WHEN THE MUSIC’S (not) OVER.

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For the music is your special friend

Dance on fire as it intends

Music is your only friend until the end

Until the end, until the end.

(The Doors, When the Music’s Over from the album Strange Days, 1967)

First thing in the morning it’s the squawk from the seagulls, the gush of water as you fill the kettle then turn the radio on. Sound is all around us.

At Catholic Junior school I remember hearing Jewish songs like ‘Hava Nagila’ and ‘Shalom Shavarim’. The radio played ‘Leader of the Pack’ by The Shangri-La’s and ‘Gaudete’ from Steeleye Span.  Watching Top of the Pops meant my pocket money was spent on a 7inch single by Slade or Sweet. I still listen to a lot of music today and buy the odd cd.

Last one I bought was a double, a Best of Bob Dylan. I got it at a car boot sale for a quid ! Bargain. There were loads of great songs on so I got my wallet out but only had a £20 note. ‘Struggling for change here have you got nothing smaller ?’ said the bloke. I searched in my pocket for some change and counted out 90p. Holding the note in one hand and the coins in the other. He said ‘No chance, I’m not selling that for 90p….. it’s a double album !’  

I’ve closed a lot of interviews by asking what does music mean to you or what has music given you ? The answers are fired back. No chin stroking, no pause for thought, just an instant reply. Here are some of them….

Michael McNally: ‘Music is an escape, a freedom from whatever ties us down. It can be the medicine we require to soothe or the motivation to move. Without it we are monotone, bland and sad’. 

Bernie Torme: ‘Meeting great people, shit people and doing things that a shy kid with a stutter from Dublin could never have imagined in a thousand years! Gave me everything really, for which I am eternally grateful, I wouldn’t have exchanged my life for anyone else’s. It definitely did not make me rich though! 

David Ditchburn: ‘Got loads of happy memories, I would never change it you know. I’ve done a few other things in life and enjoyed them but still every night I sit down and play the guitar and write songs. I can’t imagine life without it really. It’s what I exist for I guess’.

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

John Gallagher: ‘It’s given us so much, the opportunity to travel the world, meet my wife, have my family and just the ability to sit in a room with a guitar and bang out some riffs and create a song. Just to know that you have made something. We are incredibly lucky to be able to do what we do and do not take that lightly, so when we go out its 100% 24/7/365 mate!!!!

John Verity: Music has given me everything – but at times it has taken everything away too. It means everything to me. I have a very long-suffering wife, Carole. She lets me be what I am despite the faults and that’s amazing, the way she accepts my obsession with all things music related’.

Robb Weir: ‘I’ve loved every second of my musical career, the whole ride has been like sitting at the front of a giant rollercoaster, 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.’ 

Arthur Ramm: ‘Well I can’t live without music. If my hands don’t work I don’t know what will happen. I listen to music all the time and I am in a band now with Les’. 

Les Tones: ‘When I’ve got a guitar I lose loads of time cos I can’t put it down. I’ve also been teaching music and I got into repairing and building guitars. I still play in a band now’. 

Tony Wilson: ‘It was like opening a door to the world – I’ve travelled, met good and bad people. Coming back to the folk scene I’m flattered that people remember me. There’s still some fantastic people who put you up, give you meals, drive you places…just the most incredible thing ever….really….that’s music’.

David Taggart: ‘Everything. Even more so as I get older. Lying on my back as a toddler in our council house listening to Swan Lake, Ella Fitzgerald or the Fab Four. Or at the Newcastle City Hall to see the now legendary Rolling Stones concert where Jagger introduced the crowd to his new wife Bianca – while Bowie clapped in the wings. Fashions and fads fall along the wayside as your journey progresses and all you’re left with is the thing that really matters. The music’.

Gary Alikivi September 2018.

To read the full interviews just type the name in the white box at the top right hand of the page.

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

Music can heal and put the pieces back together again. It listens when no one else does. It’s alive. Music makes everything better…and it can trigger memories.

One of my earliest was listening to the radio and hearing ‘Leader of the Pack’ by The Shangri-Las. I asked Danny about his memories… ‘When I was younger I used to play my dad’s Johnny Cash cassette. I played it on one of those portable tape recorders under my pillow, it was my first headphones haha’.

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In an earlier interview with Danny (Death or Glory 8th September 2017) he talked about his time with The Wildhearts, The Yo Yo’s and current band The Main Grains. I asked him after your health problems and being away from music what does it feel like playing again ?

‘Well it’s taken it’s toll out on me you know with the drugs and that. I‘ve only got one leg left and I’m trying to learn how to walk around with crutches. But I’m getting there you know. It all started at Reading Festival in ’94’.

(Watch the clip on You Tube as The Wildhearts play the main stage and during ‘Everlone’ Danny injures his knee. At the end of the song the crowd are chanting his name. Then Ginger (vocals/guitar) steps up to the mic… ‘You probaly thought Danny was turning into a hippy sitting down but he’s actually dislocated his knee so we gonna wait until the end of the gig and pop it back in’. Danny plays the rest of the set sitting on a flight case grimacing in pain).

‘We were live on stage, first song I jumped up in the air and bang, landed awkward. My leg bent the wrong way. The road crew said ‘we’re gonna take you off’ I said ‘no fuckin’ way just get me a Jack Daniels and a line of coke’ haha. Afterwards I went to hospital and was operated on, it’s been really weak since then – but I did finish the gig!

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

The Main Grains have recently finished a tour with Tylas Dogs D’Amour, how did that come about ? ’I’ve known Tyla since Bam Bam was in The Wildhearts so that was going back to ’92. When I got The Main Grains together I got in touch with Tyla and said we’d be up for any gigs that are coming up, he said yeah no problem man. He kept to his word and got in touch a few month ago and mentioned the December gigs. We were more than willing to go for that.

Normally a tour can be weeks at a time but this one we were doing 2 or 3 dates on with a couple of days off in between. It was good because with the gigs like that you have a few days to recover, come home, shower, get changed and get some proper food in yer. We started at the beginning of December and went up till Edinburgh on the 22nd.

But with the Ryan Hamilton tour coming up in March that’s different cos we’re 10 days on and 1 day off. Supporting Tyla’s Dogs was brilliant. The Dogs crowd are same as our rock n roll crowd so yeah went down really well, it was great. Great bunch of lads, drinking buddies with a gig in between (laughs)’.

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

Do you think social media is essential for any band ? ‘Yes I do all that, it’s relentless. You have to be on it to let people know what’s happening and it keeps you in the public eye. Especially when you are starting out again because I had years off the scene and just getting myself together in the last few year. But it needs to be done.

I moved to London when I was 19, I wouldn’t had to that if the internet was about then. Managers, record companies, journalists were all in London so we had to base ourselves there. The companies were all in London, New York or Los Angeles. That was the 3 main places, then Seattle was added with the Sub Pop label who were very influential back in the 90’s. Nirvana are still making them obscene amounts of money now with the re-releases.’

