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. They 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 for 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 11 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 6 days to record, and believe me it’s not very much when you have to record 11 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 favorite 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 til 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 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 souveniers – 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 wasnt 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 couldnt afford a taxi. We kipped in a doorway of the Civic Centre and got the first bus in the morning. Wouldnt 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.

DEFENDER OF THE NORTH – Guardian Recording Studio stories #1

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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 Gaurdian 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 – interview 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’.

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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.

WITCHES OF TOKYO – interview with Japanese metal band Coven

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Heavy metal band Coven are based in Japan. Formed by musicians Ito and Taka they have released an EP to attract interest from record companies…
Taka: ‘At present the line up is just Ito on guitar and other musical instruments and me on vocals and playing bass’.
Ito: ‘We are currently looking for other members to start gigs in 2018. We are in the middle of preparing for some gigs as Coven. We are recording, mixing, arranging, and mastering ourselves. Now we are using just a cheap rehearsal studio in Tokyo and paying a one coin (500 Yen/hour). I have used recording studios in other bands before’.
Taka: ‘One reason why we’re still just a newcomer is because we don’t have much money. We have paid our own way until now and got a release. Our first EP on Svart Records in Finland was all without any help of Japanese labels. So we think we can make better songs without spending much money and without using high‐class recording studios. Of course it is not easy, but it depends on how much effort we put in. We think this has to be done on our own power’.
Ito: ‘We thought we needed to make a strong impression of Coven from Japan. So we needed to produce ourselves totally because it is very hard for Japanese bands to succeed all over the world’.

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Who were your influences in music ?
Taka: ‘Thank you for giving us this interview and we feel honored from you in the land of NWOBHM we love! Firstly, Angel Witch, Satan, Blitzkreig and a lot of NWOBHM bands were a huge influence on us. Also Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Riot, Manowar and early 90’s Japanese Metal of Loudness and X Japan. We have also been inspired by many songs and stories of Japanese comics and animations. We think it is also one of Japanese honour and cool culture in the world, so we added this essence into our songs.
As you know our band’s name Coven means a gathering of thirteen witches and people have an image during the medieval period. But we didn’t want to use such conventional images or any old Japanese-style painting because many metal bands have used such pictures. We wanted to make our original main character…yeah, like a Eddie, Iron Maiden! So, we developed the ideas and thought out a futuristic witch while getting hints from some great Japanese animations.
Our main character like a Eddie is a witch re-born in the future getting a half machine body with immortal life and great power. Take a close look and you find twelve unborn children spreading out from her hair. It’s also our wish that we spread our songs out to the world’.

How did you get involved in playing music ?
Taka: ‘I listened to heavy metal and hard rock from childhood. Because I have big brothers who were always listening to traditional heavy metal, hard rock and playing bass and guitar. Traditional metal like Iron Maiden and NWOBHM made me want to sing and play in a band influenced by NWOBHM. At that time I began to realize the power of music, especially metal power!’

Ito: ‘When I was a child, I listened to X Japan and Metallica. At that time I felt an electric current running through me. I started to practice, play guitar, bass and drums in some bands. I liked every musical instrument, but especially liked guitar and then joined Fastkill (Japanese Thrash metal band). I was playing in Fastkill for ten years since I was a teenager. I had supported bands like Destruction, Razor, and Assassin in Japan and overseas’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ?
Ito: ‘When we started this band, we already had some ideas. Firstly the traditional sounds like early Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM bands. In addition we wanted to add Japanese elements, Japanese lyrics, singing rhythm with oriental pronunciation and accents of our identity. Because we are proud of being Japanese, we believe that we can do something special all over the world. We think it’s our style, the fusion of Japanese and Western, this characteristic is one of our special strengths’.

Taka: ‘But on the other hand, we know it also has a harmful effect. It is hard to understand Japanese lyrics and not easy to sing songs for people from different countries. We think singing loudly together is one of fun in Metal! So we’ve thought out some ways of putting some sing-along parts for singing together. We always make some English parts the chorus for singing easily. We have also made a lyric video with Japanese pronunciation on our Youtube channel’.

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What are the future plans for Coven ?
Ito: ‘We want to play not only in Japan but also all over the world, and we want to make a full-length album. We have already been making some new songs. We think it will be really great and we have confidence too!’

Taka: ‘We’ve just started, so keep on doing our best, and hope to see many people at our gigs !

Contact Coven at the following:

Coven Official Site: https://www.coven.site/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Coven.Japan/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CovenJapan
Bandcamp: https://coven.bandcamp.com/
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/coven_japan

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2017.

