INCREASE THE PRESSURE – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara and Simon Saxby

This year UK metal band Salem completed dates at Brofest in Newcastle, Metarock in Barcelona and Wedfest in Hertford. They have also been working on new album ‘Attrittion’ with release date early 2018 on Dissonance Productions.

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The Hull based group have lined up 4 gig’s starting September 30th in Bury at the Grimm Up North Festival. On the bill are Spartan Warrior, Weapon UK and a host of metal bands coming together to help one of their own. Steve Grimmet vocalist with Grim Reaper tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America. It left him and his family with massive medical bills. With a lot to sort out, Salem guitarist Paul Macnamara (pic. below on left) and frontman Simon Saxby told me about their plans.

Paul: ‘We played at British Steel in France 2015 and we’re really looking forward to do that again. Blast From The Past is new to us though we have gigged in Belgium several times already. And then Grimm Up North, well that’s something else quite special’.
Simon: ‘Preparing for gigs these days takes less time than it ever did when we were young and keen. I think because we’re old and keen to get out of going shopping…again. We tend to rehearse at home, and have a full band rehearsal nearer the gig just to make sure. Paul Mac does most of the travel arrangements and thankfully, so far nobody has forgotten passports. However we are guilty of forgetting that it takes longer to remember whether you have got everything you need before you set off. Maybe that’s an age thing’.
Paul: ‘I do remember one time when arrived to pick up Simon at 6am in the way to a gig in Europe. He was asleep and didn’t hear his phone – so we resorted to throwing stones at the window of his third flat apartment!

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On 7th October they go to France for the British Steel Festival playing on a bill with Tytan, Satan’s Empire and headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon. How do the band write the set list, decide what songs are in/out and is tempo important to the set order ?
Simon: ‘The set list is obviously governed by the time allotted, however, as we have continued writing and recording new material the choice of what to leave out gets more challenging. The first song is always one with impact and power and thankfully we have a few to choose from. The last song is usually a song like Forgotten Dreams. The pace of the set fluctuates between those two’.
Paul: ‘We try to select a good blend of old and new, some from the 1980’s and increasingly more from the recent albums. We are always excited to include our newest material, so we may start incorporating songs from our forthcoming Attrition album soon – maybe!

During December the band have two more festival gigs to wrap up the year. On the 2nd they are at the HRH NWOBHM in Sheffield with Avenger, Diamond Head and headliners Raven. What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ?
Simon: ‘With the popularity of rock music and the organisers of gigs being family people, we find a mixture of all ages. There is an honesty and warmth amongst the metal community that is ageless and the audience always reflects that’.
Paul: ‘And we do see more and more people at our gigs who have become our friends over the years. It’s great to see them there – singing along to all our songs.  We really appreciate their support’.

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Finally they travel onto Belgium for Blast from the Past festival playing alongside The Deep, Tysondog and headliners Diamond Head. Is there any difference from coming off stage now to when Salem played their first gigs ?
Simon: ‘Yes it’s more tiring but many times more rewarding. We actually take time to enjoy every second on stage and enjoy a cold beer, a chat with people afterwards. Then a good night’s sleep before setting off again’.
Paul: ‘Definitely. For a start, we are playing bigger events than in the 80’s so there are a lot more people keen to talk with us at the merch table – which is great – and the dressing rooms are better, rather than having to change in the toilets! I’m sure we work harder to put on a show which as Simon says is tiring – and it’s so good to engage with the audience. It is such a brilliant feeling to see so many people enjoying themselves who know our music and are singing along with us’.

For more info on gig’s, album releases, merchandise and listen to some of the tracks contact the band at the official website salemband.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, April 6th 2017. 

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

YOUNG BLOOD – interview with Avenger and Repulsive Vision drummer Gary Young

Based in the North East of England Gary is drummer for New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Avenger, who he has played for on and off over 30 years. He is also a member of 4 piece Cumbrian death metal band Repulsive Vision who formed in 2010. Both bands have recently released albums.

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Avenger released The Slaughter Never Stops on Rocksector records in early 2016. Repulsive Vision released their debut album Look Past the Gore, and See the Art on 31st March this year on Danish metal label Mighty Music…(pic below Gary standing on left)

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‘Being lucky enough to get a release from a hard working label like Mighty Music has certainly been a great step in the right direction for us. We have really been delighted with the reviews and positive feedback that the debut has recieved. For Avenger the new album really made it special for us as for quite a few people this was their first introduction to the band’.

If we go back to when you started playing drums who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ’I started by jamming with a mate from school Dave Burn, who is now a well known and respected guitarist. He is currently lead guitarist for Paul Raymonds band. I think meeting Dave and playing my favourite tunes of the era was what started me off’.
(Nerd alert: Paul Raymond, keyboardist/guitarist began his career in the late 60’s songwriting and performing with bands Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, UFO, Michael Schenker Group & Waysted)

‘My influences were primarily classic heavy rock bands such as Thin Lizzy, Van Halen and Judas Priest – and a good bit of punk. But my primary influence to form a band, write and perform original music was 100% NWOBHM bands in the Tyneside area during the early 80’s. Seeing those lads get out of the North East and make such a profound impact on the scene worldwide was a huge motivation for me, and that continued after Avenger was formed.

For rehearsals we rented a room at Spectro Arts Center just off Pilgrim Street in Newcastle. A lot of bands those days used that place and it did create a feeling of community for all involved. Curiously this community was going to last quite a few decades although we didn’t know it at the time’.

With bands like Raven, Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist, Mythra and NEAT Records all based in the North East of England this led to the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal highlighted by music journalist Ian Ravendale reporting a ’Matrix of Metal Mayhem’ in the 17th May 1980 edition of Sounds. Interviews on this blog have featured all of these bands plus Steve Thompson producer at NEAT Records.

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What venues did Avenger play in ?  ‘Early on we used to play popular music venues in and around Newcastle such as the Newton Park Hotel and Tiffanys night club. I was also lucky to get off on tour when I was pretty young and play abroad.

A stand out gig from back in the day is Avengers debut gig in Europe at Dieppenbeek Belgium in ’83. We played as headline band on a show with maybe 7 other bands in what was a large sports hall a bit like The Lightfoot in Walker, here in Newcastle. As our time came to play the crowd started chanting our name – it was unbelievable and a bit scary but once we got onstage it was great. Thanks to social media, all these years later I’m reunited with the lads who organised that show’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ’I worked in the Shipyards near my home town but for about a year before that I worked at Impulse Studios in Wallsend which was where Neat Records were based. Due to this I was involved in a lot of recording sessions and some of them for what are now landmark albums like Venoms – Black Metal and Ravens – Wiped Out. I had my first experiences of recording there with my own bands and helping people out on random recording sessions. They were great times’.

Have you any stories from recording two Avenger albums Blood Sports and Killer Elite ? ‘A long time ago now this Gary! One mad story was Ian Swift (vocals) and Mick Moore (bass) doing a promo interview with Metro Radio for Blood Sports shortly after recording the album. They mentioned on air before the interview Avenger were coming in to the station to talk live about their new album Blood Sports. Well some Animal Rights protesters turned up on the night going mad about us being ‘pro’ Blood Sports -we were like no!! You’ve got it all wrong’.

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‘Recording Killer Elite, the most vivid memory was how much Keith Nichol the engineer mentored us during the recording. Encouraging us to try for better takes. Giving opinions on how to improve the dynamics of the songs, stuff like that.

It really brought home to me that there’s more to an engineer than tweaking knobs and sliding desk controls. An Engineer who is a musician will motivate a band and encourage the best performance within a bands ability. Keith done that with us 110%. After that experience I’d always prefer to record with an engineer who is also a musician’.

Did you film any tv or music videos ?Avenger filmed three promotional videos for Killer Elite which was unheard of back then for a band on an small indie label. Venom and their production team helped us out a lot on these shoots especially Venom drummer Tony Bray and their manager Eric Cook. They had done quite a few videos and had a far better idea than us about presentation and all that. They loaned us a fair bit of gear and managed the pyrotechnics for the video.

