LONDON CALLING: Nights at the Marquee Club

The heart of London’s music industry was the legendary live music club the Marquee, along with CBGB’S in New York, the club has been defined as one of the most important music venues in the world.

It would provide the catalyst to launch the career of many bands – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin – the list is endless. A&R men used to regularly visit the club to watch out for the next big thing and with plenty of bands looking to make it, the best way was to be seen on the stage of the Marquee.

Tony Iommi explained in Iron Man his auto biog…‘I was in rehearsals with Jethro Tull for the recording of their Stand Up album and one night Ian Anderson took me to see Free play at the Marquee. He introduced me to everybody as his new guitar player, so I thought, this is wonderful. I felt like a pop star. From being a nobody in Birmingham to people at the Marquee taking an interest – it seemed great’.

Graeme Thomson wrote in his biog about Phil Lynott – ‘It was do or die. Thin Lizzy were £30,000 in debt. Money was borrowed for their showcase gig for Phonogram at the Marquee on 9th July 1974. It was so hot that night that all the guitars went out of tune, but they played well enough to confirm the deal, even if the advance for a two album contract only cleared what they owed’.

Mick Wall’s biog of Lemmy featured the time Motorhead nearly called it a day. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark remembers ‘We found ourselves in April 1977 in the situation of breaking up’.

As a farewell gift to fans they would record a live album. Motorhead had a show coming up at the Marquee that surely would be the best place for them to bow out. But when they looked into the cost, they knew they had no chance. A farewell single was recorded instead.

‘The Marquee gig was one of the best we ever did’ according to Eddie. ‘Lemmy said the sweat was climbing up the walls trying to get out’.

Thoughts of it being their last were quickly forgotten about. Two weeks later they piled into a Transit van for the drive down to Escape Studios in Kent. They recorded the bones of 13 tracks, eight of which would become the album Motorhead.

Bands from the North East of England – White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, Fist, The Showbiz Kids, Punishment of Luxury, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, all travelled south down the M1 to the capital. Was playing London the catalyst for a life in music, or just a road too far for some ?

John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers, Raven  ‘The running joke was – c-mon lets git in a van and gaan doon t’London ! We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig’.

Harry Hill, drummer with Fist remembers…’We played the Marquee for two nights supporting Iron Maiden. We were going down an absolute storm, the place was packed. I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their manager was kicking off – You’re just the support band. You’re not supposed to go down like that –  We won him over in the end and he came into the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we gave them a run for their money’.

Residencies were part of the scene and a few North East bands got on the list including Dire Straits. This advert from March ’78 with admission fee only 70p.

Select dates for North East bands listed as playing the Marquee:

1976: Halfbreed 15 & 29th January & 3rd March.  Arbre 4th April.

Back Street Crawler 11 & 12th May with AC/DC as support. Cirkus 15th May.

1977: Penetration 29th June opening for Heron also 30th July & 1st August opening for The Vibrators.

1978: Penetration 21st June. Punishment of Luxury 3rd October.

1979: Showbiz Kids 3rd February. Punishment of Luxury 13th February.

Showbiz Kidz 21st April. Punishment of Luxury 7th May.

Showbiz Kids 19th May & 14th June & 14th July.

Punishment of Luxury 23rd August & 31st October.

1980: Raven 5th, 6th, or 7th November with Taurus or Diamond Head opening for Gary Moore.

1981: White Heat 29th April.

1982: Angelic Upstarts 18th February & 12th August.

The Marquee at Charing Cross Road finally closed it’s doors in 1996 after first establishing the club in Oxford Street, then it’s heyday in Wardour Street.

 Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

ART OF NOISE from the Tygers of Pan Tang new album ‘Ritual’.

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Just when you thought it was safe the aptly titled ‘Art of Noise’ comes at you head on, and returns for another bite. Opening with thick treacly rock sound ‘Worlds Apart’ to ‘Spoils of War’ and the single ‘White Lines’ with plenty of room for ‘Words Cut Like Knives’.