FOX ON THE RUN – interview with the 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 appearences 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 beautifull. 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.

 

IRON MEN – interview with British Heavy Metal band Kaine.

 

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Kaine are a British Heavy Metal band based in East Anglia. They formed in 2009 and released their debut album ‘Falling Through Freedom’ in 2012, it’s follow-up ‘The Waystone’ came 2 years later. Vocals & rhythm guitarist Rage explains ‘I have spent a lot of time in various studios over the years starting out at Three Circles where we recorded our debut. Ade the engineer is great at what he does with top musical knowledge so that was a huge help. We did the second album at Angry Bee Studio’s and a separate building for the drums with Akis K, who sadly passed away not long after the album was released. Again a great experience working with Akis, very precise with his editing’.

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The current line up of Stevo Ellis (bass) Saxon Davids (lead guitarist/backing vocals) Chris MacKinnon (drums) and Rage (lead vocals/rhythm guitarist) have recently released ‘A Crisis of Faith’…

Rage: ‘We recorded our new album at Pointy Halo with Carl Brewer, a great engineer and studio. We decided to go with Carl this time due to the sound of the other heavy albums he had produced. Plus it fit in with the new direction of the band. He worked extremely hard to get this album sounding our best yet’.

Saxon:A Crisis Of Faith was a very fun album to record, as well as being quite stressful at times but it has paid off. I’m extremely proud of the work we did with Carl at Redwall Studios’.

They toured heavily completing two UK and Ireland tours. All this without any record label support. They also appeared on bills with Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Tytan, Tygers of Pan Tang and ex members of Iron Maiden. Rage remembers one of the earlier gigs… ‘It’s been 9 years so there’s plenty of funny stories from gigs, and some are quite bizarre really. At one show an old man arrived with a shopping bag full of 12 cans of Fosters (beer) and a lettuce. He started jive dancing to the Metal bands. He shit himself there and then and flushed his kegs (underwear) down the bog. He just continued to dance the night away !!!! Kaine’s first gig was at Club Revolution in Peterborough back in 2010. The show itself was a bit of a disaster. We didn’t go down to well, the sound was terrible and the less said about it the better! I’d like to think things have improved!

Who were your influences in music ? 

Rage: ‘My biggest influences are everything from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Judas Priest right through to bands such as Saxon, Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Then up to the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and so on. Dio is a massive influence too. Playing wise Tony Iommi is easily my biggest influence, the first five Sabbath albums are my favourite albums ever’.

Saxon: ‘The main ones from when I started playing metal are the obvious ones such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and Black Sabbath. But since joining Kaine I’m influenced by a lot of Power Metal like Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. Also listening to a lot of Progressive metal in bands like Dream Theater, Queensryche and Symphony X. I’ve also been very influenced by guitarist Aaron Marshall of Intervals’.

Stevo: ‘As a metal bass player I am very much influenced by Steve DiGiorgio, Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me and Geezer Butler. As a musician and songwriter however I take inspiration from everywhere. Guys like Miles Davis and Michael Gira of Swans are huge influences on how I approach music as an art form. I take aspects from my entire taste in music when writing’.

How did you get interested in music ? 

Stevo: ‘I originally started playing bass when I was 14. I listened to a lot of Sabbath and Maiden around that time. Started with bass and never had any interest with guitar. My uncle helped me out big time as he got me into a lot of old school metal bands. As I was growing up he lent me the first bass I ever played which was a ’78 Fender P Bass. That’s what I learnt on. Around my area everyone wanted to be a lead guitarist, very few wanted to play bass so I pretty much got playing in bands straight away’.

Saxon: ‘I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 7. I remember as an early teen seeing my Dad watch the music video for Ace of Spades, that made me certain that’s what I wanted to do. After playing onstage for the first time around the age of 13 I fell in love with it completely. My first proper experience gigging was with my first band Entropy around the age of 16, which is actually how I ended up meeting Kaine. We were on the same bill with them on a local festival called OGfest’.

Rage: ‘In my younger years I’d go out and see a lot of bands, listen to a lot of music and it all sounded the same. So that’s where it started, bloody frustration. It was all essentially in the Trivium mould but I really like stuff like Iron Maiden, and there was none of that going on. So I learnt how to play the guitar and form a band essentially so there could be that option for people who didn’t just want a copy of whatever was popular at the time. I did dabble in a few other bands but nothing ever came of it, so I took it upon myself to move forward. I wanted old school Heavy Metal back’.