Looking back they are what they are, very 80’s looking videos but even now people constantly refer to them, so over the years they have been a really useful promotional tool’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ’There’s one or two stories that stick with me….funnier ones like playing with Blitzkrieg at Newcastle University and being paid in bottles of Brown Ale! We jinged down the street afterwards.
Another time playing in Holland when we were young lads. During the terrible winter of 1985 two Dutch girls asked me and one of the lads ‘do you fancy coming back to ours ?’. Being 18 at the time we said yeah. We got a taxi and ended up in a freezing cold rat infested basement under the student hall of residence. ‘Wait here we will see if the Night Porter is about because we can’t have visitors after 23.00’ they said. We waited and waited…Ahhhh it was a set up !…they left us in the freezing basement. This is before mobile phones. It was broad daylight when our Dutch friends found us’.

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‘Back in ’83 myself and vocalist Brian Ross were fortunate enough to be asked to play a one off show in Holland with a variety of musicians from other bands. Lads from Satan, Mercyful Fate and Deep Machine’.
(in Avenger at that time, Brian Ross has also been frontman for Satan and Blitzkreig. He features in the blog Life Sentence Feb.20th)

‘We travelled across to the continent which was the first time I’d ever flown in my life. We rehearsed a set of covers for a week then played the set to a full house the following Saturday. It was great fun, it was also the first gig I played where we were all payed a significant fee.

Because of this one off show we managed to return and play three shows ten months later as a full band, one gig in Belgium and two in Holland. This was Avengers first gigs outside the UK and they went really well. So much so that we were signed for three albums by NEAT the day after we returned from those gigs.
We returned to mainland Europe the following year playing more shows in Belgium and Holland. ‘The following year 1985, the band played its first gigs in America but on return sadly the band folded’.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?Avenger reformed in 2005 and have played abroad every year since, including our debut shows in Brazil in 2013. We really enjoyed some great gigs for the early part of the promotion of the last album.

Dates that stand out for me was the Triel Open Air just outside of Paris, Rock You to Hell Festival in Athens, Greece and sets at Brofest in our home town Newcastle upon Tyne. Not forgetting the SOS festival in Bury’.

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‘Repulsive Vision has been enjoying several prestigious supports in the last few years playing with their heroes Discharge, Benediction and Destroyer 666. But the gig highlight for sure was performing at Las Vegas Deathfest in June on the same bill as Vader, one of my personal favourites. That was absolutely great. Both bands have recent promo videos up on You tube for the albums and a quick search takes you straight to them for anyone who would like to check them out’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 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.

TYGER BAY – interview with Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tygers of Pan Tang original bassist

In 2016 Tygers of Pan Tang released an album of new tracks mixed by Soren Anderson, filmed video’s for the single’s Only the Brave and Glad Rags, completed tours around Europe, including dates in North and South America – not forgetting their own beer -Tyger Blood !

This year they continue to support the album with UK dates arranged for November. But way back in the 1970’s in the small seaside town of Whitley Bay in the North East of England…

‘I think it was about 1976 when I met Robb (Weir, guitarist) and Brian (Dick, drums). I knew Brian through some other musicians I used to hang out with. Drummers were rare beasts in those days, especially one’s as good as Brian so I made sure I jammed with him as often as possible.

I met Robb when someone gave me his telephone number as he was interested in getting a band together, actually we didn’t start playing together at first. I started roadying for his punk band first, they were called Trick’.

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Who were your first influences and how did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I wanted to be in a band from a very young age. A live band played at a Christmas party for kids where my father worked. This would have been in the sixties so they were a bit like The Beatles and had red guitars which I was fascinated by.

I got a very cheap acoustic guitar as a Christmas present but didn’t know anyone who played guitar or could teach me and the few lessons I had only taught stuff I didn’t want to play.
It was only when I was given a copy of Space Ritual by Hawkwind and heard Lemmy play bass, especially Lord of Light, that I knew I wanted to play bass guitar. So I got a cheap bass and started learning bass lines by ear. So yeah, as a bass player it was definitely Lemmy that got me playing’.

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When did you meet up with the Tygers, when did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘When Brian and I decided we really wanted to get a band together I suggested we try jamming with Robb. It was an instant success! We started writing songs and looked for a singer and a guy called Mark Butcher joined the band. We did about 25 shows with Mark.

After Mark left we had a bit of a hiatus then got back together and Jess Cox joined as singer and we started gigging regularly. There was no real metal scene around Newcastle at the time. There were no regular venues for local metal bands but there was a metal audience for bigger bands who played the Newcastle Mayfair or City Hall.

There were three metal bands already playing locally when we started. There was Raven though they had not really hit on their athletic rock style at that time. There was Axe, who eventually became Fist, and there was Fastbreeder who now would be most notable for having Andy Taylor on guitar, later he joined Duran Duran !’

‘What separated us from these bands was that they all predated punk rock whereas we were starting during the punk scene and were heavily influenced by it. Although there was not a local metal scene apart from the three bands I mentioned, there was a thriving local music scene generally in Newcastle in the mid to late 70’s.

Many pubs had a room upstairs where bands could play and take money on the door. I can’t remember all the pubs we played but the Gosforth Hotel and the Bridge Hotel were ones we played regularly, as well as pubs further afield in and around the North East.

In fact the Tygers first ever gig was at the Coach and Eight in Durham. As well as pubs which didn’t pay very well we got a club agent so we could play the CIU working men’s clubs’.

‘Often these clubs, as well as serving the excellent Federation Ales would have rock nights where we could play, even playing our own material. You had to play two one hour sets, so you had to have quite a lot of material and obviously you had to play some covers. We played AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Motorhead, Status Quo, ZZ Top among others.

One club we played was Sunderland Boilermakers, though playing in Sunderland was always an adventure for us Whitley Bay boys as of course they never clapped, something which Sunderland was famous for. Though you were still expected to do an encore, which they called a false tap, on the basis that if you were still alive they must have liked it!’

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One of Tygers of Pan Tang early gig’s at Mingles Bar, Whitley Bay.

How did the record deal’s come about with NEAT and MCA ? ‘We invested in some pyrotechnics which always ensured a good reception in the clubs as they were a bit unusual. We played schools as that way you could play to kids who couldn’t get into the pubs and clubs. It was at a show at Whitley Bay High School where we were seen by David Wood of Neat Records. His kids went there and I think having a fan base with school age kids was what helped our first single to sell.

A big help to our early progress was doing a residency every Wednesday night at Mingles nightclub in our home town of Whitley Bay. It was already a venue but I think even after we stopped playing there it carried on being a sort of Heavy Metal club.

Our biggest local gig before we had a record deal was when we headlined the Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle. It was a bit of a disaster as we had loads of technical problems and probably because I was nervous I had got completely pissed and could barely stand up!

Still we attracted 1,500 people which was a lot for a local band and due to a misprint this got reported as 15,000 in the industry magazine Music Week and we got a record deal with MCA Records as a result!

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Did you come across other NWOBHM bands ? ’The first support we did was Iron Maiden for two nights at the Marquee in London. This was the first time we had travelled any distance to play and the first time I had ever been to London. The venue was packed and they were amazing gigs. Maiden were unbelievably good and you could tell they were going to be big.

We did a support tour with Magnum which was our first national tour. Later they supported us on a UK tour and they weren’t very pleased about it. We also supported Def Leppard and Saxon. Saxon were very good to us as Motorhead had been good to them in the same circumstances. Saxon were my favourite NWOBHM band and when we toured with them we helped out in their show by doing things like operating smoke machines, dry ice generators and spotlights just for fun.

We also supported Scorpions at quite large venues and it was a steep learning curve as we were not used to big venues. They weren’t impressed by our first couple of gigs and I think we were close to being sacked off the tour but we had a storming gig in Glasgow and then everything was fine. We learned a lot from Scorpions as they did everything very professionally’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I would be a bit hazy on dates! We first recorded at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. In fact our first session was doing three tracks for which we got cheap studio time by doing them as a competition entry for the Vitavox Live Sound Awards, this was David Wood’s idea. This would have been in 1978 I suppose. We hadn’t really thought about the Awards competition, we even put false names on the entry form. But actually found that we had to play at the competition and won it!