Then the MONSTER thunder of ‘Let’s turn up the sound and gather around, To hear…the art of noise’. Deafining indeed. Album closer ‘Sail On’ is a breeze after that.

The Tygers of Pan Tang, engineer Fred Purser and additional production from Soren Andersen are the creative team behind the new album ‘Ritual’ which can be added to any hard rock playlist in 2020.

For further info contact the official website:

http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Gary Alikivi  March 2020.

ALL FOR THE RECORD – with Jack Meille, vocalist with Tygers of Pan Tang

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Music is life. It showed me I could follow my passion and make it my job. I’m a lucky guy.

Is there a country you haven’t played that you would like to ? Australia! That would be a dream come true.

How did you get the job with the Tygers ? In the past I have been lucky not to have had to audition for a band. Firstly, I was contacted by a Swiss management company who said a British band are looking for a new singer. Without knowing the name of who it was, I sent my CV and recordings from the album released by my band Mantra.

So when I got the confirmation it was the Tygers and they wanted to audition me, I said to myself ‘Why not? Let’s do the first and hopefully, only audition of your life’. I went to Darlington on November 4th 2004 ….and got the job!

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Is there a good balance of characters in the band ? It’s a five piece band and we all have different characters, more important, very different musical taste’s. This is a bonus but sometimes it’s not easy to combine everyone’s point of view on a song, if you know what I mean. We are all very passionate when it comes to Tygers songs.

You just recorded the new album, how did that go ? It was tough, but rewarding. We were force to delay the recording twice because we didn’t feel we were ready to record. It wasn’t an easy decision to take but the best. The eleven tracks on the new album are the best we could ever record. I know it sounds like a cliche, but after all the hard work, we’re all very proud of the result.

How did you get on with the producer and former Tyger, Fred Purser ? I personally enjoyed every moment spent in the studio with Fred. He is such a talented guy and made me feel at home. I only had six days to record, and believe me it’s not very much when you have to record eleven songs plus a couple of bonus tracks.

But I made it and have to thank him for that. Also we discovered we have a passion for craft beers. So after recording we managed to ‘indulge’ drinking some really good ones.

Who were your early influences in music ? I love rock ‘n’ roll from Chuck Berry to Slayer but the first record that really blew me away was Dark Side of the Moon. I have memories of me, about 4 or 5 years old, listening constantly to ‘On The Run’. The first record I bought, or should I say I asked my father to buy was the Queen album A Night at the Opera. Still one of my favourite albums of all time.

I’m a record collector – the boys in the band can confirm that – so you can find me at festivals looking at record stalls. When it comes down to singing, the choice would go to Robert Plant, early David Coverdale, Phil Mogg, Paul Rodgers…the list may go on and on.

What has been your best gig with the Tygers so far ? There has been a few. I always enjoy playing the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany. A memorable day was at a festival in Northern Spain where we played a great set and then had the pleasure to hang around with Cheap Trick, then saw the set by John Fogerty with Ty Tabor from King’s X.

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Have you got any gigs lined up for the new album release ? During November we are going to play the UK and Europe. Before that we play Dusseldorf with Diamond Head, Doro and Saxon on 26th October 2019.

(Since this interview Saxon have been forced to postpone all upcoming gigs in 2019 due to frontman Biff Byford undergoing heart surgery. Get well soon Biff).

‘White Lines’ will be the first single, released on 27th September on all platforms, and a 12″ vinyl limited release of 500 copies for all you collectors will be available from: http://targetshop.dk/…/tygers-of-pan-tang-white-lines-12vin…

For further information contact the official website:  http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2019.

SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM – in conversation with Gav Gray bassist with Tygers of Pan Tang

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After their last album in 2016 and touring throughout Europe, the Tygers are back and about to release their new record ‘Ritual’. The second with the line-up of Jacko Meille, Robb Weir, Micky Crystal, Craig Ellis and Gav Gray….. Yes it was a lot of hard work, three months of prep, writing and arranging. So when we got into the studio we were ready for it. We knew we were gonna make a great album – and we have.

