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

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

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Or you might know him from his work on McAuley Schenker albums ‘Perfect Timing’ in 1987 and ‘Save Yourself’ 1989…. ‘In 1985 I played on the Rock Me Amadeus tour for Austrian star Falco. Then I got an invitation to go to London and audition for Michael Schenker. I was drummer number 64, and 2 weeks later I was in the rehearsal room with Michael Schenker. I played for 5 years with his band. We recorded the albums and made music video’s for songs like Love is Not a Game, Anytime and This is My Heart. After that I joined the German prog rock band Eloy in 1994, 3 albums and many tours followed. In 2007 I played again with Michael Schenker, then back with Eloy until 2013. In 2014 I founded with vocalist David Readman the band Pendulum of Fortune. We are currently doing promotion for our album Searching for the God Inside and then we are preparing for our upcoming live shows’.

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

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Pendulum of Fortune

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I’ve played music since I was 5 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 3 years, that was my school of music, my education. Afterwards I played in a band called Wolfhound then for 3 years in the back up band for Ike and Tina Turner that took me through the 70’s. I also worked with the band Juicy Lucy, then played 3 years with UK band The Sweet, followed by a tour with the German rockstar and composer Udo Lindenberg’.

Have you recorded any TV appearences 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’.

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Have you any funny stories from being in a band/playing gigs ? ‘Oh yes, there would be hundreds of stories but one story I have to tell, because I love the British humor. We were with MSG on tour with Def Leppard. The drummer Rick Allen, who had only one arm left 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!’

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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’.

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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 inbetween 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’.

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‘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’.

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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 Orbinson, Queen, UFO, Van Halen, Scorpions, Motorhead and NWOBHM. I do have a lot of other favourites and got into some of the heavier stuff like Annihilator and Testament from the late 80’s onwards’.

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Ritchie Blackmore

How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘Growing up in the UK through the early 70’s I used to get excited every time I heard a guitar song on the radio or tv. I didn’t understand what it was at the time but knew I was feeling it somewhere deep inside. Then watching Top of the Pops I knew the name of the bands. It was Sweet, Slade and Marc Bolan, the distorted guitar was doing it for me but I was still too young to understand that it was an electric guitar with a distorted amp or fuzz pedal. The big revelation came when I heard my first proper heavy rock song. You guessed it. Smoke on the Water. I was still wet behind the ears at the time so still didn’t take it all in. I was a listener at this point and had no desire to become a musician but I did fantasise of being Ritchie Blackmore or Angus Young on stage. As you do.
The love for music especially Rock and Metal grew as I entered my teens getting to the point where I became obsessed, which I still am. My parents bought me a flying V copy from a shop on the Haymarket, Newcastle when I was 15. It was black but I really wanted to look like KK Downing or Michael Schenker, even though I wasn’t blonde. So I had it sprayed white. Ironically because I was just starting to learn I was pretty crap and my friends were away ahead of me, so I got roped into singing. So I was originally a singer not a guitar player’.

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Saracen

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ was it watching a band or hearing a particular song ? ‘What really did it for me was that we used to go and watch Saracen rehearse at this prefab in West Park, South Shields. There were also other bands rehearsing there like Hollow Ground we used to watch. I remember the first time I saw Saracen rehearse they blew me away. They were older than us and much more experienced. The singer was Louie Taylor, the guitar player was Steve Dawson, bass Les Wilson and drummer Dave Johnson. They had all the top gear. Louie sang like Ian Gillan and Steve played and even looked like Blackmore a bit. These guys were pro’.
(Interviews on this blog with Lou Taylor, Rock the Knight February 2017 and Steve Dawson, Long Live Rock n Roll April 2017). ‘I remember thinking to myself, it can be done and it is possible you can achieve something by playing rock music. What they taught me apart from professionalism was that anything is possible and you could create a truly great rock band which I considered Saracen to be. I still consider the Saracen lads Louie and Steve in particular to be mentors’.

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Satan at St Hilda’s Youth Club 1982.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘There were a few venues knocking about in my home town however my favourite and most visited was The British Legion. I used to go and watch bands there all the time. I don’t know how I got in as I was clearly under age. Not only bands that my peers where in but I suppose what you would call name bands as well. I have some great memories of seeing Saracen, Polaris, Zig-Zag, Phasslayne, Fist, Mandora, Cups, Avenger and many others’.

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

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

Chase

Glenn taking a break lying down in Chase.

