ROKSNAPS #1

scorpions

Scorpions at Newcastle City Hall 13th May 1980.

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of The Mecca in Sunderland and over in Newcastle were The Mayfair and City Hall.

The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souveniers – and some people took photographs on the night.

One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on this blog was Tony Maddison…
‘I started going to gigs in 1978. My very first was Rush at Newcastle City Hall on February 15th 1978. As a 16 year old and still at school, I was musically influenced by older lads. A few of my contemporaries had been to gigs with their older brothers, and I’d heard exciting tales of noise and crowds of headbangers going wild. Should I fear for my life? Should I say a final goodbye to my family?’

scorpscity hall

Scorpions at Newcastle City Hall 13th May 1980.

‘Walking into the City Hall that night was a sight to behold. Everyone looked like me! Denim jackets covered in patches – everywhere. GET IN! I can’t remember much about the actual performance, but I know it caused an addiction to live music that I can’t get enough of after almost 40 years’. (Below pics of Danceclass supporting Judie Tzuke at Newcastle City Hall 30th April 1982).

‘Fast forward a couple of years and during the 80’s I was a regular gig-goer. Going to see bands 3,4 or 5 times a week, EVERY week. I was also becoming interested in photography after devouring each page of music weekly Sounds and NME. I bought myself a 35mm SLR camera. I soon started taking it to gigs and experimented taking pics of whatever band I was seeing, with varying results. The better ones you see here but invariably they returned blurry’.

gschooll

Girlschool at Newcastle City Hall 4th May 1982.

‘My photographic enthusiasm soon faded when I had to sell my collection of camera equipment at the outbreak of the Miners’ Strike in 1984. But more recently with the vast improvements in smartphone cameras, I find myself taking just a couple of photos as a keepsake. Just recently I got reminded that it was a year since I’d seen The Pixies at Newcastle Academy. The lighting was on the dark side, and it was a lively crowd..well, thats my excuse for a dodgy picture!’

More Roksnaps coming soon from contributors Ian Coult and John Spence.
Gary Alikiv 2018.

Recommended:

Pyromaniax – Bombs, Flashes & Burnt Eyebrows, 12th December 2017.

New Gang in Town – When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator, 6th May 2017.

Have You Heard This One ? 18th December 2017.

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

BODO SWINGS – interview with German rock drummer Bodo Schopf

schopf_bodo_1

You might know German drummer Bodo Schopf from the sheer amount of studio projects and live work…’I have played several tours around the world, many great stages like Wembley Arena. Many big open air festivals around Europe as well as in the USA, Japan and Canada. I played in bands supporting Rush, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Ozzy Osborne and Bon Jovi’…..

SCHENKER

Or you might know him from his work on McAuley Schenker albums ‘Perfect Timing’ in 1987 and ‘Save Yourself’ 1989…. ‘In 1985 I played on the Rock Me Amadeus tour for Austrian star Falco. Then I got an invitation to go to London and audition for Michael Schenker. I was drummer number 64, and 2 weeks later I was in the rehearsal room with Michael Schenker. I played for 5 years with his band. We recorded the albums and made music video’s for songs like Love is Not a Game, Anytime and This is My Heart.

After that I joined the German prog rock band Eloy in 1994, 3 albums and many tours followed. In 2007 I played again with Michael Schenker, then back with Eloy until 2013. In 2014 I founded with vocalist David Readman the band Pendulum of Fortune. We are currently doing promotion for our album Searching for the God Inside and then we are preparing for our upcoming live shows’.

Pendulum of Fortune are
David Readman – lead vocals
Bodo Schopf – drums
Vladimir Shevyakov – guitar
Franky R. – bass

Bandfoto ohne Logo

Pendulum of Fortune

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I’ve played music since I was five and I remember years later when I was playing with my senior school band our bassist said ‘It would be great if we could be professional musicians’. I always remembered this statement and 2 years later at the age of 17 I became a professional musician. When I was a teenager I was listening to Grand Funk Railroad Live album, then came Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and recent stuff from Creed’.

22554957_111909639569761_8966253878041417579_n

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘At 17 I played in an American club band, we played the clubs of the American army barracks in Germany, doing up to 29 shows a month. I did that for three years, that was my school of music, my education. Afterwards I played in a band called Wolfhound then for three years in the back up band for Ike and Tina Turner that took me through the ’70s. I also worked with the band Juicy Lucy, then played three years with UK band The Sweet, followed by a tour with the German rock star and composer Udo Lindenberg’.

Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ? ’Yes I was in many TV shows with full playback and also played live. I done MTV, a live German TV show called Ohne Filter, even played in a movie called Cold Fever. Of course we filmed many videos with the McAuley Schenker Group and recorded a live video with The Sweet. There was also videos with Eloy, and now of course with Pendulum of Fortune’.

Bodo-Sweet

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I’ve played on over 300 albums and well over a thousand jingles and commercials. I played for artists like Chris Thompson, Eric Burdon, Hazel O’Connor, Gotthardt, Michael Schenker, Eloy, The Sweet and many others. I’ve recorded in the Record Plant and One on One studios both in L.A. The Puk studio in Denmark, Musicland of Munich and so many others.

In the early days it was great to work in the studios, with all the musicians, producers and engineers, sadly today this is no longer the case. The studio cost’s were then very high, up to $2000 a day. Today I record drums in my own studio which is on the island of Sardinia. I work on my own and record the drums for artist’s around the whole world, it all goes through the internet. If you need drums check out my website http://www.sardegnaproductionmusic.com’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ’If I knew this, I would know where the creator lives. Somebody sends me these ideas in my head. Mostly when I sit down with my guitar and record I have the whole song already in my mind. Other times I create a song when I sit down and just play’.

MSG

Have you any funny stories ? ‘Oh yes, there would be hundreds of stories but one story I have to tell, because I love the British humour.

We were with MSG on tour with Def Leppard. The drummer Rick Allen, who had only one arm after his car accident, asked me if I would go out with him to have a beer. So we went to a pub and drank more than one beer. Rick stared constantly at my jacket, on it I had a drummer made from foam material with a safety pin attaching it to the jacket. It was a gift from a fan.

Rick said ‘Bodo there is something wrong with your jacket’ . I looked at my jacket and asked what is wrong. Rick said ‘Can I have a closer look at the little drummer on your jacket ? I replied yes why not. So he tore the drummer’s arm off and said with a grin… ‘Now it’s right’.

maxresdefault

Are there any other musicians/bands who you admire ? ’I admire every musician who stays healthy as they get older. Also to live and create music that can inspire listeners’.

What has music given you ? ‘Joy, love and understanding’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

IT’LL BE ALRIGHT IN THE MIX with Tyneside rock drummer Mark Woodhouse

After nearly 40 years hard work and dedication Mark Woodhouse is still drumming in a pub near you. But in the 1980’s he was drummer with South Shields based Heavy Metal band White Vice… ‘We once got called White Mice by a free newspaper in Durham despite spelling it phonetically over the phone. Several times. Hardly a name to fetch the leather clad Metal hordes out to see us!’

7

Heavy Rock had a big following on Tyneside, and South Shields was no exception did this genre of music have a big influence on you ? ‘It was early ’80’s I was heavily into AC/DC and listening to the Friday Rock Show which got me into Metal. By the time we got a band together I was on drums almost by default because everyone else either played guitar or wanted to sing!
I’ve never been a special fan of any particular drummer, it’s always been the music they were playing that I enjoyed and took influences from. Which is why one drum fill I often pull out of the bag is a close variation on what the guy on the first Go West album used to do ! Admittedly not very Metal but it works a treat’.

243751_1812750470805_675707_o

What are your earliest memories of drumming ? ‘First drum kit was a Frankenstein drum kit from the West Park Community Centre in South Shields. It didn’t have any stands to speak of, the bass pedal broke after a couple of weeks, so for a year I played drums without a bass pedal. From an influence standpoint, I ripped fills wholesale from Accept”s Restless & Wild album, and I spent many hours playing along to tapes of Judas Priest albums.
We eventually got a band together and the nucleus was me and Steve McGinley. We went through a few names, at that time we called ourselves Trias, and there was a revolving door of members before the next permanent member Dave Johnston came in on bass. Barry Marshall joined on guitar and the final piece in the jigsaw was Tess Mulligan who took up frontman duties. This became the classic White Vice line up’.

3

Where did White Vice rehearse and what can you remember from then? ‘In terms of rehearsal rooms White Vice used the Martec club, Baker Street and The North Eastern pub in Jarrow. That pub was brilliant. It was always freezing cold in the room we were in and over the top of the door there was an extension cable running from the bar. We’d be pounding drums, screeching guitars, laying out some serious slabs of prime Heavy Metal at full volume. Then nip into the bar for refreshment only to find a smokey room full of old Jarrovians in flat caps playing dominoes, supping pints and smoking rollies. Totally detached from what was happening next door. Even though it sounded like armageddon through a couple of 100watt Marshall amps.

I often wonder how we found these places and organised rehearsals given that it was before the Internet, social media, mobile phones etc. The organisation around the band must have all been done word of mouth, and the same for every other band around that time’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a couple of recordings with White Vice and punk band The Fiend. We recorded the first White Vice demo Thrash On Delivery on Easter Sunday 1986 at Desert Sounds in Pelaw and it included the songs Hard Rocker, Sacred Armageddon, Breaking Ice and Death From Above.

