed to recording in the North East. The Tap & Spile is just next door, was that the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment ? If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios it’ll be much appreciated if can you get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

MYTHRA: Still Burning 13th February 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

GUARDIAN STUDIO STORIES

#1 TYGERS OF PAN TANG May 3rd 2018

#2 SPARTAN WARRIOR May 20th 2018

#3 STEVE THOMPSON (Songwriter & Producer) July 11th 2018

WRITING ON THE WALL In conversation with North East music journalist, broadcaster & producer Ian Ravendale

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Ian Penman has been a television and radio presenter, researcher, producer and journalist for more than 30 years, generally writing as Ian Ravendale to avoid confusion with the Ian Penman formerly of the NME. He returned to music journalism (and Ian Ravendale) seven years ago writing for Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Vintage Rock, AOR, Vive Le Rock, Iron Fist, Blues Matters, American Songwriter, The Word and many more. Ian has interviewed literally thousands of musicians from multi-millionaire rockstars to local indie bands on the dole…‘I worked in television for Border, Tyne Tees, Channel 4 and also ran River City Productions an independent production company based in Gateshead. In addition to making lots of local programmes I also worked on national music shows including Get Fresh, Bliss and (to a lesser extent) The Tube. The Tube was shot at Tyne Tees Television’s Studio 5 on City Road in Newcastle. The site is now a Travel Lodge! It was interesting going to the canteen on recording day for shows like shows like Razzmatazz  and The Tube and seeing who was in. I remember standing behind Phil Everly as he got his cod and chips!’ 

‘The music programmes I worked on were mainly produced by Border Television in Carlisle and I spent a lot of time there in the 1980’s. At Tyne Tees I worked mainly in the Arts and Entertainment department. Anything different or off the wall it would usually be me doing it. We produced a programme about rock poetry, presented by Mark Mywurdz, who at the time was a Tube regular. For some reason Mark wanted to present the programme just wearing a raincoat. Nothing underneath! After we finished recording the show one of the camermen came up and congratulated me; ‘That was the biggest load of rubbish I’ve seen in my life!’  I did a lot of alternative stuff. Some was challenging but none was rubbish!’

Talking about alternative stuff, can you remember Wavis O’Shave ? ‘He had a number of names – Wavis, Fofffo Spearjig, Rod Stewart, Pans Person. When I was writing for Sounds he saw me as a way in as the paper liked the off-beat stuff. He was a great self publicist. And still is! He once told me about getting £1,000 out of the News of the World for a tip-off about a forthcoming witches coven scheduled for Witton Gilbert-or wherever Wavis said it was!’ 

What can you remember about working on Get Fresh ? (kids 1986-88  morning weekend TV show produced by the regional ITV companies taking it in turns for Saturday and Border producing all the Sunday editions). ‘For Get Fresh and Bliss, Border’s 1985 summer replacement for The Tube, most of the guests came up to Carlisle the night before so I’d take them out. People like Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible from The Damned. We’d go into the music pubs and clubs around Carlisle and people would love seeing them there. Rat got up a few times to play with some of the local bands. When I met him I said ‘What do I call you?’ (His real name is Chris Miller). (Adopts cockney accent) ‘Just call me Rat’. So I did. Nice guy. At the time he was really hoping to get the drum job with The Who, as Keith Moon had recently died. Didn’t happen, unfortunately.’

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Bliss was presented by Muriel Grey and produced in Carlisle by Janet Street-Porter. We featured live bands, got them to play for half an hour, used two songs on the weekly show, then repackage the 30 minutes for a Bliss In Concert special. There wasn’t that much going on in Carlisle at the time so we had no problem getting local kids in as the audience. One week we didn’t have a live band and I’d got an advance copy of the famous animated video for Take On Me by A-Ha, who at that point were totally unknown. Graham K Smith, the other music researcher and I thought it was really good so I rang their record company to see if A-Ha were available and importantly if they could play live. A resounding ‘Yes, they can do it’ was the answer. Bliss was aimed at a teenage audience so A-ha would have fitted in perfectly. Janet-Street Porter comes in and looks at the video and goes (adopts cockney accent) ‘Oh no, that’s art school stuff, it’s boring. Draggy!’. Border TV could have had half an hour of A-Ha playing live in concert for the first time in the UK. But no. The band she booked instead were King Kurt, a well-past their sell-by date punk band. So up they come in their ratty old bus with dogs on pieces of string and a stage act that consisted of throwing slop at each other. We – or rather Janet – turned down what became one of the biggest bands of the eighties’.

When you were reviewing gigs in the early 1980’s for Sounds were there any bands that surprised you or were disappointed with ? ‘It took me a while to ‘get’ punk. I was never into the boring British blues bands and prog acts which still show-up on the BBC’s compilations of 70’s rock. With the exception of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band who I liked. When punk came along it started to make more sense. I was also into what is now classed as Americana. Along with more-left field bands like Sparks and Be-Bop Deluxe.’

I’m reading the book ’No Sleep till Canvey Island -The Great Pub Rock Revolution’ the book mentions the early careers of Joe Strummer, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello…’There were bands that were like a doorway between punk and the boring rock bands and Brinsley Schwarz, with Nick Lowe were one of them. I saw them play Backhouse Park, here in Sunderland. Dr Feelgood were another. I saw The Damned support Marc Bolan at Newcastle City Hall and it was a short, sharp, shock. And I thought; ‘OK. What was that…?’ Phil Sutcliffe, my predecessor at Sounds did an interview with The Damned for Radio Newcastle’s Bedrock show that we both worked on. It was 30 seconds long and finished off with someone shouting ‘Oi! Who put duh lights out’!

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The big article you wrote for Sounds in May 1980 featured local metal bands Mythra, Fist, Raven, Tygers of Pan Tang and White Spirit. How did that come about ? ‘I was freelancing at Sounds, writing articles and reviewing gigs, some of which were of local bands. I was also working on the Bedrock programme and one of my co-presenters was Tom Noble who was managing the Tygers. I’d already written individual articles about the Tygers, Fist and Raven and Geoff Barton, the assistant editor at Sounds asked me to source a few more bands for a 4,000 word article. The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ was born!’

NWOBHM had Iron Maiden in London, Saxon in Barnsley and Def Leppard in Sheffield…. ‘Yes. As a reviewer I went as far as Redcar. A lot of the local bands I reviewed were from here in Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields. Sounds also had a guy called ‘Des Moines’, a pseudonym for a writer from Leeds called Nigel Burnham who is now an agricultural journalist and Mick Middles, based in Manchester. Between the three of us we had the north covered. One time the Tygers of Pan Tang were supporting Saxon and I’d gone along. I’d previously written a review of Saxon which included something along the lines of ‘in six months time they’ll be back playing social clubs’. At the gig Tygers’ guitarist Robb Weir came up and said ‘Biffs lookin’ for you!’. Fortunately he didn’t find me….Not yet, anyway.’

