RUSSIA’S ROSWELL: The Alien Mystery of Kapustin Yar

Through lockdown I caught up with loads of films on the must watch list, one of them was Alien Autopsy, a British film released in 2006 starring Geordie duo Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly.

The film is the story of an alien recovered from a crash at Roswell, New Mexico, and the autopsy was filmed. The original footage was reported to be supplied by a US military cameraman to UK record and film producer Ray Santilli, and business partner Gary Shoefield. Originally Santilli was in America to buy Elvis memorabilia and was also offered the autopsy footage.

The original 17 minute black and white footage was released by Santilli in 1995. It caused a sensation gaining millions of American TV viewers.

The background is that on 8 July 1947 a crash was reported in Roswell, New Mexico. A press release stated that ‘a flying disc’ had been recovered. The army retracted the statement saying it was just a weather balloon.

Thirty year later in an interview with a UFO researcher, a retired lieutenant colonel said the weather balloon was a cover story. More first hand witnesses came forward stating that extraterrestrial occupants of the craft were recovered by the military, and a cover up was put in place. Conspiracy theorists went into overdrive.

Kapustin Yar, reverse-engineering plan.

Today, noted for its highly sensitive and classified operations, Groom Lake is the secret airbase in New Mexico, USA. The facility known as Area 51 has strong connections to alien and UFO research.

If you find yourself in Moscow, Russia, travel 600 mile south and through a different time zone, you come to Kapustin Yar, an official rocket launch and development site, also believed to have strong UFO connections.

One year after the reported incident in Roswell, MIG fighter jets flying over Kapustin Yar, detected a cigar shaped object on their radar and caused it to crash.

Three bodies were found in the wreckage, two were already dead, the Soviet pilots made attempts to keep the third alive, but it too passed away. The occupants were reported to be around 4 feet tall, had bluish green reptile skin, with long fingers, dark eyes and large bald heads.

Alien body in 1948 at Kapustin Yar.

Their craft is believed to have been taken inside the Kapustin Yar underground military facility where scientists undertook a period of meticulous understanding of how the craft and its systems worked. The Russian space program, Sputnik, benefitted from the results of the tests and in 1957 launched the first satellite from Earth.

Kapustin Yar and the surrounding area has experienced UFO sightings more than any other part of Russia. A second crash was reported in 1961, it is reported that the human pulse rate is affected and animals won’t go near the area where it occurred.

The KGB hold a tight grip on files featuring UFO experiences recorded by Russian military. One file has seven witnesses who observed UFO activity on 28 July 1989 over the base of Kapustin Yar.

They reported that between 10.12pm and 11.55pm three flying disc shaped objects, about 5 metres in diameter with semi-circular spheres on top, hovered quietly about 200 feet above the base.

It’s been over 70 years since Roswell, in that time a whole industry has grown around the UFO incident and Area 51, that same industry might have competition from Kapustin Yar – Ant and Dec might make a film there.

Gary Alikivi  July 2021

STRANGE DAYS part 2/2 – with author & broadcaster of the unexplained, Dan Green

In part one Dan talked about his experiences of investigating the unexplained. To dig deeper I asked him if he shared these experiences with anyone else ?

I often share experiences, investigations and findings are with like-minded persons or with well-known respected authors and writers, psychologists and physicists. We are all investigators at heart and it’s logical to pool ideas to seek out patterns.

I also discovered there is a tangible connection between Eastern Buddhist’s search for enlightenment and the unfolding and ongoing evolution of the autistic consciousness, as evidenced in the common aspiration of turning within, detachment and elaborate ritual.

My wife, who has Aspergers and Savant abilities, can ‘dip’ into her ‘Department’ and be presented with info she couldn’t possibly know. This is rather like people with a ’psychic’ ability who can access accurate info for people they shouldn’t have, although I think a lot of psychics unwittingly and innocently read the minds of others with an unconscious form of telepathy.

Where do you think these findings are leading us ?

People still don’t seem to know that the vast amount of evidence we have from all over the world clearly outline that there is much we do not understand about what we call ‘psychic experiences’ which encompass weird UFO, fairy, angelic episodes across the globe.

Neurology says they are but hallucinatory then walk away, but they don’t really know enough about what precipitates, and what a hallucination actually does or is.

It might even open the doorway to another realm through an altered state of consciousness and not just be a fiction of the brain. Physics currently haven’t found evidence of other dimensions, but if they are out there – and why not – it would be the answer to most of the unexplained.

There are lots of tireless and honest researchers out there, some who have dedicated their lives to searching, none of them are stupid people, but who made the decision that they didn’t want to be academically qualified.

So when they have compiled strong evidence they submit to the ‘experts’, the authorities, the heavily qualified, who by nature of where we stand right now, means they receive it as a sceptic. The unwritten rule is that only they can make discoveries, the very ones they don’t want to make.

Throughout all your experiences has there been one that stands out ?

I didn’t seek out the unexplained, but throughout my life it has this habit of tapping me on the shoulder. It was therefore natural that I would become my own investigator. Listening to other people’s stories is helpful but you can’t beat having your own.

All my encounters with strangeness culminated in a close encounter with a UFO (now called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) in France in 1986 when strange ‘psychic’ events brought about a series of ‘arranged situations’. There were three other witnesses.

It was a game changer and is unlikely ever to be topped in the unexplained stakes. It certainly wasn’t a man-made object. Witnessing it got me into lots of official trouble and that’s about as much as I’m going to share on that one other than since the encounter, experiencing frequent Jungian synchronicities is a way of life. 

A thought image created by Ted Serios.

People talk of something strange happening out there, what is out there ?

There is no doubt that there is ‘something’ going on out there, a vast ‘something’  that certainly has an intelligence and can probably account for all aspects of the unexplained. Neurology and the brain is part of the mystery but for the experts in science that is where they close the door. They say when the brain dies, so do you. End of story.

I personally have had two experiences of so-called ‘dead’ people announcing they are still living in an alternate time and space, and both experiences defy the stock explanations of psychologist’s who would dismiss it as hallucinatory.

In 2020 I said jokingly to top psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore, ‘Well, why not believe in a life after death because if there isn’t one you won’t be around to look stupid’ She replied ‘I couldn’t kid myself even if I wanted to’. This is the sort of rigidity you come up against when pitted against the current findings from the world of science.

I do respect their research and opinions but if they are honest they have to allow for how new breakthroughs in neurology and physics could eventually one day change it all.

Newspaper report from The Shields Gazette.

Finally, what would you say to a sceptic reading this ?

There is still much we don’t know about hidden capacities of our planet  – ley line energies being one – and the hidden potential of the human condition. Without knowing those we don’t know nearly enough. It’s all about wanting to understand.

If you come to my house you’ll see bones here and there, all over the floor. That might look a bit disconcerting until you realise I have two pet puppy dogs.