We did two other sessions at Impulse one of which was just to record our live set so we just set up and played the whole set live without stopping and no overdubs. Much of this was eventually released as the First Kill album so those tracks would be a pretty good example of what we actually sounded like at the time.

We also did a session to record the Don’t Touch Me There single with two b side tracks, which was our first single and was released on Neat. All of the Neat stuff was produced by Steve Thompson’. (Featured in an earlier blog The Godfather of North East NWOBHM in June 2017)

‘I don’t think he had worked with a band who knew so little about music, as we couldn’t have played a scale between us! After we got the record deal with MCA, at first this was through Neat. Well Neat wanted us to record our first album in their studio at Impulse in Wallsend, but the producer Chris Tsangarides came up to look at it and said he couldn’t work there and wanted to use his usual studio which was Morgan Studios in London. That was where we did the Wild Cat and Spellbound albums.

We actually demo’d Spellbound at Guardian Studios in Durham. The demo’s were the first time we had recorded with new singer Jon Deveril and new guitarist John Sykes both albums represented an amazing leap forward for the band. When I first listened to the demo’s at home after the sessions, I couldn’t believe how good this line up sounded’.

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‘Recording Wildcat and Spellbound was a great experience but there was no time for self-indulgence and both albums were done in a couple of weeks. Guitar, bass and drums were recorded in a couple of takes, then guitar overdubs and vocals. We did get to add a few extras like kettle drums and bass synth pedals, I was a big Rush fan at the time!

‘The next recording we did was with a mobile at a gig in Nottingham at the Rock City venue. For some reason which I still don’t know, John Sykes listened to it and said it was unusable and it got forgotten about until it was released some 20 years later. I think it would have made a massive difference to our career had it been released at the time because instead we had to do the Crazy Nights album, and we weren’t ready.

We didn’t demo that album and quite a lot of it was written in the studio. It was recorded just bass and drums with a guide guitar and later guitars were added then vocals. It wasn’t a very good way to record because we had never actually heard the songs before we recorded the basic tracks as there were no lyrics, just a chord progression or riff. Only a couple of songs were actually written properly before recording. There are virtually no overdubs and no backing vocals.

We hadn’t used Chris Tsangarides, partly as we just wanted a change but partly as he wanted a writing credit on a track on Spellbound which annoyed us.

Anyway we got in Dennis MacKay on Gary Moore’s recommendation but he was totally wrong for the band. He was doing a Stanley Clarke album in the States at the same time and was flying back and forwards. It was also our own fault as we were partying too hard at that point and not taking the music seriously enough. Still there are some good tracks on the album.

Crazy Nights was partly recorded at Trident Studios in London which closed down straight after though I don’t think this was our fault. The vocals were done on the Virgin recording studio on a boat on the Thames!

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After the first three albums what was the band’s approach for the fourth ? ‘After the problems with Crazy Nights we decided to get serious and get a commercial producer in and this was Peter Collins. He had never done rock before but he must have liked the experience as he went on to do Rush and various other rock bands after us.

He came to a rehearsal said he couldn’t believe his first experience of hearing loud rock guitar in a confined space! Our first recording with Peter was Love Potion No 9 while John Sykes was still in the band. Love Potion No 9 got a lot of radio play and was our biggest single. Obviously it is a cover but it doesn’t sound much like the original. It was suggested by Peter Collin’s manager who was Pete Waterman who later became part of Stock, Aitken and Waterman of Kylie Minogue fame.

At that point John Sykes left the band to try for the job with Ozzy after Randy Rhodes died. He didn’t get the job but when he asked to come back we said no and looked for a replacement. At first Fred Purser was just supposed to be temporary to do a French tour we had booked but we got on so well we asked him to join full time. Fred had been in local punk band Penetration but in fact he was quite a sophisticated musician, at least compared to the rest of us’.

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‘We recorded The Cage with Peter Collins at Marquee Studios in London. We had picked some cover songs to do after the success with Love Potion and there were also some co-writes with people outside the band and Fred had a few songs so it was a different pool of songs to our usual stuff.

We still didn’t get that long to record and it was the usual couple of weeks to do most of it but Peter Collins was a real slave driver so we got a lot done. The Cage was a commercial success and was our biggest album and we went to Japan and did a big UK tour and did supports and some headlining in Europe’.

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What festival’s did you play, what other bands were on and was there any stand out moments ? ‘Festivals in the UK in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were not like they are now and were pretty rough and ready. I’d say they were a bit like the wild west and from the stage you looked out on thirty thousand people seemingly all throwing cans of piss at each other. It was pretty scary.

The only UK festival we played was Reading which we did twice. The first time was 1980 it was John Sykes first proper gig with the band. It was mega exciting to do though we were well down the bill and must have been playing early afternoon.

The second time we played Reading was in ’82 after The Cage was released and was scarier still as by this time we were well up the bill. In fact we had been given a very strange spot. There were two stages but these were for the same audience and they were set apart so they could be setting up one bands gear whilst another played. One stage was slightly smaller than the other so the top of the bill and second on the bill played the bigger stage and we had to play between them on the second stage. Therefore we were sandwiched between Blackfoot and Iron Maiden.

We knew how good Blackfoot were and were not keen on the idea of going on after them as they were a bigger band than us. We contemplated not doing it but a majority of the band wanted to do it so we went ahead. Our agent said the secret was to start playing the moment that Blackfoot left the stage so that is what we did and it was a fantastic success’.

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‘Reading in 1982 was still a bit lawless and during the performance I did get hit by a bottle though I barely noticed it at the time and there was a large bruise afterwards. Backstage was a bit different, before our performance we were eating strawberries and cream with Brit Ekland!

In Europe we did a few festivals and we did two in the Netherlands a week apart which left us staying in Amsterdam for a week with nothing to do but enjoy ourselves! Festivals in Europe were different to UK festivals as they were not specific to a genre of music.

So in one festival we played with The Beat and Killing Joke, at another it was Dexy’s Midnight Runners and at a festival in Sweden we headlined one night and Simple Minds headlined the next night. In the UK the different audiences would have killed each other but they all got on fine in the festivals in Europe’.

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The Tygers recorded a few TV appearances notably The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube. How did they come about and what other bands were on ? ‘There wasn’t as much opportunity to be on the TV in those days. You had to have a hit single to get on Top of the Pops and we were one spot away from that with Love Potion but never actually made it.

Our first TV was in Manchester on a show presented by Tony Wilson who went on to start the Factory label. This was on the Wild Cat tour and is on YouTube. It is the only film of us with Jess Cox and we did Euthanasia. We did a local North East TV show but I can’t remember the name of it. It was a kind of chat show and we were the band that played in the middle. We did Don’t Stop By off Spellbound but whilst there are some photo’s there is no surviving film.

After Crazy Nights we did a TV special about Viz magazine. The show was called Something Else and was a kind of magazine show that each week did something about a particular city. The one on Newcastle centred on Viz. The two bands on were us and Angelic Upstarts who were great’.

‘The music bit was filmed in London at BBC TV Centre and we did Raised On Rock and Love Don’t Stay these are both on YouTube. Whilst we really liked Viz, they didn’t really like us and I know that Simon Donald of Viz didn’t want the Tygers on but was told he had to have us!

We then did the Old Grey Whistle Test. The other band on was someone from Wings but I can’t remember who they were. We did Running out of Time from Crazy Nights and Love Potion No.9 which by then I think was out as a single. This was our last TV with John Sykes on guitar.

By the time we did OGWT the format had changed a bit from the early days and there was an audience of sorts but when they applied for tickets they didn’t know who was going to be playing. It was just a generic TV audience and not fans of the band. After filming we went out for something to eat and were stopped by the police as apparently we fitted the description of people they were looking for in connection with criminal damage. We were able to give them an alibi !’

‘Our final TV performance was The Tube in 1982. It was one of the early episodes of The Tube and we were on with Iggy Pop and Twisted Sister. Unfortunately Iggy Pop was a total dick and a complete diva and by the time he was happy with his sound there was no time for anyone else to sound check.

It was great meeting Twisted Sister. They were a fantastic band, great performers and we felt very reserved and British in comparison. They were all absolutely enormous as well, it was like meeting a bunch of wrestlers!

