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 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’ by 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’.

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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’.

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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.

Don’t forget to check the ALIKIVI You Tube channel.

AMERICAN BOY interview with Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors

Dave Kai Piper

Photograph by Dave Kai Piper.

The Traitors line up is Mickey Richards (drums) Rob Lane (bass) Carol Hodge (keys/vocals) and Ryan Hamilton (vocals/guitar). ‘Heavy Heart’ on latest album ‘The Devil’s in the Detail’ has uplifting lyrics which could be used over a montage of any sporting event…“How much can one heart hold. Don’t wanna miss a minute. With my heavy heart in tow, we push ourselves to the limit, to the limit”. The mature songwriting runs along the lines of Tom Petty – backed up by a video with great visuals. By great, I mean clean lines with no clutter. Just simple, straight forward storytelling. I asked Ryan where do the ideas come from for your songs ? ’I’ve never been one to sit down and try to write a song. They usually just appear. It’s pretty much always happens with a lyric and a melody. I have to grab a guitar and capture it fast…or I’ll lose it. It’s strange, I know. But I really look forward to those occasionally magical moments’.

How did you get involved in music ? ‘It sort of happened by accident. I hurt my back when I was in college. I was getting restless and bored due to not being very mobile. The strangest thing happened. I woke up one morning and just decided to get a guitar and teach myself. That’s where it all started. I started playing gigs in coffee shops. I grew up obsessed with Classic Rock. I’d say my biggest influences are Bob Dylan and Tom Petty’.


What are your experiences of recording and studio work ? ’I love it. It’s where the songs reach their potential. Taking a demo from, well… a demo, haha, to a properly recorded song, and watching it grow into the thing we all hoped it would be… Yeah, it’s just the best’.

How has the internet impacted on music ? ‘It’s made it necessary to build a career, a following, make and release albums without the headaches of dealing with a record label’.

What are your plans for this year ? ’Oh my God so many. Not sure where to even begin. But I’ll say this. It is very important to me to build a reputation as a great live act. I want our shows to remain great sounding, super fun events that you won’t forget’.

Next up for the band is an 8 date UK tour with The Main Grains. The first date is Huddersfield (15th), Liverpool (16th) Newcastle (17th) home turf for Danny Maccormack. Then taking in Glasgow, Nottingham, Cardiff, Southampton and London (23rd).


Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2018.


Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS/WILDHEARTS: Death or Glory, 8th September 2017

THE LAST GREAT DREAMERS: Looking For a Kiss, 26th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS: Comfort in Sound, 15th February 2017.

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’.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

img20TMG 3 June, Camden Rocks

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.


Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2018.


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.


LITTLE DEVILS – 5 minutes with UK hard rock band Piston


Formed 2012 in Staffordshire UK, hometown of Slash, Lemmy and Glenn Hughes, hard rock band Piston are Rob Angelico (vocals) Jack Edwards & Luke Allatt (guitars) Stuart Egan (bass) and Brad Newlands (drums).
On the live circuit they already have an impressive track record. Supporting bands like The Temperance Movement, Sebastian Bach, Love/Hate and an acoustic show with Whitesnake and Def Leppard. They have featured in Classic Rock magazine and the single ‘Leave If You Dare’ was on the playlists of Kerrang and Planet Rock radio. Guitarist Jack Edwards takes up the story behind the songs…‘The ideas are generally a joint effort between myself and fellow guitarist Luke Allatt. It will usually start with one of us having a brief idea of a riff, then the idea gets torn apart and redone – about ten times haha – before becoming a riff. Then parts start to flow becoming the different sections of the track. Once a rough sketch is made for the track, we all head into rehearsal where drummer Brad Newlands will arrange the ideas to formulate a song. Once the track is roughly wrote it is recorded and sent to singer Rob Angelico to work on’.


Jack Edwards

How did you first start in music and who were your influences ? ‘I remember I wanted to play drums so I got behind a kit but it didn’t feel right or natural. I saw a local high school band and I was drawn to the guitar, I just thought it was the coolest instrument I had ever seen. I picked it up and it just felt right straight away, since then I’ve never looked back. Personally, my influences in music are based around the blues rock artists. I was always drawn to bands such as Guns N’ Roses, The Cult and anything with guitar based music. Hearing the opening chords of The Cult’s Lil Devil and the outro solos of G’n’R’s Paradise City influenced me from an early age. As a band Piston draw influences from artists such as AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Small Faces and everything up to new modern acts such as The Temperance Movement and Airbourne’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I personally started playing shows in high school bands, moving through to jam nights, to cover bands, to tribute acts then eventually writing my own music and putting together an original band which is now Piston. In 2017, Piston made their debut appearance in France to a sold out crowd and Scotland joining the Wildfire Festival lineup!