Was there any conflict between watching a band that you weren’t a fan of and writing something positive about them ? ‘Geoff never said to me, ‘We’ve got a big metal readership here can you go easy on them?’ He never wanted me to do that. But I found metal bands easy to take the piss out of – and I did. This stimulated very angry letters like ‘How dare Ian Ravendale slag off Ozzy. I’ve seen him and he was great’. I remember my opening line of a review I did of Ozzy, ‘What I want to know is how is Ozzy Osbourne so cabaret’. I interviewed him a few times for Bedrock but my interviewees tended not to click onto the fact that ‘Bedrock’s Ian Penman’ was also sharp-tongued Sounds scribe Ian Ravendale. One time a few years after the Sounds ‘cabaret’ comment I was working at Tyne Tees and on the Friday Ozzy was playing The Tube. The Arts and Entertainment office was next door and I saw him in the corridor looking lost.  So I went up to him and said ‘Hi Ozzy, The Tube office is just over there’. He thanked me and then said ’I’ve met you before haven’t I’. He still remembered me from the radio interviews we’d done’.

How did you get interested in writing ? ‘As a teenager I was a huge music fan and also into American comics. I wrote for a few comic fanzines then published some of my own which occasionally still turn up on Ebay. That gave me an insight into writing for public consumption’. 

Bedrock pic

The Bedrock team with Ian sitting on the right.

What about radio? You were involved in Bedrock for nearly ten years…‘Dick Godfrey was producing a programme called Bedrock for BBC Radio Newcastle which featured interviews from national and gave local bands exposure which was otherwise very hard for them to get at the time. I had always been interested in the nuts and bolts of the music industry and how it all worked and listened to programmes like Radio 1’s Scene And Heard. Dick had a feature called Top Track where each week a different listener would come in and play his favourite track and talk about it. ‘Some Of Shellys Blues’ by Michael Nesmith was my choice. This went down well with Dick so I asked if he’d be interested in me contributing features. ‘Yes but there’s no cash involved’. Nesmith was soon going to be playing in the UK and I was going along to the gig so I asked Dick if Bedrock be interested in me trying to get an interview with him. ‘Definitely’ replied Dick. So I phoned a record label I’d heard Michael was about to sign to and they gave me his hotel number. As ‘Ian Penman from BBC Radio Newcastle’ I arranged an interview, which I did a couple days later in London, the day after the gig. That was my start in radio’. 

How did you start with Sounds? ‘Phil Sutcliffe, who was the North East correspondent for Sounds, was a friend of Dick Godfrey and also worked on Bedrock. When Phil moved to London he recommended me to Geoff Barton, Sound’s reviews editor, to be his replacement. Phil wrote a lot about the Angelic Upstarts, he liked the music but also had a sympathetic ear to what they were doing. He wrote the first articles about them. Same for Penetration, Neon and Punishment of Luxury. I’d also been involved in the music fanzine Out Now which Tom Noble had produced, so I was becoming pretty proficient at interviewing and writing reviews. I was out at gigs four nights a week and was known enough to be able to walk straight into Newcastle City Hall via the stagedoor. This put me in touch with Tyne Tees TV and when a researcher vacancy came up I applied for that, got it and carried on at Sounds for a short while. I also wrote a few pieces for Kerrang, which Geoff Barton had moved across from Sounds to edit. I wrote the first article on Venom. Yes, I’m responsible for Black Metal.

Then as now, my attitude was regardless whether I liked the music or not if I could write something positive about local bands, and it was a entertaining ….I’ll do that. If you write something negative about a local band you could do them major harm. Also, a person in Aberdeen doesn’t want to know whether a band from South Shields are crap. Why would they?’

For the work that you were doing how important do you think research is? ’Some writers think of an idea then write a piece in support of that. I don’t do that. For me it’s about the facts and information presented in an interesting way. Opinions and personal taste are what they are. Maybe you like a band that I don’t. That’s fine.  But facts stand. I do my absolute level best to write as accurately as possible. It’s really important for me to do that. Sometimes information comes from two or three sources. And if the information is contradictory, I’ll say that’. 

Any memorable incidents in your career ? ’I interviewed Debbie Harry at Newcastle City Hall when Blondie had just broken big. We were in one of the really small dressing rooms. It was tiny. The record rep said ‘Ok Ian you got seven minutes’. He introduced me to Debbie who was standing with her back to me. She was leaning on a shelf writing stuff down. I said ‘Writing out the song lyrics ?’ She replied ‘Yeah, well I don’t really know them from the new album yet’. It felt a bit awkward. I literally spent the next three minutes just watching her writing with her back to me, stunning in her jumble sale collection of clothes. Eventually she sat down and off we went. All of this was fairly new to her, she had just been playing CBGB’s (small club in New York) and now it was to gigs with 2,000 fans like the City Hall. She was trying to get used to all this Debbie-fever that was going on around her. By minute seven we were finally getting somewhere and she was opening up when the record rep walked in ‘Right Ian. Times up!’

I did actually interview the solo Debbie on the phone for Get Fresh nine years later and she was much more forthcoming.  (The  City Hall interview is on Rocks Backpages if you fancy a listen. RB is a paysite but there’s lots and lots of great stuff up there).

For more information contact : http://ianravendale.blogspot.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.

GARAGELAND UK – interview with former punk vocalist Ian McRae

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During the 1980’s Ian McRae was vocalist with two Newcastle punk bands. The Mysterons and Phantoms of the Underground ‘Hearing Pretty Vacant and Neat Neat Neat absolutely changed my life. Once I got into punk, I like many others just wanted to be with my mates and forming a band seemed an obvious idea. Although we didn’t have a clue how to go on’.

How did you get interested in playing music and was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘I think I must have been 10 years old when I remember seeing Jerry Lee Lewis on black and white tv……’Whole lotta shaking going on’…It was fantastic to see. That was my pivotal point. I later listened to The Damned, Pistols, Clash, Stooges, The Doors and early punk stuff’.  

When did the band get together ? The Mysterons were formed when I was at school around 1980/81 and the original line up was myself on vocals, Micky Ruddock on guitar, James Bowes drums and Tom Emerson on bass. Later The Phantoms of the Underground were formed and again me and Mikey guitar, David Craig on bass and David Stobbart on drums. I didn’t style my vocals on anyone really, wouldn’t know how to. But I did admire both Iggy and Jim Morrison because of their freedom they used while singing. Me and Mikey loved bands like The Rezillos and The Undertones. I also had the LAMF album by The Heartbreakers. ‘One Track Mind’ for a rock n roll pop song it was the best single I heard. We also loved the Ramones with their fun lyrics and fast songs. In very early gigs we did a version of Loose by the Stooges. We played that most shows’.