Danny was in The Yo Yo’s who formed in 1998 and were signed to Sub Pop who released their debut album Uppers & Downers in 2000. Before that he was in The Wildhearts with Ginger who was also originally from my hometown, South Shields. Danny has been rehearsing some new songs written by Ginger. How did you get back in touch ?

’We had fallen out and hadn’t spoken for 10 year but he called me up out of the blue and asked me to play at his birthday bash in December 2016. We had a great time so we’ve kept in touch and now The Wildhearts are going to be playing some gigs this year. It’s really exciting planning new stuff again it’s like I’ve got something really positive in my life to aim for you know.

I’ve done a lot of growing up lately, I’m clean now. I can talk to Ginger just as a friend, a human being. Together we’ve been through a lot you know’.

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(The Wildhearts are on the ’Britrock Must be Destroyed’ UK tour during May 2018. Line up is CJ & Ginger (guitars) Danny (bass) and Ritch (drums). Also added to the bill are Reef and Terrorvision. Dates during the Summer festivals are also being arranged).
‘I love the bloke to bits and I have a lot of respect for the guy. Back then we were thick as thieves man, we were very close. In the 90’s we used to go to a pub in London called The Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street in Soho. I loved that place. It was a sort of goth rock punky bar. People must have been buying us drinks cos I’m not sure how we could afford it – we were all skint! The owner of the pub had a boot of a cadilac car converted into a couch and the amount of times I ended up sleeping on it after the pub closed haha.

Next morning I would wake up and start all over again. We were always at The Marquee on the guest lists. There was a page in the Kerrang mag called View From the Bar and we were always trying to get our faces in there, that was a big thing getting in the gossip columns of the mags. The Wildhearts spent a lot of time in the studio’s and we released a load of records. Ginger must have written at least a couple of hundred songs by now.’

In our last interview you talked about The Wildhearts supporting AC/DC. What are your memories of that tour ? ‘We were support on the Ballbreaker tour in 1996. We done a couple of months with them. We got on great with their vocalist, fellow geordie Brian Johnson, he really looked after us. I watched them on stage every night, it was brilliant. Some nights I saw Brian full of cold, really bad, but they never cancelled a gig. Before he went on he’d take a sly nip of whiskey then straight into Back in Black. Brilliant.

I remember one night he came into our dressing room and said ‘Pack yer t-shirts lads we’re going to America’. We thought we had another few month on tour but sadly we ran out of money and left the tour earlier than anticipated. Gutted. But that’s the way it goes sometimes’.

KERRANG

Have you any favourite songs or studio moments from that time?Earth Vs The Wildhearts album was a great time recording. Mark Dodson worked on it, he was great. He also done Anthrax stuff. Mick Ronson played slide guitar on My Baby is a Headfuck. Mick Ronson..Ziggys Spiders from Mars…unbelievable ! He got it down in the first take but we let him play on cos we just wanted to listen. It was the last thing he played on before he died. Really sad it was, he was a really nice bloke.

That song goes down really well at gigs, it’s a sing a long, quite simple in context with the rest of the album because some of those songs are quite complicated. Songs like Everlone had more to them you know. I like the song Mindslide. I love the sentiment of the song and I love the drumming on it by Ritchie, it’s phenomenal.

(Mindslide was a b-side to the single ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’ and Earth Vs The Wildhearts was their debut album released in August 1993).
’I love working in the studio getting the bass down then watching the layers of guitars and vocals added. I love watching the track build and listening back on the big speakers. Hearing the finished track it’s such a buzz, a real rush.

But playing a song live you get a cheer and it’s instant gratification. All the hairs on my arms stand up, it’s like being plugged into the mains. It’s better than any drug that I’ve tried, wish I could bottle it’.

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

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

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

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Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2018.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GUN FOR HIRE – interview with Tyneside bassist Ed Thomas

Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs ? ‘At first we’d rehearse at low volume in various band members bedrooms, with the drummer keeping time by slapping his legs, then he graduated to using a dustbin. A couple of times we rehearsed in a garage belonging to Ginger’s parents.

I was 18 when I played my first gig with The Cups a bit of a South Shields supergroup that lasted until ’86. Guitarist Ginger and Stidi on drums both going on to be in The Wildhearts. Then I joined Gunslinger in ’88 and we used Baker Street Studio in Jarrow to rehearse until our singer Macca’s brother opened The Rock In, also in Jarrow. I lasted in them till 1990’.

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

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I was a massive Kiss fan and I loved Ace Frehleys loose, laid back style. Low strung Les Pauls, man, you can’t beat ’em! Although I play bass I didn’t really have any bass influences and I started playing by accident!

I knew Ginger from The Wildhearts when we were 16 and he wanted a bass player for his band so he asked me to do it cos he said I was a crap guitarist. To be fair, he was right, so I suppose he was the reason I started playing bass and kept at it because I found it to be much more fun than guitar!’

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

GUNSLINGERby Steve Elliot

Gunslinger with Ed in the middle.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I only recorded a couple of times with Gunslinger. Once in ’88 at Baker Street Studio which had all the cutting edge gear but we couldn’t seem to get the sound we were looking for so it was a bit of a disappointment. Tracks were Holdin’ On, She Said and Gunslinger.

Then around ’89 we recorded twice in Micky Clark’s little 8 track studio in Frederick Street, South Shields and those recordings were much more successful! Much closer to the edgy feel we wanted so we done Gunslinger, Holdin’ On and She Said along with High Risk, Broken Dreams, Falling to Pieces, I Got a Feeling and I’m sure there were one or two more thats coming back to me, yes Shock Treatment, Play it from the Heart and Nothing to Show. But yeah really enjoyed that session’.

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

METAL HEALTH with North East UK musician Glenn S.Howes

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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’.

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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’.

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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’.

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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, Mandora, Cups, Avenger and many others’.

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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’.

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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’.

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‘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’.

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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’.

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‘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’.

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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’.

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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.

BEAUTY & THE BOLLOCKS – UK Subs & Hi Fi Spitfires guitarist Steve Straughan

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‘Since joining the UK Subs I am more busy than ever, which I love. The UK Subs have a 40th anniversary gig in November, a UK tour then a 5 week tour of Europe. I’ve got a lot going on and always have since I first picked up a guitar after hearing Never Mind the Bollocks. Blew me away. It still does today’.

Who were your influences Steve and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that ? ’1970’s music was healthy at the time but nothing was opening the doors for me. Music was always there in the background like the glam rock thing, but it just wasn’t grabbing me. It was like black and white tv, nothing special.

But when punk came around it gave me that extra thing like colour tv. It just had that extra spark, that beauty. What can I say, it was incredible. I remember watching video clips from The Great Rock n Roll Swindle, songs from the Bollocks album – that made me want to do it myself.