The band used Trinity Heights Studio in Newcastle, former guitarist with the Tygers, Fred Purser is owner and producer…..Yeah lovely bloke, we got on really well, he loved my tea and morning hugs (laughs) ! He would say to me during a take, ‘Try and play less hard’, so I tried, and then he`d say, ‘Nah, just play the way you do’. He had a plug in to pull it back in (laughs).

Some of the lines I’d written and rehearsed with the lads sounded fine until the guitars were layerd. Being in a two guitar band sometimes requires that ‘less is more’ and most times that’s true, the bass doesn’t need to be too busy, just a really solid rhythm is all that is needed on a lot of hard rock songs.

My thing has always been for the rhythm and timing over busy, it’s all about the one. I was never a practising musician, just a frustrated drummer !

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How did it go in the studio ? On day one we just set up, got some drum sounds, got comfortable and worked towards day two to have some drum and bass takes with guide guitars. This is how we do it. We will play the songs that have an easier approach, leaving the harder ones for later.

Craig is in the live room. Me and Mick would be in the control room with Fred. We had worked on the songs for months so when it came time to record the song’s it didn’t take long. We were well prepared. Me and Craig (drummer) did a couple of the songs in one take as a drum n bass jam, which are on the album.

Robb added his guitar and Jackie flew in from his home in Italy on the last week of recording to do the vocals. It all worked well, everyone’s playing on the record is fantastic and because we were tight, the songs just came together as we expected.

The whole session and working with Fred was, for me, one of my best yet. It`s a great place to make a record.

How did the songs come together for the new album ? We each work on ideas at home doing demos and then take them into reheasal’s and work out how it`s all going to fit together. ‘This is the bridge, That’s good for a chorus’, Big riff intro`sort of thing and dissect the structures for each song until we have a rough arrangement. Then all the bit’s that make a song special, you fine tune them.

When they get into the studio we play them through and maybe somebody make’s a mistake but sometimes that’ll work within the song – a nuanced piece, a happy accident really. When that happens, it’s a great feeling. That’s a great part of making music – just by playing, those accidents can become your favourite part of the song.

Do you write some songs just to be recorded in the studio ? No, all songs are wrote to play live. Whether or not we play all of them live is another thing. I don’t know any band who plays just for the studio and to be honest you should be able to play all your songs live.

How did you join the Tygers ? This latest run has been since 2011. But back in the ‘90s I originally met Jess Cox at a gig I was playing at the Riverside, Newcastle. He approached me after the gig, told me about owning Neat Records and having a few bands on his roster. He was looking for a bass player for future touring and recording. This was a big deal for me cos I was just playing around local bars on Tyneside.

We met up and he mentioned Blitzkreig who I had heard of and I said yeah sounds good so I done that for a short while, doing a handful of shows and a festival in America.

Then Jess wanted to get the Tygers back together, this was 1999. Robb Weir was already in and me and Chris Percy the drummer came as a rhythm section cos we had bounced together from band to band. I said to Jess he (Chris) was really solid and will kill it. And he did. Then a guy you interviewed not long ago, Glenn Howes was brought in on guitar.

We rehearsed for a couple of months in the Off Quay buildings near The Cluny in Newcastle then went off to Germany to play the Wacken Festival in front of 10,000 people. The biggest gig of my life at the time.

But when we got back to the UK there was some bitterness within the band and it ended, it’s the way it goes sometimes. But Jess had always been good to me and got me a lot of gig’s. I think around that time I must have been in about 3 bands on his roster.

Then out of the blue I got a call from The Almighty. They were a big name so what ya gonna do eh ! I turned them down haha! I was fed up with the music scene and wanted out. It wasn’t till a few months later I came home from a night out and my girlfriend told me that the Almighty management had been on the phone again. I thought, hell, why not, it’s what I wanted to do so jumped on a bus down to Oxford after learning 5 songs, talked to the band, played a bit and got the job.