Then we went into Baker Street Studios on the Bede Estate in Jarrow and did the Hot Day In July demo on Sunday 5th July 1987. We recorded 5 songs in that session The Death Mosh, The Beast, The Time To Panic (Infectious Terror), and Search & Destroy.

Both White Vice demos were done from scratch in one day from probably mid morning until about 9pm. The Fiend ones I did took a little longer, probably a day and a half. But for the first Fiend demo I did my drum tracks and had to leave the studio to go back to work for 1pm. So I had no further input and the next I knew of it was when the tape was put in my hands!

‘The second session might actually have taken longer as the band had to go back for guitar overdubs as there was a distortion problem on the mic. Baker Street was a very high tech studio, in a local sense anyway and as for the recording, we were told it would be alright in the mix !’

5

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Around 1986 we did most of our socialising in Durham and Chester Le Street especially at the legendary Greenbanks Rock Night on Mondays. We had tracks from our demo played there regularly and this led to gigs in Annfield Plain, Willington, Washington Arts Centre and Fowlers Yard in Durham.

Some of our most notable gigs were self promoted, especially at The Bullion Hall in Chester Le Street where we employed DJs, a bar manager, door staff, PA and lights. Some of the bands that supported us there were Acid Reign and Battleaxe, who were New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legends and local to Chester Le Street.

We headlined what turned into A Battle at the Bullion in Chester Le Street November ’86 where Battleaxe were squashed on the bill in between our band and Pulse, also from South Shields. Let’s put it this way I don’t think Battleaxe took too kindly to being turned over on their home turf. Also at that gig was Karen McNulty she came as a guest of our singer Tess. Karen was vocalist for She, who recorded at NEAT records. Tess told me that he met Karen in Trillians Bar, Newcastle, he was putting studs in his jacket, sang a few lyrics to her bought a few drinks and she fancied the gig’.

‘While we played she sat at the desk with the soundman Howard Baker. Karen told us later on, that our set was tight and intense, like seeing Metallica walk onstage. She was surprised this was only our sixth gig, I’m pretty sure it was meant as a compliment.
A mad song title we had was Metal Minstrel ! It started with a clean guitar playing like a 16th Century lute, then the distortion pedal was pressed, then I simply had to play as fast as I possibly could. We used the same “wear Mark out after a slow start” technique for a few songs’.

209049_1753242543144_548621_o

How did Howard Baker help the band ? (see interview Howards Way August 17th 2017) ‘Howard did live sound for us a few times, he had an old ambulance van that he ferried us around in, we were packed in the back with the gear. Don’t forget that he had Baker Street Rehearsal Studios where we practically lived as a band for about two to three years. Then around ’87 he added the recording studio plus he opened Baker Street Audios in South Shields’.

4

How long did White Vice last ? ‘Around this time our bassist Dave Johnston left so we enlisted a Chester Le Street musician known only to us as Space Debris. Yep really. But very few gigs followed and the loss of Tess on vocals pretty much put paid to things. His swan song was the Hot Day In July demo. Once Tess left the feel had gone so by 1988 the band had run its course’.

What are you up to now and are you still involved in music ? ‘Me and Barry Marshall have played together for the last two and a half years in Classic Rock Covers band Andromeda. I also play in a band called The Spacehoppers with bass player Ed Thomas who was in Shields bands The Cups and most notably Gunslinger, which is a whole other story!’ (See next post for an interview with Ed Thomas.)

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

METAL HEALTH with North East UK musician Glenn S.Howes

11350434_886260228107267_4103078185041143785_n

Can you remember your first band ? ‘I was 16 years old, I was gorgeous, and had hair! Ha. My first band was called Axizz and we played metal. We were all friends of the same age and were from a little town called South Shields, North East UK. The line-up changed a few times, we knew we were young and inexperienced but that didn’t stop us from trying.

There were other bands I knocked about with over the years and some were short lived but these were bands that I loved being in and they were great lads. It was a great learning curve for us all. South Shields in those days in regards to employment was very grim, but for some reason the music scene was excellent. There were a lot of bands and musicians around. So it was an exciting place to be musically.

Strangely my parents thought the band thing was a reasonable idea, which shocked me because I wanted them to hate it. I’m trying my best not to name drop but there is the obvious connection to a name band that made it big (ish) in the 90’s and we all knew each other. This was the very early 80’s at the same time as NWOBHM and as fans of that genre know, North East bands were a leading light in that movement’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘To be honest I have a lot of different influences but if I was pushed to name some I would say my main influences over the years have been Rainbow, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Gary Moore, Fist, Saracen, Beatles, Roy Orbison, Queen, UFO, Van Halen, Scorpions, Motorhead and NWOBHM.

I do have a lot of other favourites and got into some of the heavier stuff like Annihilator and Testament from the late 80’s onwards’.

RB

Ritchie Blackmore

How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘Growing up in the UK through the early 70’s I used to get excited every time I heard a guitar song on the radio or tv. I didn’t understand what it was at the time but knew I was feeling it somewhere deep inside. Then watching Top of the Pops I knew the name of the bands. It was Sweet, Slade and Marc Bolan, the distorted guitar was doing it for me but I was still too young to understand that it was an electric guitar with a distorted amp or fuzz pedal.

The big revelation came when I heard my first proper heavy rock song. You guessed it. Smoke on the Water. I was still wet behind the ears at the time so still didn’t take it all in. I was a listener at this point and had no desire to become a musician but I did fantasise of being Ritchie Blackmore or Angus Young on stage. As you do.

The love for music especially Rock and Metal grew as I entered my teens getting to the point where I became obsessed, which I still am. My parents bought me a flying V copy from a shop on the Haymarket, Newcastle when I was 15. It was black but I really wanted to look like KK Downing or Michael Schenker, even though I wasn’t blonde. So I had it sprayed white.

Ironically because I was just starting to learn I was pretty crap and my friends were away ahead of me, so I got roped into singing. So I was originally a singer not a guitar player’.

SARA

Saracen

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ was it watching a band or hearing a particular song ? ‘What really did it for me was that we used to go and watch Saracen rehearse at this prefab in West Park, South Shields. There were also other bands rehearsing there like Hollow Ground we used to watch.

I remember the first time I saw Saracen rehearse they blew me away. They were older than us and much more experienced. The singer was Louie Taylor, the guitar player was Steve Dawson, bass Les Wilson and drummer Dave Johnson. They had all the top gear. Louie sang like Ian Gillan and Steve played and even looked like Blackmore a bit. These guys were pro’.
(Interviews on this blog with Lou Taylor, Rock the Knight February 2017 and Steve Dawson, Long Live Rock n Roll April 2017). 

‘I remember thinking to myself, it can be done and it is possible you can achieve something by playing rock music. What they taught me apart from professionalism was that anything is possible and you could create a truly great rock band which I considered Saracen to be. I still consider the Saracen lads Louie and Steve in particular to be mentors’.

SAT

Satan at St Hilda’s Youth Club 1982.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘There were a few venues knocking about in my home town however my favourite and most visited was The British Legion. I used to go and watch bands there all the time. I don’t know how I got in as I was clearly under age.

Not only bands that my peers where in but I suppose what you would call name bands as well. I have some great memories of seeing Saracen, Polaris, Zig-Zag, Phasslayne, Fist, Cups, Avenger and many others’.

Chase 2

Glenn 2nd from left in the early days of Chase.

‘Another place I used to frequent was St Hildas Youth Club. This is where Axizz played their first ever gig supporting the mighty Fist. 1981 if I remember correctly. It’s weird that many years later I ended up being the frontman for Fist. I also remember Juggling Monkeys, Hellenbach, Emerson and Satan at St Hildas. Those were the days.

I used to roadie a lot as well. Did some gigs for Fist and Satan as well as Saracen. Other regular haunts were the Sunderland and Newcastle Mayfair’s. Saw many a big name band there and got to play the Newcastle Mayfair once with a band I was in called Chase’.

Chase

Glenn taking a break lying down in Chase.

‘Post 1987 I moved on to playing the international circuit with Blitzkrieg, Avenger, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist and other named bands. Playing at festival shows such as Wacken Gemany, Metal Melt Down USA, Headbangers Open Air Germany, Heavy Metal Night 9 Italy, Keep It True Germany, all over Europe. Also tours supporting the likes of Y&T.

I remember playing with Blitzkrieg around 1990 we played the Newcastle University and instead of receiving payment in money we got 11 crates of Brown Ale. Our drummer Gary Young was so happy!

Y&T

‘We also used to rehearse and record in Baker Street, Jarrow just up the road from South Shields. We went in there a lot towards the end of the 80’s. I remember one day arriving for a Blitzkrieg rehearsal and we had Venom in one room and Satan in the other. It was loud! Venom were rehearsing their live show for a USA tour I think. That was kind of normal in those days’.

‘The biggest gig I did was with the Tygers of Pan Tang at the famous Wacken Festival in Germany ’99. I remember we started the gig after the intro so ran on stage to start rocking in front of approximately 15 to 20,000 metal fans when we noticed that we had no lights.

Guitarist Robb Weir looked at the side of the stage to see the lighting guy fast asleep. He must have been really excited to be doing the lights. A swift kick to the shins and he soon woke up. Actually that show was recorded and Live at Wacken ‘99 was the last album I did at Neat records’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a few demos in those early years after Axizz with bands such as Chase, Ladykillers, Kickout and a more metal version of punk band The Fiend. We used Desert Sounds in Felling quite a lot. Nothing ever came of those demos but it was fun anyway.