Also listening to The Stranglers album, Rattus Norvegicus, and a lot of other punk stuff from 1977. That whole scene was electric. I rode the wave of punk rock to get into music first, then went back to the likes of 70’s glam to appreciate it. There was a keyhole to my musical heart and it was punk that opened it’.

‘Where I lived in Sunderland we had a healthy punk scene. Watching the likes of Red Alert at Monkwearmouth youth club was very influential. Watching lad’s from my area and who were just a little bit older made me realise that it can be done. Being in a band back then was more like being in a gang but extended with instruments. Punk gave you the ability to tell your story and release your frustrations’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’From the start I’ve been really busy gigging and recording. I haven’t stopped, over the years I’ve played in a number of bands. Way back in the early 80’s my first punk band Formal Warning played youth clubs and school halls in the Fulwell and Seaburn area of Sunderland where we lived. That lasted till around ’82.

As I got older I joined Red London and toured all over Europe. I then joined a band called Holy Racket. Again toured all over Europe. We played brilliant gigs but one great memory was supporting Rancid at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Loved that. I’ve played guitar for the Lurkers touring around Europe with them from 2009 until 2012. I was guitarist for a couple of years in the Angelic Upstarts we played many great gigs including a USA tour.

I formed Hi Fi Spitfires and toured a lot in the UK and abroad. One great tour was supporting TV Smiths Adverts and toured with 999 in Germany. We have supported everyone in the punk world really, like The Damned at the North East Calling gigs. Since joining the UK Subs just over a year ago, we have played extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA. Is that enough for ya’ haha’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Over the years I have recorded with all of those bands I’ve talked about. Best thing is I’ve kind of found my home when working with producer Fred Purser at Trinity Heights in Newcastle. Fred was once guitarist of the North East 70’s punk band Penetration.
Some of the bands who have recorded at Trinity are Angelic Upstarts, Toy Dolls, Red Alert, Red London, Holy Racket and Hi Fi Spitfires. Holy Racket recorded the album Anthems For The Doomed And Dazed there, North Rebel Radio and Subliminal Chaos all of which were released on cd.

We also recorded some material which was later released on a 7 inch single called Anoraxia.  Hi Fi Spitfires recorded the album England Screaming there which was released on cd and the album Nightraid which was released on cd and vinyl’.

‘We have always paid for everything ourselves, no record companies involved at all. If your serious about being in a band it’s obvious you have to record and release material. It’s not cheap to do it though. To record where we do it’s £220+ per day. On top of that there is the cost of pressing on cd or vinyl. The price of vinyl is unbelievably pricey. This is why I have only managed to do the vinyl route a couple of times. We are at the moment talking to a good friend who has agreed to put the money up to release our first album on vinyl like he did with our second’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘I could honestly write a book. Here are just two. A long time ago I played a charity gig in Sunderland. A friend of mine asked if he could come along as he had not seen any live bands before. I remember beforehand he was a bit nervous meeting the rest of my band. He kept asking if everything would be ok. I kept assuring him that everything would be cool and there certainly would not be any kind of trouble as it was a charity gig.

As I got ready and packed my guitars he went to the shop and got some ale just to take the edge off as he was quite nervous around new people. At this point I just thought he was having a couple of drinks.

Fast forward to the gig and just before we went onstage he told us how grateful he was for letting him come with us. About 5 songs in I was aware that something was going totally wrong by the people’s faces in the venue. I turned to my side to see my once very nervous mate running round the stage and pogoing naked. The security was called and he was escorted from the building. We were told to get off the stage.

I asked why and the bouncer said, ‘shut up, get your gear off, your barred’. After the initial shock I laughed my head off all the way home. I think we gave those people something extra thanks to my mate’.

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‘Years later I agreed for the same lad to come on tour with me in Belgium with the band I was in at the time Holy Racket. He assured me all the way there that he had learned his lesson and he wouldn’t do it again. There would be no repeat performance. I know he was very embarrassed about it.

During our performance on stage he was looking in a cupboard and found a horses head mask. He came running on the stage naked, with the horses head on and a sock fastened to his cock. I couldn’t play for laughing. I remember the audience loving it’.

‘Next stop for Hi Fi Spitfires are return recording sessions with Fred Purser at Trinity Heights, Newcastle. We are recording a 5 track cd called Doors To The USA. Yeah can’t wait’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

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

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

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

DEATH OR GLORY – interview with Danny McCormack bassist The Main Grains/The Wildhearts

I’m with Danny at his home in Newcastle and notice a black and white photo on the sitting room wall, it’s a picture of The Garricks Head pub in South Shields… ‘Yeah my Grandma Pat used to have it’.

I remembered I had my first drink there when I was 16 year old. A pint of McKewan’s Scotch, after the first drink the froth covered the caterpillar growing on my top lip… ‘Yes it was a great pub sadly not there now. She used to have regular lock-in’s, the punters staying behind after hours for a few more drinks. A bloke with an accordion would be in, there was a piano player in the corner and we’d all be singing along with them. Smokey tunes, great times and wild night’s, yes, I can remember all that’.

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When living in London Danny McCormack was a member of The Wildhearts. During their commercial peak in the nineties, they recorded 4 albums with their 2nd release P.H.U.Q entering the album charts at no.6. The band also released a bucket load of top 30 singles and they appeared on British tv music programme Top of the Pops. Support slots with Manic Street Preachers, Guns n Roses and AC/DC, they also toured America and Japan.

Danny went on to form The Yo Yos and recorded 1 album, toured the UK, Europe and Japan then split in 2000. Since returning North in 2003 he has re-joined and left The Wildhearts several times, played with Dog’s D’Armour and with his younger brother Chris in Three Colours Red. The Yo Yos also made a brief comeback.

Those are just edited highlight’s of his life in rock n roll. But bringing the story up to date Danny has a new band – The Main Grains. Before meeting up I checked out some of their music and watched a video for ‘Unscrewed’. I thought it had a Ramones/End of the Century/ Phil Spector feel to it…
’Yes it’s our nod to Phil Spector in a way. The Main Grains are JJ on guitar, Ginna on drums and Ben on guitar with me on bass and vocals. They are Yorkshire lads so they come up to Gateshead where we rehearse. When we first got together it all fit in place, the playing is tight. That’s what you want.

We record the old fashioned way, idea’s on an acoustic first, then get in a room together to rehearse. Bounce idea’s off each other. We need the spark, the energy for it to come together. This time we are doing it ourselves.

We’ve had no record company input. So never signed anything, we own our own music. We make our own decisions and plenty people are coming to the gig’s so we are doing something right. We will work with promoter’s to put together a few more gig’s but we are in control, we’ll choose when we want to record and gig’.

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Punk was a big influence in your life, can you remember where you first heard it ? ‘The jukebox man would come around to my Grandma’s pub and say ‘Pat what do you want on the jukebox this week ? She said ‘All my usual’s you know the Patsy Cline stuff, but none of that punk rock music there’s far too much fucking swearing in it haha’. My ear’s pricked up like devils horn’s. What’s punk rock ? Then I heard the Pistol’s, Damned, Clash and just loved it. They absolutely blew my mind. I used to play them at low volume so my mother couldn’t hear the swearing.