Loved my time there but unfortunately only lasted about 18 months cos the band were dropped from the label.

A couple of years later Ricky ends up in Thin Lizzy, he’s a great bloke and I still keep in touch with him. In fact he just got the Tygers the gig of supporting Saxon in the Dusseldorf Arena. He called me up and said ‘Can the Tygers do it ? I talked with the rest of the band and our manager and agreed it would be great for us to play in front of 7,000 people just before we release our new album.

(Since this interview Saxon have been forced to postpone all upcoming gigs in 2019 due to frontman Biff Byford undergoing heart surgery. Get well soon Biff).

In the Tygers live set the band play a few songs from their first album Wildcat…..Love playing those songs from the first album, it’s my favourite, there was just something about it. It’s got a great, dirty sound – it’s got attitude, and Robb wrote song’s from the heart.

When it was released in ’79 they were just out of the punk explosion and ‘Insanity’ was one of my favourite songs. Around that time I went to see local bands Fist, Hellanbach and Angelic Upstarts in South Shields. The first single I bought was Hanging on the Telephone by Blondie, still one of my favourite ever songs. Then I saw Lemmy on Top of the Pops and thought ‘That’s what I wanna do’.

It wasn’t until I was 21 when I started playing bass in bands. Everyone wanted to be a guitar hero so I thought that if I buy a bass I might get a gig haha. I played along to my favourite records for a year and just wanted to join some band’s, have a laugh, have a beer and just have some fun playing.

Being from South Shields I started looking around the Tyneside, Sunderland and Washington areas to get a few gigs. That’s where I joined a band called The Junkies around ‘89/90. That was my first band and first gig.

Are you looking forward to the new album release in November ? Yeah, the record company will set the exact date. The mix is now finished by Soren Anderson he worked on our last album. Harry Hess will be mastering it again, making it as fat and big a sound as you possibly can – basically sprinkling fairy dust on it (laughs).

Finally it goes to print so yeah the record company will have a date soon. I’m just really looking forward to hearing the final tracks cos we worked so hard on that album. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but we really feel it is one of the Tygers best albums.

‘White Lines’ will be the first single, released on 27th September on all platforms, and a 12″ vinyl limited release of 500 copies for all you collectors will be available from: http://targetshop.dk/…/tygers-of-pan-tang-white-lines-12vin…

For further information contact the official website:  http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2019.

ROKSNAPS #5

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Lemmy, Motorhead 1979.

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

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

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Thin Lizzy, 1980.

One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on this blog was Paul White…

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‘The pics I’ve managed to dig out here are scanned from my original prints as the negatives went walkabout many moons ago. Here’s what you’ve got. Whitesnake – Trouble and the Lovehunter tour. Thin Lizzy – Black Rose tour, Motorhead – Overkill and Bomber tour (I think). Enjoy.’

‘I went to my first gig in 1975. Status Quo’s On The Level tour. What a night. Back then when a band like that played, the first few rows of seats would be ripped up immediately the band came on. Along with Glasgow Apollo the City Hall and Mayfair were the best gigs in the country for touring bands.

If there was a band like AC/DC on at the Mayfair you could be lifted off your feet by the crowd and pushed from side to side. You certainly had to know how to use your elbows. The exhilaration when the lights suddenly went down and a massive cheer would go up. Nothing like it.

At some point I realised we had an old Minolta SLR lying round the house that nobody was using. With only a rudimentary understanding of how to use it, I bought some film and took it to a gig. The Scorpions first Newcastle gig I think it was. I remember, because the gig tickets were white and loads of people had photocopied a mates and applied a perf with a needle, including me. The staff on the doors never had time to properly check tickets back then, it was easy peasy. That happened more than once I have to say.

The photos were crap though. I had no flash and was wary of the staff taking the camera. Worse, I was on the balcony and didnt have a great view. No idea what happened to those shots. Just as well. I was more lucky from then on’. 