I recorded with Blitzkrieg (twice) and Tygers of Pan Tang at the famous Impulse Studios in Wallsend, home of Neat Records. I have some great memories of doing those albums and the times spent in the studio’.

blitzkrieg10ycd1
‘Things had changed for me by late summer ’87, I had joined Blitzkrieg as guitarist. Initially there were a few line ups shuffles then we signed to Neat records. Recording Ten years of Blitzkrieg was a blast and always interesting. The drummer Gary Young from Avenger /Repulsive Vision fame was in the band at the time and was always a hoot. We had Keith Nichol doing the engineering who did a great job.

I also remember Tribe of Toffs coming into the studio to do an interview with a local radio station guy. They were famous at the time for doing a novelty hit record John Kettley is a Weatherman. God knows who had the bright idea to let them in the studio where we were recording. They came in and told us to be quiet! You can imagine our response.

Ten years of Blitzkrieg took only about 3 weeks to record although it was a mini album anyway. It’s now considered an underground classic and highly sort after by NWOBHM enthusiasts and collectors. I don’t think there were a lot pressed initially maybe a thousand or so if that. Ten years of Blitzkrieg was licensed out from Neat records to the Roadrunner label for Europe 1991 – and we didn’t receive a penny’.

blitzkriegmoacd2

Blitzkrieg’s album Mists of Avalon was a different affair. It was hard work and we were committed to making a great album so it was more serious and I suppose more professional. The great thing about that time was although it was much harder due to the volume of material we were recording, it was also much smoother. Mainly due to the drummer Mark Hancock getting his drum tracks down in in one to two takes each time. What a star.

I had a lot of the stuff written even before I re-joined Blitzkrieg in 1997. In fact I had so much material that we could of ended up with a double album, which actually we nearly did. Myself and vocalist Brian Ross had and still have a good relationship. We bounced vocal ideas off each other. I think we came up with some pretty interesting stuff. The album did take a while.

I remember working 6 weeks straight every day apart from Sunday’s as I was pretty much overseeing the whole project and was doing some pre-production. After 6 weeks I was burned out so I had to take a break. I think we got back together after a couple of weeks after that and finished the album. Not as long as a Def Leppard album I suppose’.

maxresdefault

‘Unfortunately in the background there was some political stuff going on which made that album suffer in the long term. Keith Nichol who was the long standing Neat engineer, started the album with us but he had a dispute with the label. He left their employment shortly after. I have nothing against Keith personally I respect him however being honest the recording that he had done with us was not good. I can only assume by this point he just didn’t care much.

He indulged himself in recording techniques that weren’t suited to our material. This caused us some problems later when mixing as it couldn’t be undone unless we re-recorded and we simply didn’t have the time or funds. At least that is what we were told.

If you listen to the album you can hear the mix getting a bit better later on when it was kind of salvaged to a certain degree by the new engineer Pete Carr. He came on board to help us out.

Then the mastering didn’t help the situation either. It sounded lifeless and it also ended up with a truly terrible album cover. Possibly one of the worst album/cd covers ever. We did some covers as well as the original material. They have never been released or re-mixed.

There is a cover of Enter Sandman, an Alice Cooper song and there is a cover of Ace of Spades with myself on lead vocals. They sounded great. It’s a shame nothing was done with those extra tracks. I really wish I could have the master tapes and re-mix and re-record stuff on that album’.

‘Finally Mists was released in 1998 on Neat Metal records which was an updated version of Neat, and ran by original Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jess Cox. Just as it was about to be released Jess lost his distribution in Japan which would of made up a large part of our sales at the time. It seemed like a disaster. It wasn’t well received at the time by the fans however strangely a lot of critics seemed to like it.

On the positive side it did give off an old school vibe which had a charm about it. People have picked up on that and seem to enjoy the album. These days all I get is compliments about that album. It’s funny how time can change perspectives’.

‘I also had a side project called Earthrod which I formed with ex Blitzkrieg drummer Mark Hancock. I did all the vocals and guitars Mark did all the drums, keyboards and recording. We knocked out two albums in the noughties. Screaming in Digital and the second was called Acts of God. It was an experimental project and was recorded in Marks kitchen.

To be honest it wasn’t actually meant to be done full time. We had some interest but we couldn’t manage to keep a line up mainly as the stuff was too hard to play. It was a great experience though’.

fog

Saracen in the fog.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Working for Saracen at the Legion Club in South Shields in the early 80’s I was put on smoke machine duty. Saracen are on stage rocking away. I pushed the button to put a little smoke on stage however Les the bass player kept shouting more, more ! I was only a bairn at the time so I did as I was told.

Before you knew it the whole concert room was full of stage smoke. You couldn’t see the band at all. We had to open all the doors and windows to get rid of it. I got a right royal telling off from the vocalist Louie Taylor. Les never told him it was his fault ha ha’.

‘It was around 1983 I was with some friends and my girlfriend and we were waiting at the bus stop to take us down town to see Saracen at Bolingbroke Hall, South Shields. I saw the bus and started going towards it somehow I managed to get a nail stuck in my little finger that was sticking out of a fence close by. It had gone right into my finger down to the bone.

My friends called my dad who came and when he saw the situation he had no choice but to saw the fence. I eventually got free and went to hospital.

The Nurses and Doctors were pissing themselves laughing when they saw me coming in holding a fence. After laughing his knackers off the doctor removed the nail and fence that came with it and bandaged me up. I still have the scar to prove it.

We still got to Bolingbroke Hall to see Saracen and rushed up to the stage. Soon as I raised my right fist in the air complete with bandage, the bass player Les Wilson fell over and split his jeans. Tackle out and everything ha ha. You couldn’t make it up’.

Fist April

Fist

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘My last gig with Fist was in April 2017 at the Unionist Club in my home town supporting the wonderful Bernie Torme. I’m happy to say it was a great gig and meeting Mr Torme was the icing on the cake. What a musician and what gent! I was with Fist for four years as their frontman. Being with Fist was great experience’.

‘I haven’t got involved with another original band since then but it is early days. There have been a few interesting offers however nothing that was suitable for me. I’m not ruling out doing more original material and have written some stuff which was originally meant for Fist however at this time I have three none original bands on the go which I’m busy with and really enjoying.

Bone Idol which is a classic pub rock band, G Force which is a tribute to Gary Moore’s classic rock/metal years and a Judas Priest tribute band called Metal Gods UK. Bone Idol doubles up as G Force. I’m on vocals/guitars, Ian Rogers vocals/bass, Stu Johnson keyboards and my old mate Matty on drums.

Metal Gods UK is myself lead vocals, Dan Rochester guitars, Andrew McCann guitars, Ian Rogers bass and James Charlton on drums. We are arranging live dates for these bands soon’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

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

Lou Taylor SATAN/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.

ALIVE AND KICKING with Desolation Angels guitarist Robin Brancher

rb1

Checking out some books in a charity shop I came across two which I’d read in the 1990’s – Trainspotting and The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail. Flicking through the pages I remembered the storylines. It’s similar to picking up a Heavy Metal album from the 1980’s – Judas Priest, Scorpions, Accept. I’d remember the tracks.

Listening to the new album by Desolation Angels recall’s that sound. The thwack of drums, twin guitar attack, powerful vocals, relentless energy. Slower tracks crunch and crackle. Yep, just like that. A quick check on who produced the album and Chris Tsangarides was the man behind the desk. It figures.

CT produced some of the classic heavy rock and metal albums during the 1980’s. Thin Lizzy’s Thunder & Lightning, Forged in Fire by Anvil and Spellbound from Tygers of Pan Tang. I asked Robin how did working with CT come about ?
‘The situation with Chris T came about through John Wiggins of Tokyo Blade. John and I talk quite regularly about what our bands are are up to, and the state of music industry in general. And it was through one of these conversations that the idea of Chris coming together with Desolation Angels for our next album. Cheers for that John’.

NOW11

‘CT has his studio out near Kingsdown in Kent which is situated on a lovely part of the English coastline. His studio occupies a set of buildings on a large camping site which overlook the English Channel. Bands also get the use of a discounted crew lodge on the site to stay in. That really does help, as it’s fully kitted out and just a stones throw away from the studio itself.

A short walking distance away are two pub’s, Zetland Arms, and The Rising Sun. Without these two highly essential recuperating dwellings the recording process would fail.

How long did you record for and did he tell you any stories ? ‘We recorded for about a month. This was done in weekly stints. I think the first one was a ten day shift, just to get settled in, and move the recording on. Then back for the vocals, overdubbing and mixing.

Did Chris tell any stories? If there’s one fella on this planet that can tell you a story, it is without any doubt our man Chris Tsangarides! I’m surprised he hasn’t been inducted into The Guinness Book Of World Records for story telling! Yes indeed he told many a wild and wonderful story.

To hear about Phil Lynott and his rampaging, to hear how the intro to Judas Priest’s Painkiller came about. To hear about the many laughs CT had with Gary Moore and to hear about the dealings with record companies, good and bad. Just to hear him talk about his own personal life journey – the man is held in very high regard in the rock world, and now in Desolation Angels too.

The man is a legend, and rightfully so. I would think it would be safe to say that Desolation Angels will be back to work on the next set of songs with Chris. Now that we know him, and how he works, I can only see an even better album being produced’.