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The band wrote their own songs, who wrote the lyrics and the music ? ’Music was written mostly by Micky and I chipped in with the words. He would have a riff going and we kinda clicked together and end up with a song’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or did you travel long distances and did you support name touring bands ?  ‘Initially as the Mysterons we played The Garage, The Bunker and other small places in Newcastle. As the Phantoms formed our first gig was at at Spectro Arts with the New Kicks. We then did The Station several times, Broken Doll, Bunker, Edwards Bar, Peterlee College, Middlesbrough University and The Guildhall in Newcastle. There was a venue in Leeds with Chelsea. Gene October said over the mic that we were the best live band he had seen in years. He offered us support slots for 2 nights at the Marquee, but we had split up two weeks before ! We played with Subhumans, Chelsea, Amebix, Antisect, and others at the Station and the Bunker. We toured Northern Ireland with Toxic Waste through the Rathcool music collective playing Belfast and the Antrim coast, Port Stuart and Portrush’.

 How did that come about ? ‘We had a mate come manager, a guy called Conner Crawford. He was from Belfast and knew of the collective in Rathcool and set up an exchange with a punk band there, Toxic Waste. We played over in Northern Ireland and brought them back to Newcastle. We done that tour on giros, we were all signing on the dole. It was the only time we got payed for gigs. We were charging like 3 quid entry and got 90% of the door takings! We played to 700 plus at Portrush, and got our first taste of a real encore, it felt mad. They were chanting for us to come back on..fantastic! Then we went to Rochdale and Oldham with The Instigators from Wallsend and played some gigs there. Also reggae played a big part. Matamba, were a reggae outfit from Leeds we befriended. They were an awesome band. We all packed into Newcastle Guildhall for a gig…great times. Also played with Conflict at some point, where we did a gig at Birmingham University with bands from The Station in Gateshead’. 

What were your experiences of recording ? ’In the studio we didn’t have a clue really. We had no management or direction. Instead of recording two excellent songs we just recorded 8 in one go. With no overdubs. Our first was a demo at Spectro Arts 8 track studio that cost us £90.00. Then we done a demo in Desert Sounds in Felling that cost £70 for 4 tracks. Then back to Spectro to record a live demo in one take that cost £70’.

Have you still got copies of the demos and did you sell any ? ’I have a tape of all the demos, which needs to be put onto CD. I will be doing that soon through a local studio and try to clean it up. Maybe put out a single on vinyl. Maybe an album – but that would be to ambitious and costly. We sold demos at gigs and through Volume Record shop in Newcastle. We sold over 700 tapes which was time consuming as I had to copy them all on a tape to tape, then photocopy the covers. It was all do it yourself in those days’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘There was a few moments I remember from then. At a gig in Belfast people turned up wanting our autograph! That was weird, never been asked for a signature before. Subhuman listened to our demo but didn’t like it at first. When we played with them they apologised, said we were brilliant and would have liked to record us. At a gig in Leeds I went to the chippy and when I came back I had to buy a ticket to get back in. Yep I paid to see myself..haha’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  ‘I run a youth project in the North East. A few years back we had a great scene going with band nights twice a month. Looking back on that time being in a band is like being in a family. It takes over everything and was a fantastic time in my life. You have to trust people with everything as you are sharing ideas and inner thoughts through writing songs. You also rely on each other as if someone let’s you down you can’t play, which is the whole purpose of being in a band in the first place. When it’s over its like a divorce, people who were close mates falling out, not speaking or trusting each other. It’s a learning curve, but well worth it when you look at what you did…..and the fun you had..happy days!’

Contact Ian at http://www.galleryyouthproject.org

Flyers by Netty and Northeast Underground. Pics by Brett King.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, Angels of the North 12th March 2017.

Neil Newton, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, All the Young Punks 4th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS, Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS/WILDHEARTS, Comfort in Sound 15th February 2018.

SPACE CADETS – interview with David B from Electro Goth Punks Calling All Astronauts

With the Iggy/Sisters of Mercy match up they’ll hit you for three… ’Living the Dream’… ‘Empire’ and the expansive sound of ’Faith in Your Cause’. Just a couple of tracks released by the prolific Calling All Astronauts. In six years they have released 2 critically acclaimed albums and 11 singles. Received considerable radio play on BBC 6 Music and Radio X and built up a following of over 800,000 on Twitter…We take a stupid amount of time in the studio. The last album took over 2,000 hours to make. We are currently writing our third album’. (The line up is David B – vocals/programming, J – guitars and Paul McCrudden – bass)

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What is the background of CAA ? ‘J toured loads when he was in Caffeine, supporting bands like The Offspring, Blink 182, Rancid, New Found Glory, The Dickies and AFI. Paul was in The Marrionettes they opened for The Cult, Sisters Of Mercy and headlined their own tours. I was in a rap metal band called US:UK. We played with the likes of Faith No More, Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Gallon Drunk. With Calling All Astronauts we’ve mainly done festivals, though we did open for A Place To Bury Strangers and also Pop Will Eat Itself. I have plenty of stories from the gigs, but sadly none that I would put into the public domain’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ’All our tunes start life as a drum pattern. We have our own studio and write as we go along, rather than jamming them out in a rehearsal studio. I have rolling news channels or Radio 4 on a lot, and take ideas from what is happening in the world’.

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I think every song I’ve ever heard has influenced me. I analyse drum tracks and production on all genres of music and use it in our songs. When I was about 16 we had a garage band, but never did any gigs. Just played in a room at my parents house. It was doomed to failure, but made me want to do it properly’.

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How has the internet impacted on music and do you use crowdfunding ?  ’We don’t use it. I personally think they are like begging. The internet has destroyed independent music, and played right into the hands of the majors. They manufacture music more now than ever. They have fake streams, fake likes, fake followers and create artists by force feeding shit to kids via radio. It’s virtually impossible to sell records anymore thanks to streaming’.

Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos ? ’We like abstract videos and make them all the time, although I think we are only in one of them’. (The video’s have a very colourful mix of cut up/montage/live action/lyric and social commentary. ‘Living the Dream’ is worth checking out and is available to view on the CAA You Tube channel.)