Any recording/studio work ? ‘For the new releases Piston have tracked everything organically. The music is played live together in a room and tracked that way’.
The music video for the single featured on Kerrang TV, ‘Leave If You Dare’ has a similar look to a band in an earlier post (Bigfoot, Get Yer Rock On, 29 October 2017). The energy of the performance is captured using fast flowing camera work, pull focus shots and some moody lighting. The song mixes AC/DC, Black Crowes and rubs shoulders with fellow UK hard rock band Bigfoot – but with a bit more swagger. On ‘Playing With Fire’ EP are 3 tracks Dark Angel, Playing With Fire and they cover a pneumatic version of Creedence Clearwater Revivals ‘Proud Mary’. Impressive stuff.


What are the future plans for Piston ? ‘RECORDING, TOURING, WORLD DOMINATION’… Starting 2018 they are on the bill at Giants of Rock with Hawkwind, Toto and Boston at Minehead on January 27th . The next day they are at The Robin in Bilston with The Quireboys and on February 17th they are in Wolverhampton and The Giffard Arms.

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.


BIGFOOT: Get Yer Rock On, 29th October 2017.

ADORN THE WICKED: New York Groove, 29th November 2017.


LOOKS THAT KILL – from Belgiums glam metal band WildHeart


WildHeart are from Ninove in Belgium, 30 minutes from the capital city Brussels. They formed in 2014 and have recorded one album. The American radio rock anthems and shouty chorus’ of Guns n Roses/Bon Jovi/Motley Crue are their stock in trade. The video for single ‘Lovehunter’ should win awards for it’s ozone busting hair metal moves, or it’s production values in replicating the 80’s style music video. Lead vocalist of WildHeart, Farty, yep thats his name, explains…‘We didn’t have a lot of money to shoot the music video, so we were looking for someone who was just starting out to reduce costs. We found that person in Timo Vandiest. He had already proved himself by making the aftermovie of some of the bigger music festivals in Belgium. But he had never done anything like this. So we were very happy when he agreed to do this for us.
When we approached Timo, we already had an idea of what we wanted to accomplish. So that was easy for him. We wanted the setting to be in in the 80’s. We are all nerds playing video games and we don’t seem to have enough self-confidence to pick up girls. That all changes when we watch the VHS of Lovehunter and all got sucked into the TV. We all have our story trying to seduce the same girl and in the end one of us succeeds – me of course ! When the nerds are back, they all have the confidence they need and I kiss the girl at the end of the clip.
It took a lot of hard work and preparation to get this done because we all had to do it ourselves. Some of us even had to take a day off work to prepare the settings. We only had one day to shoot the video because of our budget, so we worked almost 24 hours to get it done. It was heavy, but in the end we are very happy with the result’.

Farty introduces the band… ‘We’re still playing with the same line up when WildHeart started out in 2014. That’s me on lead vocals, Foxx and Juice on lead and rhythm guitars, bass is Stevie Dee and Thunderberck on drums. Since we’re a glam metal band, our influences are especially the hard rock/glam metal bands of the 80’s. To name a few, Dokken, Ratt, Van Halen, Whitesnake and Y&T. The hard rocking kind of glam bands of the first wave’.


How did you get involved in playing music ?  ‘To be honest, I never really thought about singing in a band until they asked me to join WildHeart. I already was a big fan of 80’s hard rock and I love singing. But I always thought that if I would end up in a band, it would be as a bass guitar player. But they convinced me to try and I accepted. And let me tell you, that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done!  Something I’ll never regret’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘We started playing shows in September 2014. Most of the time those venues were bars and youth clubs near our howetown Ninove. They were small gigs but I guess that’s what you do when you’re new on the music scene. It didn’t take us long though before we could play gigs in other regions of Belgium. Especially in West Flanders, where people immediately noticed us. To this day, we still have a solid fanbase over there. That’s how in our first year we had the opportunity to share the stage with bands like Tytan, Quartz and Grim Reaper’.