8

When did you start playing gigs, what venues did you play and did you support name touring bands ? ‘We started a band straight away. In rehearsals we would play mostly Quo, Queen, Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash. We were very quick off the mark when writing our own songs and put them in the set straight away. However this first line-up never gigged so we had to make a few changes’.

The line-up for Desolation Angels during the 1980’s was Dave Wall (voice) Robin Brancher (guitars) Keith Sharp (guitars) Joe Larner (bass) and Brett Robertson (drums). ’There were plenty of rock pubs and clubs in London and all over the UK in those days and it was either 1979 or ’80 when we went downstairs at The Rock Garden in Covent Garden, London to play our first gig.

Then we entered a talent competition in a rock pub in Wembley. I remember we played three songs. One of our own called Just Fantasy and two covers, Jumping Jack Flash done in the style of Johnny Winter and Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. Of which the latter won us the competition. Our prize being a crate of warm beer.

I’ll always remember the crowd appreciation as we came to the finale of the song. Hands in the air clapping, whistling and shouting for more…man adulation tasted sweet – certainly better than the warm beer!’

5
Desolation Angels went on to support Diamond Head at The Electric Stadium in Chadwell Heath in 1981. And in the same year at the same venue we supported Samson. That was when Bruce Dickinson was in the line-up. Back then he was very helpful, supportive and encouraging.

We also supported Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts and then a whole host of acts once we got into the Marquee in Wardour Street, London. That was a great time. To be honest, Desolation Angels was, and still is, focussed on doing our own shows. We put a lot of effort into them. Not only musically, but also the theatrics too, plenty of pyrotechnics, smoke, lights, the whole show, and as big a PA as we could afford. Which was pretty substantial back then!

1980S RUSKIN ARMS

‘Talking about Bruce Dickinson though, shortly after the Electric Stadium gig Desolation Angels went on to play a gig at The White Heart in Acton. Bruce said he would come along but he didn’t show up. That is, not until after our set.

When we met him at the bar, he made his apologies for being late. But went on to tell us in the strictest of confidence, that he had got an unexpected call from the Iron Maiden management, asking him to go along for another audition with the Iron Maiden guys. The thing was while we were talking with Bruce you could see that he had a twinkle in his eyes, and he seemed extra excited.

The news hadn’t been announced in any of the music press yet, but he was sure he had got the job as the replacement for Paul Di’Anno. As everybody knows, he certainly did get the gig with Iron Maiden. But it was still very noble and cool of him to turn up at our little gig in Acton and confide in us. I expect that after such an event he had just experienced, he really did need that beer!’

‘Also, and this is for the guitar aficionados. While I was backstage at the Electric Stadium, Paul Samson was there warming up on his trademark Gibson SG. By the side of him, he had two other guitars, both in fitted cases. He opened them up and inside were these Half Moon custom made guitars, really unusual shape. One was a yellow kinda sunburst colour, the other I can’t remember. He used one of them mid set in their gig, the yellow one I think.

I was itching to pick one up and have a go, but man, I just daren’t. Paul was rock royalty, and I didn’t wanna overstep the mark. It would be nice to know where those guitars are today?’

85:86TOUR

What were your early experiences of recording ? ‘Around 1981 Desolation Angels first recorded a demo at Legend Studios in Sidcup, Kent – we think it was there. It may of been two demo’s at separate times, we can’t really remember it was well over 30 years ago. The tracks recorded at that time where, Satan’s Child, Death Machine, Unsung Hero and All Hallows Eve. They are on our box set, Feels Like Thunder’.

1

When did Desolation Angels make the move to LA and what was the reason behind the move ? ‘We moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and lived there for 7 years. We had been gigging regular at a club in Shepherds Bush in London. It was the guy who managed the club, John Feely, who suggested that LA might be a good move for us. He had contacts out there and a band already playing at clubs along the ‘Strip. It must have taken about a second to confirm that we would go!’

‘We played many cities across the states. There was one gig in Las Vegas, now that was a night to remember, or maybe to forget ! After playing the gig we had an extremely boozy night and the whole band and it’s entourage were rounded up and thrown out of the hotel. Then our vans and trucks were surrounded by a convoy of police cars and escorted by state troopers out of Las Vagas to the Nevada state line.

We eventually got to a casino on the border and ended up in the restaurant having a breakfast of steak ‘n’ eggs and more beers. We looked out on to the foyer and on display was the bullet ridden car of Bonnie and Clyde ! Hmmm, that kinda made you think !’

3

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘The whole thing of being in a rock band is basically funny all the time, and strenuous too, everyday. There’s always something going on that you can look back and laugh at! Spinal Tap and Bad News spring to mind!

I have a few stories from back in the day. I remember playing a small pub somewhere and after finishing one of our numbers, our bassist Joe Larner ordered a pint of Guinness from a tiny hole/bar in the wall at his side of the stage. The pint took ages to settle and we were all there waiting and watching, including the audience. Joe finally got his pint, paid for it right there on stage and held it up high as a salute to the audience. Then took a great glug of the grog and we carried on. It was a rapturous night!’

‘There was the time when we were driving down the A12 going to Norfolk for a gig. Another motorist was flashing our van. When we stopped, the guy said something was not quite right with our back axle. What happened was the pin in the back axle had snapped, and the vans back wheels were way out of alignment with the front wheels. We were basically going along the road side wards. We had been driving along like a crab for miles haha’.

At the time where you aware the impact that Heavy Metal & NWOBHM was having and has had since ? ‘Rock music, rock clubs, rock venues were everywhere. Great Heavy Metal and NWOBHM bands just seemed to be on all the time. Back then every second pub had a Rock night. Keith Sharp and I quickly got into heavier sounding music at an early age. Once into that scene, you could find Rock/Metal music everywhere.

We would watch bands at the Marquee who would later go on to headline at the Hammersmith Odeon. Or bands at the Ruskin Arms and other London clubs where Iron Maiden, and others including us would regularly play. We weren’t really aware that we were going through a moment in rock music history that was going to be so well documented as it is these days. The impact for me was all the great bands that I got to see and learn from. You could never imagine it coming to an end.

I’m obviously very glad that these days there is such a vast interest in NWOBHM, and Rock/Metal music as a whole. It seems that there is no stopping it’s popularity. And that my friend is a darn good thing!’

What has music given you ? ‘Life! No seriously, it has given me life. Here I am at this grand age, haha. I’m still slim, fit and healthy. Alright, I admit my hearing might of suffered a tad over the years, my hair is a mess, and I’m mighty damned cynical too. But otherwise, I’m still very much right there in the thick of it, at the front for the fight for Rock ’N’ Roll music. It ain’t ever gonna die, that’s for sure, it’s just to cool !’

NOW10

The present line-up for Desolation Angels is Paul Taylor (voice) Robin Brancher (guitars) Keith Sharp (guitars) Clive Chief’O’ Pearson (bass) and Chris Takka (drums).Desolation Angels are very much alive and kicking. I have a great band and team around us to keep me motivated and sure-footed. I’m driven by the thirst for more Heavy Metal. I still believe. I can still dream too. Dreaming’s good. I still have goals. There always seems to be one more riff lurking on the fretboard. It’s my job to chase the bloody thing down then ram it out through amplification as LOUD as possible!

As you can imagine being in a band you get subjected to a hell of a lot more bonkers situations along life’s whirlwind ride than you might do in the average nine to five world. And when you have music as good as what we have produced right there on the recent KING album, believe me – it’s very hard to put something like that down. To walk away from it. To say that’s the end. To say, you know what, I’ve had enough. No, I don’t think so. I’m in it for good. That’s what the music has given me! ‘

What are the future plans for Desolation Angels ? ‘Recently there has been some very significant news released about Desolation Angels signing a new deal with UK record company Dissonance Productions. This signing will drastically lift our profile and see the band gigging a hell of a lot more. Plus, some new songs are already in place as there is plans to record a new album in the near future. So, yes, really exciting times ahead. We cant wait!’

king

Desolation Angels next gig is Sunday December 3rd 2017 at the Hard Rock Hell (NWOBHM) Xmas Rocka 2 held at the O2 Academy in Sheffield, UK. On the bill are headliners Raven plus Diamond Head, Satan, Seventh Son and more. Tickets on sale now.

You can find the latest info, gigs, photo’s, history and new album KING can be bought from the official website http://www.desolationangels.co.uk.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

STILL HUNGRY – Dave Allison, original rhythm guitarist & vocalist from Canadian metallers Anvil

ROSS HALFIN ?

Dave Allison was a member of Anvil for 10 years and recorded 7 albums, his last was ‘Past and Present’ live album. I got in touch with Dave and asked what are you up to now ?

‘I pretty much quit playing when I left Anvil. I went to see them for the first time last year and I got totally inspired to start playing again. I am currently working with a network of all pro musicians from back in the day. Guys who are still in the game. We are writing songs and recording mostly over the internet.

If I told you some mischievous stories and funny anecdotes from back in the day it would be a whole different interview and very X-rated haha’.

Back then Anvil were Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow (lead vocals, guitar), Dave Allison (guitar, vocals) Ian Dickson (bass, backing vocals) and Robb Reiner (drums) The band were originally called Lips and released their first album independently. They changed names to Anvil and signed to Attic Records who re-released their debut album ‘Hard ’n’ Heavy’ in 1981.

anvil-band-1983

Let’s go back to the start, when did you first get into playing music and who were your influences ? ’First band I played in I was maybe 13! Mike Poitras on drums, Dave McLean lead guitar and myself on rhythm guitar! We sucked but we had fun! Influences ? Too many to mention but a short list would be Deep Purple, Cream, Hendrix, Sabbath, Boston, Styx and Aerosmith previous to meeting the boys! Oh and Rush of course!