Life itself is the one big mystery. Why we have it, and why we are here. If the experts are honest enough they will have to concede that we are still left in the main with guesswork. Why can’t my guess be as good as yours? Life, in its entirety, is one big profundity.

Read more from Dan Green here:

POLTERGEIST – Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi   March 2021.

STRANGE DAYS part 1/2 – with author & broadcaster of the unexplained, Dan Green

Stories of UFO’s, Poltergeists and fairies featured on this blog back in October 2019 and are worth checking out after you have read this latest interview with Dan Green. (links below)

To find out more about Green and his research into the unexplained I asked him, did you witness an incident when you were young ?

Weird stuff started happening to me once I hit 10, at the time in 1967 I was living in South Shields that had just received three credible and high profile unexplained UFO sightings over the Tyne Dock area of the town.

Newspaper article from The Shields Gazette.

At the time I was living in a house with a ‘presence’, and I experienced a ‘vanishing dart’. One night during a family game of darts – I pulled my arm back to throw the dart held in my hand and it just wasn’t there. My parents searched the room for about an hour.

I had incidents late at night with the bottom of my bed shaking violently when I was in it, and once when I was playing Subbuteo on the floor with a school friend, the entire bathroom shook, and he ran off. When in bed I experienced what is termed ‘night terrors’ or ‘sleep paralysis’ when a vision of some dead flowers resurrect in front of me into full bloom.

Psychologists would deem such an account as hallucinatory as they would my first Out Of Body Experience when I spontaneously left my body travelling at an incredible speed into space, everything in my peripheral vision blurring. Frightened, I suddenly arrived back in my body – and this was all before school ! Years later I began to have occasional OOBE’s.

My mother would take me to Beach Road Spiritualist Church for company. I couldn’t grasp that here I was witnessing ‘messages from the dead’ in a day when science said there was no such thing. It couldn’t be this easy could it ? Coming to a small church in amongst a lot of generally elderly people communicating with the dead so matter of fact. Succeeding where science failed?

Was it these experiences that led you to researching the subject ?

The best researchers begin as sceptics, rather like the ABC employed by the CID police  – ‘A’ Accept nothing, ‘B’ Believe nobody and ‘C’ Check everything. When you have your own direct experiences like I did, it gives you a head start and they become your personal knowledge, not a belief. But a knowledge of what?

When I was 25 I investigated an area at the back of South Shields Marine & Technical College fields. On old maps it had originally been called ‘Fair Fields’. One day I had some casual photos taken there in the flora and fauna, where you could discern what looked like classic folklore fairies.

These creatures have a habit of being seen in cultures all over the world but here I was seeing the classic European representation. I wondered if the place name had in time been corrupted from ‘Fairy field’?

More pic’s were taken and more entities showed up. Psychologist’s rightly point out the phenomena of pareidolia – where we can see shapes and faces in random patterns. But they seem to think that’s that, ruling out the possibility of both pareidolia and evidence of entities manifesting.

It’s a shame that with advances in technology and tools like Photoshop photographic evidence is less acceptable now as its so easy to fake stuff – You Tube is full of UFO fake footage. Why do humans enjoy being so deceptive?

Did you talk about this to friends ?

Some friends could see the figures others couldn’t. If people haven’t had an experience of their own they are usually sceptical but if they have, they are usually interested. It helps if they have some knowledge of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience which is the natural investigative starting point of trying to rationalise. Most of my mates didn’t.

The much respected Dr Vernon Harrison, former President of the Royal Photography Society examined my fairy pic’s on behalf of the Association for the Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP), and could see the entities and declared the negatives untouched.

He was interested in coming up to Shields to take his own photos but the ASSAP wouldn’t fund the trip. In 1989 Joe Cooper, the fellow who eventually exposed the world famous ‘Cottingley Fairies’ hoax visited my home for advice. His book was at his Publishers supporting the Cottingley photos when he’d just found out they were fakes. He settled for the possibility that at least one was genuine – it wasn’t.

I laugh when people say ‘I don’t believe in ghosts’ or ‘I don’t believe in UFO’s’, acting like there’s no such things. Well, they are out there, it’s what they are we need to be knowing. I once spent some days in an alleged haunted derelict asylum and had my own experiences that defied the comfortable, framed paradigm of psychologists, and experienced my own knowledge of a ‘something’ unexplainable otherwise.

Does the unexplained cause sleepless nights where you are left wondering what it is you have just witnessed ?

In 1977 I started my life long association with deep profound Tibetan meditation under the patronage of lama teachers. It opened up whole new worlds of possibilities involving the nature of reality, perception and levels of consciousness, which appears to be the key to all things currently unexplained.

Science gives you its rigid, restrictive and dull explanations from the conclusions based on their current findings but in time they may find they hadn’t got it right. The mystery of the brain and its abilities are still beyond all of us.

I don’t lose sleep over anything, in fact sleep is a great place to start experimenting – trying to induce OOBE experiences, lucid dreaming, pursue mythological archetypes as outlined by Jung – I’ve met the Greek god figure Pan, and traverse the realms of the Unconscious Mind.

The only thing I do wonder about is whether the human race were genetically engineered by some other advanced beings that may have observed their handiwork for a while and then lost interest and left us to our own devices. Does that sound so crazy? No.

And if you look hard enough there appears to be traces of evidence across the globe left behind by our architects. Sadly though, it might also be possible that the human race is a failed experiment.

In the second part of this interview Dan talks about an experience he will never forget ‘It was a game changer and is unlikely ever to be topped in the unexplained stakes’.

And a puzzling event in which ‘I’ve had two experiences of so-called ‘dead’ people announcing they are still living in an alternate time and space’.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS ON TYNESIDE Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi   March 2020

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS ON TYNESIDE Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile.

Sang Bowie in ’72. Over the years there’s been many songs written about UFO’s and aliens. Back in the ‘50s Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman wrote ‘The Flying Saucer’ which landed at no.3 in the American charts. In the ‘60s The Byrds sung of a ‘Mr Spaceman’ and in the ‘80s the Ramones ripped through ‘Zero Zero UFO’ about aliens visiting earth.

Some Native American tribes believe they have gained knowledge through extra-terrestrial contact with their star ancestors. Stories like these add to the mysteries of the world, and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark.

But when you find a mystery closer to home, it can add more interest. This was the case for former South Shields resident Dan Green. Dan is a British author, broadcaster, researcher and writer, he recently got in touch and told me some interesting stories that he researched when living in the town. One of them reminded me of an experience I had back in Summer 2013.

It was around 6pm I was walking on South Shields beach, above was bright blue sky with a few clouds. Nearby there is a huge grass hill, at the top is a Roman fort. I was wondering what could be placed on the hill – maybe a sculpture, something like a massive roman soldier – my mind just wandering. I was enjoying the sun and listening to the gentle waves.

Out of the corner of my eye and way up high, I saw a small silver disc moving slowly. I thought it might have been a plane because there is a flight path nearby. I watched the disc move slowly for a minute or two, looking around for maybe a reflection off something else in the sky ? There was no noise or trail from it. It was moving very slowly then suddenly it shot off very fast and didn’t leave a trail. 