‘Next time it was the Whitesnake first tour to promote Trouble which had just been released. Better seats meant better pics. A few times I queued overnight for tickets and got great seats. One time in a blizzard for Rush’s Hemispheres tour. The weather was so bad it made the local TV news. I just remember waking up under a foot of snow.

Queuing overnight wasn’t always a good idea though. One time me and a mate got the last bus from Blyth to Newcastle to queue for Rainbow tickets only to find a sign on the doors saying ‘Rainbow tickets will not be on sale’. Unfortunately the last bus home had gone and we couldn’t afford a taxi. We kipped in a doorway of the Civic Centre and got the first bus in the morning. Wouldn’t swap those days for anything though. Happy days indeed.

The list of great bands we saw is hard to believe these days. Tell some young kid that you saw AC/DC or UFO at the Mayfair and their mouths drop open. We were blessed for sure’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Steve Thompson (Songwriter & NEAT records producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

Roksnaps #4  4th April 2018.

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

GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #1 Tygers of Pan Tang

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Gaurdian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever’s behind the name, it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog.

From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7” and there was also an EP released by Mythra. 1980 saw E.P’s from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982-85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

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TYGERS OF PAN TANG – Demo’s & B sides.

ROBB WEIR: ‘When we arrived at the address for the studio I thought we had got it totally wrong! It was a small street full of pit colliery houses. Nothing wrong in that of course, just we couldn’t see a recording studio anywhere. We pulled up to number 32 or what ever the house number was and knocked on the door expecting to be told we were in the wrong area. The door opened and a young man with a ‘bush’ on his head greeted us. “Hi, I’m Terry Gavaghan, welcome to Guardian!

As we walked in his front room it had been converted into a make shift studio with sound proofing on the walls. Terry had also knocked a huge hole in the wall dividing the lounge (studio) to the dining room which was now the control room and fitted a large plate glass window. I remember asking him where he lived, “upstairs,” he said as if I should have known.

Anyway we recorded the entire Spellbound album there as a demo for MCA our record company and Chris Tsangarides our record producer. We also recorded the “Audition Tapes” there, John Sykes and Jon Deverill’s first Tygers recordings. Which was to be a free 7 inch single to be packaged with Hellbound when it was released.

I think we were there for a few days recording and during one of the sessions I was in the studio by myself laying down a solo. When I had finished I put my guitar on it’s stand and as I made my way into the control room my foot caught the stand that John’s guitar was on and I knocked his Gibson SG on the floor!

He was watching through the control room window and ran into the studio going ape! I of course apologised but he couldn’t forget it. In the end I told him to shut the f**k up as no damage had been done and if he didn’t some damage WOULD be done!

What did come out of Guardian were some fantastic recordings. Terry did us proud I have to say. His studio and his warmth were fantastic! The moral of the story is, “Don’t judge a recording studio by it’s colliery house appearance!”

RICHARD LAWS ‘Tygers of Pan Tang recorded at Guardian twice. Although we were usually associated with Impulse Studios (home of Neat Records). We had sort of fallen out with Impulse and Neat so we recorded the demos for our second album Spellbound at Guardian.

We recorded about 5 tracks I think. These demos were later released on various compilations. The demos for Spellbound were the first time we recorded with Jon Deveril and John Sykes in the band.

Later we recorded two B sides for singles off our fourth album, The Cage. Whilst we were there doing the B sides our record company came up and did a play through of the fully mixed album which was the first time we had heard the finished product’. 

More stories from Guardian coming soon. A quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. This needs to be confirmed if it is the exact location. I wonder if customers buying  tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Guardian Studios contributed to recording in the North East. The Tap & Spile is just next door, the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment. If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios, much appreciated if  you get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

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

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

LOST IN MUSIC – with North East musician Bernadette Mooney.

War Machine went on to play many gigs after the album was released in 1986 and I was asked to do a photo shoot in Kerrang called ladykillers. I really enjoyed the day as Bon Jovi was getting his photos taken the same day and for that month’s issue we both appeared in the Kerrang magazine. We also appeared in Viz as the meanest band in the North East but I think Venom should of got that one!