After that anybody and everybody. I should probably include The Who, The Beatles and believe it or not The Monkeys in that first list!

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that ? ‘When I first heard all of those previous bands. I started playing Monkeys songs when I was 8 years old when I got my first electric guitar and amplifier from money that I made from my paper route!

The early days of Anvil were a hard struggle in Canada… ‘First gig was with Anvil was after 10 months of rehearsal. We done seven days a week, 8 hours a day. Most of that was just Rob, Lips and myself. Ian didn’t join the band till very late. We already had the first album written long before the first gig. During this time we self recorded and self-produced the Lips album which eventually became the first Anvil album Hard ’n’ Heavy’.

Back then what venue’s were you playing ? ‘We played every s******** in Ontario and Quebec. Anywhere that would have us. It wasn’t easy back in the day being an original band. And we were loud as f***. We were a band who played mostly original music and all the clubs wanted tribute bands so we bullshitted our set list and said we played all the current Hard Rock band stuff. But of course we didn’t.

We did do a lot of Ted Nugent though. And we would play a club for an entire week. Back in the day that’s how it was. We used to play the same clubs over and over again every 2 months. The word spread about us and eventually so did our territory’.

MOR ANVIL copy

By 1982 Anvil had released their second album ’Metal on Metal’. That year they got a call to play a festival which was fast becoming a regular on the rock circuit. Can you recall playing the UK Monsters of Rock ? ‘Monsters of Rock gig ! Ho Lee fuk ! What an experience. It was surreal ! Couldn’t believe we were actually there. Although by that time we really were a well-oiled, road hardened and very confident bunch of guys. But it was still the biggest thing we had ever done. I think we were a little heavy given the rest of the line-up’.

On the bill were Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Gillan, Saxon and headliners Status Quo. By 1983 Anvil had released their third album ‘Forged in Fire’ produced by Chris Tsangarides…‘We always took recording very seriously and worked very much as a team to achieve the end result. This would often create a bit of tension between us but that’s just the nature of the beast and the end result speaks for itself !

21994478_10214961756344414_4334821500115936668_o

To promote the album they went out on the ‘Another Perfect Day’ UK tour supporting Motorhead. I saw them at Newcastle City Hall, plus before that, at Leeds Queens Hall on a bill with Girlschool, Twisted Sister and Saxon. What are your memories from that day ? ‘With those bands the Leeds gig was a little more in keeping with who we were and was much more comfortable. That was an excellent show on the day, and we had a lot of fun doing it and playing with those bands’.

Did you film any tv appearances or music video’s ? ‘Not as many as I would have liked to but yes there are number of them. My personal favourite are the Tokyo Tapes live at Sun Plaza. One guy filming on the balcony with what must have been a huge camera and the footage is as raw as it gets, but totally captures what Anvil was all about.

There is another really good one back in the Hard and Heavy days which was a guy’s college project that I also think is pretty good although again very raw! Slickest one was Super Rock ’84 but it is short and only includes the tracks School Love and Metal on Metal with just short pieces of both those songs. I would love to see the rest of the footage but I don’t know if it exists’.

What’s your future plans ? ‘I have a home studio and do all of that on computer, so with the musicians I’m working with it makes it kind of easy to trade ideas without travelling great distances to play together. I’m also very interested in taking older songs and remaking them much like we did in Anvil. Eventually the plan is to put out a recording. With the whole new spin of course and much more attitude! I tend to like attitude !

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

DOCTOR ROCK – in conversation with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Robb Weir

5P4A7906

How did you get involved in music and who were your influences ?

‘I was born in Ghana. My dad was working for the British Colonial Service out in West Africa as a doctor/surgeon specialising in tropical medicine. His transport in those days was a horse, and with two saddle bags full of medical supplies. Dad travelled from village to village coming across things like black magic and cannibalism. In 1959 my mum wanted to return home to the UK and in particular the North East of England.

When we came home Dad worked as a medical officer of health and later went into general practice in South Shields. To get to work my father had to get the ferry across the river Tyne from North Shields to South Shields. One day he came home with a nylon strung Spanish guitar. He bought it from a junk shop I think. Dad was very musical and had trained in classical piano. To be honest he could pretty much play anything. He thought it might be fun for me to try and learn how to play.

In our house there were records by Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles and the Stones and I used to play along with them. I didn’t have any music lessons I basically taught myself how to play, I’m still learning one day I’ll get the hang of it!’

‘I started listening to Slade, Status Quo, Black Sabbath and then around 1974 I started going to the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair to see every band you can think of. I became great friends with the manager of the Mayfair, Steven Lister who worked for the Mecca Association. I’d ring him up and ask who was playing and he’d leave my name on the guest list. I think it was after the first time Tygers of Pan Tang played there in ’79 that we became friends’.

The Tygers of Pan Tang formed in Whitley Bay in 1978 and by the early 80’s they had a lot of success. Can you pinpoint the time when the Tygers career took off ? ‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Recording studios in Wallsend and recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’ It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers launching the label and giving the Neat label a direction. Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label.

Our drummer’s girlfriend used to sell the single for us on the door of the venues we played like the Boilermakers in Sunderland, the Central club in Ashington and other workingmen’s clubs in the North East of England. That’s the gigs we used to play in the early days before the big time arrived. At that time workingmen’s clubs were full of men from the shipyards and mines. Most had long hair, jeans, tattoos and listened to rock music.

All around the country the rock scene on a Friday night was huge and all the shows were packed. To see a band you had to get your arse out of the house, go to the bus stop in the pouring rain and get to the club. You couldn’t see a concert on the internet in those days! We were definitely in the right place at the right time’.

‘Don’t Touch Me There’ was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference to awareness so the next pressing was 4,000 copies! Then Dave Woods the label owner at Neat records was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single! But our success still hadn’t really sunk in. We were caught up in the moment I guess, you’re just in a giant musical blender getting whizzed around with all the other acts.

One of my more defining moments was when the album Wildcat came out. I got my first physical copy of it in my hand and showed my parents. They said yes that’s great but it would be nice if you got a proper job! I guess they just wanted the best for their son.’

Were you aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal ? ‘Only when I read about it in Sounds! It was a 3 or 4 page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he coined the phrase NWOBHM. Geoff wrote about 4 bands initially – Iron Maiden from London, Def Leppard from Sheffield, Saxon from Barnsley and the Tygers from Whitley Bay. Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh (laughs).

Listening back to Wildcat I didn’t realise how much punk had jumped into my head song writing wise. Well a rock voice on any song from Never Mind the Bollocks album would have turned that iconic punk album into a hard rock album. Steve Jones with his Les Paul and Marshall stack – had a great hard rock sound’.

MINGLES

The Tygers were originally a 4 piece then changed to a 5 with the addition of guitarist John Sykes… ‘We recorded Wildcat in Morgan Studio’s in Wilsden, North London with Chris Tsangarides producing. We had just finished 11 days recording the album – which was very quick. We’d been playing those songs on Wildcat for two years on the road so we knew them inside out and for the recording process.

Chris put forward a few production ideas. For example, I played a guitar solo through a Lesley cabinet which is normally associated with keyboard players. The top of the cabinet has horns inside and they spin when activated. So Chris had this idea of playing the guitar through it to see what it would sound like. He was quite inventive and it worked really well. I think we recorded the harmonic bit in Slave to Freedom that way and something else I can’t quite remember’.

‘1980 was a really busy year for us, we completed several tours supporting established bands. The Tygers went out with Magnum for 3 weeks in the March, they were promoting their new live album Marauder which Chris had just produced. We then went out with the Scorpions on their Lovedrive tour, then we did the On Through the Night, tour with Def Leppard. There was 3 weeks with Saxon on the Wheels of Steel tour and we did shows with Iron Maiden and Whitesnake as well’.

scan0028

‘Apart from Magnum, all the bands we opened up for where 2 guitar bands. When I played a guitar solo there was no rhythm behind it so the sound would drop. It was felt that to give the band a bigger, fuller sound we needed to add another guitar player. So our management and I.T.B (International Talent Booking) our agent down in Wardour Street, London said we think it would be better if the band added an additional guitar player. So after Wildcat was recorded we advertised and held auditions at Tower Bridge rehearsal studios, London.

About 80 guitar players were invited down. There were 2 that stood head and shoulders above the rest and that was John Sykes and Steve Mann, who had just come out of a band called Liar. Steve went on to play with MSG and Lionheart who have just reformed. Steve now lives in Germany where he is a record producer. Steve played guitar and saxophone – John just played one hell of a guitar as you know.

John had everything, he was six foot tall, long blonde hair, stunningly good looking, incredible guitar player, great singer, good songwriter, although he never knew it at the time as he was just starting out – and the girls loved him, they fell at his feet. He was so much better at playing the guitar than me I thought to myself, I’d better up my game here.’

Capture2

Was John in a band previously ? ‘He was in a covers band in Blackpool called Streetfighter, and they were fronted by bass player Merv Goldsworthy who is now in FM. Merv and I remain good friends both the Tygers and FM were on the Cambridge Rock festival bill earlier this year. Streetfighter were famed for their exceptional Thin Lizzy covers’.
(Streetfighter appear on a 1980 heavy metal compilation album New Electric Warriors).