Books, TV programmes and films have all featured stories about unidentified flying objects, not all of them are operated by the Greys.

In 1988 Dan Green wrote an article for The Shields Gazette chronicling close encounters in the town including incidents now referred to as ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’. He found that in 1967 the UK was besieged with a flurry of strange lights appearing in the skies. The newspaper reported ‘A bus driver said he saw a cigar shaped object surrounded by a bright green glow over the coast near Brighton. Sparks were coming from it’s tail and for a short time it travelled parallel with the bus’.

Not to be outdone was our own South Shields, with the Gazette reporting some boys claimed to have seen a bullet shaped object hovering over Horsley Hill electricity sub-station. One boy glanced up and saw the glowing green outline of an 8ft long cigar shaped object hovering 100 yards away. ‘It must have spotted us, cos it just shot back up into the sky’.

Here is Dan’s article from 1988.

I was an impressionable 10 year old when the Shields Gazette popped through my letterbox with a page reading ‘UFO over Tyne Dock’.

On the night of October 21st 1967 residents living near the river had been invited to the spectacle of three dazzling white triangular lights stationary in the sky. They had been hanging for a full half hour before vanishing.

People craned their necks out of their windows to witness it, and one in particular had called the police. This enterprising fellow was demanding answers and took his enquiry as far as the Ministry of Defence who eventually sent him a reply that ‘Everybody had seen a weather balloon that had blown over from Liverpool!’ This earned him the nickname – Ronnie Rocket.

In the newspaper report Ronnie said ‘They were very bright just like electric lights. They were triangular shaped and too big for stars’.

That week the Gazette ran a number of stories reporting strange sightings in the sky. By 27th October they screamed ‘Flying Objects Reports Come Thick and Fast’ with one headline ‘Flying cross seen by five more police patrols’. Another claimed ‘Down in Devon they are seeing things again’. Even the Minister of Defence Dennis Healey MP was pressed in parliament to make a statement about the activity.

It was reported that some people in the South believe the unidentified flying objects are British secret weapons being tested out, while some experts put the blame on Venus. Back to Dan’s article…..

That October week saw more puzzling sights in the skies of Shields, as early morning workers catching the ferry viewed a host of fiery ‘Flying crosses’, and a sighting of a cigar shaped object was reported by a couple walking their dog in the Bents Park during the day. Residents in Whiteleas saw an object streaking across the sky ‘like a bullet’.

The 1967 UFO flap was never given any plausible explanation, but I’m sure as hell it wasn’t a scousers balloon.

For further information about the work of Dan Green contact www.dangreencodex.co.uk/

Gary Alikivi October 2019.

BODO SWINGS – interview with German rock drummer Bodo Schopf

schopf_bodo_1

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’…..

SCHENKER

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

Bandfoto ohne Logo

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.

GUN FOR HIRE – interview with Tyneside bassist Ed Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

GUNSLINGERby Steve Elliot

Gunslinger with Ed in the middle.

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

IT’LL BE ALRIGHT IN THE MIX with Tyneside rock drummer Mark Woodhouse

After nearly 40 years hard work and dedication Mark Woodhouse is still drumming in a pub near you. But in the 1980’s he was drummer with South Shields based Heavy Metal band White Vice… ‘We once got called White Mice by a free newspaper in Durham despite spelling it phonetically over the phone. Several times. Hardly a name to fetch the leather clad Metal hordes out to see us!’

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Heavy Rock had a big following on Tyneside, and South Shields was no exception did this genre of music have a big influence on you ? ‘It was early ’80’s I was heavily into AC/DC and listening to the Friday Rock Show which got me into Metal. By the time we got a band together I was on drums almost by default because everyone else either played guitar or wanted to sing!
I’ve never been a special fan of any particular drummer, it’s always been the music they were playing that I enjoyed and took influences from. Which is why one drum fill I often pull out of the bag is a close variation on what the guy on the first Go West album used to do ! Admittedly not very Metal but it works a treat’.

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What are your earliest memories of drumming ? ‘First drum kit was a Frankenstein drum kit from the West Park Community Centre in South Shields. It didn’t have any stands to speak of, the bass pedal broke after a couple of weeks, so for a year I played drums without a bass pedal. From an influence standpoint, I ripped fills wholesale from Accept”s Restless & Wild album, and I spent many hours playing along to tapes of Judas Priest albums.
We eventually got a band together and the nucleus was me and Steve McGinley. We went through a few names, at that time we called ourselves Trias, and there was a revolving door of members before the next permanent member Dave Johnston came in on bass. Barry Marshall joined on guitar and the final piece in the jigsaw was Tess Mulligan who took up frontman duties. This became the classic White Vice line up’.

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Where did White Vice rehearse and what can you remember from then? ‘In terms of rehearsal rooms White Vice used the Martec club, Baker Street and The North Eastern pub in Jarrow. That pub was brilliant. It was always freezing cold in the room we were in and over the top of the door there was an extension cable running from the bar. We’d be pounding drums, screeching guitars, laying out some serious slabs of prime Heavy Metal at full volume. Then nip into the bar for refreshment only to find a smokey room full of old Jarrovians in flat caps playing dominoes, supping pints and smoking rollies. Totally detached from what was happening next door. Even though it sounded like armageddon through a couple of 100watt Marshall amps.

I often wonder how we found these places and organised rehearsals given that it was before the Internet, social media, mobile phones etc. The organisation around the band must have all been done word of mouth, and the same for every other band around that time’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a couple of recordings with White Vice and punk band The Fiend. We recorded the first White Vice demo Thrash On Delivery on Easter Sunday 1986 at Desert Sounds in Pelaw and it included the songs Hard Rocker, Sacred Armageddon, Breaking Ice and Death From Above.

Then we went into Baker Street Studios on the Bede Estate in Jarrow and did the Hot Day In July demo on Sunday 5th July 1987. We recorded 5 songs in that session The Death Mosh, The Beast, The Time To Panic (Infectious Terror), and Search & Destroy.

Both White Vice demos were done from scratch in one day from probably mid morning until about 9pm. The Fiend ones I did took a little longer, probably a day and a half. But for the first Fiend demo I did my drum tracks and had to leave the studio to go back to work for 1pm. So I had no further input and the next I knew of it was when the tape was put in my hands!

‘The second session might actually have taken longer as the band had to go back for guitar overdubs as there was a distortion problem on the mic. Baker Street was a very high tech studio, in a local sense anyway and as for the recording, we were told it would be alright in the mix !’

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Around 1986 we did most of our socialising in Durham and Chester Le Street especially at the legendary Greenbanks Rock Night on Mondays. We had tracks from our demo played there regularly and this led to gigs in Annfield Plain, Willington, Washington Arts Centre and Fowlers Yard in Durham.