‘Post 1987 I moved on to playing the international circuit with Blitzkrieg, Avenger, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist and other named bands. Playing at festival shows such as Wacken Gemany, Metal Melt Down USA, Headbangers Open Air Germany, Heavy Metal Night 9 Italy, Keep It True Germany, all over Europe. Also tours supporting the likes of Y&T. I remember playing with Blitzkrieg around 1990 we played the Newcastle University and instead of receiving payment in money we got 11 crates of Brown Ale. Our drummer Gary Young was so happy!

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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’.

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‘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’.

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Saracen

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

Fist April

Fist

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

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‘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.

LOOKING FOR A KISS – Last Great Dreamers guitarist Slyder Smith

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

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

1989
‘More recently we have toured with The Runaways’ Cherie Currie on her first UK tour for over 30 years, this was very special as it felt like we were properly back and not just on a nostalgia trip. We had just released our first brand new single Dope School and the tour was an amazing experience being our first proper tour for over 20 years. Following that was a UK tour with Tigertailz in 2016, again a great tour and another new single release with Glitterball Apocalypse’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more info/live dates/tickets/pics contact the band on the official website
http://www.lastgreatdreamers.com

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.

Recommended:

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

WILDHEART: Looks That Kill 2nd January 2017.

MR MYST: Dream On 26th January 2018.

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 rememberd 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’.

Who were your first influences in music ? ‘Well back in the day along with the Holy Trinity of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. Keith Sharp and I were headlong into rock music and went to a lot of gigs. We listened to UFO, Free, Montrose, The Cult, The Doors, Ted Nugent, to be truthful, this list is just a small portion of what we were into. And we were into our music in a big way’.

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How did you get involved in playing music and was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ’When we were teenagers we lived in a small town called Woodford in Essex, not far from London. Keith Sharp and I would hang out with a crowd of local boys n girls. Mainly at the off-licence, chatting and trying it on with the girls. The lady who worked at the offy would sell us a can of beer each time we turned up. And I mean that. She would only allow one can per visit, per day. We would play loads of football over the at the nearby park, just being normal kids. But behind that adolescent scene Keith and I had discovered the BBC music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test. Things with the local crowd had taken a marked change. For Keith and I this scene was becoming stagnant, predictable and just mundane. We wanted something different and we were defiantly looking for more adventure!
Both of us were listening to a heavier sound of music compared to our friends. We were into Quo, Alice Cooper and Slade. Even Dutch prog rockers Focus were in there too. Every week without fail we would religiously watch The Old Grey Whistle Test. The presenter Whispering Bob Harris was our man with his finger on the pulse of everything Rock ’n’ Roll. And the pair of us constantly talked about music. So much so that the change from talking music to playing it, was hardly noticeable. Instead of meeting the usual gang down at the off-licence we would now play guitar together at every free moment. This was the start of the move away from the regular world, into our musical adventure’.

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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 adultation tasted sweet – cartainly 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 suported 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 regulary at a club in Sheperds 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!’

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‘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 alignement with the front wheels. We were basically going along the road sidewards. 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!’

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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, thats 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! ‘

NOW5

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.

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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 3 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 !

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Newcastle City Hall, UK.

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 !

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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 2 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 !

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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.

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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’.

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‘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’.

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‘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 3 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 5 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 focussing 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 3 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 employd 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 disorganised. The week before the opening night tour manager Harry was ringing me in Newcastle every hour trying desperately to organise rehearsals and power generators ! ‘Yeah sure Harry I will just magically organise 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 arseholes 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 defense I have to admit that was not a good time for me. I was in the grip of Absynthe, 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, 3 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 Fransisco to start planning the next tour by The Tubes – Love Bomb’.

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‘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’.

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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.

DOCTOR ROCK – Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Robb Weir

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How did you get involved in music and who were your influences ? ‘I was born in Ghana. My dad was working for the British Colonial Service out in West Africa as a doctor/surgeon specialising in tropical medicine. His transport in those days was a horse, and with two saddle bags full of medical supplies. Dad travelled from village to village coming across things like black magic and cannibalism. In 1959 my mum wanted to return home to the UK and in particular the North East of England. When we came home Dad worked as a medical officer of health and later went into general practise in South Shields. To get to work my father had to get the ferry across the river Tyne from North Shields to South Shields. One day he came home with a nylon strung Spanish guitar. He bought it from a junk shop I think. Dad was very musical and had trained in classical piano. To be honest he could pretty much play anything. He thought it might be fun for me to try and learn how to play. In our house there were records by Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles and the Stones and I used to play along with them. I didn’t have any music lessons I basically taught myself how to play, I’m still learning one day I’ll get the hang of it!’