I was playing The Toy Doll’s, still love them to this day, Angelic Upstarts – there was a lot of complaints about them being on stage kicking a pig’s head around with a copper’s helmet on it. But they were only singing the truth you know, reality, have a dose of this folks. I had a picture of them on my wall and there’s the ugly mugs of Mond and Mensi staring down at me haha. Yes I love punk’.

Did you have any hero’s in music ? ‘Nah I was never into the hero worship thing, never looked up to any of the musician’s or band’s really. The only hero’s out there are all the nurses, doctor’s and fireman. They face life and death decisions every day…that’s who real hero’s are’.

When did you get your first guitar ? ‘I got my first guitar one Christmas, it was a classical. The reason I play bass is because two strings snapped and I didn’t have the heart to say to my mam that I’ve snapped the strings because A, I’ll get a clip around the lug for snapping them and B, she couldn’t afford to replace them. I just used to play along with my records with the 4 strings like a bass’.

Then some mates got together and we done my first band called Energetic Krusher. Ali was on vocals, Hairy the drummer, Louie and Nick Parsons on guitars. Nick went on to do The Almighty. We made an album for a record label down London called Vinyl Solution. We had just split up but never told them.

Ali took us for a pint and told us about the record company interest, we all said yes of course we’ll do it. We were 15-16 year old with a record deal, it was brilliant. I remember going to school somebody video taped us in rehearsals. I was really chuffed’.

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‘We got the buzz then, first gig I ever done was amazing. It just felt exactly right. The crowd were going nut’s, we were going nut’s, it sounded tight, in time, in tune. That was at The Riverside in Newcastle.
Later I was working at King’s Music guitar shop in Sunderland it was a YTS scheme getting £27.50 a week. I remember that was my exact fare to get to London and join The Wildhearts’.

How did that come about ?Ginger from The Wildhearts had heard about Energetic Krusher through his mate Panda from South Shields and he came to see us play at The George Ropery in London. That must have stuck in his mind you know because when one of the guy’s left his band Ginger was straight on the phone to me, saying would you come down for an audition.
Well when I got there it wasn’t really an audition because I took some acid and got off with the secretary from the record company. He said ‘You’re in!’ haha. Ginger was a few year older than me and had already been down there a few years and had been in Beki and the Bombshell’s, The Quireboys and a few other bands. You know I was in a band with Ginger from The Quireboys, and Bam Bam from Dog’s D’Amour. At 15 year old I was down the front at a Dogs D’Amour gig then 4 years later I was in a band with him, it was like a dream come true. It was brilliant’.

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Where did you stay in London, did you have any digs? ‘I was squatting in Gingers cupboard in Finchley Road. The woman used to come round for the rent and she started noticing I was there a lot. Who’s he, where’d he come from she’d say. We were rehearsing in Jumbo Studios when we could. I was on dole money, we had nowt. We used to split and share our money to get by. It was £15 quid with Ginger one week then next week he would give me £15 back. It was that hard when we first moved down there.

First year we were dossing around cos the band were in litigation. Ginger had signed some deals that weren’t working for us. It was all lawyer meetings, what was going on here you know. We couldn’t record it was frustrating. But you know what it is, we didn’t give a shit, we believed in the band that much.

The songs were flying out of Ginger, he had an acoustic and played me a few tunes, what do you think of this one ? Then another and another, he used to blow me away. Coming out with classic after classic in my book. The guy’s a genius. Nothing but admiration for him’.

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Can you remember first recording with The Wildhearts ? ‘The first album was done in Wessex Studio’s where Never Mind the Bollock’s and London Calling by The Clash were recorded, bit of Queen stuff also done there, yes it was phenomenal. It was a great place. We done demo’s there originally and they were so good we used them for the album, we tarted the vocal up a bit. All done in a week and we had an album’.

The Mondo Kimbo EP was done down in Wales at Rockfield Studio, a very famous studio, a lot of bands recorded there. Around late ’92 we done a lot of small gig’s but the turning point was when we played with Pantera at The Marquee, that was a phenomenal gig.

After that we went out with Wolfsbane, Manic Street Preachers, Alice in Chains even Steve Vai. We were building a reputation as a good live band. We were playing tight, a pretty formidable unit. A stand out gig was supporting Guns n Roses in Japan. Ended up going there 7 times’.

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Did you film any TV appearances or music video’s ? ‘As a job, being in a band with a plank of wood and four wires hanging around your neck doesn’t quite cut it with your parents, cos they had proper jobs haha. So after we’d done Top of the Pops a few times and they’d seen me on the telly my mam and dad stopped asking if I was going to get a proper job. We used to have a great time on the show, the crowd would go nut’s. I don’t know where they were from but there was a few Wildhearts t-shirts in the crowd.

We done it a few way’s, miming, live, sometimes just the vocal’s were live. But we never had a song where it stuck and grew. Our hardcore fan’s would buy the single’s and we would sell enough to get on the show, but never reached further in the charts’.

‘For the I Wanna Go Where the People Go video we filmed that in New York. We went there for 5 days to do the video and ended up living there for a couple of month haha. We were in a house in Brooklyn it was great fun. For the first month we were in The Chelsea Hotel.

One night after drinking in CBGB’s we jumped in the taxi and told the driver to take us to the nearest drug dealer. ’No problem get in guy’s’. The taxi was quickly surrounded by them. The deal was done and we returned to The Chelsea. We laid them out on the bed and looking through them we managed to score some salt and some pencil shavings haha… they must have seen us coming. We did get some spliff amongst the pencil shavings.

The drummer Ritchie put the radio on, lit some candles and we chilled out. The candle was on a wood shelf and he put something underneath so it wouldn’t burn through the shelf. But he put a paper plate under the candle. Well of course we fell asleep and the candles burned through, fell into my bag and set his hair alight. The fire caught hold on the old wooden floor, it was pretty big so I ran into the hallway in my under crackers looking for a fire extinguisher.

Next door and downstairs were making noises about all the smoke, now the fire brigade turned up, there was coppers running about and we were absolutely stoned.

The manager came and showed us to another room, he was very calm and said you’re in good company, the only people who’ve set fire’s in this hotel were Sid Vicious and Andy Warhol haha.
Eventually the record company starved us out of New York. They stopped the money going into the bank and we eventually went back to the UK to do Top of the Pops. You know I don’t think about those times all the time, just now that you’ve asked but I can see it in my mind and thing is I’m back in touch with Ginger now’.