Some of our most notable gigs were self promoted, especially at The Bullion Hall in Chester Le Street where we employed DJs, a bar manager, door staff, PA and lights. Some of the bands that supported us there were Acid Reign and Battleaxe, who were New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legends and local to Chester Le Street.

We headlined what turned into A Battle at the Bullion in Chester Le Street November ’86 where Battleaxe were squashed on the bill in between our band and Pulse, also from South Shields. Let’s put it this way I don’t think Battleaxe took too kindly to being turned over on their home turf. Also at that gig was Karen McNulty she came as a guest of our singer Tess. Karen was vocalist for She, who recorded at NEAT records. Tess told me that he met Karen in Trillians Bar, Newcastle, he was putting studs in his jacket, sang a few lyrics to her bought a few drinks and she fancied the gig’.

‘While we played she sat at the desk with the soundman Howard Baker. Karen told us later on, that our set was tight and intense, like seeing Metallica walk onstage. She was surprised this was only our sixth gig, I’m pretty sure it was meant as a compliment.
A mad song title we had was Metal Minstrel ! It started with a clean guitar playing like a 16th Century lute, then the distortion pedal was pressed, then I simply had to play as fast as I possibly could. We used the same “wear Mark out after a slow start” technique for a few songs’.

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How did Howard Baker help the band ? (see interview Howards Way August 17th 2017) ‘Howard did live sound for us a few times, he had an old ambulance van that he ferried us around in, we were packed in the back with the gear. Don’t forget that he had Baker Street Rehearsal Studios where we practically lived as a band for about two to three years. Then around ’87 he added the recording studio plus he opened Baker Street Audios in South Shields’.

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How long did White Vice last ? ‘Around this time our bassist Dave Johnston left so we enlisted a Chester Le Street musician known only to us as Space Debris. Yep really. But very few gigs followed and the loss of Tess on vocals pretty much put paid to things. His swan song was the Hot Day In July demo. Once Tess left the feel had gone so by 1988 the band had run its course’.

What are you up to now and are you still involved in music ? ‘Me and Barry Marshall have played together for the last two and a half years in Classic Rock Covers band Andromeda. I also play in a band called The Spacehoppers with bass player Ed Thomas who was in Shields bands The Cups and most notably Gunslinger, which is a whole other story!’ (See next post for an interview with Ed Thomas.)

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

METAL HEALTH with North East UK musician Glenn S.Howes

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Can you remember your first band ? ‘I was 16 years old, I was gorgeous, and had hair! Ha. My first band was called Axizz and we played metal. We were all friends of the same age and were from a little town called South Shields, North East UK. The line-up changed a few times, we knew we were young and inexperienced but that didn’t stop us from trying.

There were other bands I knocked about with over the years and some were short lived but these were bands that I loved being in and they were great lads. It was a great learning curve for us all. South Shields in those days in regards to employment was very grim, but for some reason the music scene was excellent. There were a lot of bands and musicians around. So it was an exciting place to be musically.

Strangely my parents thought the band thing was a reasonable idea, which shocked me because I wanted them to hate it. I’m trying my best not to name drop but there is the obvious connection to a name band that made it big (ish) in the 90’s and we all knew each other. This was the very early 80’s at the same time as NWOBHM and as fans of that genre know, North East bands were a leading light in that movement’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘To be honest I have a lot of different influences but if I was pushed to name some I would say my main influences over the years have been Rainbow, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Gary Moore, Fist, Saracen, Beatles, Roy Orbison, Queen, UFO, Van Halen, Scorpions, Motorhead and NWOBHM.

I do have a lot of other favourites and got into some of the heavier stuff like Annihilator and Testament from the late 80’s onwards’.

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Ritchie Blackmore

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

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

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

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

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Saracen

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ was it watching a band or hearing a particular song ? ‘What really did it for me was that we used to go and watch Saracen rehearse at this prefab in West Park, South Shields. There were also other bands rehearsing there like Hollow Ground we used to watch.

I remember the first time I saw Saracen rehearse they blew me away. They were older than us and much more experienced. The singer was Louie Taylor, the guitar player was Steve Dawson, bass Les Wilson and drummer Dave Johnson. They had all the top gear. Louie sang like Ian Gillan and Steve played and even looked like Blackmore a bit. These guys were pro’.
(Interviews on this blog with Lou Taylor, Rock the Knight February 2017 and Steve Dawson, Long Live Rock n Roll April 2017). 

‘I remember thinking to myself, it can be done and it is possible you can achieve something by playing rock music. What they taught me apart from professionalism was that anything is possible and you could create a truly great rock band which I considered Saracen to be. I still consider the Saracen lads Louie and Steve in particular to be mentors’.

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Satan at St Hilda’s Youth Club 1982.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘There were a few venues knocking about in my home town however my favourite and most visited was The British Legion. I used to go and watch bands there all the time. I don’t know how I got in as I was clearly under age.

Not only bands that my peers where in but I suppose what you would call name bands as well. I have some great memories of seeing Saracen, Polaris, Zig-Zag, Phasslayne, Fist, 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!

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‘We also used to rehearse and record in Baker Street, Jarrow just up the road from South Shields. We went in there a lot towards the end of the 80’s. I remember one day arriving for a Blitzkrieg rehearsal and we had Venom in one room and Satan in the other. It was loud! Venom were rehearsing their live show for a USA tour I think. That was kind of normal in those days’.

‘The biggest gig I did was with the Tygers of Pan Tang at the famous Wacken Festival in Germany ’99. I remember we started the gig after the intro so ran on stage to start rocking in front of approximately 15 to 20,000 metal fans when we noticed that we had no lights.

Guitarist Robb Weir looked at the side of the stage to see the lighting guy fast asleep. He must have been really excited to be doing the lights. A swift kick to the shins and he soon woke up. Actually that show was recorded and Live at Wacken ‘99 was the last album I did at Neat records’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a few demos in those early years after Axizz with bands such as Chase, Ladykillers, Kickout and a more metal version of punk band The Fiend. We used Desert Sounds in Felling quite a lot. Nothing ever came of those demos but it was fun anyway.

I recorded with Blitzkrieg (twice) and Tygers of Pan Tang at the famous Impulse Studios in Wallsend, home of Neat Records. I have some great memories of doing those albums and the times spent in the studio’.

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‘Things had changed for me by late summer ’87, I had joined Blitzkrieg as guitarist. Initially there were a few line ups shuffles then we signed to Neat records. Recording Ten years of Blitzkrieg was a blast and always interesting. The drummer Gary Young from Avenger /Repulsive Vision fame was in the band at the time and was always a hoot. We had Keith Nichol doing the engineering who did a great job.

I also remember Tribe of Toffs coming into the studio to do an interview with a local radio station guy. They were famous at the time for doing a novelty hit record John Kettley is a Weatherman. God knows who had the bright idea to let them in the studio where we were recording. They came in and told us to be quiet! You can imagine our response.