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What are the future plans for Calling All Astronauts ? ‘The new EP took us almost 6 months to record because my wife and I had a baby and I had a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. We’ve recorded 4 versions of songs that have influenced us. The Influences EP is coming out on 30th March’.
Calling All Astronauts contacts:
Homepage http://www.callingallastronauts.com
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/CAA_Official
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts
YouTube http://www.youtube.com/+callingallastronauts
Bandcamp https://callingallastronauts1.bandcamp.com/
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t
iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/calling-all-astronauts/id480852185
 Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON ? interview with Anarcho/punks Decontrol

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Originally formed back in 1991 Decontrol have returned…‘Still loud, still angry and still hoping to see the devastation of the Tory Party’.
Based in the North East of England the line-up is Neil (drums), Nick (guitar), Bry (bass/vocals) and Paul (vocals)…’Here’s a story from on one of the first gigs we played when we reformed. Neil is very energetic behind the drumkit and was knackered near the end of the first set. At the break he got up to go to the bar for a pint of water to cool down. We’d done a bit of crowd banter and then got on stage and started up the second set. We signalled to him at the bar that the song was about to start. So in one movement he grabbed a pint, ran to the stage, sat down behind the kit, picked up the sticks and started the song right on cue. A quality piece of timing. I doubt that we’d ever pull that one off as neatly again, haha’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs?
Paul: ‘Lyrics come from all sorts of areas. Social commentary is easy to do when you have so much shit going on in the world. War, animal rights, consumerism, religion, the system, fasicsm; so much choice! Sometimes I might have an idea of how a riff should go, but for the life of me I cannot play guitar. I have to try and hum the tune…badly. More often than not it’s the rest of the band who come up with songs and I have a surplus of lyrics I can fit into what they produce. I might come up with the odd idea about the composition, but I’d say it is 99% plus done by the others’.
Nick: ‘I just play and play and see what comes out. I’m no Steve Vai so I just write what I think will sound good for us. I do think the fact that three of us come up with tunes make our sound varied. It works for us’.

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Who were your influences ?
Bry: ‘Hearing Black Sabbath as a kid and being taught guitar by my Uncle. I listened to Crust and Hardcore bands such as Discharge, Wolfbrigade, Sect, Chain Of Strength, also Death metal and grindcore’.
Paul: ‘I’d been into Slade/Sweet/Wizzard as a young boy, then Kiss as a teenager and by my 20’s thrash and hardcore. What made me get off my arse was when I saw ENT on Snub TV back in 1989. As well as going down to Bradford with Energetic Krusher that same year. I thought ‘I have to get into a band’ it took me a while, but I got there. When the band first got together I was heavily influenced by Conflict, Discharge and ENT. I liked the idea of projecting the vocals in a clear way. Nowadays, there’s a bit of Rudimentary Peni influence in there as well as a touch of early Hellkrusher, who are mates of ours’.
Nick: ‘Always listened to music but it always looked difficult. Then a mate gave me an old Kay Les Paul and 50 watt combo and showed me how easy it was to play the WASP track Tormentor and Killed By Death by Motorhead. I haven’t progressed much since then. Mick Ronson was the person I wanted to imitate, thrown in with some of Ian Hunter’s songwriting. I just loved music, not any particular genre. I am just as much at home with country music as I am with hardcore. Peter Hammil deserves a special mention for just being involved with the oddest and most varied music ever created’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play?
Bry: ‘I started when I was 16, but I’ve played all over the world with various bands including Mantas from Venom. I filmed two music video’s with Mantas and appeared briefly on Japanese TV !’
Paul: ‘The band started playing in 1991. We’d supported the likes of Genital Deformities, Hellkrusher, Disaster and Hiatus. All the original gigs were in the local area at the likes of Images in South Shields and the Irish Centre in Newcastle. The furthest we got was Consett supporting Mutant, whose drummer, Neil is now in the band!
Nick: ‘Played in Kent with the mighty SORB, East Kent’s best crust band. Done other bits and bobs but they’re secret’.

What is your experience of recording/studio work ?
Bry: ‘I recorded quite a bit, and it rarely goes to plan!
Nick: ‘Love it and do little bits at home. I’d spend more time in a studio working if I had time’.
Paul: ‘I’ve only been in the studio 3 times (1991 for the original demo and our 2 albums since 2015). I was nervous at first, but once I get into that booth with the cans on my head, I feel pretty much at home. It’s been weird doing the albums as we’re usually feeding off each other in terms of cues, but been segregated can cause a bit of an issue. We’ve done well so far and can only get better!

Have you any stories from playing gigs?
Paul: ‘Oh, yes! one occasion last year made me laugh. We’d played down Nottingham and our driver (Tony) was knackered after a long day driving us around. Well after dropping the van off, we all had a fair few drinks. He left early to crash out back at the hostel. A few hours later we came back boozed up and try as we might, we couldn’t stay quiet. Bashing around the corridors with our gear and shouting as we entered the room. We put the lights on and there he was, still corpsed out. We thought he was dead haha’.

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What are the future plans for Decontrol ?
Paul: ‘We’re currently halfway through writing songs for our third album. Which we hope to have out by the back end of the year. We’re also planning to record 4 new tracks and a cover song for a 3-way split CD with fellow Northerners Anord and our friends up in Scotland, Frenetix. That will come out April or May, we hope. We’re also featuring on a planned compilation LP for Antifa, with an alternate version of a track from our second album. Not sure when that is due out but keep in touch on our Facebook page https://www.facebook/decontrolneuk.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, Angels of the North 12th March 2017.

Neil Newton, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, All the Young Punks 4th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS, Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS/WILDHEARTS, Comfort in Sound 15th February 2018.

COMFORT IN SOUND – for Danny McCormack vocals & bassist with The Main Grains/Wildhearts

Music can heal and put the pieces back together again. It listens when no one else does. It’s alive. Music makes everything better…and it can trigger memories. One of my earliest was listening to the radio and hearing ‘Leader of the Pack’ by The Shangri-Las. I asked Danny about his memories… ‘When I was younger I used to play my dad’s Johnny Cash cassette. I played it on one of those portable tape recorders under my pillow, it was my first headphones haha’.

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In an earlier interview with Danny (Death or Glory 8th September 2017) he talked about his time with The Wildhearts, The Yo Yo’s and current band The Main Grains. I asked him after your health problems and being away from music what does it feel like playing again ? ‘Well it’s taken it’s toll out on me you know with the drugs and that. I‘ve only got one leg left and I’m trying to learn how to walk around with crutches. But I’m getting there you know. It all started at Reading Festival in ’94’ (Watch the clip on You Tube as The Wildhearts play the main stage and during ‘Everlone’ Danny injures his knee. At the end of the song the crowd are chanting his name. Then Ginger (vocals/guitar) steps up to the mic… ‘You probaly thought Danny was turning into a hippy sitting down but he’s actually dislocated his knee so we gonna wait until the end of the gig and pop it back in’. Danny plays the rest of the set sitting on a flight case grimacing in pain).
‘We were live on stage, first song I jumped up in the air and bang, landed awkward. My leg bent the wrong way. The roadcrew said ‘we’re gonna take you off’ I said ‘no fuckin’ way just get me a Jack Daniels and a line of coke’ haha. Afterwards I went to hospital and was operated on, it’s been really weak since then – but I did finish the gig!