‘I started listening to Slade, Status Quo, Black Sabbath and then around 1974 I started going to the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair to see every band you can think of. I became great friends with the manager of the Mayfair, Steven Lister who worked for the Mecca Association. I’d ring him up and ask who was playing and he’d leave my name on the guest list. I think it was after the first time Tygers of Pan Tang played there in ’79 that we became friends’.

 

The Tygers of Pan Tang formed in Whitley Bay in 1978 and by the early 80’s they had a lot of success. But can you pinpoint the time when the Tygers career took off ? ‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Recording studios in Wallsend and recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’ It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers launching the label and giving the Neat label a direction. Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label. Our drummer’s girlfriend used to sell the single for us on the door of the venues we played like the Boilermakers in Sunderland, the Central club in Ashington and other workingmen’s clubs in the North East of England. That’s the gigs we used to play in the early days before the big time arrived. At that time workingmen’s clubs were full of men from the shipyards and mines. Most had long hair, jeans, tattoos and listened to rock music. All around the country the rock scene on a Friday night was huge and all the shows were packed. To see a band you had to get your arse out of the house, go to the bus stop in the pouring rain and get to the club. You couldn’t see a concert on the internet in those days! We were definitly in the right place at the right time’.

‘Don’t Touch Me There’ was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference to awareness so the next pressing was 4,000 copies! Then Dave Woods the label owner at Neat records was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. So MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single! But our success still hadn’t really sunk in. We were caught up in the moment I guess, you’re just in a giant musical blender getting whizzed around with all the other acts. One of my more defining moments was when the album Wildcat came out. I got my first physical copy of it in my hand and showed my parents. They said yes that’s great but it would be nice if you got a proper job! I guess they just wanted the best for their son.’

Were you aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal ? ‘Only when I read about it in Sounds! It was a 3 or 4 page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he coined the phrase NWOBHM. Geoff wrote about 4 bands initially – Iron Maiden from London, Def Leppard from Sheffield, Saxon from Barnsley and the Tygers from Whitley Bay. Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh ha-ha. Listening back to Wildcat I didn’t realise how much punk had jumped into my head song writing wise. Well a rock voice on any song from Never Mind the Bollocks album would have turned that iconic punk album into a hard rock album. Steve Jones with his Les Paul and Marshall stack – had a great hard rock sound’.

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The Tygers were originally a 4 piece then changed to a 5 with the addition of guitarist John Sykes… ‘We recorded Wildcat in Morgan Studio’s in Willesden, North London with Chris Tsangarides producing. We had just finished 11 days recording the album – which was very quick. We’d been playing those songs on Wildcat for 2 years on the road so we knew them inside out and for the recording process. Chris just put forward a few production ideas. For example, I played a guitar solo through a Lesley cabinet which is normally associated with keyboard players. The top of the cabinet has horns inside and they spin when activated. So Chris had this idea of playing the guitar through it to see what it would sound like. He was quite inventive and it worked really well. I think we recorded the harmonic bit in Slave to Freedom that way and something else I can’t quite remember’.

‘1980 was a really busy year for us, we completed several tours supporting established bands. The Tygers went out with Magnum for 3 weeks in the March, they were promoting their new live album Marauder which Chris had just produced. We then went out with the Scorpions on their Lovedrive tour, then we did the On Through the Night, tour with Def Leppard. There was 3 weeks with Saxon on the Wheels of Steel tour and we did shows with Iron Maiden and Whitesnake as well’.

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‘Apart from Magnum, all the bands we opened up for where 2 guitar bands. When I played a guitar solo there was no rhythm behind it so the sound would drop. It was felt that to give the band a bigger, fuller sound we needed to add another guitar player. So our management and I.T.B (International Talent Booking) our agent down in Wardour Street, London said we think it would be better if the band added an additional guitar player. So after Wildcat was recorded we advertised and held auditions at Tower Bridge rehearsal studios, London. About 80 guitar players were invited down. There were 2 that stood head and shoulders above the rest and that was John Sykes and Steve Mann, who had just come out of a band called Liar. Steve went on to play with MSG and Lionheart who have just reformed. Steve now lives in Germany where he is a record producer. Steve played guitar and saxophone – John just played one hell of a guitar as you know!
John had everything, he was six foot tall, long blonde hair, stunningly good looking, incredible guitar player, great singer, good songwriter, although he never knew it at the time as he was just starting out – and the girls loved him, they fell at his feet. He was so much better at playing the guitar than me I thought to myself, I’d better up my game here.’