Ten years of Blitzkrieg took only about 3 weeks to record although it was a mini album anyway. It’s now considered an underground classic and highly sort after by NWOBHM enthusiasts and collectors. I don’t think there were a lot pressed initially maybe a thousand or so if that. Ten years of Blitzkrieg was licensed out from Neat records to the Roadrunner label for Europe 1991 – and we didn’t receive a penny’.

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Blitzkrieg’s album Mists of Avalon was a different affair. It was hard work and we were committed to making a great album so it was more serious and I suppose more professional. The great thing about that time was although it was much harder due to the volume of material we were recording, it was also much smoother. Mainly due to the drummer Mark Hancock getting his drum tracks down in in one to two takes each time. What a star.

I had a lot of the stuff written even before I re-joined Blitzkrieg in 1997. In fact I had so much material that we could of ended up with a double album, which actually we nearly did. Myself and vocalist Brian Ross had and still have a good relationship. We bounced vocal ideas off each other. I think we came up with some pretty interesting stuff. The album did take a while.

I remember working 6 weeks straight every day apart from Sunday’s as I was pretty much overseeing the whole project and was doing some pre-production. After 6 weeks I was burned out so I had to take a break. I think we got back together after a couple of weeks after that and finished the album. Not as long as a Def Leppard album I suppose’.

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‘Unfortunately in the background there was some political stuff going on which made that album suffer in the long term. Keith Nichol who was the long standing Neat engineer, started the album with us but he had a dispute with the label. He left their employment shortly after. I have nothing against Keith personally I respect him however being honest the recording that he had done with us was not good. I can only assume by this point he just didn’t care much.

He indulged himself in recording techniques that weren’t suited to our material. This caused us some problems later when mixing as it couldn’t be undone unless we re-recorded and we simply didn’t have the time or funds. At least that is what we were told.

If you listen to the album you can hear the mix getting a bit better later on when it was kind of salvaged to a certain degree by the new engineer Pete Carr. He came on board to help us out.

Then the mastering didn’t help the situation either. It sounded lifeless and it also ended up with a truly terrible album cover. Possibly one of the worst album/cd covers ever. We did some covers as well as the original material. They have never been released or re-mixed.

There is a cover of Enter Sandman, an Alice Cooper song and there is a cover of Ace of Spades with myself on lead vocals. They sounded great. It’s a shame nothing was done with those extra tracks. I really wish I could have the master tapes and re-mix and re-record stuff on that album’.

‘Finally Mists was released in 1998 on Neat Metal records which was an updated version of Neat, and ran by original Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jess Cox. Just as it was about to be released Jess lost his distribution in Japan which would of made up a large part of our sales at the time. It seemed like a disaster. It wasn’t well received at the time by the fans however strangely a lot of critics seemed to like it.

On the positive side it did give off an old school vibe which had a charm about it. People have picked up on that and seem to enjoy the album. These days all I get is compliments about that album. It’s funny how time can change perspectives’.

‘I also had a side project called Earthrod which I formed with ex Blitzkrieg drummer Mark Hancock. I did all the vocals and guitars Mark did all the drums, keyboards and recording. We knocked out two albums in the noughties. Screaming in Digital and the second was called Acts of God. It was an experimental project and was recorded in Marks kitchen.

To be honest it wasn’t actually meant to be done full time. We had some interest but we couldn’t manage to keep a line up mainly as the stuff was too hard to play. It was a great experience though’.

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Saracen in the fog.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Working for Saracen at the Legion Club in South Shields in the early 80’s I was put on smoke machine duty. Saracen are on stage rocking away. I pushed the button to put a little smoke on stage however Les the bass player kept shouting more, more ! I was only a bairn at the time so I did as I was told.

Before you knew it the whole concert room was full of stage smoke. You couldn’t see the band at all. We had to open all the doors and windows to get rid of it. I got a right royal telling off from the vocalist Louie Taylor. Les never told him it was his fault ha ha’.

‘It was around 1983 I was with some friends and my girlfriend and we were waiting at the bus stop to take us down town to see Saracen at Bolingbroke Hall, South Shields. I saw the bus and started going towards it somehow I managed to get a nail stuck in my little finger that was sticking out of a fence close by. It had gone right into my finger down to the bone.

My friends called my dad who came and when he saw the situation he had no choice but to saw the fence. I eventually got free and went to hospital.

The Nurses and Doctors were pissing themselves laughing when they saw me coming in holding a fence. After laughing his knackers off the doctor removed the nail and fence that came with it and bandaged me up. I still have the scar to prove it.

We still got to Bolingbroke Hall to see Saracen and rushed up to the stage. Soon as I raised my right fist in the air complete with bandage, the bass player Les Wilson fell over and split his jeans. Tackle out and everything ha ha. You couldn’t make it up’.

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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.

ALIVE AND KICKING with Desolation Angels guitarist Robin Brancher

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Checking out some books in a charity shop I came across two which I’d read in the 1990’s – Trainspotting and The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail. Flicking through the pages I remembered the storylines. It’s similar to picking up a Heavy Metal album from the 1980’s – Judas Priest, Scorpions, Accept. I’d remember the tracks.

Listening to the new album by Desolation Angels recall’s that sound. The thwack of drums, twin guitar attack, powerful vocals, relentless energy. Slower tracks crunch and crackle. Yep, just like that. A quick check on who produced the album and Chris Tsangarides was the man behind the desk. It figures.

CT produced some of the classic heavy rock and metal albums during the 1980’s. Thin Lizzy’s Thunder & Lightning, Forged in Fire by Anvil and Spellbound from Tygers of Pan Tang. I asked Robin how did working with CT come about ?
‘The situation with Chris T came about through John Wiggins of Tokyo Blade. John and I talk quite regularly about what our bands are are up to, and the state of music industry in general. And it was through one of these conversations that the idea of Chris coming together with Desolation Angels for our next album. Cheers for that John’.

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‘CT has his studio out near Kingsdown in Kent which is situated on a lovely part of the English coastline. His studio occupies a set of buildings on a large camping site which overlook the English Channel. Bands also get the use of a discounted crew lodge on the site to stay in. That really does help, as it’s fully kitted out and just a stones throw away from the studio itself.

A short walking distance away are two pub’s, Zetland Arms, and The Rising Sun. Without these two highly essential recuperating dwellings the recording process would fail.

How long did you record for and did he tell you any stories ? ‘We recorded for about a month. This was done in weekly stints. I think the first one was a ten day shift, just to get settled in, and move the recording on. Then back for the vocals, overdubbing and mixing.

Did Chris tell any stories? If there’s one fella on this planet that can tell you a story, it is without any doubt our man Chris Tsangarides! I’m surprised he hasn’t been inducted into The Guinness Book Of World Records for story telling! Yes indeed he told many a wild and wonderful story.