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His current band The Main Grains are JJ on guitar, Ginna on drums and Ben on guitar with Danny on bass and vocals… ‘When we first got together it all fit in place. You know playing now is really fresh and exciting again and I’m doing it for the right reasons. Rehearsing, preparing and planning for gigs. I’m loving it, I’m in love with music again’.

The Main Grains have recently finished a tour with Tylas Dogs D’Amour, how did that come about ? ’I’ve known Tyla since Bam Bam was in The Wildhearts so that was going back to ’92. When I got The Main Grains together I got in touch with Tyla and said we’d be up for any gigs that are coming up, he said yeah no problem man. He kept to his word and got in touch a few month ago and mentioned the December gigs. We were more than willing to go for that. Normally a tour can be weeks at a time but this one we were doing 2 or 3 dates on with a couple of days off inbetween. It was good because with the gigs like that you have a few days to recover, come home, shower, get changed and get some proper food in yer. We started at the beginning of December and went up till Edinburgh on the 22nd. But with the Ryan Hamilton tour coming up in March that’s different cos we’re 10 days on and 1 day off. Supporting Tyla’s Dogs was brilliant. The Dogs crowd are same as our rock n roll crowd so yeah went down really well, it was great. Great bunch of lads, drinking buddies with a gig inbetween haha’.

With the rise of Spotify, You Tube and others what impact has the internet had on music ? ’It’s totally changed the game. You can make a video yourself, put it on the internet and have worldwide release, overnight. Before you had to have a record company and certain amount of backing to get a video shown on TV. But our track Unscrewed has had 25,000 hits on You Tube so far which is not bad for an unsigned band’.

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Do you think social media is essential for any band ? ‘Yes I do all that, it’s relentless. You have to be on it to let people know whats happening and it keeps you in the public eye. Especially when you are starting out again because I had years off the scene and just getting myself together in the last few year. But it needs to be done. I moved to London when I was 19, I wouldn’t had to that if the internet was about then. Managers, record companies, journalists were all in London so we had to base ourselves there. The companies were all in London, New York or Los Angeles. That was the 3 main places, then Seattle was added with the Sub Pop label who were very influential back in the 90’s. Nirvana are still making them obscene amounts of money now with the re-releases.’

Danny was in The Yo Yo’s who formed in 1998 and were signed to Sub Pop who released their debut album Uppers & Downers in 2000. Before that he was in The Wildhearts with Ginger who was also originally from my hometown, South Shields. Danny has been rehearsing some new songs written by Ginger. How did you get back in touch ? ’We had fallen out and hadn’t spoken for 10 year but he called me up out of the blue and asked me to play at his birthday bash in December 2016. We had a great time so we’ve kept in touch and now The Wildhearts are going to be playing some gigs this year. It’s really exciting planning new stuff again it’s like I’ve got something really positive in my life to aim for you know. I’ve done a lot of growing up lately, I’m clean now. I can talk to Ginger just as a friend, a human being. Together we’ve been through a lot you know’.

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(The Wildhearts are on the ’Britrock Must be Destroyed’ UK tour during May 2018. Line up is CJ & Ginger (guitars) Danny (bass) and Ritch (drums). Also added to the bill are Reef and Terrorvision. Dates during the Summer festivals are also being arranged).
‘I love the bloke to bits and I have a lot of respect for the guy. Back then we were thick as thieves man, we were very close. In the 90’s we used to go to a pub in London called The Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street in Soho. I loved that place. It was a sort of goth rock punky bar. People must have been buying us drinks cos I’m not sure how we could afford it – we were all skint! The owner of the pub had a boot of a cadillac car converted into a couch and the amount of times I ended up sleeping on it after the pub closed haha. Next morning I would wake up and start all over again. We were always at The Marquee on the guest lists. There was a page in the Kerrang mag called View From the Bar and we were always trying to get our faces in there, that was a big thing getting in the gossip columns of the mags. The Wildhearts spent a lot of time in the studio’s and we released a load of records. Ginger must have written at least a couple of hundred songs by now.’

In our last interview you talked about The Wildhearts supporting AC/DC. What are your memories of that tour ? ‘We were support on the Ballbreaker tour in 1996. We done a couple of months with them. We got on great with their vocalist, fellow geordie Brian Johnson, he really looked after us. I watched them on stage every night, it was brilliant. Some nights I saw Brian full of cold, really bad, but they never cancelled a gig. Before he went on he’d take a sly nip of whiskey then straight into Back in Black. Brilliant. I remember one night he came into our dressing room and said ‘Pack yer t-shirts lads we’re going to America’. We thought we had another few month on tour but sadly we ran out of money and left the tour earlier than anticipated. Gutted. But that’s the way it goes sometimes’.

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Have you any favourite songs or studio moments from that time?Earth Vs The Wildhearts album was a great time recording. Mark Dodson worked on it, he was great. He also done Anthrax stuff. Mick Ronson played slide guitar on My Baby is a Headfuck. Mick Ronson..Ziggys Spiders from Mars…unbelievabe ! He got it down in the first take but we let him play on cos we just wanted to listen. It was the last thing he played on before he died. Really sad it was, he was a really nice bloke. That song goes down really well at gigs, it’s a sing a long, quite simple in context with the rest of the album because some of those songs are quite complicated. Songs like Everlone had more to them you know. I like the song Mindslide. I love the sentiment of the song and I love the drumming on it by Ritchie, it’s phenomenal. (Mindslide was a b-side to the single ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’ and Earth Vs The Wildhearts was their debut album released in August 1993).
’I love working in the studio getting the bass down then watching the layers of guitars and vocals added. I love watching the track build and listening back on the big speakers. Hearing the finished track it’s such a buzz, a real rush. But playing a song live you get a cheer and it’s instant gratification. All the hairs on my arms stand up, it’s like being plugged into the mains. It’s better than any drug that I’ve tried, wish I could bottle it’.

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What has music given you ? ’Well it’s got me around the world and it’s like a feeling of belonging. You go to a gig and I feel one of the crowd. I’m with my people, being part of a community of music lovers, and I can express myself in music. Being confident and comfortable in yer own skin which is important. It’s freedom. The ultimate that music has given me is freedom’.