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Was John in a band previously ? ‘He was in a covers band in Blackpool called Streetfighter, and they were fronted by bass player Merv Goldsworthy who is now in FM. Merv and I remain good friends both the Tygers and FM were on the Cambridge Rock festival bill earlier this year. Streetfighter were famed for their exceptional Thin Lizzy covers’.
(Streetfighter appear on a 1980 heavy metal compilation album New Electric Warriors).
‘John was at my house one day and I was showing him the root chords from the songs on Wildcat and he said in a cockney accent ‘Ere Robb I’m fackin’ sick of this I’ve got this fackin’ idea what do you think of this’. He played me some chords, I said ‘I really like that I’ve got something that will go with that’. He replied ‘Fackin’ hell we got a song there, let’s go for that’. So we spent the rest of the day forgetting the set we were learning for the upcoming Wildcat tour and wrote Take It, which we recorded for the Spellbound album, unfortunately is the only song we wrote together’.

SYKES

Sykes went on to co-write and record 2 albums with the Tygers. ‘Spellbound’ was his first along with new vocalist Jon Deverill who had replaced Jess Cox. How did Jon Deverill get the job with the Tygers ? ‘John Sykes first gig was Reading festival, 1980 with Whitesnake headling, there was 42,000 people there! What happened was we had done the Wildcat tour, it was a sell out across the UK – Mayfair’s and Locarno’s and places like that, they all had a capacity of 2,000 people. There was a big buzz in the music press about us, we were getting full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going well, really well.
But there was a meeting with our management and Rod MacSween our agent who said ‘with the singer you have at the moment we can’t really further the career of the band outside of the UK’. So our management took the decision to change the line up even though Wildcat had been so successful. We took this forward and advertised for a singer. We knew we were in a good position to get a great response because in the national charts Wildcat entered at number 13 and around us were the likes of Bowie, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire. All those multi platinum artists and here’s the little ‘ol Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay hanging in there. We were hoping it would do well but never expected it to do that well – it was fantastic.’

‘We had a huge response for a new vocalist with well over 130 singers turning up. But again there was one who was head and shoulders above everyone else, and that was Jon Deverill. A lad from the Welsh Valleys with a huge voice, he walked into the job really. So he moved up from Cardiff, his home city to the North East. Our management got him a place to live with John Sykes and we immediately started writing songs for Spellbound. So the Tygers story rolled on’.

‘We were living down in London and the Angelic Upstarts were down there at the same time. We were signed to MCA records and they were signed to EMI. I remember Mensi their singer sold second hand jags to supplement his income. The drummer Decca would also make a few quid. When the likes of Praying Mantis or Iron Maiden were playing at the Marquee club he’d appear wearing one of those big long trench coats. He would walk around the punters and open up his coat like Arthur Daley and inside were all the latest EMI album releases. He’d sell them out of his coat ha-ha! Obviously he had acquired them, ‘somehow’ from the EMI offices. It was hilarious to watch – and he always made a few quid. They were lovely lads you know, I’ve always liked them.’

1981 was a very busy time for the band. They were still contracted to MCA and that year saw the Tygers release 2 albums. ‘Spellbound’ recorded in Morgan Studio’s in London produced by Chris Tsangarides and released in April. The Tygers third album ‘Crazy Nights’ which was recorded at Trident Studios in London and produced by Dennis MacKay. It was released late 1981.
The more successful and commercial sounding album ‘The Cage’ was recorded in 1982. Extra songwriters were used resulting in a couple of singles that charted in the UK. But there was another line up change. Fred Purser, formerly of fellow North Eastern band Penetration, was in on lead guitar…
‘John got the Lizzy gig because he wanted to push his career further forward. Unbeknown to us he auditioned for Ozzy first but didn’t get that job. When he got back to the North East the news didn’t go down well with the rest of the band so we got another guitarist in. From what I gather John’s stepfather, Ron contacted MCA and told them they shouldn’t drop John as he had great potential, which they agreed. So they set him up in a recording studio in Dublin to record a single. In the studio next door was Thin Lizzy. Inevitably John met up and Lizzy and asked Phil if he would sing on, Don’t Leave Me This Way, John’s first single. Lizzy had just lost their guitarist Snowy White and there it was, the opening for John to join. We’ve remained friends after everything that has happened. I’ll always have a soft spot for John’.