To hear about Phil Lynott and his rampaging, to hear how the intro to Judas Priest’s Painkiller came about. To hear about the many laughs CT had with Gary Moore and to hear about the dealings with record companies, good and bad. Just to hear him talk about his own personal life journey – the man is held in very high regard in the rock world, and now in Desolation Angels too.

The man is a legend, and rightfully so. I would think it would be safe to say that Desolation Angels will be back to work on the next set of songs with Chris. Now that we know him, and how he works, I can only see an even better album being produced’.

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When did you start playing gigs, what venues did you play and did you support name touring bands ? ‘We started a band straight away. In rehearsals we would play mostly Quo, Queen, Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash. We were very quick off the mark when writing our own songs and put them in the set straight away. However this first line-up never gigged so we had to make a few changes’.

The line-up for Desolation Angels during the 1980’s was Dave Wall (voice) Robin Brancher (guitars) Keith Sharp (guitars) Joe Larner (bass) and Brett Robertson (drums). ’There were plenty of rock pubs and clubs in London and all over the UK in those days and it was either 1979 or ’80 when we went downstairs at The Rock Garden in Covent Garden, London to play our first gig.

Then we entered a talent competition in a rock pub in Wembley. I remember we played three songs. One of our own called Just Fantasy and two covers, Jumping Jack Flash done in the style of Johnny Winter and Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. Of which the latter won us the competition. Our prize being a crate of warm beer.

I’ll always remember the crowd appreciation as we came to the finale of the song. Hands in the air clapping, whistling and shouting for more…man adulation tasted sweet – certainly better than the warm beer!’

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Desolation Angels went on to support Diamond Head at The Electric Stadium in Chadwell Heath in 1981. And in the same year at the same venue we supported Samson. That was when Bruce Dickinson was in the line-up. Back then he was very helpful, supportive and encouraging.

We also supported Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts and then a whole host of acts once we got into the Marquee in Wardour Street, London. That was a great time. To be honest, Desolation Angels was, and still is, focussed on doing our own shows. We put a lot of effort into them. Not only musically, but also the theatrics too, plenty of pyrotechnics, smoke, lights, the whole show, and as big a PA as we could afford. Which was pretty substantial back then!

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‘Talking about Bruce Dickinson though, shortly after the Electric Stadium gig Desolation Angels went on to play a gig at The White Heart in Acton. Bruce said he would come along but he didn’t show up. That is, not until after our set.

When we met him at the bar, he made his apologies for being late. But went on to tell us in the strictest of confidence, that he had got an unexpected call from the Iron Maiden management, asking him to go along for another audition with the Iron Maiden guys. The thing was while we were talking with Bruce you could see that he had a twinkle in his eyes, and he seemed extra excited.

The news hadn’t been announced in any of the music press yet, but he was sure he had got the job as the replacement for Paul Di’Anno. As everybody knows, he certainly did get the gig with Iron Maiden. But it was still very noble and cool of him to turn up at our little gig in Acton and confide in us. I expect that after such an event he had just experienced, he really did need that beer!’

‘Also, and this is for the guitar aficionados. While I was backstage at the Electric Stadium, Paul Samson was there warming up on his trademark Gibson SG. By the side of him, he had two other guitars, both in fitted cases. He opened them up and inside were these Half Moon custom made guitars, really unusual shape. One was a yellow kinda sunburst colour, the other I can’t remember. He used one of them mid set in their gig, the yellow one I think.

I was itching to pick one up and have a go, but man, I just daren’t. Paul was rock royalty, and I didn’t wanna overstep the mark. It would be nice to know where those guitars are today?’

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What were your early experiences of recording ? ‘Around 1981 Desolation Angels first recorded a demo at Legend Studios in Sidcup, Kent – we think it was there. It may of been two demo’s at separate times, we can’t really remember it was well over 30 years ago. The tracks recorded at that time where, Satan’s Child, Death Machine, Unsung Hero and All Hallows Eve. They are on our box set, Feels Like Thunder’.

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When did Desolation Angels make the move to LA and what was the reason behind the move ? ‘We moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and lived there for 7 years. We had been gigging regular at a club in Shepherds Bush in London. It was the guy who managed the club, John Feely, who suggested that LA might be a good move for us. He had contacts out there and a band already playing at clubs along the ‘Strip. It must have taken about a second to confirm that we would go!’

‘We played many cities across the states. There was one gig in Las Vegas, now that was a night to remember, or maybe to forget ! After playing the gig we had an extremely boozy night and the whole band and it’s entourage were rounded up and thrown out of the hotel. Then our vans and trucks were surrounded by a convoy of police cars and escorted by state troopers out of Las Vagas to the Nevada state line.

We eventually got to a casino on the border and ended up in the restaurant having a breakfast of steak ‘n’ eggs and more beers. We looked out on to the foyer and on display was the bullet ridden car of Bonnie and Clyde ! Hmmm, that kinda made you think !’

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘The whole thing of being in a rock band is basically funny all the time, and strenuous too, everyday. There’s always something going on that you can look back and laugh at! Spinal Tap and Bad News spring to mind!

I have a few stories from back in the day. I remember playing a small pub somewhere and after finishing one of our numbers, our bassist Joe Larner ordered a pint of Guinness from a tiny hole/bar in the wall at his side of the stage. The pint took ages to settle and we were all there waiting and watching, including the audience. Joe finally got his pint, paid for it right there on stage and held it up high as a salute to the audience. Then took a great glug of the grog and we carried on. It was a rapturous night!’

‘There was the time when we were driving down the A12 going to Norfolk for a gig. Another motorist was flashing our van. When we stopped, the guy said something was not quite right with our back axle. What happened was the pin in the back axle had snapped, and the vans back wheels were way out of alignment with the front wheels. We were basically going along the road side wards. We had been driving along like a crab for miles haha’.

At the time where you aware the impact that Heavy Metal & NWOBHM was having and has had since ? ‘Rock music, rock clubs, rock venues were everywhere. Great Heavy Metal and NWOBHM bands just seemed to be on all the time. Back then every second pub had a Rock night. Keith Sharp and I quickly got into heavier sounding music at an early age. Once into that scene, you could find Rock/Metal music everywhere.

We would watch bands at the Marquee who would later go on to headline at the Hammersmith Odeon. Or bands at the Ruskin Arms and other London clubs where Iron Maiden, and others including us would regularly play. We weren’t really aware that we were going through a moment in rock music history that was going to be so well documented as it is these days. The impact for me was all the great bands that I got to see and learn from. You could never imagine it coming to an end.

I’m obviously very glad that these days there is such a vast interest in NWOBHM, and Rock/Metal music as a whole. It seems that there is no stopping it’s popularity. And that my friend is a darn good thing!’

What has music given you ? ‘Life! No seriously, it has given me life. Here I am at this grand age, haha. I’m still slim, fit and healthy. Alright, I admit my hearing might of suffered a tad over the years, my hair is a mess, and I’m mighty damned cynical too. But otherwise, I’m still very much right there in the thick of it, at the front for the fight for Rock ’N’ Roll music. It ain’t ever gonna die, that’s for sure, it’s just to cool !’