Where did you go after The Wildhearts ? ’After The Wildhearts I toured America with The Yo Yo’s and the first drive was 3 days – never complained about touring in a van in the UK again haha. We went out with The Backyard Babies and The Murder City Devil’s. We done about 42 states in 5 month, that was brilliant. We were on Sub Pop at the time and I recorded around 20 songs with them’.
(Nerd alert: Sub Pop was a USA record company working out of Seattle, famous in the 1980’s for signing bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. In 2000 The Yo Yo’s released their debut album Uppers and Downers, it was recorded in Trident Studio’s, London).

‘They gave us the backing and at first it looked like a very good deal unfortunately it didn’t work out that way – but that’s another story. Those contracts look like they are written in Latin and I wasn’t trained as a lawyer. But hey, loved my time in that band, got to travel to Japan again’.

Danny has a lot more stories and will be returning in a few month time but 
before the interview we talked about musicians who have suffered with depression and addictions, or others who had recently passed away. Danny has had his own problems which are well documented elsewhere, but I felt there was no need to repeat them here…

‘What’s in the past is just that, you can’t change it. Just looking forward to playing some more rock n roll. Musician’s aren’t anything special. Me, I’m just a bass player in a rock n roll band. That’s who I am’.

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The Main Grains.

Catch The Main Grains live at The New Adelphi, Hull on September 22 and at Trillians, Newcastle on September 23. They are supporting The Professionals at The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton October 27 2017.

The Main Grains have a new single coming out on 7th November 2017 The Rain is Over, What We Gonna Do Now ? and Sock It To Me Baby.

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For more info, tour dates & downloads contact the official website maingrains.com or thru facebook or twitter.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

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

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

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

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

UNDER THE SKIN with drummer Stevie James

Stevie James has been in a few punk bands over the years so he’s collected a lot of memories… ‘I’ve being tapped up by a midget in New Orleans, locked in squats in Genoa and our singer got stuck in a parachute once. I got altitude sickness on stage in Columbia and hid from Nazi skinheads in a loft in Poland. So many memories but if you venture out of your door you experience life in all it’s glory’.

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Where did it all start ? ‘I started off playing in bands as a kid, playing punk rock on drums. My first band was called The Betrayed and since then have played in so many bands including Hellkrusher, Grudge, Blunt Wound Trauma, Demon 340, The Fiend and The Varukers’.

Who were your influences ? ‘Like most kids growing up you start with the music your parents listened to. For me it was a family of two sides. My mothers music taste was diabolical but my dads was great. He listened to bands like Them, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. But he was also into heavier stuff like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Motorhead. It’s all music I still listen to.

My own music started with Damned, Specials and The Sex Pistols. I remember me dad playing Friggin in the Riggin to me uncle and thinking, I’m gonna get me lug dadded here but he just laughed. Then I discovered Angelic Upstarts and the UK Subs. Now I had a thread to follow I quickly discovered punk in all its forms and along with school mates, found the harder edged and politically motivated punk of the early eighties. Once I discovered that, it was life changing, I never looked back’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When we were kids we hung around in large groups on the streets, roaming all over the place. In the early eighties there was an old drum shop on Bede Burn Road in Jarrow that would chuck old sticks and drum heads in a skip around the back. We would go and raid it and see what we could acquire. Kids from my generation didn’t have access to much so even an old drum head would spark off the imagination.

We would play Crass records that one of our friends older brother had. The anger and politically charged lyrics was the first time I really related to someone else’s point of view. It was the beginning of my interest in music.

Around ’81 or ’82 we went to see The Phantoms of the Underground, Blood Robots and The Pigs in a church hall in Jesmond, and that was that. I remember having to lie to my dad about where I was going and when I got dropped off at home after the gig, I thought I was gonna get a clout around the ear, but he just said ‘get to bed lad’ and I escaped another hiding.

We decided after that to start a band and moved in to me dads garden shed for about three years. I built a drum kit from water barrels from me dads allotment. They were covered in towels perched on upside down chairs with the backs pulled off and the dowel from the backs for sticks. I had a snare drum shell with only a bottom head and no snare, so I turned it upside down and covered it with a towel. That was my first kit until I bought a proper kit from a lad at the paper shop for £30.

We did our first gig in my parents kitchen when they went shopping. We sold tickets for 25p and filled the house with kids from the estate. We borrowed the school drum kit and took it to mine in shopping trolleys. Me parents came home half way through the gig and caught us. Me old man said I had one hour and went in the living room and closed the door. He was alright about me music was me old man’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘When I got heavily involved in the punk scene it was very d.i.y and we would play gigs anywhere and everywhere. The bands we followed predominantly played at The Station in Gateshead, The Bunker in Sunderland and later The Broken Doll in Newcastle.

I played my first gig at the Anglo Asian club in the west end of Newcastle but we shook the floor so much they stopped us playing there. ‘We also used to play a lot at The Irish Centre in Newcastle’.

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‘When I was in a band that you could call serious we did our first gig at The Riverside in Newcastle but we played all over the country and some of us into Europe and America. I have played worldwide over the years, the punk scene is as far reaching as it gets and I’ve played with everyone from Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, to UK Subs, Discharge, Exploited, GBH, The Damned, Steve Ignorant from Crass, The Dickies, The Misfits, you name it. Those early days of kicking around the doors were special though’.

What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘We were about as clueless as it gets but what we lacked in knowledge we made up for in enthusiasm. I can’t remember prices but we recorded as cheaply and as quickly as possible in those days.

We used to go to Rednose Studio on the north side and recorded our first single with a band called Senile Decay, which was mastered at Abbey Road then our first album there with Hellkrusher on the Wasteland record which was released in 1990. The record company said it wasn’t good enough so we went to Baker Street Studio in Jarrow owned by local musician Howard Baker’.

‘I turned up with a pair of old drum sticks covered in gaffer tape and when the engineer asked me where my drums were, I told him I didn’t have any. I thought this was a studio so there would be some here. We ended up borrowing the kit of someone who stored it in the studio.

I later went on to study and become a sound engineer and record many artists over the years and in studios all over the world, including the amazing Rooftop Studio in South Shields. I went on to design and build The Cave Studio that is still standing to this day, which I’m proud of as it’s in my home town. I’ve always produced everything I ever did since I had the knowledge to do it’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Oh aye. So many, I wouldn’t know where to start. Most bands spend just about the full day travelling and drinking so they do everything three sheets to the wind but I don’t drink so I remember everything.

I’ve got loads of memories, like the time I slept in a convent, we’ve been escorted by police out of various cities and even over the borders of countries. There has been riots, kick off’s, we’ve blown so many circuit boards in venues it’s not funny.

I remember doing a gig with The Fiend and the guitarist Robby pulled into a petrol station to fill up the van and somehow managed to jam his keys into the van ignition and pulled off the steering wheel trying to get them back out. We had to leave the van on the forecourt and Robby got a lift on a moped to go get his car. Aye we still did the gig haha!’

‘We done a gig in The Ferry pub in South Shields where we were so loud we vibrated all the bottles off the bar. They could hear us down the road at another pub so they complained to the police. One time we went through the metal detector in Berlin airport and one band member accidentally had a butter knife in his boot, it didn’t go off but we were sweating buckets going through security.