Debut mini-album ‘Don’t Believe Everything You Think’ available on cd and ltd edition 10″ red vinyl NOW! http://maingrains.com/store

Next up for The Main Grains is a tour in March with Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2018.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, Angels of the North 12th March 2017.

Neil Newton, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, All the Young Punks 4th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS, Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

 

A LIFE OF BOOZE, BANDS AND BUFFOONERY with Steve Kincaide from The Bastard Sons of Cavan

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‘I was in Detroit in a band called Candyrag, it was 2001 and we were playing the Elbow Rooms, haunt of The White Stripes. A middle aged couple all dressed in leather splendour warned me of having a partner in the same band, then they invited me to a party to meet Iggy Pop. I politely declined only to find out from the promoter that Iggy is indeed in town and that the couple are old friends of  I should also have listened about having my girlfriend as a singer, as domestic issues do fly out onto the stage. There is a video on You Tube where I get an almighty thump, deservedly so. The band originally started off as bored flatmates, the drummer used only a fire extinguisher at first movin’ up to a snare then a snare and cymbal. The band only split up when the singer KT (my girlfriend) got off with the USA tour promoter, but we all left friends tho’- there’s a whole other chapter for Candyrag alone! That band released a 7″ which was recorded at Washington Arts Centre 2001 and yes it was, wham bam in an out recorded in a day. We got it played on the John Peel radio programme, unfortunately Peely played it at 45rpm when it was a 33 !

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‘I am now upsetting the psychos and rockabilly folk with The Bastard Sons of Cavan. A band that has had a new line up every year since 2010, current personel are Buff Harris/Bull Fiddle and Ed Smash, drums. Both based in Wales so in effect I’m in a Welsh band whilst living in London. 
We were booked to play a Biker Festival on the North East coast. It was one of our first gigs. We turned up, set up started playing, drummer joins in, guitarist pipes up, bassist froze. The plugs were pulled, but not because the bassist froze but because this set of bikers love Folk not Rock. They kindly paid us, however I still wonder why they ever booked us in the first place? ’

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What got you interested in music ? ‘I was living on a poor council estate in Chilton, County Durham, we had a broken record player and an accoustic guitar with one string. Back in the day it was Top of the Pops, not the music, but the look, it was 70’s glam after all. The only music I heard was when me neighbour blasted his Elvis records every Sunday. Nowadays it’s the latest thing that peaks my interest, whatever musical genre.
The first wave of Punk passed me by as I sat and simmered at home. I finally heard John Peel on the radio in ’78. Although I had never had any inclination to be in a band it was the second wave of Punk that made me wanna grab it with both hands. So I got myself a guitar from Bells the local music shop, they did hire purchase. Then I got a Crate combo from the catalogue. I learned how to play guitar then switched over to bass. The downside was I had to leave school and go on the dole to afford payments. There weren’t a lot of jobs and I didn’t want to end up in a factory – punk had a lot to answer for and that’s my excuse’.

 


When you joined a band what venues did you play ? ‘The first band that gigged were Anti-Climax in 1981. The second wave of angry punk all mohawks and attitude, ideal for a bunch of lads in a Northern pit village. Those lads being Neil Campbell on vocals, my neighbour Gary Ward and Myself. Me and Gary used to switch from bass to guitar and anyone we could nab on drums – still an ongoing trend. We mostly played in youth clubs and church halls around the North East. My Dad was the chauffer – unwillingly I may add. One night Anti Climax were at a local punk gig and we were asked if we could play a gig supporting Uproar in Peterlee the next night. We said of course, then did what every Punk would do. I stole me Dads car, did the gig, crashed the car and got a hiding off me Dad when I got the bus back.
This was short lived due to me finding out the merits of sniffing glue, and finding myself on the wrong side of the law. So I was taken out of public circulation for awhile. I found myself relocated to Newcastle, with a much better scene all round. I got involved with several bands from full on punk to goth, even a stint in a 70’s covers band!
By 1989 I found myself in a Gateshead Psychobilly outfit The Sugar Puff Demons. We recorded a debut album Falling from Grace for Link records. When we went on tour, me being the newbee was the one laid out in the back of the mini van with the gear piled up all around. But the band got thrown off that tour for upstaging the main act, and the singer went bat shit crazy. In the end we split up. This happened all within a year ! There were more short lived but very highly charged times in several bands with the longest being in Th’ Lunkheads from 1993-2000. They had an ill fated tour of France and a jaunt over the pond.

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‘In France we found the gigs being cancelled left right and centre at the last minute – and we were running out of cash. The lads were feeling low so I grab them and point them to the Pyrennes and say ‘how many folk on the dole up North have seen this ?’ Fortunately local band The Catchers helped us out, plus entertain us with their hot rodded cars. I was in the one that run out of fuel halfway up a mountain and had to cruise back down in reverse – just before the Police caught up!! I remember I was in the toilet in a venue in Bordeaux when I heard a commotion. I got out and the Police had raided and arrested the landlord – no gig that night. In retrospect I believe wearing WW2 German helmets may have been a wrong fashion choice for the band.

1997 we landed on American soil, Detroit Rock City – only to be whisked off by security and questioned. We claimed to be just visiting and sticking to our guns we got through it. Only to find that the promoter had got cheerleaders with L..U..N..K..H..E…A..D..S on their shirts waiting for us. Eventually we did the gig but I was ill with food poisoning. Someone scrawled Lunkheads are Drunks on the toilet wall, which was not far wrong as the promoter had enough empties to keep him in groceries for a month. Lunkheads first demo was recorded in a barn on a old 2” reel to reel, it was made more interesting as it was a pub due to shut down and several kegs of cider and lager needed emptying – job done. Those recordings may resurface soon on vinyl through Trash Wax records as part of their Garbage Grails, better late than never’.

 


Did you support any name bands ? ‘Over the years I have supported many bands of various genres from ? & The Mysterians at the Magic Stick in Detroit to Wonk Unit at The Angel in Durham. Played in venues long gone now like The Mayfair and The Broken Doll in Newcastle. Every one of them a blast whether playin’ to just the bar staff or 2,000 punters who dont know who you are! When I was in Blood and Thunder 87’ish we were supporting UK Subs in Carlisle, during I Wanna Be Your Dog some old codger grabbed the mic and started singin’ – well it was only Charlie Harper, bless’.

