ACCESS ALL AREAS in conversation with Stage and Production Manager, Colin Rowell

Motorhead came to the City Hall with their Bomber lighting rig. They strapped me to the cockpit and flew me round for hours ha ha. I remember drinking Tequila with them on the hotel balcony after a gig in Berlin…but don’t ask me about Brian Robertson’s hawaiin shirt ha ha. A few people told me ‘You gotta get Col’ he’ll tell ya loadsa stories’. A few weeks back I interviewed Chris Phipps who worked with Col’ on The Tube and he recommended I get in touch. He passed on his contact and we agreed to meet up.

 

This is the bit where I mention their background, what they’ve done or how they made their name. But where do I start for Col ? What about Stage Manager at Wembley Stadium for David Bowie, Production Manager for Genesis at Knebworth, Reading Festival stage manager. Tour manager for Hawkwind, Motorhead, Buzzcocks, Big Country. And more. TV stage manager at The Tube, Razzamatazz, TX 45. Music shows across the BBC, ITV, CH4, USA TV. The list goes on. What do you do to relax Colin ? Listen to music Gary, what do ya think ha ha. With his infectious laugh and good humour Colin recalls his time of nearly 50 years in the music business. Yep 50. Let that sink in. So buckle up and strap in… You know I’m just a lad from Hebburn who got to work with some of the biggest bands in the world. It was right time, right place.

How did you spend your teenage years ? My passion for music came in the ‘60s when me and a friend from Clegwell School were singing in North East Working men’s clubs. I was around 13 year old, still at school and earning more money than the teachers (laughs).

How did you get to be stage manager at Newcastle City Hall ? At college in the early ‘70s I ended up running a coffee stall in the Haymarket, booking bands and promoting concerts. At the Mayfair I had Fleetwood Mac on when ‘Albatross’ was in the charts. At the City Hall I had Sweet on with their hit ‘Blockbuster’. Another time was two days at the City Hall with Chickenshack, Savoy Brown and Tyrannosaurus Rex. The compere was John Peel. I also done some follow spot lights and other jobs around the hall. I knew the place well and got on with all the visiting promoters who said I done a good job.

I knew Bob Brown the City Hall manager so when the opportunity came up to take over the stage management he said ‘Col you know your way around will you look after the place ?’ So yeah I started hiring crew, getting equipment in, making sure sound checks were on time and just generally ran the venue. I was there for several years so the bands I saw and the stories I could tell you, we’ll be here forever. So I’ll keep them for my book (laughs).

 

Can you pick a few out, maybe a nightmare job ? There’s a few but maybe one that was a nightmare for others. It involves Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. They were on a UK tour and stopped for their gig at Newcastle City Hall. The singer Graham Bonnet came up to me and said ‘You don’t know any good hairdressers around here do you Colin?’  I said ‘Funnily enough my sister in law has a shop just down the road 5 mins away from the hall’. She said ‘Send him down and we’ll get him in. He went, got the cut, and everything was hunky dory…until after the show.

At 4am in the dressing room you’ve got Paul Loasby from Harvey Goldsmiths office, me, Ritchie Blackmore and the drummer Cozy Powell going mad cancelling the world tour because Graham Bonnet had his hair cut (laughs).

Another Blackmore story was we used to have to take the doors off the City Hall to get the rainbow in from their stage set, it was so big. The rumour was that on their way to America they threw it in the ocean. I was curious about this so Ritchie called me up and said ‘There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the rainbow still exists and I’m giving it to you as a gift. The bad news is, it’s in America under your name and costing you storage (laughs)’. Which yeah I thought was great, my story is littered with stuff like that. And I look back on those times Gary and think, can’t be bad can it.

Have you any gigs that stand out as really good memories? There has been loads of great times but one night we had Golden Earring on. You know they only had that one hit ‘Radar Love’. And the guest band were Lynyrd Skynyrd who were blowing them off everywhere on that tour. When they came to Newcastle City Hall the management of Golden Earring told them they couldn’t have any lighting and only 8 channels on the sound desk. Now as it happens I’d bought some lights off Lindisfarne and stored them in the hall. So I set the lights up and knew the sound engineer so we bumped them up to 16 channels. Well Lynyrd Skynyrd were over the moon and they blew them off. Again.