‘John was at my house one day and I was showing him the root chords from the songs on Wildcat and he said in a cockney accent ‘Ere Robb I’m fackin’ sick of this I’ve got this fackin’ idea what do you think of this’. He played me some chords, I said ‘I really like that I’ve got something that will go with that’.

He replied ‘Fackin’ hell we got a song there, let’s go for that’. So we spent the rest of the day forgetting the set we were learning for the upcoming Wildcat tour and wrote Take It, which we recorded for the Spellbound album, unfortunately is the only song we wrote together’.

SYKES

Sykes went on to co-write and record two albums with the Tygers. ‘Spellbound’ was his first along with new vocalist Jon Deveril who had replaced Jess Cox. How did Jon Deveril get the job with the Tygers ? ‘John Sykes first gig was Reading festival, 1980 with Whitesnake headlining, there was 42,000 people there! What happened was we had done the Wildcat tour, it was a sell out across the UK – Mayfair’s and Locarno’s and places like that, they all had a capacity of 2,000 people. There was a big buzz in the music press about us, we were getting full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going well, really well.
But there was a meeting with our management and Rod MacSween our agent who said ‘With the singer you have at the moment we can’t really further the career of the band outside the UK’.

So our management took the decision to change the line up even though Wildcat had been so successful. We took this forward and advertised for a singer.

We knew we were in a good position to get a great response because in the national charts Wildcat entered at number 13 and around us were the likes of Bowie, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire. All those multi platinum artists and here’s the little ‘ol Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay hanging in there. We were hoping it would do well but never expected it to do that well – it was fantastic.’

‘We had a huge response for a new vocalist with well over 130 singers turning up. But again there was one who was head and shoulders above everyone else, and that was Jon Deverill. A lad from the Welsh Valleys with a huge voice, he walked into the job really. So he moved up from Cardiff, his home city to the North East. Our management got him a place to live with John Sykes and we immediately started writing songs for Spellbound. So the Tygers story rolled on’.

‘We were living down in London and the Angelic Upstarts were down there at the same time. We were signed to MCA records and they were signed to EMI. I remember Mensi their singer sold second hand jags to supplement his income. The drummer Decca would also make a few quid.

When the likes of Praying Mantis or Iron Maiden were playing at the Marquee club he’d appear wearing one of those big long trench coats. He would walk around the punters and open up his coat like Arthur Daley and inside were all the latest EMI album releases. He’d sell them out of his coat ha-ha! Obviously he had acquired them, ‘somehow’ from the EMI offices. It was hilarious to watch – and he always made a few quid.

They were lovely lads you know, I’ve always liked them.’

1981 was a very busy time for the band. They were still contracted to MCA and that year saw the Tygers release two albums. ‘Spellbound’ recorded in Morgan Studio’s in London produced by Chris Tsangarides and released in April. The Tygers third album ‘Crazy Nights’ was recorded at Trident Studios in London and produced by Dennis MacKay. It was released late 1981.

The more successful and commercial sounding album ‘The Cage’ was recorded in 1982. Extra songwriters were used resulting in a couple of singles that charted in the UK. But there was another line up change. Fred Purser, formerly of fellow North Eastern band Penetration, was in on lead guitar…
‘John got the Lizzy gig because he wanted to push his career further forward. Unbeknown to us he auditioned for Ozzy first but didn’t get that job. When he got back to the North East the news didn’t go down well with the rest of the band so we got another guitarist in.

From what I gather John’s stepfather, Ron contacted MCA and told them they shouldn’t drop John as he had great potential, which they agreed. So they set him up in a recording studio in Dublin to record a single. In the studio next door was Thin Lizzy. Inevitably John met up and Lizzy and asked Phil if he would sing on, Don’t Leave Me This Way, John’s first single.

Lizzy had just lost their guitarist Snowy White and there it was, the opening for John to join. We’ve remained friends after everything that has happened. I’ll always have a soft spot for John’.

1328252480_l

By January ’83 Thin Lizzy appeared on live music TV show, The Tube. A show where I was lucky to be in the audience. Interviews on the Tube had a look of almost falling apart and not quite knowing what was going to happen next – but that was its appeal. Thin Lizzy were interviewed in the dressing room before they went on stage.

Interviewer:Now perhaps the topic on everybody’s mind the Thin Lizzy split, tell me about it”.
Lynott:Yes we’re splitting up
Interviewer:Why”
Lynott: “Cos we want to”
Interviewer: “Why not just split when Snowy left as opposed to getting John in and starting all over again for just for a couple of months ?”
Lynott: “Cos we felt that John was better and we thought that we would give it a go with John, establish him as a protégé, and then let him go on and do great things.”
Interviewer: “Well how do John and Darren feel about this, it’s their claim to fame. “
Lynott: “No it’s not”.

The full interview is available on you tube. Sykes went on to massive worldwide success with Whitesnake, then as a solo artist.

The Tygers also played the iconic TV show The Tube, what are your memories of that day ? ‘Yes it was Christmas ’82. I remember our crew had just loaded our full touring backline of 18 Marshall 4×12’s, stacked three high in cages and fourteen 100 watt Marshall heads onto the stage in Tyne Tees TV studio.

We were in our dressing room and in the distance heard our track Gangland playing, what’s going on here we thought it was getting louder and louder. Then all of a sudden our dressing room door burst open and standing in the doorway was this huge, blonde, stripped to the waist, head banging monster. We were all shocked. He had a big cassette player on his shoulder playing at full volume…’You guy’s fuckin’ rock I love you guy’s’. He turned around and walked back out. We looked at each other…

Wasn’t that Dee Snider of Twisted Sister?’ I’ll never forget that. We talked with them afterwards and they were fantastic, really brilliant. I got what they were all about, the dressing up and make up. Dee was really clever writing those songs, you know the big shouty anthems.’

TV SHOW

In 1982 Love Potion No. 9 was a hit in the UK charts, did you record many TV appearances for the promotion of the single ?
’We were at Newcastle Central Station two weeks running with our tickets in our hands ready to go down to do Top of the Pops, but both times we were told we are not being included in the show. One show they said they had the full quota of metal bands, i.e. one! To fill the time and the other show was cut ten minutes short because of a Queens speech – and our spot was in those ten minutes.

But we did appear on TV quite a few times, I remember the Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, we did a programme called Something Else on BBC2, there was Tony Wilsons Pop World and we did Friday Night Live on Tyne Tees television. There were more I’m sure.’

You formed a band called Sergeant, how did that come about ? ‘Tygers came to an end for me around late ’83, I was still writing songs, I had a little recording studio to put them together. I had over an album worth of songs. At this time I was still working with Brian Dick the drummer from the Tygers, he left the band at the same time as me. We recruited a singer and bass player, and named the band Sergeant.

We recorded a 4 track demo at Lynx studio in Newcastle, which was owned at the time by Brian Johnson from AC/DC. The manager of Sergeant, Colin Rowell and I, went down to London and hawked the demo around all the record companies. Colin had a lot of contacts in the music business. He was working as the stage manager for The Tube music programme on Channel 4 at the time.

There was interest from a guy called Dave Novak head of A&R at CBS records. He came up to see us rehearsing in a hall near Jesmond, Newcastle. He liked us and said why not come down to London play a show with Mama’s Boys at the Marquee and I’ll bring Muff Winwood along, the CEO of CBS. We’ll do the deal in the dressing room. The initial advance was going to be £60,000.’

‘With this good news we set up a meeting at the Egypt Cottage pub in Newcastle with the other lads. They said great but, ‘We’ve decided we don’t want Robb in the band anymore’. I never got to the bottom of why they didn’t want me in my own band! I left the pub and Colin walked out with me telling them that ‘The record contract is walking out the door as well’. They were shocked and didn’t expect that, they thought Colin would just carry on as there manager.

They apparently replaced me with a guitar player plus a keyboard player! Nice to know it took two to replace little old me! But they only lasted 4 or 5 shows. They supported Accept in the UK, and then disbanded’.

‘Not long after that I got a call from Jess Cox. We met up and eventually ended up recording a song of mine called ‘Small Town Flirt’ which Jess released through the Neat record label as he was working with Dave Woods the label owner at the time. He also re-released a whole load of other Tygers early demo material. But I wasn’t happy at all with the situation and I just got sick of it all so that’s when I ducked out of the music industry. Until, out of the blue, I got a call in 1999 which resulted in the Tygers, well I say Tygers !

Jess told me he had called all the previous members and asked them if they could take part in the reformation. Apparently only Jess and I could do it as everyone else had commitments they couldn’t get out of. This is what I was told.

So we hired 3 fantastic musicians, Gav Gray, Glenn Howes and Chris Percy who were in Blitzkrieg at the time I think, and asked if they could help out. We actually were the Friday night headliners at the Wacken Festival in Germany. Saxon and Dokken were on before us for goodness sake!

We played in front of 22,000 people that night. I got so badly bitten again by the rock’n’roll bug I knew I just had to put the Tygers back together again somehow.’

Fast forward and the album Ambush was released in 2012 and then in 2016 a self titled album…’That went into the British charts at number 24, the Danish charts were the record company is based, at 13. The album has done really well. In 2013, Dean who was our longstanding guitarist from 2000, a good friend and a great player decided he wanted to do other musical things and left so we auditioned and now we’ve got Mickey McCrystal on guitar who is a great guitar player, six foot tall, he’s got the looks and an amazing career in front of him – in the spirit of John Sykes!