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What was your experience of recording studios ?The Cluny studio in Newcastle was the first time. I was in a band called Peroxide in 1986. Very professional and very posh surroundings to us bunch of punks. The desk was sixteen track total seperation but the sound was very sterile. Luckily we were a tight three piece outfit so it went smoothly. Can’t remember the cost to be honest but it wasn’t cheap. The tracks were gonna end up on a split vinyl E.P. (Bloodsucker on Other records) but by the time that was sorted out we had changed our name to Blood and Thunder. Only one track was used State Rebel, a cringe inducing anthem that to listen to now I have to have a bellyfull of whiskey’.

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‘Th’ Lunkheads first single for Japans Barn Homes records was recorded at The Soundroom in Gateshead with friends Dave and Fiz producing and engineering. Fortunatly I got community service in said studio – as they say killing two birds with one stone. Now The Bastard Sons of Cavan record at Western Star in Bristol, resulting in three albums all on the Western Star label.
In Newcastle I went to several studios all with varying degrees of failure, trying to find value for money. Then I found First Avenue in Heaton which I stuck with for many years ’til that eventually changed for the worse. No disrespect to Dave Curle he’s a champion engineer, the place just leaves me cold. Anyway we got £1,000 from the record label to record an album so we hauled the P.A. into the studio and recorded it all live. The whole thing cost ninety quid so we split the remainder, including with the engineer, and lost a few days from our lives. The label from Colorado was well pleased with the results…phew! Much as I love the studio I prefer playing live and putting on a show’

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‘Whilst in The Campus Tramps we recorded two E.P.’s. One for Barn Homes Japan and Knockout Records Germany. Both recorded at the Bunker in Sunderland on 8 track. However the producer/engineer got the monk on as one of the labels used his name on the promotional adverts. Him being a well known singer in a well respected hardcore punk band won’t help his cred helping us low life Thunders/Ramones influenced trash! Not mentioning any names but his band rhymes with mace and it has leather in it. The first session we lost the master tape so we had to use my ropey cassette copy to master the record. The second session had to be remastered at First Avenue as the original was apparently too high…go figure’.

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Did you record any tv appearences or music video’s ? ‘The only time I’ve been on TV was for a late night chat show about tattoos. When I found out I was the star attraction and not in the audience with my girlfriend and band mates (Steve Straughan – now punk superstar, Keith Lewis, Snarling Horses) I demanded a taxi home to get some decent clobber on…i.e. a pair of brothel creepers and some very loud Hawaian shorts!! The Sugar Puff Demons did try and produce a music video for Burn The Church. I still have several VHS tapes full of footage of us miming our damnedest around Jesmond Dene, anyone out there willing to make something of it, go ahead.
 The Bastard Sons of Cavan do indeed have a video available to enjoy on You Tube recorded by TuffJam it was a day of insanity. The bassist failed to turn up so we blagged a family friend to stand in, splendid!’

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Any stories from the gigs over the years ? Where do I begin ? I may say in my defence I did drink quite a lot of Thunderbird and some of these events have been relayed to me second hand. Like hanging the guitarist out of a second story window in Edinburgh, setting fire to the quiff of the singer in a restaurant, getting thrown out of the gig during the soundcheck in London – only to be let in to do the gig then promptly thrown out again and making Eugene (Rezillos) Reynolds carry the P.A – after he pulled the do you know who I am stunt. We all love a party but one at some student digs in Sheffield in 1989 got out of hand and the Police were called. Instantly I hid under the bathroom sink which was quite a squeeze as I’m over six foot two. Chuck the singer of Frantic Flintstones gets under the bath. He’s five foot nowt. Police arrive and turf everyone else out. There was quite a bit of friction amongst the bands the next day due to me and Chuck having all the creature comforts as they all sat outside in the van freezing.
‘I was in a band called Burning Hells and had a few years of crazy times that involved drinking bleach, bleeding eyes and overall stupidity. But in 2004 we done a gig in Barrow-in-Furness. The car was crammed with all the gear and we hit the road, only to break down in the middle of the motorway and in the middle of nowhere. We got the car off road and I lie down on the bank taking in the sun waiting for the AA. Only to be informed the car is not taxed, tested or insured – action stations!! We locate the problem, it was a leaking fuel pump, fixed problem with good old gaffa tape. We’re back in business and did the gig’.

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‘In 2006 I was in Hangmen helping out on double bass supporting Tiger Army on tour. The previous year I did a warm up gig in Manchester and ended up at a student party. Blustering in I pick up a pint glass, urinate in it, promptly drink it all and declare this party started. At one point there was a chicken on my head and I was crowned the King Of Xmas. The cat was fed all the cheese and the fridge emptied. I bumped into the students again and they said I owed them a xmas dinner, I promptly bought them a bottle of red wine instead’.

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What are you up to now ? The Bastard Sons of Cavan are still bothering stages and studios in whatever guise. I have King Konker still waiting to get outta the traps, they are two guys, two girls playing garage punk trash. Action Seekers, a Stooges rip off which is basically my 16 year old stepson Louie playing all the parts that I’ve wrote. Last but not least Cleatus Stillborn, an experiment of fusing Lynard Skynrd with Psychobilly. I’m back on bass with two seasoned musicians Alex (a Doncaster bloke who spent most of his life in California) on vocals and guitar plus Lenny (whose Mother was Led Zep’s seceratery) on drums.
Oh did I mention Billy Childish wrote a song for me way back in 1992 “My name is Kid Kincaide…you use your own!!”

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Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

CRASHED OUT: Guns, Maggots & Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Steve James, Under the Skin, 9th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Straughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

EVO, No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

GUN FOR HIRE – interview with Tyneside bassist Ed Thomas

Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs ? ‘At first we’d rehearse at low volume in various band members bedrooms, with the drummer keeping time by slapping his legs, then he graduated to using a dustbin. A couple of times we rehearsed in a garage belonging to Ginger’s parents. I was 18 when I played my first gig with The Cups a bit of a South Shields supergroup that lasted until ’86. Guitarist Ginger and Stidi on drums both going on to be in The Wildhearts. Then I joined Gunslinger in ’88 and we used Baker Street Studio in Jarrow to rehearse until our singer Macca’s brother opened The Rock In, also in Jarrow. I lasted in them till 1990’.

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

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I was a massive Kiss fan and I loved Ace Frehleys loose, laid back style. Low strung Les Pauls, man, you can’t beat ’em! Although I play bass I didn’t really have any bass influences and I started playing by accident! I knew Ginger from The Wildhearts when we were 16 and he wanted a bass player for his band so he asked me to do it cos he said I was a crap guitarist. To be fair, he was right, so I suppose he was the reason I started playing bass and kept at it because I found it to be much more fun than guitar!’