I think The Tube was the last time the version of the Tygers I was in played together. We split up shortly after. We were not in a very good state of mind but the film which is on YouTube is better than I remembered it at the time. As to who arranged the TV appearances I suppose it was our managers or the record company. I know our managers used to badger local TV to put us on as we were a local band’.

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NWOBHM, did you realise the impact that the genre of music would have ? ‘NWOBHM was quite big at the time and had pretty much an instant impact but I certainly didn’t realise that anyone would be talking about it in thirty years time. Or that it would directly influence the future of metal by inspiring the thrash metal bands that would come after it.

The first time we heard about NWOBHM was Geoff Barton’s piece in Sounds Magazine. At that point we were doing quite well on the local scene. There was a local indoor music event called the Bedrock Festival at the Guildhall in Newcastle and we headlined one of the nights. There were many local band’s on so I would say we were quite a big local band. However, the problem was how to expand outside of the North East and the NWOBHM was that opportunity’.

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‘When the first article about Def Leppard and the second about Maiden was in Sounds magazine our manager sent Geoff a tape saying that we were a similar sort of band but in Newcastle rather than Sheffield or London. The next week there was a sort of round up of heavy rock and metal bands around the country and we were in that.

Our single started selling outside the North East and we started to get national attention. I don’t know if any of this would have happened without the NWOBHM. Obviously there was a few NWOBHM bands at the start including Maiden, Saxon, Leppard, Diamond Head and Girlschool but I think we kind of stopped thinking about being part of the NWOBHM once we got to release our second album.

I was aware of Venom of course as we knew Conrad (Cronos) quite well from before Venom and in fact I went to their first gig with Cronos. I just didn’t understand it at all though, of course they were right and I was wrong as they went on to be probably the most influential NWOBHM band other than Maiden‘.

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Can you remember when the Tygers called it a day? ‘Unfortunately in the success of our fourth album The Cage lay the seed of the bands demise. MCA records wanted to do more covers and more rocked up versions of soul classics and we didn’t want to do it. We had a four track machine on which we demo’d some songs written by Fred but this did not change MCA’s mind and whist other companies were interested in the band they were not interested in buying us out of our deal with MCA.

However the fifth album demos were interesting as we recorded live drums and everything as we would in a studio but on the four track. We turned one of the rooms in my parents’ house into a studio and put mattresses on the walls and used the next door room as a control room. Fred was actually a pretty good producer and now owns a studio in Newcastle. Anyway, as a result of all the frustration we split up as there seemed no way forward.

Apart from Venom I was completely unware of all of the bands who came along as the kind of second wave of NWOBHM or that NEAT had become some sort of NWOBHM label. The Tygers thing all happened between ’78 and ’82 and then it was over and I completely lost touch with the whole scene that carried on after that’.

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Mischief or Madness, have you any funny stories from being in the band ? ‘There is a rule among bands that what goes on the road stays on the road so there is a lot I could tell you about which I am not going to tell you about haha. But a couple of funny things come to mind.

We were always looking for practical jokes to play on people or each other and when staying in a large hotel in France, having returned from the gig Brian and I noticed that people who wanted their breakfast in their rooms hung a cardboard notice on the outside of their doors with what they wanted for breakfast, and more importantly what time they wanted it. So we went round and changed all the times to 6am.

The next morning pandemonium ensued as half the hotel were woken for breakfast several hours before they wanted to be, including our band mates and managers who were traveling with us’.

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‘Another time whilst recording at Morgan Studios we knew our manager was coming to visit the studio so we set up pyrotechnics just inside the studio door and got reception to warn us when he was coming in. He opened the door and found himself in total darkness and then a few seconds later a whole bank of magnesium explosions went off! He didn’t know what had hit him.

We didn’t always know when was a good time for jokes and when wasn’t. Jon Deverill was doing vocals at the studio and the rest of us were at the apartment we had rented so we decided to set up a few surprises for when he got back. What we didn’t realise was that he would actually get back at about 4 in the morning after a particularly gruelling vocal session, was exhausted and was therefore not really in the mood to have a bucket of water on his head from the top of the door, his bed sheet folded over so he couldn’t get in properly, and the legs of his bed collapse once he was in it!’

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Current Tygers bassist Gav Gray with Richard Laws.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I am involved in the music business as after the band I qualified as a lawyer and started working in the music business and have been doing that for the last 30 years or so. I tend to represent companies rather than artists and whilst I still do a lot of record company and publishing company work, the industry has changed in the time I have worked in it. There is a lot more brand related work and merchandising.

I don’t go to many gigs these days as my days in the Tygers left me with permanent hearing damage and some gigs now are so loud it is actually painful unless I wear hearing protection.

I did go to see the current line-up of the Tygers about a year ago and it was great to see them as they were really good. It was great to see Robb again as I hadn’t seen him for 30 years though I am now in touch with some of the old band on social media and speak to Robb on the phone occasionally.

I still play music though I didn’t for many years. I only started again because at one of the places I worked someone had the idea of putting a band together for the Christmas party so I dug out my bass and we ended up doing quite a few private parties just playing covers. Now I just play for my own amusement and guitar rather than bass, though I still have my old Rickenbacker bass from the Tygers days. At least I know some scales now!’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, 17th March 2017.

Steve Thompson, Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

ON THE HOOF – Lee Payne bassist with Cloven Hoof

‘We play from the heart and soul and after every show I can throw my stage clothes against the wall and they stick there!’

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Originally formed in 1979 in the West Midlands, UK, New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Cloven Hoof went on to record 5 studio album’s including this year’s release on High Roller Records ‘Who Mourns for the Morning Star’. To support the album they have lined up 3 gig’s starting on August 25th in Belgium supporting USA hard rock legends Riot. I got in touch with Cloven Hoof bassist Lee Payne as he was preparing for the gig’s…

‘A lot of logistics need sorting out with Hoof as the line up is Anglo-American. We are always mindful of one another’s commitments before committing to anything. We usually plan 6 month ahead to avoid problems, that way gigs are hand picked and we only do the ones we really feel enthusiastic about. 100% commitment and dedication is demanded by all band members and a lot of effort goes in by all concerned to make it work – especially as we have a continent to divide us.

The good side to this of course is we can play in America and Europe easily because we have a base camp in both territories’.

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‘All the band meet up about a week before a show in England and go into 7 days solid rehearsal. We practise 12 hours a day continuous to get the set slick. In truth we have it down in about a day but use the rest if the time to work out fine details and stagecraft’.

‘No one has ever forgotten their passport so far thank goodness, but we have a fair share of scares along the way with touring. Once due to fog in Milan we had to take 6 flights to get home to England due to rescheduling. You have to be super dedicated to your craft to take these things in your stride.

Endless hotels waiting around and travelling is the biggest drag in any musicians experience. We all live for the time on stage when we can kick ass and get off on the music along with the fans. It makes all the hassle seem worthwhile’.

After the Belgium gig the Hoof go to Germany where you are headlining the Trveheim Festival. Have you played any of these gigs before ? ’We normally try to break new ground and play new venues and territories to keep things interesting. On occasions some festivals are so prestigious that you feel you should perform at them more than once. Sweden Rock Festival was incredible last time so we would play it again in a heartbeat. The same for Keep it True, Headbangers Open Air, Bang your Head, Sword Brothers and Up the Hammers. They are institutions these days so we would be silly not to play at these festivals when asked.

In fact I think we will play Sword Brothers again next year as a point in question. America will be our prime target 2018 so it will be very exciting to play there at long last. Brazil and South America is another place we are eager to tour to help promote the re-releases on the Classic Metal label’.

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For the third gig the band travel to France for the British Steel Festival on 7th October playing on a bill with Tytan, Satan’s Empire and headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon. How do the band write the set list, decide what songs are in/out and is tempo important to the set order ? ’The set list is tricky because we have so many songs to choose from these days. We always exclude someone’s favourite song unfortunately but it can’t be helped. There are only so many songs you can fit into a set. 90 minutes is our longest set time because any longer and we run out of energy.

We like to keep up a high tempo set and it takes it out of you burning up the stage. The fans tell us what they want to hear via the website so we are governed by them what to include in part at least’.