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Where do the ideas come for your songs ?

Rage: ‘I usually start with a riff, a lead or a chorus idea and build a song around that. I spend a lot of time trying stuff out and getting it right, honing it, taking stuff out, adding to it before I even show it to the bands where it changes again with everyone’s input’.

Saxon: ‘Usually I just fiddle about on the guitar and when a riff or lead line comes to me I’ll evolve it and structure it into a song. Heaven’s Abandonment from the new album is my full song contribution and was pretty much written in that format. I came up with the rhythm guitar riff for the verse and then built the song around that, added lead lines and a break section until I had the full song. That’s when Rage came in and added his lyrics to the song’.

What are your experiences of recording/studio work ? 

Saxon: ‘I had made one demo with my band before Kaine but my first official studio experience was in 2015 when we went to Three Circles Studio to record our song Justice Injustice. It was meant to be the song to introduce us as a 5 piece band, but shortly after we released that song we had further line up changes so that track now ended up as a one-off for that line up and appears as a bonus track on recent pressings of The Waystone. It was fun and exciting to be in the studio for the first time. And then with that experience it made going into recording the new album a little easier knowing the process.

What impact has the internet had on music?

Rage: ‘For a relatively unknown band like ourselves things such as filesharing and piracy has very little effect. We have a small but appreciative fanbase that will always buy our stuff so it really hasn’t had a huge effect on us. But the whole game has changed. Bands like ours generally don’t sell huge amounts anyway – our last album sold over 1,000 copies. Which is a great achievement given how small our promotional budget is compared to signed bands. I would say the choices of bands being pushed by the bigger labels and the lack of real investment in bands has done more damage to the sales of music than the internet has. Here they have a great tool for marketing to Metal fans but they sign bands that either don’t sell or they don’t promote. I don’t understand the logic behind it. Everyone complains about the music coming out but it seems to fall on deaf ears at the top. They seem to think they know better than their audience and I think ultimately that attitude is the problem coupled with the whole making bands pay to play supports, festival and tour slots limits the number of bands who can afford to push themselves. It’s all very short term. I’d like to see real artist development brought back essentially. That would do wonders for the industry – instead of cheap gimmicks, crap songs and paying your way to success. It’s so Un-Metal it’s just sad’.

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Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ?

Saxon: ‘My old band Entropy appeared on TV very briefly once during a news segment about a local festival but as far as music videos go, that’s still a milestone we’re yet to cross off our list’.

Rage:Kaine have never appeared on TV. There’s not a whole lot of options here in the  U.K. for television spots if your playing Heavy Metal. Mainstream culture seems to look down on us with a great deal of elitism and snobbery. Ultimately Heavy Metal isn’t something that they are going to push on television. As for music video’s it’s a budget issue – we simply couldn’t afford to do it justice at present. It’s better in my mind to have no video than a crap one. If you want to see our faces, come out to a show!

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? 

Saxon: ‘A funny story from the studio is when it came to recording guitars on our third visit, we couldn’t really afford a hotel this time round so Carl allowed us to stay in the studio. Which is supposedly haunted. Chris being quite unnerved by the paranormal decided to deal with this by drinking a lot of scotch to help him sleep. He had kept me awake for hours by yelling and throwing cushions at me so I already was in a fairly bad mood with him, but after eventually falling asleep, I see Chris wake up around 7am and sleepwalk off into the drum room. Then about 5 minutes later comes back in and flops into bed. When I told him about this later on he said he couldn’t remember a thing so I thought it would be funny to go over security footage to show Chris that he had been sleepwalking. Dean (one of the team at the studio) and I looked through the security footage and to our horror and amusement we see Chris urinating all over the nice leather sofa in the drum room. What made this worse is I then realised that about an hour after Chris went in there, I went in there to call my girlfriend and laid on that exact sofa. I weren’t too happy to begin with but we all found the funny side !

What are the future plans for Kaine?

Rage: ‘It’s hard to tell. We’ve just released this third album and we’ll see out our run of shows and obligations with this album before we consider the future. I expect it will be more of the same, but after 9 years it’s good to evaluate and move forward. It’s healthy. However, as far as making it big or whatever, it would be cool to tour with a bigger act again or play abroad. I’d love to do that at least one more time before I am done that’s for sure. I don’t expect to be signed or be the next big thing, so despite it not selling thousands of copies people have enjoyed this album so far’.

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New album Crisis of Faith out now. Contact the band on the official website at http://www.kaine-metal.com.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.