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By January ’83 Thin Lizzy appeared on live music TV show, The Tube. A show where I was lucky to be in the audience. Interviews on the Tube had a look of almost falling apart and not quite knowing what was going to happen next – but that was its appeal. Thin Lizzy were interviewed in the dressing room before they went on stage.

Interviewer:Now perhaps the topic on everybody’s mind the Thin Lizzy split, tell me about it”.
Lynott:Yes we’re splitting up
Interviewer:Why”
Lynott: “Cos we want to”
Interviewer: “Why not just split when Snowy left as opposed to getting John in and starting all over again for just for a couple of months ?”
Lynott: “Cos we felt that John was better and we thought that we would give it a go with John, establish him as a protégé, and then let him go on and do great things.”
Interviewer: “Well how do John and Darren feel about this, it’s their claim to fame. “
Lynott: “No it’s not”.

The full interview is available on you tube. Sykes went on to massive worldwide success with Whitesnake, then as a solo artist.

The Tygers also played the iconic TV show The Tube, what are your memories of that day ? ‘Yes it was Christmas ’82. I remember our crew had just loaded our full touring backline of 18 Marshall 4×12’s, stacked 3 high in cages and 14 100watt Marshall heads onto the stage in Tyne Tees TV studio. We were in our dressing room and in the distance heard our track Gangland playing, what’s going on here we thought it was getting louder and louder. Then all of a sudden our dressing room door burst open and standing in the doorway was this huge, blonde, stripped to the waist, head banging monster. We were all shocked. He had a big cassette player on his shoulder playing at full volume…’you guy’s fuckin’ rock I love you guy’s’. He turned around and walked back out. We looked at each other… ‘Wasn’t that Dee Snider of Twisted Sister?’ I’ll never forget that ha-ha. We talked with them afterwards and they were fantastic, really brilliant. I got what they were all about, the dressing up and make up. Dee was really clever writing those songs, you know the big shouty anthems.’

TV SHOW

In 1982 Love Potion No. 9 was a hit in the UK charts, did you record many TV appearances for the promotion of the single ?
’We were at Newcastle Central Station 2 weeks running with our tickets in our hands ready to go down to do Top of the Pops, but both times we were told we are not being included in the show. One show they said they had the full quota of metal bands, i.e. one! To fill the time and the other show was cut 10 minutes short because of a Queens speech – and our spot was in those 10 minutes.
But we did appear on TV quite a few times, I remember the Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, we did a programme called Something Else on BBC2, there was Tony Wilsons Pop World and we did Friday Night Live on Tyne Tees television. There were more I’m sure.’

You formed a band called Sergeant, how did that come about ? ‘Tygers came to an end for me around late ’83, I was still writing songs, I had a little recording studio to put them together. I had over an album worth of songs. At this time I was still working with Brian Dick the drummer from the Tygers, he left the band at the same time as me. We recruited a singer and bass player, and named the band Sergeant. We recorded a 4 track demo at Lynx studio in Newcastle, which was owned at the time by Brian Johnson from AC/DC. The manager of Sergeant, Colin Rowell and I, went down to London and hawked the demo around all the record companies. Colin had a lot of contacts in the music business. He was working as the stage manager for The Tube music programme on Channel 4 at the time.
There was interest from a guy called Dave Novak head of A&R at CBS records. He came up to see us rehearsing in a hall near Jesmond, Newcastle. He liked us and said why not come down to London play a show with Mama’s Boys at the Marquee and I’ll bring Muff Winwood along, the CEO of CBS. We’ll do the deal in the dressing room. The initial advance was going to be £60,000.’
‘With this good news we set up a meeting at the Egypt Cottage pub in Newcastle with the other lads. They said great but, ‘we’ve decided we don’t want Robb in the band anymore’. I never got to the bottom of why they didn’t want me in my own band! I left the pub and Colin walked out with me telling them that ‘the record contract is walking out the door as well’. They were shocked and didn’t expect that, they thought Colin would just carry on as there manager. They apparently replaced me with a guitar player AND a keyboard player! Nice to know it took two to replace little old me! But they only lasted 4 or 5 shows. They supported Accept in the UK, and then disbanded’.
‘Not long after that I got a call from Jess Cox. We met up and eventually ended up recording a song of mine called ‘Small Town Flirt’ which Jess released through the Neat record label as he was working with Dave Woods the label owner at the time. He also re-released a whole load of other Tygers early demo material. But I wasn’t happy at all with the situation and I just got sick of it all so that’s when I ducked out of the music industry. Until, out of the blue, I got a call in 1999 which resulted in the Tygers, well I say Tygers. Jess told me he had called all the previous members and asked them if they could take part in the reformation. Apparently only Jess and I could do it as everyone else had commitments they couldn’t get out of ? This is what I was told. So we hired 3 fantastic musicians, Gav Gray, Glenn Howes and Chris Percy who were in Blitzkrieg at the time I think, if they could help out. We actually were the Friday night headliners at the Wacken Festival in Germany. Saxon and Dokken were on before us for goodness sake! We played in front of 22,000 people that night. I got so badly bitten again by the Rock’n’Roll bug I knew I just had to put the Tygers back together again somehow.’