‘We always start off with a fast song either Inquisitor or Astral Rider that everyone knows because we have the fans attention right from the start. Then we introduce a new number early on before the usual stage favourites. A show has to be structured and flow so the audience can interact with you at the right pace. We let the singer suggest the order songs are in to protect his voice.

We always finish with Laying down the Law because it is a famous audience participation song and an old classic. You have to balance the back catalogue and tracks from new albums seamlessly. At least that is our aim, something for everyone in fact. Old fans and new can come to our shows assured we will all rock out together and they will hear at least something they are familiar with’.

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What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ? ‘We are lucky enough to have whole families attending our shows these days. Some have been fans for over 40 years and have followed us right from The Opening Ritual up to the present day. We do see a lot of familiar faces but lately we have seen a lot more young kids on the front row. It seems there is a revival in NWOBHM that is very encouraging and it bodes well for the future.

Music can defy age limit or nationality and that is what is fantastic about metal. Young kids get off on our energy level, it is still high octane from start to finish. Not many bands out there can match our drive, power and stagecraft’.

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Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Cloven Hoof played their first gigs ? ‘Definitely! In the old days I would come off stage and still be full of energy to run a marathon. It would take me hours to come down I was so pumped up with adrenaline. Now I am totally shattered! lol. But I am quietly pleased I can still rock out with the best of them. As long as I can run about the stage like a crazy man and deliver the goods then I will do it till I drop.

I give the fans everything, all the guys in this band and the audience knows that. We play from the heart and soul and after every show I can throw my stage clothes against the wall and they stick there! If they didn’t then you are not working hard enough, the audience deserve and demand your very best… and when they see Cloven Hoof that is what they get in spades!’

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For more info, merchandise, photo’s and tour dates visit the official website at clovenhoof.net

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

RUNNING WITH THE PACK ‘We had a gang mentality, we weren’t scared of any band’ back to the start with drummer Ged Wolf

Blast Recording Studio in Newcastle is the venue to record more stories for the blog. There has been over 50 interviews and over 6,000 views since starting in February this year. This time it’s Ged Wolf who has been drummer with North East heavy metal bands Tysondog and Atomkraft giving him many fantastic memories and great stories which he has shared here – let’s get started Ged.

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ’As a drummer I loved Cozy Powell, he was a hero, but what got me first into drumming was my brother. He was in a band with Tony Bray the Venom Inc drummer. Before they became Venom they used to rehearse on a Saturday at Clegwell school in Hebburn. I’d go along there and inbetween breaks used to have a knock about on the drums. I found I was natural, never had a drum lesson in my life’.

‘Then Christmas morning when I was 13 year old my brother bought me a Premier red sparkle drum kit. The noise was a nightmare for my parents so I used to put t-shirts on my drums to dampen it down haha. I got into listening to rock bands with other kids at school and in the meantime my brother started managing Venom and I ended up on the road crew. Used to go to the rehearsals and got a background in how things worked. Ended up as back up drummer for the band when I was 15, never had to stand in but I was there in case’.

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‘My very first gig at Newcastle City Hall was watching Whitesnake, (pic.above with Cozy Powell 3rd from left) the second was Bad Company and I remember seeing Twisted Sister at Newcastle Mayfair. You had to be over 18 to get in and I wasn’t old enough then but was with my brother and mates so snuck in with them. The Mayfair was the hallowed ground with a bar in it and surrounded by all the big boys haha.

It was a great sweaty gig but the very next day flew out to America with Venom to do a couple of shows. Out there they had Metallica supporting. They only done two shows at the Paramount Theatre in New York but they made a big impression.
We all lived together in one big house for about three weeks, it was the crew, Venom and Metallica. But me and the other drum tech Gordon were too young to go out drinking and watching bands with all the others so we stayed in the house and got drunk. But living with them was great, we had some real adventures haha’.

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‘The first gig in New York was memorable, we had made some huge bomb pots the size of footballs, you know Venom was all about the show. Well the guy in charge of the pyro was out of his head on something and he ended up loading the pots twice. The bombs went off at the start of their first song Witching Hour, one of the bombs went down through the stage creating a big hole. The other one went up over the crowd, past the balcony and embedded into the back wall. There is a plaque there now, Venom 1983 haha.

But the explosion blew the whole backline so for the second gig we had to get all new equipment. I’ve never had to work so hard all my life it was 24 hours non stop. I was that tired I was asleep under the drumriser when Metallica were playing. It was the only place I could stretch out haha’.

‘I was in the studio at NEAT records as drum tech when Venom were recording. I remember they were working on a new song Countess Bathory and Tony the drummer popped out for something to eat so I filled in on drums and played with Conrad and Jeff. I worked out the drums for the song. So when Tony got back they said Ged’s worked it out just do it like him!’

‘But I didn’t want to be a roady all my life, I wanted to be in a band, see the lights, hear the crowd an all that. I had ambitions of my own and had all these studio and touring experiences at an early age, and was considered a pretty good drummer in the North East.

One day I saw an advert in local newspaper The Chronicle for a band wanting a drummer. Thing was I had just got the Venom drum kit as Tony Bray had got a new one built, a Viking drum kit the biggest in the North East. So mine was second biggest haha. But I didn’t tell my brother I was going, I just went for the audition and didn’t tell the band my connections with NEAT and all that, kept it all quiet. I just turned up at the Coach and Horses pub in Wallsend with only a three piece drum kit – and I got the job !

I was drummer in Tysondog. They were like a Judas Priest sounding band so it was all fill’s which was fine for me. Every rehearsal after that I used to take an extra piece of kit so it ended up a twelve piece’.

‘But I wasn’t happy, I was a good 6-7 years younger than the others so as a young one I wasn’t getting listened to, but other aspects I had more experience. I was also a bit of a hot head you know. Well we recorded an album with NEAT records and just before it was due to be released I left the band. So that was it. They got in Rob Walker to replace me, great lad, good drummer’.

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How did the Atomkraft job come about ? ‘About 6 months after leaving Tysondog I was in NEAT Records and Venom bassist Chronos came up to me and said there’s a guy you should talk to. That’s when I met Tony Dolan. He was a bass player, so we had a few jamming sessions and got to know each other. It was going well, just playing a few Motorhead songs stuff like that, just bass and drums.

He had a band called Atomkraft but wanted to update it. They used to wear jeans, t shirts and bullet belts, it was like the press photo for Ace of Spades. We needed to freshen things up and arranged auditions for a guitarist and got 16 year old Rob Mathews in, he was from Pelaw. Tony was from Wallsend and I was from Jarrow. So at the time Atomkraft was just a three piece’.

‘We had punk influences, the metal thrash scene had that, we all loved AC/DC, I also loved Kiss but mix it all together and that’s what we were. The attitude side of it was from punk that was a big part of it’.

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‘We wrote, rehearsed and recorded at NEAT Records and came out with our first album Future Warriors in June ’85. Our very first gig was supporting Slayer at the Marquee in London which was Slayer’s debut European gig. We all went down there with our gear, done the soundcheck and out pops the assistant manager of the Marquee asking who’s in your roadcrew? Well we had 14 people on our crew haha. Basically it was our friends from Newcastle who came down wanting to see the gig haha’.

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‘The stage was so small I had to arrange the drums with Slayer’s drummer Dave Lambardo and see what was the best way to do it. We were supporting them and he played drums facing the side of the stage which was a bit awkward but we sorted it out. In the end he said can you lend me a pair of drumsticks I haven’t got any ? I said yes it’s the least I can do.

Well we’re on stage but after only three songs of our set the whole backline goes off. Even though we had 14 roadies not one of them knew what they were doing. We found it was the guitar that had gone off so me and Tony played along then after 30 seconds I just smashed my whole drum kit and threw it into the crowd. I’d just bought a new kit that was back home so I thought, fuck it, smash this one up !

We went off stage everyone is howling, funnily enough it went down great. We got some great press off it. Anyway stage is cleared and ready for Slayer to go on. Dave Lombardo says to me have you got them drumsticks ? – I’d hoyed everything into the crowd haha. So my drum roadie had to go out and get some back for him haha.
Yes that was Atomkraft’s debut gig. Then after that for about six weeks we went over to Europe with Venom and Exodus and had a great time’.