We were on tour in America when one of us got pulled in Dallas for having the same name as a wanted terrorist! They showed us a picture of an Asian fella and asked if it was one of us before they would let us go into South America’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘Music got under my skin and never left me. I was involved in an accident that damaged my spine badly and it had an impact on my health in general. It was a long and arduous climb back up to a semblance of normality but it changed how I live my life and affected me profoundly. I can’t play anywhere as well as I used to as the damage is degenerative and I have to tread really carefully but I still play’.

‘I just can’t imagine my life without playing music in it. I will always play d.i.y punk just how its always been, and how it feel’s natural to me. There isn’t a single penny in it and it’s a chore like you couldn’t imagine. It can be frustrating to manage the logistics of it but I love it with everything that I am and always will, Cheers’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

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

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

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

GUNS, MAGGOTTS & STREET PUNK – Just a normal day for Jarrow band Crashed Out

‘We played South Central LA and the gig got swamped by two rival gangs. The street outside had gangbangers in cars screeching up and down the street. The gangs were ready to go to war. Everyone was crapping themselves. We finished the set then legged it’….

Where did it all start ? ’The very first line up of Crashed Out consisted of four 15 year old school mates, Gary Fulcher, Mark Spencer, Lee Griffiths and me, Lee Wright.
The present line up is my brother Chris Wright, Spencer Brown and Carlos. I’m the only original member from the start. At the very beginning we wanted to sound like a mash up of Rock and Punk. We listened to bands like Stiff Little Fingers, UK Subs, Nirvana, Cock Sparrer and AC/DC’.

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What made you get involved in playing music ? ‘The only reason I picked up the guitar was boredom. I was 14 years old and got it as a present for Christmas. I started to watch early Guns ’n’ Roses videos and got obsessed with music. I wanted to learn how Slash played his guitar solos, it amazed me.

When I realised I couldn’t play like that, I turned to punk music, mainly Stiff Little Fingers and UK Subs. I spent months learning in my room. I found I could pick their songs up easier. Many years later we would tour and become friends with these types of bands, who would have known.’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘We started off playing our school hall in front of the kids and teachers. They didn’t think much of us punk kids making a noise, but we left our mark for sure. Twenty odd years later I bumped into an old school teacher and he mentioned that gig haha.

After that we started playing pubs up and down the country, it was difficult ‘cos of our age. But we managed to pull it off somehow. Around that time we supported the likes of UK Subs, The Exploited, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, GBH and a few others. I wrote hand written letters to gig promoters back then, it was hard work but it was great. We even managed to get to Belgium for a few gigs’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘In 1995 we recorded our first self financed single in a studio called Uncle Sams here in Newcastle. It was a professional analogue set up. I can’t remember costs but it wasn’t cheap. That first single was called Memories of Saturday and on the b side was Fight Back. Both those tracks are on a compilation album put out by Hammer Records called True Brit.
After releasing the single we followed it up with an album This is Our Music. Uncle Sam’s studio had a good vibe !’

Have you any funny stories from gigs ? ‘There’s always funny stories when traveling abroad with the band, trouble is it’s always a blur because of the alcohol, ha ha ! I remember on one of our first trip’s abroad we decided to go by ferry. We got absolutely plastered on the way over and one of the lads passed out drunk on the floor. Someone decided to pour a carton full of boiled rice down the back of his underpants while he slept. It wasn’t hot by the way.

Anyway, morning came and we forgot about the various antics that had went on the previous night. As we left our cabin we joined the queue of people near the exit waiting to leave the ferry, when suddenly our mate starting screaming and grabbing at his arse. He was dancing round as if he was on fire, pulling rice out of his pants, he thought he had maggots coming out of his arse haha. With the added hangover he was really panicking, you should have seen the look on his face. I can still remember it now haha’.

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Chris Wright: ’Once we played in an old prison in Germany, with support from The Bruisers, who went on to become The Dropkick Murphys. Anyway it kicked off outside and some nutters were shooting guns so we had to hide in the back of the building.
This is a very bizarre but true story. We were in LA when we met Lemmy at the Rainbow Rooms. He asked me if I wanted to buy a Hollywood star paving slab with my name ettched on it. He said he could have it shipped to Jarrow for me!! Honestly true story’.

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‘Former Angelic Upstarts drummer Decca Wade (pic above) was playing for us in 2006. He played a gig in Spain completely naked and when he finished he stood up from his kit and bowed to the crowd. He took a step back and disappeared off the stage. Thing was the stage was in the centre of a hall and a curtain was drawn behind it so he couldn’t see the 5ft drop ha ha. He had to run from behind the stage through the crowd to the dressing room, all this while he was naked’.

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What are Crashed Out doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? ‘Well twenty plus years later we are still playing all over the world. We have new recordings in the pipeline and we have some new band members too. Things are going really well. Thanks for the interview’.

Crashed Out have lined up a few stand out gigs this year. They are playing at a charity gig at the Head of Steam in Newcastle on August 25th. In October the band are at Newcastle Uni with Cock Sparrer on the 7th, then on the 20th they are supporting Sham 69 at Newcastle Academy. December 9th they travel to Wales for a pre-Xmas bash then on 28th they are having a Xmas Mash Up at Trillians Bar in Newcastle.

Check the official website crashed-out.co.uk or their facebook page for more dates.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

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

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

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

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

ALL THE YOUNG PUNKS – The early day’s with ex Upstart’s guitarist Neil Newton.

Neil Newton is a musician based in the North East of England. For 11 years he was guitarist for Angelic Upstarts. Here he looks back on his career and where it all began…

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‘It all started off with Wizard and The Sweet, my earliest memory as a kid is seeing Roy Wood’s geet mad hair and makeup and the music just hooked me even though, at 5 years old, I didn’t understand why it appealed but I didn’t care, those songs and images were fucking great’.

‘A few years later Punk came along and that was it, I had already been primed for Punk by listening to the Glam Rock bands and the impact on me was massive. I loved the energy, the anger and lyrics being spat out like venom, fucking incredible and Punk still does that to this day, it still makes the hairs on my arms and neck stand on end’.

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‘Punk music did so much more than influence me musically though, it shaped my whole attitude to the world in general and it was a local Punk band who brought everything into focus about just what it was that punks were angry about. The Sex Pistols were writing about Anarchy in the UK but the Angelic Upstarts were writing about events and issues that were happening in my hometown. I loved Punk because of the Pistols, Damned, Clash et al but I understood Punk because of the Upstarts’.

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‘One other major influence at that time was my dad. He heard me learning and practicing some punk songs on my first ever guitar which I still have. He gave me one of his Eddie Cochran records and said ‘Here, learn that’. So I did and said to him ‘Here dad, that record’s just like the Pistols’ my dad’s reply was ‘check the date it was recorded you stupid bastard’. 1950’s?? Fuck me, that seemed prehistoric to me at the time and there was me thinking music only started with Glam then Punk…Wrong!. I scored for all my dad’s old vinyl though, Chuck Berry, Eddie C, Buddy Holly etc…Mint!’