 

Next time they came to the City Hall on tour they were headlining and the guys came backstage to one of the rooms which was used for guitar tune up. 4pm in the afternoon they came to me and said Colin we’ve got a huge problem. ’There seems to be water coming in the room where we’ve got the guitars. Do ya’ wanna go an’ have a look ?’ I opened the door and found there was nothing in there. Then door get’s shut behind me, a water hose get’s pointed through the window and I get drenched from head to toe. It’s Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘innit. So I’m dragged out, put on the shoulders of the band and ran around the hall (laughs).

At the end of the night they gave me t-shirt’s, a tour jacket and left me two cases of Jack Daniels.

That’s a great gesture from the band… Yeah I was the only one on that tour that made the extra effort for them. The Skynyrd would have paid a fortune to be on that tour and part of that deal is sound and lighting. I thought it was so unprofessional of the other band, if they were getting blown off they should of played a bit harder.

How did you get involved with TV and in particular The Tube ? There was Geoff Brown, Chris Phipps and me sharing an office in Newcastle. What happened was they, as producers, had applied for this music television show and asked me if I was interested in joining the team as stage manager. You see from years at City Hall I knew the acts, the crews, the managers and they were all glad when they knew a familiar face and voice was going to be there running the stages in the studio. I had left the City Hall by the ‘80s and went and done a bit tour managing. Funny thing was I left on the Friday and by the next Thursday I was Rick Wakemans tour manager. And the gig was at you guessed it… the city hall.

What was your time like at The Tube ? Just five years of sheer magic. First off started with two stages, ended up with four and I did the deal with ENTEC who were a big sound company. They ran Reading Festival and owned The Marquee. It was a smooth operation with them providing all the sound and crew. It was flown in (hung from ceiling) off the stage making it easier for cameramen to have floor space and no big speakers in their way. Also a lot of the bands had done Reading festival so they could easily organise equipment with ENTEC.

Earlier on the blog an interview with Chris Phipps talks about bands that broke on The Tube. Can you remember any ? Yeah me and Geoff Brown were sent to London to check out Grandmaster Flash. It was the first time The Tube were going to have on stage a set-up of a band playing all the scratchy stuff. We get to the venue and there was a support band on so we went to a Steak house but it was dreadful, we didn’t eat it and went back to the venue. The support act were still on and it was Paul Young and the Royal Family. We listened in this time. This was good stuff.

We got back to Newcastle and in a meeting with one of the head guy’s at The Tube, Malcolm Gerrie, I banged the table and said ‘let’s get him on’. And we did. But Malcolm and I felt Paul didn’t get a good crack of the whip so we invited him back on again and the rest is history. So not only got him on twice and broke his career but in 1991/92 I was his tour manager…it all follows on.

Did you work with any North East bands while on The Tube ? Yeah Prefab Sprout. We used to do the Mid-Summer Specials on The Tube and unfortunately one show was cancelled on us. There was a boat parked on the river Tyne near the bridge called Tuxedo Princess. I had the boat all set up for them but it didn’t happen. There was an electricians strike.

I went on and done loads of music television shows, one of them was Big World Café in the Brixton Academy and Prefab were on that. I just saw Paddy last week with his long white beard. Lovely to see him.

 

You seemed to be constantly in work in what can be a fragile career working in the media ? Here in the North East in the early ‘80s I put on Rock on the Tyne festivals at Gateshead Stadium. We had three big generator trucks parked at the back of the stage and somebody had put a big sign on it saying ‘Do not switch off. Colin’s hairdryer in use’ (laughs). The crew had a laugh with me. You’ve got to get on with people.

I got invited down to Knebworth where I’ve stage managed 15 shows, last one was Genesis. I’ve been so many times there is a rumour that on the stained glass window of Knebworth Castle there is a painting with planes on and Queen in there, plus me in the corner and a glass of red wine (laughs).

But you have to be an affable person and getting people to work for you. You get a reputation. I’ve stage managed the Brits, MTV Awards countless other shows on reputation alone.

Have you worked abroad ? Yes many times, once I ended up having dinner with Boris Yeltsin in the Kremiln. There was a big cultural show in Russia, orchestra’s were on, ballet, all sorts. We got the TV trucks parked and set up in the heart of Moscow Red Square when some heavy looking Russian men approached. We all had walkie talkies and they asked us for them ‘Because they need to be configured’. Three hours later they brought them back. We asked what was wrong with them. Apparently they were interfering with their big red button below ground in the their military bunkers. Right under our trucks. Cudda’ went boom !