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Atomkraft only played a few gig’s in the North East. Was that a deliberate decision ? ’Yes by 1986 Atomkraft turned into a 5 piece and in came DC Rage from South Shields and Ian Swift on vocals. At a trial for that line up we got a 25 minute support slot with Girlschool at Newcastle University and then we played The Riverside at Newcastle.

But I was gutted at that gig because a lot of young kids couldn’t get in. The thing was at Atomkraft we were once at the Mayfair and someone next to us was talking to his friends saying ‘that’s the band that everyone has heard of but nobody has seen’. I thought that was a great compliment. We weren’t bothered, we knew we hadn’t played Newcastle, that’s just the way it was’.

‘Sometimes it’s not about ability it’s about determination and focus to where you want to go. We had that as Atomkraft, we used to go to the Newcastle Mayfair on the Friday and Saturday nights getting drunk but always made sure we rehearsed every Saturday and Sunday, that was our focus and dedication. Putting the groundwork in that’s how we got those tours. There’s no substitute for rehearsal’.

‘We had a gang mentality of it’s us against you, we don’t care if you like us we just went out on stage and done the best we could we weren’t scared of any band. We made sure if we played live or recorded we were rehearsed and ready to go. We went out with some of the top American bands and if you weren’t up to it you were off the tour, but we put the groundwork in and worked really hard’.

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‘Through our hard work and the management, in the space of two years we done three major European tours with Venom. They were at 5-6,000 seaters some were 10,000. We were young kids compared to them.

There was a point in 1983 when Venom were the biggest selling independant band in the world – not too bad for some guys from Tyneside. Venom were the big boys they brought over Metallica and Slayer for European tours. But the difference was that those bands ended up on good record labels that supported them with promotion.
Now there is two bands Venom and Venom Inc, it’s not a competition between them I’m friends with them all, it’s good what they are both doing’.

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Have you any memorable gigs ? ’A stand out gig for us was in ’87 The Longest Day at Hammersmith Odeon with Agent Steel, Nuclear Assault and Onslaught. There is a video of that and it went live on Radio One. Another stand out gig was when we toured with Nasty Savage and we were the first British thrash band to play Poland. The security was 2,000 armed troops circling the crowd. There was around 40,000 people there they loved the British bands. It was video’d and a live album was made which we never saw a penny from’.

Atomkraft’s biggest audiences were Holland and Germany. Another memorable gig was the Dynamo in Eindhoven. Testament and Onslaught were on the bill and Stryper were headlining. For that we had the Future Warriors image which was Mad Max style. We got off the tour bus heading for the stage and went past Stryper who looked at us and said what’s going on here ! Our vocalist Swifty had injured his hand so we gaffa taped his mic to his hand haha.

Marshall Amps had just brought out Jubilee stacks which were silver, we had 12 either side so our image and our stage presence really stood out. The crowd were jumping, absolutely bouncing, I’ll never forget it. That was the gig somebody threw something on stage, it was like a cannon ball with a fuse burning, everyone saying it’s a bomb ! It roll’s in front of my drum riser, everyone splits off the stage, so I do the natural thing and tell my drum roadie to go and get it haha. Turned out to be nothing just burnt itself out’.

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‘The headliners Stryper were a Christian band, and on that day nobody was allowed to swear, it was part of the contract. Well our singer Swifty went straight out there on stage ‘How the fuck ya doing Holland’ haha. But on the side of the stage Stryper just gave us the thumbs up, they loved us really’.

Was image important ? ’Yes we wanted to stand out, everybody was doing the Metallica thing, jeans, ripped t-shirts you know but the thing we had was as we progressed from a three piece to a five we sounded like Venom, a bit of Motorhead and Kiss. We were speeding up, the guitar sound was getting crisper, we knew we had to up or game.

But we were on NEAT Records who never put money into their bands and all American bands coming over on Music for Nations were getting money thrown at them for tour buses and that. We never got one advance from NEAT Records and we were selling a lot of records’.

What has music given you ? ‘I was talking to me dad years ago and he said he joined the merchant navy and saw the world – I joined a band and saw the world. I’ve been to so many places and met so many people, some good some bad, but I would never change anything. All those years ago learning how to play the drums in Clegwell School in Hebburn got me here today, it’s been one big adventure’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

STAND EASY – with heavy metal band Soldier

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are Soldier doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? ‘SKOL Records have been really good to us they released the Sheralee single and since 2012 we have released two albums worth of material.

Over the past few years we have constantly gigged around the UK and festivals in Europe but currently we are taking a break from gigging and concentrating on recording. Digital has made the whole process easier and we are in the middle of recording some new Soldier material which is planned for release later this year’.

Current Soldier line-up

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2017.

TEESSIDE POWER – with Millennium frontman Mark Duffy

Millennium came to prominence in the early eighties riding with the tribe of bands known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The five-piece were formed in Billingham, Teeside in 1983. Vocalist Mark Duffy looks back to where it all started

‘It all started when Pete McArdle and I who were school friends, started to go to guitar lessons at age 16. Pete would come over to my house with new albums that he thought were good and we would give them a spin. At the time we were listening to American AOR bands like Journey and Styx.

Then one day he brought round the Black Sabbath album Heaven and Hell.  It totally blew me away, the riffs and the Ronnie James Dio vocals, that was the moment I wanted to be in a heavy metal band. From then on we listened to bands like Whitesnake, Saxon, Y&T and Judas Priest’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘Back in the 80’s Millenium played the local music venue The Swan in Billingham. It had a hall at the back of the pub with a bit of a stage. They had a rock night on a Tuesday.  We played a gig there supporting Teesside band Black Rose who had a few releases on NEAT Records.

Other than that Millennium only did one small tour around places like Stoke, Warrington, Kings Lynn, Wigan and Sheffield. We’ve just signed to 3Ms Records and recorded our new album Awakening in Hesdin, France. We are releasing it this summer to hopefully create interest for us to do more gigs, something which has been lacking for us so far’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Millennium recorded a lot of demos over the years. Our first demo was recorded at Guardian Studios in Durham.  We heard a few bands had been there so we thought we would give it a go.

The first demo we recorded Magic Mirror and I’m on Fire. We were pleased with the result so we done another three tracks there Steal Your Heart, Rock was Meant for Me and Nightmare (which later became The Devil Rides Out) before recording our debut album.

The band were happy with the results of the demo’s so we were pleased to be recording our album there. We recorded and mixed the album over two weeks with label owner and producer Terry Gavaghan’.

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Despite rave reviews including one in Kerrang magazine the band seemed to lose their way after the album’s release. What happened ? ‘You are right our debut album did receive some great reviews especially from Xavier Russell in Kerrang. But the band lost ground with some unfortunate circumstances.

First our guitarist Dave Merrington left the band soon after the recording of the album. Then the bands distribution company went bankrupt resulting in no more pressings of the album after the first 1000 copies. Also the band had a few disagreements with Terry Gavaghan and had a bit of a falling out which resulted in the band parting ways with the label’.

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‘They did offer Millennium a contract to record another album but we declined. Guardian also released Magic Mirror, Steal Your Heart and Rock was Meant for Me on the Pure Overkill compilation album released in 1983. Playing alongside Risk, Spartan Warrior, Incubus and Tokyo Rose the album helped boost the band’s presence on the British heavy metal scene’.

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‘The band recruited guitarist Mike Muskett and continued to record a number of demos between 1984 – 1988 hoping to secure a record deal. The Metal Era demo was recorded in 1986 on which the band made an unsuccessful return to their earlier style. The band took one last shot at regaining their lost glory with another demo in 1987 before calling it a day.

Other than vocalist Mark Duffy (who would go on to have success with thrash act Toranaga) the band members faded away. The band split in 1988. Bringing recordings up to date No Remorse Records re-released our debut album in 2014 and also released Caught in a War Zone. That was released last year and contained an album full of recordings from 1985’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘We had a Spinal Tap moment at one of the gigs when we came on stage and the smoke machine came on for effect, smoke machines were used a lot in those days. Anyway this thing just kept belting out the dry ice or whatever they used so when coming on I couldn’t see the stage or mic stand. We couldn’t even see the crowd and they couldn’t see us!  After it calmed down and cleared a bit we started the gig but the daft bat doing the smoke machine set it off again haha’.