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How did you get started in music ? ‘Bought my first guitar when I was 15 and had lots of song ideas but wasn’t sure how to write. There was lots of lyrics in my head so I wrote them down, taught myself to play guitar from a book and started to write my own songs. A friend heard them and played them to a guy who was in a band. He liked my voice so I ended up doing a few gigs with him.

Then I joined a band called Chapter 24. I played a while with them as a guitarist and vocalist but then moved on to a local band called She with Lee Robertson. I played a few gigs with them before forming War Machine with Steve White on guitar. We were both from Wallsend and Les Fry was living in Jesmond he was on bass. We had a drummer called Steve Smith who still gigs in the North East.

My influences then were Pat Benatar, Steve was into Black Sabbath and Venom. I first met Steve White at college and we dated. Before he formed a band with me he was in Atomkraft with Tony Dolan who is now with Venom Inc. Steve and myself would write the songs together just by jamming. I had lyrics and give them to Steve who would write the guitar bits and Les added bass. I think Les wrote some songs too’.

Where did War Machine rehearse and gig? ‘We used to rehearse in an old building. I think it was in Felling near Gateshead. It was horrible. The guys used to pee in Brown ale bottles as there were no toilets. I used to stand in a cardboard box with newspaper in to keep my feet warm. But we were skint and it was cheap.

We did a few gigs around the North East and in Scotland. When we did a gig we went all out with the show. Pyrotechnics and explosions which always seemed to be going off near me! One night at Chrystals Arena in Scotland we set a ceiling on fire and got sent a £300 bill. We never paid of course. Couldn’t do that now with health and safety I don’t know how we got away with it.

We even got offered a gig in what was then Yugoslavia. But they wouldn’t let us in because of our name. I remember we entered a Battle of the Bands held in Gateshead Brewery. We came second, or was it third ? War Machine would rehearse a lot before a gig, getting really tight and after playing many venues in the North East we ended up with a good fan base’.

What was your experience of recording ? ‘We recorded a demo at Neat records and on it was a song I wrote called Storm Warning. Dave Woods who owned Neat records, liked it so much he offered to record our album. The line up of the band that recorded was me, Steve and Les and we had Brian Waugh on drums. We didn’t get much time in the studio and we felt it was a bit rushed.

Our album did pretty well abroad but we never received any royalties or from any other songs that were used on compilation albums. Dave Wood said all the money from the album paid for the distribution.

(Nerd alert: War Machine released Unknown Soldier in 1986 on the Neat record label. An 8 track album including the tracks Power, On the Edge and No Place to Hide. The same year the album was also released by Roadrunner records in the Netherlands. Tracks by War Machine appeared on at least four compilation albums released in the 90’s).

‘We were young and naive so never questioned it. We were like many bands in that respect. We were played on a lot of radio shows across the world even the USA. I hosted the Alan Robson North East radio rock shows as he was a fan and played our music on his broadcasts’.

What happened next with the band ? ‘After a couple of years gigging I decided to leave the band as I got offered a job as a costume designer in London. It felt like the band was just doing the same round of gigs and I needed a change. Steve White the guitarist went on to play for Venom and Les went on to open Voodoo cafe. I worked in London for a few years where I did a lot of gigs with different bands’.

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What are you up to now, are you still in music ? ‘Being back home in the North East I have always played music and mainly my own. I write, record and produce my own songs. My style is very mellow now, a bit like me. Not like my wild days with War Machine which I really enjoyed’.

Listen: bernea on Reverbnation

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.
Recommended:
SATAN/BLIND FURY: Lou Taylor Rock the Knight, 26th Feb & 5th March 2017.
WARRIOR: The Hunger 12th April 2017.
FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.
TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.
ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.
VIIXEN: Fox on the Run, 19th March 2018.