What you up to now ? Apart from writing my book and meeting my publisher soon, I still dabble in event production. We formed The Showblokes and worked with Sun FM, Century Radio, Newcastle Opera House, Stockton Council a load over the years. It’s my passion to still be involved. I’ve been in more hotels than living in my house so I don’t do any tour management but have for the last 9 years managed the Carlisle Blues and Rock Festival. Yeah still keeping my hand in.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2019

STAND EASY – with heavy metal band Soldier

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Ian Dick guitarist and founder of New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Soldier recalls some of the lighter times on the road… ‘Usual stuff like trousers splitting on stage, fighting with the audience and a few times we had to send our original vocalist Garry to pick up money when the promoters were holding back payment. He could handle himself if you know what I mean haha’.

What music influenced you ? ‘The 70’s were an exciting time for rock music and the guitarists from that time really influenced me, players like Richie Blackmore, Pat Travers, Robin Trower and Jeff Beck. More up to date stuff from Mark Tremonti and Joe Satriani is pretty cool stuff as well’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I formed Soldier in 1979 and we were always a busy gigging band. Back then there was always places to play, the big workingmen’s clubs would book practically every night. In a week we would go from Northampton to Oxford travel over to Chesterfield, down to Brighton then back up to Blackpool. We had our own P.A system and were able to record a lot of shows straight out of the desk onto a tape recorder. Live Forces and Live @The Heathery were done like that’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘My first time in a professional studio was the first recording session with Soldier. That was at The Beck Studio’s in Wellingborough where we recorded Magician. It was all analogue gear back then so it was like being in Frankensteins laboratory with all this machinary around us waiting for a lightning strike before recording could start ! The guy running the studio had a small transmittor radio hooked up to the desk so you could hear your music back as if it was played on the radio’.

‘Other studio’s we used were Elephant in London to record several tracks Circuit Breaker, Blind Destiny and crowd favourite Dirty Doris. We recorded the single Sheralee and b side Force at Spaceward Studio’s in Cambridge. That was released by Heavy Metal Records.
We put out a compilation of demo’s, live song’s and the two tracks we recorded with Phil Lewis. Music for Nations initially showed some interest in us but nothing concrete came out of the meetings. After that we went our seperate way’s, Phil went on to front LA Gun’s and Soldier called it a day’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘One night in Scotland we were playing a gig and Bob our roadie plugged the lights in, got a massive electric shock and was thrown across the stage. Then at one gig we wanted to make a big entrance so we started the intro tape, went on stage, tape finished, then on the first chord the band jumped in the air but the weight of all of us coming down at the same time collapsed the stage…but like true professionals the band never missed a beat haha’.

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What are Soldier doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? ‘SKOL Records have been really good to us they released the Sheralee single and since 2012 we have released two albums worth of material. Over the past few years we have constantly gigged around the UK and festivals in Europe but currently we are taking a break from gigging and concentrating on recording. Digital has made the whole process easier and we are in the middle of recording some new Soldier material which is planned for release later this year’.

Current Soldier line-up

For more information about the band visit their site http://www.soldiernwobhm.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2017.

 

THE ENTERTAINER – All the world’s a stage for Kev Charlton

Today Kev Charlton is known for being a member of North East rockabilly band Bessie and the Zinc Buckets. But in the early 1980’s he played bass for heavy metal band Hellanbach ‘Some of the shows we done around that time were great, the Newcastle Mayfair, Sunderland Mecca, the Hoffborough House. We played with Raven, who were our stablemates at NEAT, they were going great guns. People were going crazy for Hellanbach, we were caught in a whirlwind’.

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Where did it all start? ‘First off I listened to bands like Atomic Rooster and Emerson Lake and Palmer then through a neighbour I got into playing bass. Started a band with a few mates and we rehearsed in a garage. Also a big influence was seeing bands at Newcastle City Hall, I have plec’s from Michael Anthony, Edward Van Halen, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi when Van Halen supported Black Sabbath. Love collecting stuff like that I have a book full of ticket stub’s’.

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‘Then a natural progression from that was to work as one of the stagehands at the City Hall and earn a bit money. What happened was a friend of ours Mick Laheaney, who worked for The Tubes and The Roling Stones,  introduced us to a guy called Colin Rowell who was stage manager at Newcastle City Hall. So for years we worked at the Hall loading in the sound and light gear and meeting bands like Rush, Judas Priest and Motorhead. I remember we set up eight articulated lorries worth of equipment for Van Halen, all for the princely sum of £8 !’