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The present line-up for Desolation Angels is Paul Taylor (voice) Robin Brancher (guitars) Keith Sharp (guitars) Clive Chief’O’ Pearson (bass) and Chris Takka (drums).Desolation Angels are very much alive and kicking. I have a great band and team around us to keep me motivated and sure-footed. I’m driven by the thirst for more Heavy Metal. I still believe. I can still dream too. Dreaming’s good. I still have goals. There always seems to be one more riff lurking on the fretboard. It’s my job to chase the bloody thing down then ram it out through amplification as LOUD as possible!

As you can imagine being in a band you get subjected to a hell of a lot more bonkers situations along life’s whirlwind ride than you might do in the average nine to five world. And when you have music as good as what we have produced right there on the recent KING album, believe me – it’s very hard to put something like that down. To walk away from it. To say that’s the end. To say, you know what, I’ve had enough. No, I don’t think so. I’m in it for good. That’s what the music has given me! ‘

What are the future plans for Desolation Angels ? ‘Recently there has been some very significant news released about Desolation Angels signing a new deal with UK record company Dissonance Productions. This signing will drastically lift our profile and see the band gigging a hell of a lot more. Plus, some new songs are already in place as there is plans to record a new album in the near future. So, yes, really exciting times ahead. We cant wait!’

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Desolation Angels next gig is Sunday December 3rd 2017 at the Hard Rock Hell (NWOBHM) Xmas Rocka 2 held at the O2 Academy in Sheffield, UK. On the bill are headliners Raven plus Diamond Head, Satan, Seventh Son and more. Tickets on sale now.

You can find the latest info, gigs, photo’s, history and new album KING can be bought from the official website http://www.desolationangels.co.uk.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

BACKLINE – interview with former Stage Hand and Lighting Designer PAR CAN

You’re down the front at one of your first concerts, and start looking around at how the stage is set up, drumkit on a riser at the back, cabinets at either side with their power light’s switched to red. There’s a couple of microphone stands across the front. With lights above the stage on each side. There is movement at the back. The light’s in the hall go out. The Roar.

But who sets this all up ? From small clubs to huge enormodomes somebody has to load the gear on stage and have it all in place for showtime – stagehands and technicians – the crew. They are skilled in rigging, electrics, audio, video/projection, and handling the occasional prop. During shows they are responsible for operating the systems and for the maintenance and repair of the equipment.

To get to know what goes on behind the scenes I talked to former Stage hand and Lighting Designer PAR CAN (some of you reading this will know his ‘real name’…)

After taking my O levels in Summer ’77, it was obvious to my parents I was not settling into my A levels; especially as I had bunked off school to hang around the City Hall way too many times over the previous three and a half years and a medical career was just not going to happen.

My mother (God rest her soul) worked at the Civic Centre in Newcastle and had a word with Bob Brown, the Newcastle City Hall manager, who had a word with then City Hall Stage Manager Colin Rowell.
Colin rang me and said  “Come and see me ’10 o’clock tomorrow, don’t be late”.
Next day 16th October 1977 and Wishbone Ash was my first paid stage crew gig. I was in !

What music did you listen to ? I was already an Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Deep Purple fan when as an early 11th birthday present my parents bought me several concert tickets for the City Hall.
The first ever gig I went to was Mott The Hoople on 18th February 1972… cannot for the life of me remember IF there was an opening act ?

Over the next 3 or 4 years, I saw great concerts from bands like Bowie, The Doors, The Faces, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis, Rory Gallagher and Queen. mostly thanks to my mother knowing City Hall manager.

In 1973 I was introduced via Radio Luxembourg to a new band called Queen, they played Keep Yourself Alive, I flipped over them. Doing various Saturday jobs in a local bakery, bicycle shop and newsagents made me some money to indulge in my new found passion of buying records.

Trips to the record shops in Newcastle became a habit and that is where imports by Kiss, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and another favourite of mine, Todd Rundgren were bought. Because of Todd, I bought the first New York Dolls album…I loved it !

Ian Hunter, Mott The HoopleThe Jack Tar Hotel , San Francisco Francisco 8/70  sheet 693 frame 27

Mott the Hoople

‘In November 1973 I was 12 year old and went to Gosforth Grammar school. I was tall for my age and a rugby player. I don’t recall how but come the day of the Mott the Hoople gig I didn’t have a ticket for the show and was desperate, but had no idea about touts or how else to get a ticket for a sold out show. I was in school assembly when I had a brainstorm and walked out. I got a bus straight to the City Hall and hung around the stage door. If memory serves me right there were 2 x 7½ ton trucks parked outside.

About an hour later, the stage door opened and a bunch of hairy gits ambled out, opened the trucks and load in had begun. I watched, said nowt, I was not exactly Mr Outgoing and besides, what the hell would I have said !

Next thing I knew a bloke (I now know was Philip John, long time Mott roadie) was trying to unload an electric piano by himself and was about to fall, he shouted to me ‘gimme a fuckin’ ‘and will ya’. I didn’t think, just helped him take the piano onstage and looked out onto the empty hall. I was dumbstruck ! Have you ever stood on a stage while equipment is being set up ? Then you will understand.

I ended up helping to unload the last of Mott’s backline with the roadcrew Phil, Richie and Stan. I tried convincing them I was 16, but for whatever reason they took pity when I told them I was a huge Mott and Queen fan. When I told them I was 16 they didn’t believe me. Stan the tour manager, said he would let me in that night for helping with the gear. I was in heaven’.

‘At the time a guy called Moose was City Hall Stage Manager and he just let me hang around and help out…thankfully. He let me ‘work’ other gigs over the next 2 and a half years until Colin Rowell took over in 1976.

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Rick Lefrack

Obviously, I had no idea how to wire things up, but Rick Lefrack the American Lighting Director asked me to sit at the Lighting Board and push channel faders as he called for them from the stage, my first time ‘focussing’. That was it. Any hopes of an academic career died right there and then.

I bunked off school regularly over the next two and a half years and got to know a few of the Stage Crew who were mostly really canny geezers, but some were a right bunch of dour fuckers !

ROTH

Dave Lee Roth and Neil ‘Alex’ Hall.

Some of the stage crew then were Neil ‘Alex’ Hall who would end up working for Van Halen and became Dave Lee Roths assistant. Dave Verow who would work for The Who and Tina Turner among others. Peter and Gordon Barden ‘The Twins’ who somehow ended up in Dallas working for Showco with Genesis, Lynyrd Skynrd and Bad Company.

Paul Devine who worked for Pink Floyd on the Animals and Wall tours became Iron Maiden’s lighting designer in the late 80’s and now works on BBC Question Time. Richard ‘Bald Eagle’ Anderson who went onto work for Audiolease (sound) on several Motorhead tours.

Dave Verow 01

Dave Verow.