Tygers are run as a family, and just like a family we all look out for each other and we get on really well. When on tour we’ve got a reputation amongst hotel managers of being a nice set of lads, we don’t tear the place up – anymore, the hotel managers tell us we can book with them again and again. Gone are the days when we would set off fire extinguishers on hotel landings and super glue TV’s in the bath!’

Tyger 11

What is the feeling in the Tygers camp now compared to 1980’s ? ‘Tom Noble is back managing us, he first managed the band from 1978-82. He saw us play about three years ago in Rome, we had a drink after the show and we said we were putting a new album together. He asked if we wanted any help. Perfect timing if you ask me. So it came at a good time for both of us life is SO much easier with Tom.

It’s much better now, back then you were constantly chasing fame and glory, the autographs, photographs, interviews were all great but having to prove yourself all the time, the competition and ego’s – you couldn’t get away from it. Thing is, you wanted to be recognised, people buying your records meant you were doing well and you were alive. It was a double edged sword really.

However today is a totally different story, we are very pleased that people still choose to come and see the Tygers. Meet and greet is a massive part of our night and we look forward to it, say hi to the fans, sign a few things and talk to people. The pressure and ego’s are gone it’s so much more relaxed and enjoyable.’

10264041_221452728207356_4949003640478777266_o

What does music mean to you ? ‘I’ve loved every second of my musical career, the whole ride has been like being sitting at the front of a giant roller coaster, hands up, screaming with delight! Music is a way of life, it’s a wonderful thing, and it can be your best friend. You can turn to music at any time of your life and it can be a great comforter. I absolutely love it.’

Tygers of Pan Tang are on a UK tour during November 2017. For further info and tour dates contact the official website http://www.tygersofpantang.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 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 New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Dave Allison ANVIL: Still Hungry, 12th November 2017.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Jon Dalton on his journey from Glastonbury to L.A.

981102_1637929499789473_4919485545198588902_o

A call came in from Los Angeles ‘Hello Gary, it’s Jon here how you doing, I received a message that you have been asking about Gold. Well here is the story’.

Before we go any further let me give you some background. Gold were formed in 1979 in Bristol, UK by guitarists Jon Dalton and Pete Willey. Like many of their contemporaries, Gold had grown up listening to first generation rock and metal bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Free and later Thin Lizzy and Queen. Gold’s music was a combination of space and glam mixed with heavy rock. Jon has lived in USA for 20 years as a professional musician.

‘I moved out to the US in 1999, I have Native American roots so it was like coming home. I also wanted to move my jazz career along. It seems that was a good call. I got signed to Innervision Records in 2003 and they released my first CD with them The Gift, and it did very well. The title track reached number 1 on New York’s CIM jazz chart.

I spent some time over 2006-2007 back in the UK touring and recording with a jazz organ trio with my friend John-Paul Gard on Hammond organ. I released the resulting album in the US in 2009 and it’s been very well received among people who like that kind of jazz. I still come back to the UK from time to time for mini-tours with John-Paul and I love doing that. Gives me a chance to catch up with my UK friends and my family’s mostly over here these days’.

13340121_10207951198650213_209291697859250641_o

‘I keep myself busy playing live with a residency in Los Angeles. I also have a YouTube channel dedicated to jazz guitar with performance videos, instrument reviews and playing tutorials, that kind of thing. I just got done completing the first track of my next CD with producer Richard E.

Richard has done a wonderful job on that and a performance video cut will be up on YouTube soon. If things go according to plan, that CD will release on Innervision in 2018’.

When did you pick up a guitar and who were your influences ? ‘We had an 8 track player in the house and I’d listen to the Stones, Bowie, The Doors anything I could get my hands on, I was really into my music. I was already playing a bit of rock guitar but I was mostly into progressive rock like Yes. Then around 1975 I met Pete Willey and we hit it off straight away.

Pete and I formed a school band called Grafitti we did a few school gigs and played in some pubs in Bristol. One memorable gig was in The Naval Volunteer. My chemistry teacher came into the pub and saw me playing. Next day at school he said you were quite good last night, maybe that’s why you never do your homework haha.

That band split up after the summer holidays and I started hanging out on the free festival circuit in the west country. I used to like Steve Hillage and the band Gong and they were heavily involved in these festivals. I think it was 7th day of the 7th month in ’77 when I first went to a festival, yes very mystical ! And there was Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine ’79 Glastonbury with a laser light show I’d never seen anything like it – blew my mind.

I was a complete dyed in the wool Gong fan I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than sit in a damp field and watch them play at a free festival ! I may be wrong on the dates but I think it was 1979 when they started charging, it was a fiver to get in but Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine, Steve Hillage and Mother Gong were on the bill so I think it was probably the best fiver I spent’.

Gold Mk1

Did you form a band again and what venues did you play ? ’I met up with Pete Willey again, he was more of a straight ahead rocker. He liked bands like Thin Lizzy, Queen but in common we liked songs from Free and Bad Company. Pete also had good knowledge of what was in the charts at the time.

He liked a bit pop music, I was a bit more of a rock snob really. We brought this sound together and that formed the early version of Gold. We started getting a few gigs one was at The Granary where all the top rock bands played. There was Tiffanys, The Locarno, we did have a good following for our spacey rock. This was at the end of the hippy rock era just before the tables turned and in came punk’.

What were your first experiences of recording ? ‘We recorded a 3 track demo Mountain Queen part one – I think the idea behind this song was a trilogy, but I can’t remember a bloody note of parts 2 and 3 haha. Other tracks were Change for the Better and Is My Love in Vain that was a really popular song a sort of love ballad with a guitar solo in the middle.

We then changed our bass player, the first was Andy Scott who was more of a new waver he played on that demo but he really wanted to do more new wave stuff. We got another guy in Paul Summerill he was more of a rocker listening to bands like Rush and played a Rickenbacker bass.

We had a guy called Steve Dawson on drums. There was a guy called Al Read who used to run a rock show on Radio Bristol and he played our stuff a lot and get us on for a few live chats’.

Andy and Pete 2

‘But that line up of Gold split up and I started playing in a jazz funk band Climax. I still liked my rock though. I went to see AC/DC on one of their first tours in the UK and I remember the guy on the radio saying they were like a rock band but quite punky. I couldn’t see how the two would work together and I went more out of curiosity really and wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. But by the end of the concert I was dancing and jumping around, they were great.

The name of the band at the time was quite daring plus they were breaking all the rules with this punk thing. Walking outside I thought that’s the future of rock. The sound was edgier, harder and I could see that society was going that way, politics were changing, Thatcher got in power 1979 the whole landscape was changing and not in a good way.

Bristol had around 250,000 people and in the whole city there were a handful of homeless people. Then suddenly there was a big rise in people living on the streets, it became a different world. There was a sense that everything had hardened and that transferred over to music with the start of NWOBHM with Iron Maiden and Saxon’.

Were you aware then and now, the impact of the music scene – heavy rock/metal/nwobhm ?

‘Well, I can say that, at the time, music was incredibly important to a lot of young people. What you listened to defined who you were, where you hung out and who your friends were likely to be. Right down to every little sub-set of every kind of music you can think of.

Back then, if you bought an album, that could be the central talking point of your life for months. People would come to your house and listen to and discuss it. How it sounded in itself, how it compared to previous releases, where the act might be going. I can’t stress how important that kind of thing was to us. It was our lifeblood.

I think today, with the Internet and access to a gazillion tunes at your finger tips rather than having to go out and buy it, people are more eclectic in their tastes. That means that they tend to be less tribal but it also results in a sense of a greater loss of community. People are much more individual and isolated today than they were back in the day.

Many of my friends from Gold days, are still in touch now and we still have the same core interests that we used to have back then. I’m still a Heavy Metal hippie/biker underneath despite the fact that these days, I’m more likely to do a gig in a dinner jacket than a cut-off t shirt and spandex pants’.

12513562_10206951246532035_992313850287642704_o

‘I would add that, here in the States young people still really revere the classic rock acts of the 70’s. Led Zep, The Who, Pink Floyd. They’re still seen as the classics, rather than that stuff your Dad used to listen too. That may just have something to do with the sheer size of the place.

New ideas take longer to roll out here to the extent it affects the culture. For instance dance music and electronica never really took off in the US at all beyond a small cult following. I can remember in the UK that you had to be really on top of things or people would laugh at you for being dated or old hat. That never bothered me because I couldn’t care less about trends and fashions.

Americans don’t seem to care so much about that. If something’s good, it’s good regardless of when and where it was made or who made it. I guess you need both angles to make the world work’.

How did Gold get back together ? ’I bumped into Pete we had always been good mates, and he said come and have a jam well I thought ok. I’ve seen AC/DC lets have a harder, rockier sound. There was Phil Williams on drums who had a great laid back powerful sound and that’s what we needed to move forward, it’s what we were looking for.

We went out with this new version of Gold and the crowds we were playing to then were headbangers in their late teen’s. We bought a pa system and rented it out to other bands to make a bit of money because we were broke. It was all coming together, we got a van and toured around the country. We got all over, up to Reading, Southend, Doncaster we were out a lot and picking up some interest.

I heard we were watched by scouts for the management team from Motorhead and Girlschool, they were looking for a support band for the tours. But one night we got back home at 4am after playing and for once we decided not to unpack our van. It got pinched. All our cabs, pa, the lot. We didn’t have the money to replace the gear, we had no idea who had done it or where it had gone. Sadly, that was the end of Gold. That’s the story in a nutshell really’.