The band recorded their debut album in 2015… ‘We recorded our first full length album Wildheart in Tullamore Studio. The guy who ownes the studio is a friend of our’s and he already recorded our demo tapes a year before. We were very happy about them, so the choice to pick Tullamore once again was easily made. It took us about 2 or 3 months to record everything because we’re all working full time as well. We could only work on it during the weekend and some evening’s. It was great fun and interesting to see our progress. But you can imagine that we were all very relieved when it was finally done. 20424207_1936813716532950_2807539684562574212_oWe recorded the album at the end of 2015. We did that intentionally because we wanted to make the first edition of Wildfest our release show, which was held in May 2016. We thought it was a great idea to do that on our own festival, with a big audience and a lot of other awesome bands to share the stage with – Crazy Lixx, The Treatment, Hell in the Club. And as a matter of fact, it was! It was the best release show we could have wished for and definitely a night to remember ! We sold a lot of cd’s that evening and almost every review of both festival and album was great. So we couldn’t wish for more! It took a while before record companies showed interest in our music, but recently we’ve been signed to Rock It Up/City of Lights Records’.

Where do you get your idea’s for the songs ? ‘The inspiration to write lyrics depends on my mood and what kind of feeling/vibe the song has. Most of the time, one of our guitarist comes up with a riff and if we all like it, we start jamming until we find something to complete the song. Afterwards, we record it so I can get busy writing the lyrics at home. I have two types of texts – the first one are the classic 80’s themed songs, which are all about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, just like Lovehunter, Stone Cold Fox. But I always thought that it’s too superficial to write exclusively about these subjects. So the other type has some more depth in it. Themes that give me a lot of inspiration or the way I’m feeling about people. Things that happened to me or people I know and psychology in general. Like Hang ’em High and On The Run. It’s fascinating to explore the human mind and write songs about it’.


Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Every year we organise our own festival, Wildfest. On our second edition last year, we wanted to premier our music video for Lovehunter during our set. But in the middle of the song, the video got stuck and we couldn’t repair it. Our only option was to take the screen off stage and play the song live. It was more embarrassing than funny, but afterwards we had a good laugh about it’.

What are the future plans for WildHeart ? ‘Right now we’re really busy working on new songs for a follow up album. We still have a lot to do though. We’re also planning the third edition of Wildfest. Acts already confirmed are Bloody Heels, Emperors of Decay, The New Roses and WildHeart of course. And we still have some exciting bands to reveal, so keep an eye on our Facebook page’.

‘We have some cool gigs confirmed for the near future as well. Being the support act of Y&T on their Belgian date was my dream come true, since Y&T is one of my favourite bands. Next year we’re going to the UK for the first time. We’ll be playing the Hard Rock Hell AOR festival in March with bands like Night Ranger, Skid Row, Jack Russell’s Great White, Bulletboys. Then in September we’ll share the stage with L.A. Guns, Tigertailz, Santa Cruz, Backyard Babies, Toxicrose, at the Hard Rock Hell Sleaze edition. We are really looking forward to that’.

For more info and tour dates check the official website  http://www.wildheartbelgium.com/ or their facebook page.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.


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

LAST GREAT DREAMERS: Looking For A Kiss 26th November 2017.

MR.MYST: Dream On 26th January 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’.


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!’


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


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 Orbinson, 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’.


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’.



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’.


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’.

Chase 2

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

‘Another place I used to frequent was St Hildas Youth Club. This is where Axizz played their first ever gig supporting the mighty Fist. 1981 if I remember correctly. It’s weird that many years later I ended up being the frontman for Fist. I also remember Juggling Monkeys, Hellenbach, Emerson and Satan at St Hildas. Those were the days. I used to roadie a lot as well. Did some gigs for Fist and Satan as well as Saracen. Other regular haunts were the Sunderland and Newcastle Mayfair’s. Saw many a big name band there and got to play the Newcastle Mayfair once with a band I was in called Chase’.


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!


‘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’.

‘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’.


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’.


‘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’.


Saracen in the fog.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Working for Saracen at the Legion Club in South Shields in the early 80’s I was put on smoke machine duty. Saracen are on stage rocking away. I pushed the button to put a little smoke on stage however Les the bass player kept shouting more, more ! I was only a bairn at the time so I did as I was told. Before you knew it the whole concert room was full of stage smoke. You couldn’t see the band at all. We had to open all the doors and windows to get rid of it. I got a right royal telling off from the vocalist Louie Taylor. Les never told him it was his fault ha ha’.