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘The Boy’s Brigade. I started as a bugler but always wanted to be a drummer, so when I got the chance I took a drum and started rehearsing with it at home. Well, when I say at home I mean my dad’s shed. My mam hate’s noise, always has and even to this day she has her telly’s volume on something like minus 24! So I’d get hoyed out into the shed.
It was cosy as fuck. I can still smell the creosote, Jeyes fluid from Lindgrens, old tins of gubbins and my sneaky tabs (loosies, remember them?) Our neighbours must’ve been either stone deaf, extremely tolerant or best mates with Ted Moult and got a great deal on double glazing, because the noises coming out of that shed must’ve been bloody torturous!’

Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘I played my first gig before I had ever rehearsed! I was still at school maybe 14 or 15 year old and I was approached by a 6th former. He said he’d heard I’d played guitar and would I help his band out by playing bass, as they had a gig coming up. I agreed and asked him when the gig was, thinking it might be in a few months time and the lad said “Oh it’s tonight”! Ehhhhhhhhh???? Don’t worry, he said, do you know the bass line for Satisfaction by the Stones? Aye? Right, well just play that for every song. A few hours later I was upstairs in the Marsden Inn drinking pints of lager and belting out Satisfaction like there was no tomorra’.

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What venues did you play ? ‘In the early days I played a few pubs in South Shields, upstairs in The Cyprus, The Commando but because I supported Newcastle United, I would spend more time in Newcastle than down Shields. I discovered great bars like The Farmers, Jewish Mother, Egypt Cottage, Barley Mow and the best bar ever for live music in Newcastle…The Broken Doll. Mega City Four gigs upstairs in The Doll, smashed off your tits on Slalom D, those were magic times Gary, magic times’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Mostly positive and I’m not talking about the actual written material, because that usually takes care of itself either by being written and well rehearsed before you go in, or jammed out spontaneously to give it an extra edginess on the day. Like most things, the greatest experiences are when you learn the most and I fell double lucky by having Steve Mack as producer for a band I was in at the time called The Sunflowers’.

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‘Steve’s from Seattle but in the early 90’s he had a studio called ‘Bang Bang’ in Hackney. Steve was also the front-man for That Petrol Emotion who were formed by John and Damian O’Neill and were signed to Virgin. Steve was a brilliant producer and he showed me how to properly arrange songs to get maximum impact, he explained about dynamics, he was a fucking genius and my biggest song writing mentor’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Haha, oh aye shitloads but a lot of them I can’t repeat. Ok then here’s a couple’.

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‘ The first involves a band I was in called Speedster and we were asked to play an all-day music festival at Newbiggin Bank House Social Club. How they even got onto us in the first place is still a mystery but contact us they did and asked if we would play. As soon as the bloke said ‘Social Club’ I immediately asked him if he knew that we were a punk band, that we played all original material and no, we wouldn’t ‘play something wa knaa’!! He replied that he was happy with that and that he wanted, as he put it to ‘put summat on for everyone son, a bit of variety’. Well, you can’t say fairer than that I suppose so we agreed to play even though, to be truthful, we still had reservations.
Anyway, the day of the festival arrives and we travel up in our drummer’s van.

We arrive and get shown through to the dressing room by the Concert Chairman, who introduced us to some bloke and his barely teenage son. ‘See this lad here’ ? says the CC pointing to the young lad, ‘he can play The Shadows on his guitar, give him a listen and tell iz what you think’ ! Now I don’t know if the CC had mistook us for Tony Hatch or Mickie Most but we stood in uncomfortable silence as this young kid gave us back to back versions of ‘Apache’ and ‘FBI’. No disrespect to the young kid but it was cringingly embarrassing to see his dad and the CC with a proper chuff on about this young lad, who probably felt as uncomfortable playing for us, as we felt watching him. A pushy parent is one thing but a pushy parent and a concert chairman, the poor kid must’ve been going through hell.

Whilst all this had been going on an old bloke had been popping in and out of the dressing room. We assumed that he was club staff, or one of the dreaded ‘committee men’, so we didn’t really pay him that much attention….more on him later! We asked if we could see where we were playing and were escorted outside and onto a concrete flagged patio, with two small speakers for the vocals…and that was it.

I remember it was a sunny, warm day so we buggered off into Newbiggin and got ourselves a slab or two of lager, it was Oranjeboom lager and how the fuck I can remember that I’ll never know but there you are. We went back to the club and just sat in the sun drinking our cans and waiting for our patio erm stage time. In fairness we had a great view of the seafront and it was a beautiful day but we began to dread what would happen when we got up, as the audience was comprised mostly of old people and staunch clubmen types (sorry for the generalisation) nonetheless, as more of the Oranjeboom began to go down, the less we gave a fuck….except our drummer, who wasn’t drinking because he had the van and was dreading it more and more the nearer it got to our stagetime.

Finally we got up to play our set which was approx 50mins long. Not today though, our drummer just wanted to get on and off as quick as he could and set a band personal best time of just over 30 mins, by playing the set at 200mph! There was problems with the weedy little PA as our backline just roared over it. When we finished, you would’ve thought the audience had been twatted with a wet Turbot, they just sat there, stunned and bemused.

We got off and went back to the dressing room and were met by the bloke who had booked us, he paid and thanked us and seemed happy enough so we thought fair enough, a little surreal but fair do’s. Then we noticed the little old fella from earlier, except now he wasn’t wearing old gadgie gear, he was squeezed into an Elvis Presley, Vegas bloated years jumpsuit. I did spot a custom addition though, the proper Elvis caper has something like American Eagles sewn on it and encrusted with jewels, this fella had Magpies sewn on instead of Eagles and glitter that he’d glued on. We thought he was fucking mint and couldn’t wait to see him get up and strut his stuff, so we went up and parked our arses where we could get a good view.

Hey man, when he came on everyone gave him a big cheer and he was over the bit glad with himself. He started belting out Elvis songs and you know the crack, it’s just owld fella chanting and wobbly vibrato innit.
Then he fired up with a real classic (You’re the) Devil in Disguise. A track I quite like as it happens but this fella sang his own version, I suppose the Magpies on his shirt should’ve been a big enough clue but the owld fella was clearly a proud North-East working class fella and when he got to the chorus he roared out ‘You’re Mike Neville in Disguise’ ! It probably doesn’t sound all that funny a story in and of itself but the experience of it was fucking hilarious’.