FOX ON THE RUN – with new Thunderstick vocalist

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Viixen is the new lead vocalist for Thunderstick. The line up is Rex Thunderbolt (bass, backing vox) Baz Roze (guitar) Dave ‘Kandy’ Kilford (guitar) and of course the masked man Thunderstick (drums). I asked Viixen was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that…

‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. When I was little my mother would hear me singing and say ‘it sounds lovely but why do you have to change it’. I was always changing the words and the melodies. I sang in the choir at school and I used to enter school music competitions. Always coming second to a girl who sang opera.

I grew up in a small Shropshire town and had a religious upbringing so I didn’t have the exposure to bands that I could join. Then I got married and had children very young so it wasn’t until I hit 31 that I finally formed a band. I had recently got divorced and moved in with a girl who could play guitar. One evening she was playing the song Zombie by The Cranberries and I joined in with the vocals. It sounded pretty good so we decided to form a girlband’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I’ve always been a rock chick at heart. Listening to rock and metal makes me feel free and rebellious. Some of my favourites are Deep Purple, Kate Bush, Skid Row, Marilyn Manson and Evanescence. If the music makes me feel something… I’ll love it’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I have been in two bands before joining Thunderstick. We gigged mostly in London and Kent. I started gigging in 2010 and played in pubs and clubs. Then we started playing festivals which were amazing. I loved the big stage and having plenty of space to bounce around. We had a large biker following so we played various biker rallies and festivals.

I did a big gig for Gibson guitars during the London Olympics in 2012. The venue looked over the Olympic stadium and was pretty cool. I played at the London Hard Rock Café in October last year, which was a great venue’.

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Viixen has brought both her vocal strength and stagecraft experience to her new challenge; Thunderstick. The ex-Iron Maiden/Samson drummer is known for having strong female vocalists fronting his band and Viixen fits that role. He recently commented “I had been after Viixen for a while but the timing was never right, now in 2018 it will happen. The band is perfect for her, theatrics, energy and outrage allow her to express all of her personality’. 

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ‘Like most artists I tend to write lyrics based on personal experiences. However if the band has already written the music I search for how the music makes me feel and write from that perspective. It helps that I’m incredibly empathic. I feel other peoples pain deeply even if I’ve not experienced the emotion myself. To me music is what feelings sound like and it’s a fantastic form of self expression’.

What is your experience of studio work ? ‘I’ve done some recording work in the studio with the band and I love it! Especially when you’re recording your own material and you get to hear all your ideas coming together. It’s a magical experience!

Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ? ‘I have recently recorded a music video with my other band Black Roze. The song is called In the Darkness and it’s an autobiographical tale about the darkness of depression and coming out of the other side. The guitarist and I wrote the storyline and how we were going to capture the concept of the song. It did involve running through a graveyard in a wedding dress during mid winter but it was well worth it!

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Haha yes I have a few…On two occasions we have set up all the equipment, started playing and the electrics blew in the venue! One of them was my sisters wedding which didn’t go down too well!

Due to my head banging and stomping around on stage I’ve had some wardrobe malfunctions. I did a biker festival last year and wore a tight cropped top. At the end of the gig the guitarists mum ran on stage and told me my bra was showing. Looking back at the pictures I saw that I’d basically played the whole gig in my bra!

Recently I bought a new pair of goth platform boots from a charity shop, they were beautiful. I wore them to the gig and I was 6ft tall in them and I was boasting that I was taller than the other band members. Just before the second half one of the shoes gave way, the heel snapped and I fell over. A guy in the crowd fixed it with duct tape and I carried on. Next thing I know mid song the other shoe did the same thing. Leaving me feeling very small in my socks for the rest of the gig! At least the socks matched!’

For further information contact Viixen and Thunderstick on their facebook pages.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

PAUL DI’ANNO, True Faith  22nd April 2017.

THUNDERSTICK, Return of the Mask  19th July 2017.

BODO SWINGS – interview with German rock drummer Bodo Schopf

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

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

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

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

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Pendulum of Fortune

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

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

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

Bodo-Sweet

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

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

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

MSG

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

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’.

RB

Ritchie Blackmore

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

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

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

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

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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, 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’.

Fist April

Fist

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.