Now you were part of the stage crew did you focus on a particular role ? ‘A month after Colin Rowell added me to his stage crew, my favourite band The Tubes were coming to town. The Hall was a bit quiet in November ’77 not too many shows needing 6 or more stage crew so I was able to follow The Tubes around the UK.

Thanks to The Tubes Stage Manager Chopper Borges and the lighting crew I was able to blag myself onto the crew bus and again, got my foot in their door and that was the biggest change to my life, but more of that later’.

‘So from October ’76 to April ’78 I was part time stage crew. I was making a lame attempt at my A levels to keep my parents quiet. In April ’78 I took a ferry to Holland and joined The Tubes tour. All went well until singer Fee Waybill broke his leg in Leicester on May 9th’.

‘The next day instead of doing the show in Coventry the remaining 18 shows were cancelled. The following day the crew were back in London. Unloading the lighting and sound equipment into the TFA Electrosound warehouse. I spent the next week helping to dismantle and store the lighting equipment getting to know the staff there and as fate would have it I was invited to see Queen at Wembley Arena as a guest for three nights.

May 11-13th, meeting Queen crew Crystal, Jobby and Ratty, which as fate would have it played a part in my future. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough work to keep me in London plus I didn’t have a place to live and sleeping on one of the lighting crew’s sofa wasn’t a great solution!

So Colin Rowell asked me to come back to the City Hall and I worked there almost exclusively from May 1978 to May 1979 when The Tubes went on tour again’.

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‘Apart from the odd few days at TFA doing warehouse work mainly wiring bars of 6 PAR CANS. I did however do Bette Midler at the London Palladium for five days in September 1978 as a lampie for TFA, my first paid crew gig. That was with Penny Fitzgerald and Nigel Gibbons, both now sadly dead. We all know when the ‘stars’ die, especially 2016, but man… I lost a lot of old crew mates in 2015/6 and so far this year, 6 other crew I worked with over the years have died; mostly from various cancers.

The summer of 1978 a lot of the old hands moved to London so we needed new guys. That’s when I brought in Alan ‘Alla’ Armstrong, Kev ’Bessie & the Zinc Buckets’ Charlton, Ian ‘Ryles’ Rylance, Gary ‘Lil’ Lillee and Dave Linney and Ainsley…The Sheels Mafia were now in residence!’

SHEELS
The Tubes were managed by a guy called Rikki Farr, he had set up the 1970 Isle of Wight festival among other things, one of which was setting up a sound & light company, TFA Electrosound. They were one of the ‘go to companies’ at the time, so in 1978/9 we saw many tours come to the City Hall using TFA equipment. I got to know a lot of the TFA crews, which would be a great help to me in the near future.

I was always more fascinated by lights, so when The Tubes toured again in 1979 stage manager Chopper Borges rang me and said be in Glasgow the day before the opening night as load in was a day early so the band could have a few hours rehearsal.

I worked with the lighting crew, one of whom was Simon Tutchener who would be the last Lighting Designer Queen used with Freddie Mercury in 1986. I would start at 9am putting the rigging in the roof with Simon, assemble, wire and repair the rig with Simon and the other tech Bob Birch. Then focusing with director Tom Birch who worked for The Eagles for many years.

I ran a follow spot for both support act Squeeze and during The Tubes set to earn extra money. After the show we tore everything down put it in the three Edwin Shirley trucks and drove to the next city overnight.

I made lifelong friends on that tour, the lighting crew, The Tubes crew and the band themselves whom I will be seeing when they tour the UK this year with Alice Cooper in November. I worked for TFA Electrosound until they went bankrupt in the Norton Warburg financial fiasco in 1981/82. Pink Floyd lost over £2 million ! After that I was completely self employed and worked for anyone that paid’.

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Van Halen, Newcastle City Hall 17th June 1980.

What are the logistics to setting a band up on stage ? ‘It primarily depends on who it is you are working for. Setting up for Abba and Queen weren’t as complicated as you may assume. Most bands have teams of legal and technical folk who plan the logistics. So by the time I would be involved it was mostly looking at lighting and staging plans, then building the systems as directed.

Local North East UK band The Kane Gang was my personal hell on earth tour ! They should never have gone on tour, they had no stage presence; Really lovely guys, but terrible live. They and their management hadn’t a clue what they were doing. They were totally disorganized.

The week before the opening night tour manager Harry was ringing me in Newcastle every hour trying desperately to organize rehearsals and power generators ! ‘Yeah sure Harry I will just magically organize a venue and power for you at the drop of a hat’.

I remember trying to book Tiffanys nightclub in Newcastle – what a bunch of arse holes running the place, they wanted utterly ridiculous amounts of money plus a list of demands longer than a Queen rider! Needless to say none of this happened.

Plus half the gigs were either cancelled or rearranged into smaller venues. If I remember rightly even the London date at Hammersmith Palais was cancelled. Imagine your first tour and you can’t even play London. They really should never have toured, and remained a studio band.

They were really lovely guys and I liked the music but man the people around them really hadn’t a clue. I’m sure I will get grief for saying all of this. But look at their career and tell me I am wrong. The Kane Gang had their 10 minutes but pretty much sank without trace’.
(Martin Brammer ex-Kane Gang, did work in a studio and went on to write and produce songs for James Morrison, James Bay and Olly Murs).

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‘But in their defence I have to admit that was not a good time for me. I was in the grip of Absinthe, Jack Daniels and Cocaine. Not addiction, but certainly abuse and I completely lost sight of what was important. I just wanted to get back to America ASAP.

During load in at a gig in Leeds University I smashed my right hand as we had decided to use the theatrical fly bars instead of our trussing…big mistake. The fly bars collapsed and all but crushed my right hand. I broke my wrist, three fingers and a bone in the hand…it bloody hurt!

After being patched up at Jimmys (St James’ Hospital made famous in the TV documentary) I got back to the venue where Harry was waiting to ‘have a word’. It was decided I should go home….basically I was fired – the nerve. I breathed a sigh of relief, caught the train back to Newcastle for a week then flew to San Francisco to start planning the next tour by The Tubes – Love Bomb’.

‘I was a roadie/lighting designer/rigger until The Clash Of The Tytans tour finished at Wembley Arena in October 1990. By then it was 13 solid years without a break and a lot of abuse. I had to get away or I was going to die !

What I should have done was take a 3 month holiday, instead, I retired, flew home to Newcastle and my mother took one look at me and nearly fainted. 5 months later I was married. Don’t regret the marriage, but even today I bitterly regret the career change’.

Lastly what do you think of the Motorhead track ‘We Are The Road Crew’ ?
Personally I love it… and most crews I know do too. I think however, it’s of its time, because the more I see of modern touring life and the ‘young guns’ running things, part of me doesn’t miss it. The FUN side of things seems to be a dirty word now. It always was a BUSINESS, but that’s ALL it is now’.

House light’s up there’s no encore.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.