‘Another story was when we were going to a distribution company to drop off copies of the debut Millennium album.  The distribution company was somewhere down south so we set off on the A1 and got to the Yorkshire area.  We suddenly realised we needed petrol so for some reason we went off at the next exit looking for a petrol station and ended up driving around these mining towns.  Suddenly the police stopped us and surrounded us.

They wouldn’t let us go any further, gave us the third degree asking lots of questions like who are you, where you going, how many of you in the van ? It turned out they thought we were striking miners going to join the picket line !  They made us turn back in the direction we came.  It took a long time to get to the distribution company that day!’

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What are Millennium doing now and have you got any plans ? ‘Millennium reformed in September 2015.  We were asked to do Bro Fest 2016.  Original drummer Steve Mennell and guitarist Dave Hardy (who joined Millennium in 1986) were involved along with William Philpot, Andy Fisher and myself.

We are looking forward to releasing the new album in the summer and playing the new songs at some gigs we are in the middle of arranging now’.

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For information about the band check their Facebook page MILLENNIUM UK.

Original line up 1982  Mark Duffy – vocals, Pete McArdle – guitar, Dave Merrington – guitar, Steve Mennell – drums and Dave Price – bass

Line up 2017  Mark Duffy – vocals, William Philpot – guitar, Andy Fisher – bass  Darren Moore – drums.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

UNDER THE BLADE – Against all odd’s with Tokyo Blade

Andy Boulton, Lead Guitarist for NWOBHM band Tokyo Blade talks about the high’s and lows of being in the music biz…

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Our first big break came when we did two big festivals in Holland and Belgium with Metallica, then our second big break came when we supported Mamas Boys throughout Europe. We were received in an unbelievably positive way and in a heartbeat we were back out on our own headlining tour. That was really incredible, there we were all in our early 20’s with a big flash tour bus and an Arctic truck full of gear playing sold out shows of 3-4000 capacity venues all over Europe which continued almost non-stop for three years.

Then it was the USA tour and back home to film Live in London, a one hour show from the Camden Palace and a live session for BBC Radio One’s Friday Rock show with Tommy Vance. It was all travel, birds, booze and rock ‘n’ roll so we wouldn’t want that for a lifestyle in your mid 20s haha’

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That being the high, what was the low ? ‘At the risk of being overdramatic and sounding like a pompous arse the cost has been very high both financially and personally and on more than one occasion I’ve questioned why the fuck I still continue to play guitar with Tokyo Blade !
I think the biggest tragedy in our heyday was Vic Wright leaving the band to live in America just after our first US tour. We were on the verge of signing a major deal with WEA when he left and we never really recovered from that. Plus the fact that we were screwed for an awful lot of money forced Blade to fall apart’.

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Let’s go back to the beginning Andy. How did you get involved in playing music was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’? ‘I think if you’re a real musician then it’s in you somewhere. Your soul or spirit, it’s there from birth. My mother was a fantastic pianist and had an amazing ear. She could listen to something once and then play it perfectly, it’s definitely from her that I got my gift for music. I guess that something triggers inside you it must be DNA I guess, that sort of inner feeling to play music.

If I had to name one defining moment that moment would be when I was about 12 year old. I was at a friends house and his elder brother had just bought the second Queen album, he put on the first track of the second side Ogre Battle and that was it for me, my journey to the dark side was underway!

I started digging out my sisters albums she had Schools Out by Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin II and of course the almighty Led Zeppelin IV. I just soaked up everything I could. I begged my mother for a guitar and being a musician herself she understood and bought me one as soon as she could afford it. And I started with a red Jedson a sort of Telecaster’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘We started in the way that most bands start, at school with friends just playing youth clubs. As the band got better we started playing pubs, just local stuff at first. As time progressed we all knew that what we wanted to do was to play rock and metal but we desperately needed decent equipment, so we decided that playing working men’s club’s was where the money was.

This meant we had to play a load of material that we didn’t like, including country and western ! But we worked our asses off and saved some money to record a demo, we gave a copy to Tommy Vance who played it on the Friday Rockshow, and from there we gigged all over the country’.

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‘We did two big festivals in Holland and Belgium one was the Aardschock around ’84 on the bill were Metallica and Venom. We were really surprised by the number of Blade fans there and the amazing reaction from the crowd. Then our first big break came with the support for Irish band Mamas Boys throughout Europe. There were more tours and albums that followed and Tokyo Blade became a well respected part of the NWOBHM genre.’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘A fucking nightmare in short, everything we ever did was with no real money. We signed to an awful record company who eventually took every penny we made. The first album we done was at Wickham Studios and was recorded and mixed in four days. We slept on the studio floor and lived on chip butties.

The second album Night of the Blade was little difference other than we had two weeks to record and mix it, real luxury ! We slept in a rough Bed & Breakfast it was a working man’s dosshouse really, with bedbugs and really greasy breakfasts, yep the whole 9 yards’. (The album got a USA release in 1984 under the title Midnight Rendezvous). 

‘We financed the third album ourselves, Black Hearts & Jaded Spades and had a slightly better time of it and successive albums have been recorded under more or less similar circumstances’.

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‘We had a call one day from our agency, there was a proposal from London Weekend Television who wanted to film one of our gigs and would we mind playing at the Camden Palace and have it recorded for broadcast? Oh there’s a fair bit of money in it for you as well. Where do we sign ? haha…the whole thing turned out great, a huge part of the Tokyo Blade history’.
(It’s worth checking out the concert Live in London filmed in 1985 also recorded for the show were Girlschool, Rock Goddess & Warlock. Also the newly released box set CD ‘Knights of the Blade’ received a favourable review by Philip Wilding in May 2017 edition of Classic Rock magazine ’sounding like a fledgling Def Leppard some songs could of bought them their own tour bus).

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?  ‘Millions my friend far too many to tell but if I had to pick one it would be the tour with Mamas Boys and what follows is 100% fact and perfectly illustrates the luck or rather lack of it that Tokyo Blade has endured throughout its entire history’.

Sharp intake of breath and here we go –
The 1983 European support tour with Mamas Boys had been set up and dates arranged and confirmed. The problem was our record company had persuaded us that our vocalist was not good enough as a front man and we must find a new singer. So we searched but had no luck. Our manager was going to pull the tour when a few days before we were due to leave a demo tape arrived at his office, we listened and it sounded promising. The singers name was Vic Wright.

So we called him up and asked him when he could come for an audition. The catch being that he lived in Bradford 300 miles away and had no car. The audition would be the sound check for the first show of the tour ! He eventually made it to my house in Salisbury. How, I’m not sure ! I handed him a Sony Walkman with a cassette of the songs and some of the lyrics. We sat there all night and left my home at five a.m next day for the ferry’.

What sort of budget did you have for the tour ? ‘We had no money for hotels or food, and only a small amount for diesel. The money that we were to receive from the shows would only just cover our diesel to the next show, so our saving grace was to be two boxes of Tokyo Blade T-shirts which our manager said we would need to sell in order to get cash for food.’

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What type of transport did you have ? ‘A large Fiat Daily, it had to be large enough to carry five band members, four road crew and all our gear. To be honest there wasn’t enough room to scratch your bollocks plus with no money for hotels we were going to have to sleep in the fucking thing…yes all 9 of us!!!’

We eventually got on the road down to Calais where the charming French Customs Officers searched the two cardboard boxes full of T-shirts. This being pre-EU days we had no license to sell anything in Europe. Oh how we laughed as they deprived us of the T-shirts and they also added a lovely little fine which took care of most of our diesel money.

Anyway we still had all our duty free fags, until that is when we decided to stop and cheer ourselves up with a beer and in the very short time it takes to down one small beer some friend of humanity decided to smash the van window and nick all our duty free and my Sony Walkman which our new singer had conveniently left for them on the front seat.

To look on the bright side we had youth, enthusiasm and testosterone on our side so unanimously we thought ‘we’ll be ok, we’re gonna get through the next 14 days of this tour somehow’. We headed for the first venue’.