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‘Second story, I can’t give names for this one but it involved some after show shenanigans at a hotel in Blackpool. One of whose guests included a certain diminutive Scottish lady, who likes dressing up as a schoolboy. The surreal level went off the scale with that one, especially when the after show shenanigans moved from the bar and upstairs to a hotel room. True story’.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ? ‘I’ve just left the Angelic Upstarts after being with them for the last 11 years and having written and released two albums. I’ve got my University finals coming up for an MSc so I need to focus 100% on them for the next few months but after that I’ll be heading straight back into music again, although probably not with the Upstarts. I’ve got plans for what I’m going to do music wise and should be able to reveal those towards the end of the year’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

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

Angelic Upstarts, The Butchers of Bolingbroke: Gigs, Pigs & Prisons, June 1st 2017.

Neil Newton, Vinyl Junkies, 12th September 2017.

THE BUTCHERS OF BOLINGBROKE – Pigs, Gigs and Prisons with Angelic Upstarts

1983

In 1977 three big events happened in the small seaside town of South Shields in the North East of England. The boxer Muhammed Ali had his wedding blessed in the town’s mosque, on her Silver Jubilee the Queen visited the town and while ‘God Save the Queen’ by The Sex Pistols was blasting out of the radio, three friends from a working class housing estate started a punk band. It took them on a journey they could only dream of…

Mensi: The nucleus of the band really was me, Dekka and Mond
Mond: We had known each other since we were kids, we used to hang around the shops at Brockley Whins.
Decca: They said here Decca we’re forming a band and you’re going to be the drummer. I wasn’t doing too much then, so I thought it would be a bit practice.
Mond: Initially we used to rehearse in Percy Hudson youth club in Biddick Hall and I remember our first gig was there, we done a show for the kids.
Decca: Yeh and we only knew six songs, so we played them same six songs three times haha.

Mond: We found you can hire the Bolingbroke Hall in South Shields for about £10 or something like that, and we had a big enough following by then, we used to get about 300 people in.
Decca: We used to play there regular, the admissions were a bag of coal or 50p, well there was coal wagons turned up haha
Mensi: We gave the coal to the pensioners.

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At one gig a special guest was brought on stage and in the crowd Graham Slesser and Steven Wilson remember it well…
Graham: The first time I went to see the Angelic Upstarts was at the Bolingbroke Hall when I was 14. There was a pigs head and everybody would run to it, fling it and kick it about.
Steven: First ever concert. First ever punk gig. Unbelievable, walked in, paid me money, it was wall to wall, heaving. I just have this vivid memory of a pigs head being held aloft, and I was transfixed.
Mensi: I think he made his first appearance at the Bolingbroke Hall with a police helmet on haha.
Mond: But at those gigs people started to sit up and take an interest.
Decca: I think that’s when we all started to take it serious you know, when we all got our heads together and started writing. I mean Mensi was a prolific song writer.
Mensi: My lyrics are mainly the easiest lyrics to write cause I just write about what’s happening around us.
Decca: He came out with the Murder of Liddle Towers, the song that made us famous.

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Mensi: When I wrote Liddle Towers it was more a sense of injustice that basically someone could be kicked to death. I don’t think I’m ashamed of anything I’ve wrote. Although in hindsight, being a lyricist and a songwriter you can write a song about something that’s in your mind for just that moment. Another thing is being in a band sometimes you think you have great power to change the world, write a song that’ll change the world, full of ideals when you are young.

How did the Upstarts get their name about on a national stage ?
Mond: The journalist Phil Sutcliffe came to see us and gave us our first big write up in the Sounds, it was a centre page spread.
Mensi: We got big helps in our early days. Number one would have been John Peel, he actually played Liddle Towers when nobody else would because I believe it got banned. Then Phil Sutcliffe who actually championed the band. Then Garry Bushell.
Mond: Garry was working for the Sounds at the time and he saw the write up that Phil Sutcliffe did. He was into punk so he came up to see us. There was something in the Sounds every week about us, if it wasn’t a single review it was an album review or a gig review. If there wasn’t any new records out we used to just phone him up and give him stories, we used to just make them up.

At one time the Sounds used to be called the Upstarts weekly because there was something about the Upstarts in every week without fail. And that was all down to Garry Bushell. Bless him. One time we played in Acklington Prison and we actually sneaked Garry in, we pretended he was one of the roadies.

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Mensi: A lot of people thought it was a made up publicity stunt but it really happened. Yes we went in there. The prison Chaplain booked us as he thought we were a Gospel band.
Mond: We sneaked Bushell in with a camera, I mean if he got caught he would of ended up stopping in there haha.
Mensi: It wasn’t just a couple of songs we done a full set, we played Police Oppression and Liddle Towers that went down a storm didn’t it haha.
Mond: That got us some great press if nothing else. There was hell on, it was in all the Sunday papers. How could such an anti Police band be allowed to play inside a prison. I seem to remember an MP from Tynemouth called Neville Trotter, he stood up in the Houses of Parliament and asked questions like how was this allowed to happen. Neville Trotter and a pig’s head, you couldn’t write it could you.
Decca: The rest is history after that… next you know your on Top of the Pops.

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Pop music has an air of glamour and in the 70’s shows like Top of the Pops paraded the latest stars in front of a huge TV audience of teenagers looking to spend their pocket money on the latest single. At it’s height the BBC show was pulling in audience figures of 15 million. In the Summer of ’79 the Angelic Upstarts were booked for the show. The glamour bubble was about to be burst…

Mensi: We should of got on Top of the Pops with I’m an Upstart because it got to number 31 and stayed in the chart a few weeks but they wouldn’t have us on at first. But we were on once. It was like, nothing. There was no atmosphere.
Mond: I remember we did Teenage Warning it went in around number 29 on the chart. It was a horrible cold studio with four stages in it. There was only 20-30 people there. It was like playing a big warehouse, it was horrible really, not a nice experience.
Mensi: The only good thing was I sang live, they wanted us to mime but I wouldn’t so that was something.

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What did punk do for the band ?
Mond: Punk was a great platform it enabled us to get a deal with EMI, another one with Polydor and one with WEA. So yeh it enabled you to get a foot on the ladder.
Mensi: It was a way out for what I consider to be working class kids. You didn’t have to be a student in art school, you didn’t have to be prolific at music you could just bang a dustbin lid and you were away mate.
Decca: The first time I went to America, the kids in New York were into skinheads and that but in L.A. where I lived for a little while it was more like a fashion with them. But here in the UK it was a real movement.
Mond: I never thought I would be with EMI and do an album in Abbey Road studios where The Beatles used to use. We were in studio 2 the one that they recorded in.
Decca: Imagine how I felt you end up drinking with Hollywood movie stars like Marty Feldman who I loved and adored.
Mond: When I was in the shipyards putting lights up on type 42 Destroyers and you told me I was going to do an album in Abbey Road I would of just laughed. I’m an alright guitarist not a great guitarist but I couldn’t see it happening.
Decca: Yeh looking back I’ve been a lucky man.
Mond: But that’s what punk did it made peoples dreams come true.

Interviews from the documentary ’The Butchers of Bolinbroke’ (2013) available on You Tube.
Interview by Gary Alikivi  2013.

Recommended:

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

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