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

GUNSLINGERby Steve Elliot

Gunslinger with Ed in the middle.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I only recorded a couple of times with Gunslinger. Once in ’88 at Baker Street Studio which had all the cutting edge gear but we couldn’t seem to get the sound we were looking for so it was a bit of a disappointment. Tracks were Holdin’ On, She Said and Gunslinger.
Then around ’89 we recorded twice in Micky Clark’s little 8 track studio in Frederick Street, South Shields and those recordings were much more successful! Much closer to the edgy feel we wanted so we done Gunslinger, Holdin’ On and She Said along with High Risk, Broken Dreams, Falling to Pieces, I Got a Feeling and I’m sure there were one or two more thats coming back to me, yes Shock Treatment, Play it from the Heart and Nothing to Show. But yeah really enjoyed that session’.

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

 

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

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Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

RADGE AGAINST THE MACHINE – musician Carol Nichol talks about Lowfeye’s forthcoming album.

Based in Durham City, UK, Lowfeye are musicians Alan Rowland and Carol Nichol… ‘Initially I write the songs on piano or guitar. Alan plays the bass and drums then put’s it all together in his home recording studio. Lowfeye’s new album Pow is due for release very soon and initially it got interest from BBC Introducing after I wrote a track called Demons based on the character played by British actor Tom Hardy in BBC drama Taboo’. ‘Demons’ and ‘Dynamite’ have the dreamy smothering sound reminiscent of 90’s trip hop band Portishead mixed with a 60’s tv/film soundtrack. Is there any producers out there looking for a soundtrack ? Impressive stuff from the dark duo, and the BBC interest was entirely justified.

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‘All styles on the album are completely different to each other because I am a lover of music and its history. I can appreciate all the years of amazing music styles. A track on the album could be a dark Nick Cave style song, set to heavy guitar like Search and Destroy by Iggy and the Stooges. Or a film sound track style from the 60’s. I write how I feel and we try to capture those elements in our production. The track Pow is very haunting and it’s based around a girl who is is trapped in a volatile relationship and is crying out to her mother. The chorus Pow in one word captures the cry for help. Another song I wrote was Poor Little Rich Girl and is about Andy Warhol’s relationship with Edith Sedgewick who became his muse in his film Factory Girls. Her addiction and child abuse were covered up leading to her death at a young age. In the end Warhol dismissed any involvement in her life.
Other songs can be political or critical of society. I find the mainstream music scene along with TV celebrity’s awful. It’s bland, its beige, it’s plastic and unfortunately we are spoon fed this crap by radio and tv. Some songs can be slightly humourus which is like my track Beautiful WorldNow the worlds run by millionaires they can take from you in a blink of a stare and they walk like dogs in a beautiful world’.

 

Who were your influences in music ? ’I was brought up by an eccentric mother who brainwashed us all with diverse sounds so I’ve never been in a box listening to one style. My main influence as a kid was David Bowie, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and Kate Bush – especially as she was a complete one off. She probably inspired me to get into music. But I hated anything trained, as I’m a self taught musician and perform how I feel at that time. You meet too many musicians who have become manufactured and it’s boring. To be honest I was a John Peel fan as he looked for something different in music and not the obvious, discovering amazing bands which really influenced me growing up’.

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PHOTO: WILL BINKS

‘I think you go to see a band as well as hear them. I struggled with dyslexia and I am 90% visual, so a real lover of front artists like Ian Curtis, Dave Byrne, Jaz Coleman, Lux Interior, The Cramps, Iggy, Dead Kenndeys and X Ray Specs. As a very young girl I particularity got blown away with the birth of punk not only in the UK but in America. I found it exciting with all that energy, and loved the rebellious side to it. Still love it today. I also front an original punk band The Relitics formed by Mick Hall in 2015. We have been supporting bands like the UK Subs, Chelsea, 999 and we did Rebellion 2017. It’s all good fun as you find people that are aged 40 plus have more passion to get out there and perform original music and have a voice in today’s beige society. The Relitics have released an album and vinyl and due to release a second album soon’.

 

When did you start in music ? ‘I have been in bands all my life. My first band was when I was 14, then I joined Gerbils in Red Wine. We used to rehearse down the Fowlers Yard in Durham which is home to Prefab Sprout and The Toy Dolls. We done a gig where a girl at the front dragged me off stage by my hair. I was a skinny little thing at the time but I managed to punch her giving her a black eye. She was a big lass and she didn’t half hit the floor. The door men at the pub where laughing more than anything.
In 1992 an A&R guy linked to ZTT records put me forward as a backing singer for Seal before he shot to fame. The European tour was for 30 day’s in Germany, France, Holland, Spain and Sweden. That was a great time.
I remember playing the Ewerk centre in Koln with Lloyd Cole supporting and after the gig ended up getting smashed on tequila and waking up with a shower cap on my head haha. I had a chance to go on tour again but declined as my father died suddenly.
After that I joined a band The Faraway Tree this was with two female vocalist’s, myself and Rebecca Crawford who now lives in Perth, Australia. We played a number of gigs and appeared on Tyne Tees TV entertainment show East Coast Mainline. I have played most venues in the North East especially the Newcastle Riverside in 1990’s and continue to go and see a lot of bands. I like the small venues better, the more intimate places the better for me as it captures the atmosphere at gigs’.

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Have you always been involved in music ? ’Yes I worked at Circulation Records in 1999-2014 which was set up to run a new deal for musicians 18 -24 to support them into music. At the time I was in a band formed by Chris Labron who played keyboards for Warfare. We played Stockton Festival and showcased bands and dj’s at the event. We also had guest speakers at Circulation Records like Bruce Dickinson, Simple Minds manager and Julian Cope. We arranged bands to perform with Slash and Snakepit in Berlin’.

Have you filmed any TV appearences or music video’s ? ‘I wrote a song called Individuality and performed that on Tyne Tees TV programme East Coast Mainline, which led to being asked to sing a wartime song in a Catherine Cookson period drama, and be an extra singing in it. On the day of filming, actress Catherine Zeta Jones was complaining about not being asked to sing the song and said she had a single out at the time. We all ended up standing around the piano singing it with the camera on her and my voice in the background’.

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What are your future plans ?Lowfeye album Pow will be available soon digitally on Spotify, iTunes and hard copy. The sleeve artwork was done by Rebecca Crawford who was in The Faraway Tree with me. She teaches Art & Design out in Australia and features on one of the songs we recorded when she came over this year. We are already working on the second album. You can find Carol Nichol and Lowfeye on Facebook and You Tube. I will also be doing regular gigs with punk band The Relitics in North East venues, and hoping to be playing Lowfeye gigs next year after the album release. A lot of the songs are targeted at soundtracks for film and TV – Peaky Blinders next year, you never know’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.