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‘Then I got the gig working on the backline for Davey Urwin and Kieth Satchfield’s band, they were called Axe at the time, then they turned into Fist. One of my favourite bands.
That’s where it started for me really. That stuff still get’s to me I love to see bands it’s something that’s in yer blood, ya just can’t give it up. I can’t get enough of it’.

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Where were your first gigs ? ‘We called our first band Oblisque and arranged a gig at Talbot Road Youth Club in South Shields. The word got round especially with the kids in the youth club it was like, wow they are in a band. The gig went well but that band fizzled out, it didn’t get out of first gear, but it turned into a band that changed my life, that was Hellanbach’.

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‘We started rehearsing then had our first gig at St Hildas Youth Club. We started getting everything together, rehearsals, flyers, everything was going ok, until it got to the night of the gig and there was a queue all the way around the market it looked to us. Then the nerves kicked in, but when we started playing I knew we had something. I can’t put my finger on it but it was something special and drove a lot of people crazy. Basically I got hooked from then, it’s something thats in yer blood, yer can’t give it up. I can’t get enough of it’.

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What was your experience of recording ? Hellanbach really hit the ground running because in 1980 we put a four track EP together for Guardian records in Durham, the studio was owned by Terry Gavaghan. We recorded Light of the World, Out to Get You, Nobodys Fool and Lets Get this Show on the Road. But we didn’t realise that what your playing isn’t in your hands of what goes down on record. That was the job of Terry Gavaghan’.

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‘Then we went down to take some photo’s for the cover, it was on a bridge near the Burn beside Brockley Whins, the photo’s still look good today haha.
The whole thing was a great experience the feeling of listening to the playback thinking thats your music, your songs, it’s an incredible feeling. In the end we called the EP Out to Get You, put it out and it sold like hotcakes’.

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With the sales of the E.P. did you feel that the band were getting somewhere ? ‘I really felt that the band were firing on all cylinders, off the back of the EP we got a deal with NEAT records to record our first album at Impulse Studio in Wallsend. That was the best time.’

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‘After rehearsing for months getting the new songs together we recorded the album which is a very proud moment in my life. Now Hear This came out in ’83 and was produced by Kieth Nichol. I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards’.

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‘It really was one of the weirdest times of my life because it came out to amazing five star reviews some of the big bands weren’t even getting five stars. I remember sitting in the toilets of Wallsend slipway reading the reviews in Kerrang and Sounds, thinking this will be the last time I’ll be in the shipyard…but it wasn’t’.

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Where did you go with Hellanbach then ? ‘In 1984 we recorded another album The Big H which I’m immensley proud of. Our line up then was me, Barry Hopper on drums, Davey Patton on guitar and Jimmy Brash upfront. But looking back I’m so disappointed that we didn’t gig enough and we listened to the wrong people. It all went pear shaped with bad management and signing wrong deals, it just fell to bits. We should have been touring the States but instead I went back to the shipyards’.

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What are you up to now and are you still involved in music ?  ‘I’m still playing, making a living and having a great time. We still rock n roll like we did when we were 16 year old kid’s in a garage trying to play our first song. Which I don’t think was Smoke on the Water haha.
One thing I’m proud about is that I kept my Aria guitar, which I recorded the two Hellanbach albums on, a nice bass but doesn’t suit the rockabilly stuff that I play now. But still love it, basically it’s still my love and I set out to play music till the day I die’.

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After performing for 30 years Kev Charlton played the Newcastle City Hall in 2014  where as a teenager he worked as a roadie. Alongside playing with Bessie & the Zinc Buckets Kev has recently joined North East heavy metal legend’s Fist, who he worked for on the road crew in the 1970’s. Yes you can say his dream come true.

Interview by Gary Alikivi taken from the documentary We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll available to watch on You Tube.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

ALL ABOARD -Getting the band back on the right track with Dealer frontman Trevor Short

Formed in 1979 New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Dealer are from Cirencester, in the South of England. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Trevor Short got in touch…

18424728_10213382527297309_1475073037_n‘We had quite an entourage back then, to accomodate everyone and our gear we got a massive 28 seater ex US Airforce bus, and our first proper gig was at a pub in our home town, we ran it all from one plug socket – lights, PA and the back line haha!’… but where did it all begin ? ‘I was in the church choir as a kid and when I was 15, a local band were looking for a singer and asked if I was interested. We all had similar influences, basicallly anything metal from the late 70’s and 80’s like AC/DC, Budgie, Diamond Head and Scorpions’.