‘It was around 1983 I was with some friends and my girlfriend and we were waiting at the bus stop to take us down town to see Saracen at Bolingbroke Hall, South Shields. I saw the bus and started going towards it somehow I managed to get a nail stuck in my little finger that was sticking out of a fence close by. It had gone right into my finger down to the bone. My friends called my dad who came and when he saw the situation he had no choice but to saw the fence. I eventually got free and went to hospital. The Nurses and Doctors were pissing themselves laughing when they saw me coming in holding a fence. After laughing his knackers off the doctor removed the nail and fence that came with it and bandaged me up. I still have the scar to prove it. We still got to Bolingbroke Hall to see Saracen and rushed up to the stage. Soon as I raised my right fist in the air complete with bandage, the bass player Les Wilson fell over and split his jeans. Tackle out and everything ha ha. You couldn’t make it up’.

Fist April


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.


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.

LOOKING FOR A KISS – Last Great Dreamers guitarist Slyder Smith


The Last Great Dreamers are a British rock/pop band with a bit o’ glam n’ swagger. I talked to guitarist and vocalist Slyder, who took of his shades ’n’ top hat and told me where it all began for him starting with his earliest gigging experiences…‘In the 80’s my first gigging band was called Scarlet Tarts, we were a kind of glam/goth band influenced by Hanoi Rocks, New York Dolls and Sisters of Mercy. I joined when I was 16 and my first gig was at Fareham Youth Centre in Portsmouth. The following year the band split and I formed my own band Anyone’s Daughter, taken from the Deep Purple song. We played in the Portsmouth and Southampton area in pubs and clubs with our biggest show being a support slot with the then up and coming Wolfsbane. Coincidentally I will be hooking up with them again 30 years on as we will be guests on 2 of their shows in December!
Disillusioned with the local scene I moved up to London after answering an ad that Marc (Valentine – Last Great Dreamers vocalist/guitarist) had placed looking for like-minded musicians to form a band into Hanoi Rocks, Dogs D’Amour etc.’

‘With Silver Hearts later re-named Last Great Dreamers we played 100’s of pub and club shows all over the UK. We did the rounds in London at places like Covent Garden Rock Garden, Shepherds Bush Opera on the Green until we started getting regular shows at London’s Marquee club including supports with Suzi Quatro, Dogs D’Amour amongst many others. Highlights from that era were 2 support tours to promote our first album with Bang Tango and then Warrant also taking us into Europe’.

‘More recently we have toured with The Runaways’ Cherie Currie on her first UK tour for over 30 years, this was very special as it felt like we were properly back and not just on a nostalgia trip. We had just released our first brand new single Dope School and the tour was an amazing experience being our first proper tour for over 20 years. Following that was a UK tour with Tigertailz in 2016, again a great tour and another new single release with Glitterball Apocalypse’.

LGD are involved in a pledge campaign and I was going to write about the pledge system that a lot of bands are involved in, but Slyder just nailed it… ‘Basically the pledgemusic campaign is a brilliant way to fund your music with no record company. The fans can pre-order the record so you can use the funds to make and manufacture your product. The pledgers also get exclusive updates on the progress including pics, videos, artwork etc. Plus the opportunity to get stuff like private gigs, signed stuff, test pressings, rare pics and demos etc. As well as cutting out the middle man and giving us more control over what we do it also gets the fans directly involved. It’s very humbling to have so many people pledge their hard earned cash so we can make our record, it really means a lot! We had great success on our last album and this time has been even better having raised the stakes to make a bigger and better album!’

How has the internet impacted on music ? ‘It’s a lot easier to get your product out there now. When our first album came out in 1994 it was very hard for fans to find it despite being distributed via one of the largest independents, also we weren’t allowed to sell any at gigs. Now with distribution via online sellers, download sites etc. plus our own website and Amazon shop our products are easy to find. Online marketing and social media is also fantastic for independent bands although it’s getting more expensive and the market is flooded a bit. The downside I guess is streaming and illegal downloading which really cheapens the product which is still very expensive to produce’.