Jon

‘We really had a blast but listening back to recordings just before that happened I got the feeling I had enough, and it was time to move on. Although that loss of equipment was a tragedy I didn’t want to be stuck being a rock musician. I admired great guitar players like Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. They were brilliant guitarists but some became these crazy virtuosos, and hair metal bored the pants of me.

A band was at it’s best when you had team players, commararderie of playing in a group is what I like’.

Compared to the GOLD days what is the feeling you get today going on stage to perform? ’Well I’m a lot less nervous now than I used to be. I’ve always been a bit shy about performing which is odd because I get on well with people and I’m not exactly an introvert. But my hands used to shake like jelly and I could barely hold a guitar pick for the first few songs.

I did do about 8 years on what we used to call the Cabaret circuit, that would be playing covers around the world in bars and hotels and on military bases. After sometimes, playing five, forty-five minute sets per night every week and six on Saturdays that kind of work tends to knock that out of you.

I still get the heebee geebees a little today but nowhere near as much because I’ve kind of trained that out of me. I also realize that it’s only a gig. There will be another one tomorrow or maybe their won’t. As for the upside, that’s never changed. Every now and again you get a stonking gig. You can never tell or anticipate when that’s going to happen, it just does. Your playing kicks up a notch. The audience senses that something’s going on and focuses more clearly on what you’re doing and something transformational happens.

It’s moments like that, that keeps us musicians chasing the dragon in terms of live music. There’s nothing like that sensation and I’m as much a sucker for it now as I was 40 years ago’.

Jon Now

What has music given you ? ’Music is my life. It has been since as long as I can remember. It’s defined me as a person. Taken me around the world, paid my bills, introduced me to my greatest friends and provided me with years of beauty, solace and wonder.

My greatest inspiration has always been watching my grandmother Ada Dalton who would get up, every year, on her annual church bash on the stage of the Methodist Central Hall in Bristol and sing When I Grow Too Old To Dream in memory of her husband John-Francis who died between the wars from complications of being a soldier.

She passed on in 1974 at the age of 88. She never had much, but her love and passion expressed through music, kept her going. I learned a big lesson from that. Mostly that you should never give up, whatever the cost. Some things in life are just too important to let slip away. To be honest, I’m still chasing that level of heart and conviction in my work.

I know I’ll never come close but it gives me a reason to get up in the morning. That’s what music’s given me. Thanks for taking the time to investigate Gold. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these experiences’.

For more information contact the official website jondaltonjazz.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

PLAYED HIS CARDS RIGHT – celebrating a 45 year career with vocalist Pete Allenby

‘Every 5 years or so I still get very small royalty checks… about enough to buy a bag of chips!’

New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Tarot came from South Yorkshire. They formed in 1979 but folded in late 82′ ‘There are no plans to reform. I have a four piece rock band called The Method and we play covers of band’s like Toto, Rush, The Who and Queen. We do about 30 gigs a year, we do it for the love !’

IMG_0100

Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I first got involved in music when I was asked to join a band soon after leaving school, and realised I wasn’t that bad at it! My main influences then were The Who, Queen, Joe Cocker and Alex Harvey. 

My defining music moment was probably when I first heard Won’t Get Fooled Again then I bought the album, Who’s Next and played it to death! Also when I first heard Seven Seas of Rye by Queen. I’d never really heard anything quite like it before!’

IMG_0121

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or travelling long distances, and did you support name touring bands ? ‘I started playing in ’72 but my first gig’s with Tarot started in 1979 in working men’s club’s. The line up was me on vocals, Malc King on guitars, on bass we had Brian Redfern and Andy Simpson on drums. We quickly started playing at recognised rock gigs of the day, Ford Green in Leeds, Boilermakers in Sunderland, in Halifax was The White Lion then over to Jenks bar in Blackpool’.

‘We also supported bands like The Jags, John Parr, Fischer Z, Frankie Miller and Def Leppard -whatever happened to them haha. On those gig’s we played the Universities, Newcastle Mayfair, Queen’s Hall in Bradford, we got to Doncaster, played The Cock and Lion in Bridlington and The Pier at Lowestoft. Back in those day’s we got around the North a lot, we covered a lot of miles’.

IMG_0135

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘From 1979-81 Tarot recorded three demo sessions, first was in Halifax where we recorded five tracks in one day. I can’t remember the studio name but I do recall it was on the fourth floor cos I nearly had a coronary carrying the kit up there !

Our second and third recordings were at September Studios in Huddersfield, where we recorded 6 tracks in all, 3 at each session. I can’t remember how much the sessions in the recording studio cost, but coming from Yorkshire I guess it wasn’t mega expensive. HOW MUCH! Being the Yorkshire man’s mantra haha’.

R-3154820-1367055021-9071.jpeg

‘The only published song from these sessions was Feel the Power which appeared on the compilation album – New Electric Warriors released in 1980. I remember seeing the album in the local record shop, was a bit disappointed with the cover. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it.

How that came about was someone got in touch with us via Sounds magazine I think, they had checked our name as we were in the metal chart most weeks. Streetfighter were also on the album, I met their manager a few times. We did a gig with them at Leeds Uni and the BBC came to film some of it including us. I’m sure it was something to do with Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper not sure why. I don’t remember it being shown on tv’.

IMG_0127

‘We also done a mini promotional tour for the album. To be honest I don’t know how many copies of the album were sold back then. It was re-released as part of a triple box set of NWOBHM, which I bought a copy of. I managed to by a cd version a few years back of New Electric Warrior’s and also a vinyl copy too! I still get very small royalty checks every 5 year or so, about enough to buy a bag of chips !’

‘All the Tarot material has just been released for the first time, on a remastered cd Rough and Ready. To order a cd you can contact me directly at horacedog@talktalk.net or the band via facebook page’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

INVADER FROM THE NORTH – Spartan Warrior guitarist Neil Wilkinson

In a previous interview on this blog (Chain Reaction, May 21st) Neil said…’After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studio asked if we wanted to do a full album, we said yeah let’s go for it’.

Based in Sunderland North East UK, Spartan Warrior recorded 2 albums in the 1980’s, ‘Steel ’n’ Chains’ on Guardian Records and ‘Spartan Warrior’ on Roadrunner. They also appeared on compilations ‘100% Pure Metal’ and ’Pure Overkill’.

The band are still playing live so I got back in touch with Neil and asked him how long does it take to prepare for gig’s ? ’Well the amount of preparation depends on the gig really. Gigs abroad are definitely more complex as we have to book ferries or flights and there’s usually travel to the airport or ferry terminal to take into account. For a lot of gigs that involve the ferry travelling through Dover is usually the cheapest, which for us in the North East involves an overnight drive to get an early ferry and then drive to a gig.

There’s been times I’ve set off around 9pm on a Friday evening and drove to Dover for an early morning 6 o’clock ferry which gets us to Calais for 8am allowing for an hours time difference. Then drove to a gig and literally gone straight on stage to play having not slept a wink. I’m certain that’s a situation that’s not unique to us’.

Mearfest-Steve-Ritchie-Newcastle-Trillions-SpartanWarrior-2
‘Also if we need to hire a van it can be a lot of work – you wouldn’t think it, but it is. Also with a van comes a higher cost on the ferry. The whole thing can be a lot of work and probably way more involved than people think.

So far there’s been no problems apart from the time Dan decided to wear his bullet belt going through Heathrow airport ha ha – he actually put it through the scanner. He was lucky to make it to the gig that time and I was sat in the airport thinking how we could busk the gig as a four piece’.

14714976_1136802299729966_319825561737932898_o

Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Spartan Warrior played their first gigs ? ’There’s a definite difference. These days after gigs people want to talk and meet us and even sign stuff for them which is really nice’.

What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ? ‘We get all ages at festivals I’ve seen old blokes – like me – and parents with babies with ear defenders on. Its quite a small scene so you do get to see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of them are now friends’.

The set list, how do you decide what goes in/out, is tempo important to the order, how do you choose the first and last songs ? ’Putting a set list together is usually a joint exercise. There’s a core of songs that we class as must do, the one’s we think people expect to hear us play. Other than that we try and switch the set up as much as possible so that people who’ve seen us before will get to hear something different. Tempo is important and we sometimes try and run songs into each other.

Playing the gigs we do and with 4 albums worth of songs we usually have limited time so we try and play as many songs as we can. Both first and last song we try and choose something that will hit hard from the off. I remember reading something that had been written about us at Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany, they said Spartan Warrior opened with Stormer, ‘and nearly ripped my head off’. Well that was job done and exactly the reaction we wanted !’

In the coming month’s Spartan Warrior have a few gig’s coming up are there any that stand out ? ‘We’ve got the Trillians gig in Newcastle in November and we are looking forward to Grimm Up North which is a charity event’.

On September 30th in Bury is the Grimm Up North Festival. On the bill are fellow NWOBHM bands Salem, Weapon UK plus a whole host of others who are coming together to help Steve Grimmet vocalist from Grim Reaper who tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America…‘We are really looking forward to those gig’s, not just because we are playing but we also get to catch up with loads of mates in bands who are also on the bill’.

21751686_305494609925001_2577648298355758687_n copy

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

MYTHRA: Still Burning, 13th February 2017.

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

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

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

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

VENOM INC: Antony Bray, Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.

ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.

SPARTAN WARRIOR: Chain Reaction, 21st May 2017.

HELLANBACH: Kev Charlton, The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 2017.