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‘Originally we were called Lone Wolf but had to change the name as Paul Di’Annio, who was sacked from Iron Maiden, formed a new band called Lone Wolf. We looked into fighting to keep the name but eventually gave up and that’s where Dealer started’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘We played all pubs and clubs up and down the country with memorable gigs in Swindon, then over to Oxford and into Cardiff. Then a couple of gigs where we supported Gary Moore and the mighty Motorhead at Chippenham Golddiggers. The whole experience will stay with me forever. Motorhead and their crew could not have been more helpful. We spent most of the evening in their dressing room having been practically dragged in by Lemmy ‘Help yourself to beer and food guys’. When it was time for us to go on, Lemmy and Philthy stood in the wings and watched our whole set. It was a sell out gig and everyone was up for it. We actually got an encore but we didn’t think we would be allowed to do one more and started to leave the stage. Lemmy was having none of it and insisted we go back out for our encore. He was a very kind and generous man. The crew worked their asses of for us too. Nothing was too much trouble’.

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‘All in stark contrast to the Gary Moore gig. The man himself was quite friendly, he seemed almost shy but their management not quite so. We had to wait outside while the band sound checked. Then we were bundled on and off and pretty much made aware of our place. Good gig though’.
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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Tudor Studios in Swindon was our first time in a proper studio that was around 1980. I remember we recorded 3 songs but amazingly with all the archive material we collected there is no recording of this session, not a tape or receipt so I cannot even tell you how much it cost !
We have one track Strip Jack Naked which has survived from the 2nd session we recorded at a studio in Reading. Again we haven’t got much info on the name of that studio but I can remember we were struggling to find a place with a producer who understood heavy metal’.

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‘I’n 1982 we wanted to record an album’s worth of songs, but this would of cost a fortune so we converted our rehearsal space into a studio. We got all the necessary gear, a recording desk, quarter inch reel to reel and plenty of mics. Then went for it, totally live! The end product we called Boogie, Booze & Birds and put it out on cassette’.

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‘Not long after, we met a guy who owned a studio in Cardiff, we found that he really knew his stuff. He was a real saviour for our recorded output so for the next few years, Studio 2 was our real go to place. The result was our deal with Ebony Records’.

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‘Our next recording was at Ebony Studio in Hull. It was a pretty hectic time because we only had one week to record and mix. But we knuckled down and came out with the First Strike album, that was released in 1986 on the Ebony label’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?  ‘I mentioned that we got a massive ex US Airforce bus, well that was a V12 Chevy that was very slow and very thirsty! We added our name on the destination board at the front of the bus, we thought this was great but proved not to be one of our better ideas as the police would stop us on a regular basis. We had just done a gig in Guildford when we were stopped and hauled back to the police station. We were strip searched and held for over 5 hours…finally we were let go’.

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‘The bus wasn’t the most reliable as it would reguarly break down and to get going again we’d have to push it. I remember supporting Spider in Newbury, we were late after breaking down again. We pushed the bus into the venue’s car park and all the people in the queue were watching us. It was like a scene out of the TV spoof documentary Bad News’.

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Have Dealer been active lately and is there any future plans for band?  ‘In January 2010 we played a ‘one last gig for old times sake’ gig in our hometown of Cirencester. To our surprise that gig was quite a success and I have to say it kinda stirred up the juices again. Also ONR, a Greek record label, released an album of our demo’s which was later released by German label High Roller Records’.

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‘By 2011 of all places to gig, we were asked to tour Russia ! A 10 day tour was set up and that was an absolute blast. Our album First Strike was also remastered and released there. More festivals followed including the Heavy Metal Maniacs in Holland’.

18015672_10213163500181768_1572748859_o‘Then Dealer was put on hold after the tragic death of original bassist Pete Gentil. This was absolutely devastating. After a year of contemplation Dealer returned with new bass player Tom Bull to play gigs in the UK, we went back to Holland again and also got on the Lechlade Festival bill supporting Status Quo’.

18015817_10213163525702406_1138638468_o‘Things were starting to look up again when Steve our lead guitarist developed a problem with his hand meaning Ash Doulton, was brought in to fill on guitar duties. This year with gigs ready for Europe, USA and India we are ready to keep the Dealer train rolling’.

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Dealer full line up:
Trevor Short: lead vocals & rhythm guitar
Rupert Irving: drums & backing vocals
Tom Bull: bass & backing vocals
Ash Doulton: lead guitar & backing vocals

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.