Who were your influences in music ?  ‘I’ve had so many influences in music over the years and now I still reference loads of stuff from my childhood and teenage years when I’m writing and recording. I caught the tail end of glam rock as a kid but I first started buying records in the late 70’s when I was about 7/8 years old, mostly post punk/new wave stuff. I then got more into rock and metal so I suppose my earliest influences in my guitar playing were probably Ritchie Blackmore and Bernie Torme being a huge Deep Purple and Gillan fan. Into my teens I discovered Hanoi Rocks so Andy McCoy then became a big influence and the whole Hanoi vibe and image which led me back to early 70’s glam rock which I’d just missed out on so I’d add Marc Bolan into the mix.
All this led to me moving to London at the start of the whole Sleaze Rock n Roll scene heralded by the likes of Dogs D’Amour and The Quireboys. Since then Manic Street Preachers have also have been a constant in my life so they must have influenced me a lot over the years’.

How did you get involved in playing music, was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘Music was always being played in my house growing up and was important to all the family. I did have a guitar when I was about 4 or 5 but never really learned to play it. Top of the Pops was a huge event every week on Thursday nights. I have vivid memories of the likes of Alvin Stardust, Mud, Darts and Boomtown Rats on that show and I used to go to town every week to buy a single with my pocket money. I was kind of in a school band when I was about 10, we would play along to AC/DC records round my friend’s house, making a racket without being able to actually play. I was the drummer and my kit was a table football table with Tupperware pots as drums. I did have real drum sticks though!
The defining moment though was at the age of 11 when I went to my first gig, Saxon at Portmouth Guildhall closely followed by Thin Lizzy and Motorhead. After that I used to stage my own ‘gigs’ in my bedroom where I would mime to my records in front of my mirror with a tennis racket as a guitar! Soon after this I got my first proper guitar, a 5 watt amp and a fuzz box. I soon formed a band with some school mates. Again we couldn’t really play properly but from this it developed as I started guitar lessons and taking it more seriously’.


What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘I started writing and recording way back with Anyone’s Daughter, we recorded 3 demos. The first was crudely done on a 4 track in our rehearsal room which was also a school classroom. My first proper studio experience was one that the band won in a Battle of the Bands competition. It was an 8 track studio, all a bit ropey but good experience I guess.
Once I had joined up with Marc and we’d formed Silver Hearts we recorded lots of demos over the years. We rehearsed for years at Alaska Street Studios, Waterloo and did most of our demo recording there, the last of which got LGD signed to Bleeding Hearts Records in 1993. Since reforming LGD those early demos have become quite sought after so as part of our pledgemusic campaign we’ve got them onto a limited edition CD set.
Our first album, as Last Great Dreamers, was recorded at Lynx Studios, Newcastle, formally owned by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. We were signed to Bleeding Hearts Records (Music For Nations). Which was owned by Eric Cook and Tony Bray (Abaddon from Venom). Although names like Andy Scott (The Sweet) and Chas Chandler were banded around as producers it ended up being produced by house engineer Kevin Ridley. The first attempt resulted in the studios closure for 6 weeks as a cup of sugary coffee fell off a monitor into the mixing desk wrecking most of the channels. Eventually we got back in the studio to complete it with the house engineer Kevin Ridley and the result was Retrosexual released in November 1994 on CD. Re-released on our own label in 2015’.


‘Our next release was Crash Landing in Teenage Heaven. We recorded most of it at Alaska Studios, London during the mid-late 90’s. 3 of the tracks were for single release with Bleeding Hearts Records but after getting out of that deal it was planned for release on X Records but that company went bust. LGD split soon after in ’97 but on our return in 2014 we decided to release our ‘lost album’ on our own label Ray Records.
Since then we recorded our first album proper, since our return, Transmissions from Oblivion. This was mostly recorded at Foel Residential Studios in rural mid Wales, released in September 2016 on Ray Records on CD and vinyl. It was successfully funded by a pledgemusic campaign. We are currently recording our yet to be titled fourth album also with the help of a pledgemusic campaign. This time we are in a small studio in Henley working with producer Pete Brown (son of Godfather of Rock n Roll Joe Brown). It would be quicker to list who he hasn’t worked with but to name a few Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Status Quo, George Harrison… the list goes on. He comes from a rock background having cut his teeth working for producer Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest) but has vast experience across many genres. We’ve just spent 10 days laying down all the rhythm tracks and so far it is sounding fantastic. I would say this could be the biggest and best Dreamers album to date!’


Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’We never did any videos back in the 90’s, mostly because our record company wouldn’t fund any! With the last 2 albums we have made our own videos, 3 from each record. All can be found on our You Tube channel. They are pretty low budget mostly filmed on iphones but with great results. We feel it’s all about what you capture, the creativity and the edit plus there is usually a bit of Dreamers humour in there! Our last video was made by a fan of the band that we have become friends with. He has captured loads of live and studio footage and put a great little video together for our song Tommy’s Tears from the Transmissions album’.
(Check it out, with the songs immeadiate Phil Spector intro and catchy little 60’s chorus. Another video track on their channel ’Glitterball Apocalypse’….has the opening lyrics…’The revolution starts tonight, the skys on fire, the streets are turning red’….while the song bounces along to a trippy Kinks/Hanoi tune. Well worth a listen).


Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘There’s been loads over the years but one good one was when we were on tour with Bang Tango in 1995. We had done about 7 or 8 dates in the UK with them and had a few in Holland and Belgium to do. We had been playing pranks on each other throughout the tour as we had got to know each other really well. The last show in Holland, Bang Tango had tried to lock us in our dressing room to keep us out of mischief. The night before they had gaffa taped all our bags on the dressing room walls and ceiling so they knew we would have something up our sleeves. Meanwhile we had found some stuff in a broom cupboard in our dressing room that we thought would make good props for a joke plus we had got out of our dressing room easily. We decided that I would dress up as their bass player Kyle and surprise them on stage followed by the rest of Last Great Dreamers who were wearing an array of dodgy wigs, white overall coats and pushing brooms across the stage. It worked better than expected as Joe Leste (Bang Tango vocalist) was doing the intro to a song and I slipped on stage behind him looking very convincing as Kyle with slicked back hair, fake goatee made from gaffa tape, wrap around shades and leather waistcoat. He jumped round and proceeded to rock out to his song with the fake Kyle (me) on bass until he looked over to the right and saw the real Kyle. Then he saw the rest of LGD in wigs carrying brooms as they pretended to sweep the stage. They took it in good spirits but did have to re-start the song!’

What has music given you ? ‘I think music has always been an outlet for emotion whether playing or listening. Whether you are happy, sad, angry or depressed listening to music you love can always heal you. When LGD split in 1997 we had become very jaded by the business and that in turn made playing a chore. I played in another band for about 3 years but it never really felt quite the same as The Dreamers. Having had a 10 year break from playing completely until 2014 I now really appreciate what it means to me whether in the studio, rehearsal or on stage – it’s just a real buzz. The business is as tough and crappy as ever but when we are playing everything is alright’.


What are the future plans for Last Great Dreamers ? ‘This year has been another amazing year for us. We toured as special guests to The Quireboys on their UK tour in April and September doing 20 dates with them. It was a fantastic experience playing to bigger crowds and making lots of new fans and friends along the way. We also did HRHAOR Festival in Pwllheli, North Wales and HRH Road Trip in Ibiza plus a few other great festivals.
As I said we are currently running a pledgemusic campaign for our fourth album, which we have just started recording. The campaign has just hit 93% of its target so a brilliant response. It runs until 6 January so it’s still possible to pre-order the album if you want to be involved.
The album is set for release in April 2018 so we are looking to be doing a headline or support UK tour to promote that. We have a tour of Spain booked for February 2018 with some festival appearances lined up. Prior to that we have 5 dates in December including 2 shows with Wolfsbane. We’re on The Croydon Rocks Festival on the 2nd with The Main Grains and a few others plus a New Years’ Eve party which we are really looking forward to’.

For more info/live dates/tickets/pics contact the band on the official website

Or pledge at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/lastgreatdreamers

Last Great Dreamers are:
Marc Valentine – Vocals/Guitar
Slyder – Guitar/Vocals
Steve Fielding – bass
Denley Slade – Drums

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.


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

WILDHEART: Looks That Kill 2nd January 2017.

MR MYST: Dream On 26th January 2018.

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


‘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’.


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’.


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’.


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’.


‘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.


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 accordian 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’.

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 Yo’s and recorded 1 album, toured the UK, Europe and Japan then split in 2000. Since returning North in 2003 he has rejoined and left The Wildhearts several times, played with Dog’s D’Armour and with his younger brother Chris in Three Colours Red. The Yo Yo’s 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’.


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 snaped 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’.

‘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’.


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’.


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 originaly and they were so good we used them for the album, we tarted the vocal’s 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’s, 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’.


Did you film any TV appearences or music video’s ? ‘As a job, being in a band with a plank of wood and four wires hanging around yer neck doesn’t quite cut it with yer 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 undercrackers 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 haha.
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 eventuallly 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 briliant. 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 realeased 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’.


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.


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

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.


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.