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What happened when you arrived for the first gig ? ‘When we arrived we were allowed to do one song for a soundcheck and luckily for us our new vocalist Vic Wright sang fine. So with half a ton of gaffa tape one of our road crew stuck his lyrics sheets all over the stage.

The gig itself ? We went down an absolute storm, the entire place erupted from the moment we hit the stage until we left ! We couldn’t believe it we knew this was going to be hard but it was going to be made a helluva lot easier playing shows like this every night. After the show the crew had piled all the gear into the van and we drove to the next venue in a better mood’.

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‘We arrived very early in the morning and parked in some woods nearby to try and sleep. I’ve always been lucky in as much as I can sleep on a tight rope. Having said that sharing the front of an extremely cramped Fiat Daily van with nine very sweaty guys is not conducive for a good nights shut eye. It was at this point that our drummer Steve Pierce smugly announced that he had brought a tent for him and our bassist Andy Wrighton to share. It was pissing down with rain though.

Apparently during the night the tent leaked, a lot, and while Steve was having sweet dreams of steak and chips in a four poster bed, poor old Andy decided he couldn’t take anymore and being soaking wet, extremely tired and pissed off decided to go for a walk. A nice little woodland stroll.

Meanwhile the rest of us who had slept sitting upright in the van began to stir and decided to leave for the venue in the hope that there would be showers inside so we could at least get rid of some of the previous night’s sweat. We all crawled out of the van to discover one very damp drummer and zero bass players.

The only conclusion we could reach was that poor old Andy couldn’t take any more and had decided to just go home. So we all piled back into the van and decided to drive about hoping to find him, meanwhile he had returned from his woodland walk to discover no tent, no drummer, no van, no band l!!’

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‘To say the poor bloke was in a state of extreme panic would be an understatement, he was left standing damp, cold and very much alone in the middle of the woods somewhere in Northern France with no money, no fags and no idea of how we was going to get anywhere. Remember these were the days before mobile phones.

Meanwhile we scoured the nearby area to no avail so unanimously decided to return to the woods where we found a very distressed but a very much relieved bassist. It turned out to be a very emotional reunion and Andy’s vocabulary was now confined to expletives clearly designed to upset our more sensitive little personalities. He hadn’t taken our departure from the woods in good spirit, to say the least’.

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With no money for food how did you feed yourselves ? ‘Our roadie Cliff was very adept at stealing things and for the next three days he stole all the food he could get from various shops. This led to some very interesting meals, strawberries and bread, crisps and jam, apples and ham, those meals stick in my mind.

After about three days our luck turned and Mamas Boys came to learn of our wild style of existence if you ever read this boys although I’ve said it 1 million times thank you from the bottom of my heart, Pat, John and the late and much missed Tommy (RIP brother).

Not only did they allow John and I to sleep on their tour bus but also their catering ladies gave us the left over food they had cooked. All the bunks on the tourbus were taken so John and I slept in the seats at the front but it was a damn site more comfortable than the van.

And so we completed the tour and returned home to good old Blighty in high spirits like conquering warrior heroes. Successive tours saw us in our own tour buses and artic lorries carrying all the gear. Total luxury and as a result of that tour we always treated our support bands the same way we’d been treated by Mamas Boys’.

What are you doing now and did this experience put you off music ? ‘Trust me when I say I am incredibly proud of what Tokyo Blade has achieved over the years because everything we’ve done has been against overwhelming odds. It’s all helped to turn us in to the tough, determined and tight band we are today.

Although the music business chewed us up and spat us out, my band of brothers and myself battle on, still making new music still touring and still doing what we’ve always done to the best standard we can.
As I’ve said in more than one interview for me personally Tokyo Blade captures the spirit of the underdog, our spirit lies with the working class and the downtrodden or dogged persistence against all odds – means we are still out there doing what we do best. I make no apologies for Tokyo Blade and I’m fucking proud of what we’ve achieved’.

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‘As of today with our original vocalist Alan Marsh back on board I think we are the only New Wave of British Heavy Metal band still going with an original line-up and the new album to be recorded this year plus more tours to come. Unless I die I’ll crack on with that!

Life is not a rehearsal, you get one crack at it so why waste it being unhappy? what ever life chucks at you just duck so it hits some other fucker and laugh your arse off, all the hard times make for the best stories and memories and that’s all we have left at the end of the day isn’t it?’

‘Let’s face facts we were hardly the darlings of the UK music press who slagged us off at every available opportunity and continue to do so, but thanks to all our fans worldwide last year alone we headlined two British metal festivals, several in Europe plus a tour of Chile, Brazil and Ecuador.

Apart from anything else music is my raison d’être. If anyone is to blame for my persistence with it blame Brian May for ever recording Ogre Battle oh and my late Mother’s DNA of course!

God bless you all xxx

Tour dates and information is available on the official website at Tokyoblade.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

WEAPON UK: All Fired Up, 6th May 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TYTAN: Back in the Ring, 25th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF, On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

THE MANSFIELD FOUR – Shaping Up for Another Attack from Heavy Metal band Savage

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The band are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. But rewind nearly 40 years to Mansfield in the UK where Chris Bradley and Andy Dawson formed Savage. Little did they know the influence they would have on one of the biggest bands in the world. Chris takes up the story…

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‘Our first show outside the UK was playing to a 10,000 strong audience at the Aardschok Metal Festival in Holland. The headliners were Venom with Metallica as special guests. Metallica came to our dressing room for some pre-show drinks and told us that in the early days they were fans of the band and used to play our songs. In fact they recorded our tracks Let it Loose and Dirty Money and put them on the demo tape that got them signed to Megaforce records, run by Jon Zazula. And you know what, they never told Jon that it was our song’.

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What venues did Savage play?  ‘The first ever Savage show was in 1979 at High Oakham Youth Club in Mansfield, then most of the shows were at local pubs. Then from around 1983 as our star began to rise so to speak we started to expand across the whole country to various rock clubs and eventually spread out to festivals in Europe. Kerrang gave us favourable reviews of our shows so that helped a lot in getting more gigs’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Pretty soon after forming Savage we started writing our own material so we recorded a few demo’s. I think our first one was in 1979 that was recorded in a local 4 track studio in the cellar of a terraced house.

Our first experience of a more professional set up was a full day in a 16 track studio in Wragby, Lincolnshire when we recorded two songs for the classic Heavy Metal compilation Scene of the Crime. As I remember the band’s paid about £200 each to cover the costs. There was Panza Division, Manitou, Sparta, Tyrant and us. We recorded two songs Dirty Money and Let it Loose. In the end they released the album and we got 25 copies to sell. A copy of the album ended up in the possession of a young Lars Ulrich which started the Metallica connection that I was talking about earlier’.

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‘In 1982 we were on another compilation album Metal Fatigue produced by newly formed label, Ebony Records in Hull. Other bands on the album included Assassin, Hot Wire and Headhunter. In all I think there were nine bands on the album. For that recording it was a similar deal to Scene of the Crime, we paid about £200 each to get a day in the studio and record one song. We recorded Ain’t No Fit Place and the producer was Darryl Johnston who was also the founder of Ebony. Basically that was the start of our relationship with the label’.

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‘After the critical success of the track, we went back into Ebony and recorded a double A side, Ain’t No Fit Place and China Run. For that 7” single we payed to the tune of £1,000 and Ebony released it on their label. Again the sales went really well, so well that they proposed a deal were they would pay for recording a complete album and releasing it on their label. We went for that and Loose ‘n’ Lethal was born’.

What are Savage planning for the rest of 2017 ? ‘We are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. Writing in the studio is a new approach for us so it will be very interesting to see what we come up with! Last year we produced and released 7, our seventh studio album. That included a second disc called Live ’n’ Lethal recorded in our home town. Featuring our entire first album plus selected numbers from the other albums. We are still an active live band though most shows now tend to be in Europe’.

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Both albums and more merchandise is available from the official website http://www.savageband.com

Current line up is
Chris Bradley: Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1978 – present)
Andy Dawson: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals (1978 – present)
Kris Bradley: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals (2010 – present)
Mark Nelson: Drums (2000 – present).

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF, On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.