Fast forward and the album Ambush was released in 2012 and then in 2016 a self titled album…’That went into the British charts at number 24, the Danish charts were the record company is based, at 13. The album has done really well. In 2013, Dean who was our longstanding guitarist from 2000, a good friend and a great player decided he wanted to do other musical things and left so we auditioned and now we’ve got Mickey McCrystal on guitar who is a great guitar player, six foot tall, he’s got the looks and an amazing career in front of him – in the spirit of John Sykes! Tygers are run as a family, and just like a family we all look out for each other and we get on really well. When on tour we’ve got a reputation amongst hotel managers of being a nice set of lads, we don’t tear the place up (anymore), the hotel managers tell us we can book with them again and again – gone are the days when we would set off fire extinguishers on hotel landings and super glue TV’s in the bath!’

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What is the feeling in the Tygers camp now compared to 1980’s ? ‘Tom Noble is back managing us, he first managed the band from 1978-82. He saw us play about 3 years ago in Rome, we had a drink after the show and we said we were putting a new album together. He asked if we wanted any help. Perfect timing if you ask me. So it came at a good time for both of us life is SO much easier with Tom…
It’s much better now, back then you were constantly chasing fame and glory, the autographs, photographs, interviews were all great but having to prove yourself all the time, the competition and ego’s – you couldn’t get away from it. Thing is, you wanted to be recognised, people buying your records meant you were doing well and you were alive. It was a double edged sword really.
However today is a totally different story, we are very pleased that people still choose to come and see the Tygers. Meet and greet is a massive part of our night and we look forward to it, say hi to the fans, sign a few things and talk to people. The pressure and ego’s are gone it’s so much more relaxed and enjoyable.’

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What does music mean to you ? ‘I’ve loved every second of my musical career, the whole ride has been like being sitting at the front of a giant rollercoaster, hands up, screaming with delight! Music is a way of life, it’s a wonderful thing, and it can be your best friend. You can turn to music at any time of your life and it can be a great comforter. I absolutely love it.’

Tygers of Pan Tang are on a UK tour during November 2017. For further info and tour dates contact the official website http://www.tygersofpantang.com

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.

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

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

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

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Dave Allison ANVIL: Still Hungry, 12th November 2017.

 

 

GET YER ROCK ON – 5 minutes with UK hard rock band Bigfoot

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Bigfoot were formed in Wigan in 2014. After releasing 2 EP’s they signed to Frontiers Records and recorded their debut album. Lead vocalist Antony Ellis takes up the story… ‘We all enjoy studio time, obviously during recording there’s a few disagreements but it’s part of the parcel and by the end everything works out for the best and everyone’s buzzing. The ideas for songs can come from anywhere really, from a real life event or from a storyline that one of us has made up, whatever helps capture the energy’.

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And energy they have, in buckets, big buckets. Bigfoot have a big sound, big rock guitars, big drums and big teeth. What did you expect ? If the singer spoke to you in a whisper it would still sound big. He has a voice that demands to be heard. The band have a sound like 80’s Canadian rockers Helix with a bit of Ozzy in the mix. All ballsy stompers and blistering guitar solo’s from a bunch of greasy motorbike mechanics tracking an episode from Sons of Anarchy. They turn it down a notch for album track ‘Forever Alone’ while not quite sitting around the campfire, but a bluesy ballad.
Their debut was released on 13th October and to support the album the band are heading out on a UK tour in November. They have already toured the UK extensively and appeared at festivals alongside the likes of The Darkness, Rob Zombie, Black Label Society, Thunder & Saxon. How did Bigfoot get started on the live circuit ? ‘When Bigfoot got together we inquired with promoters and venues who we’d worked with in the past in our previous bands. Then we built our following and gained support slots with the likes of SOTO, Black Spiders, Focus and in November we support Tyketto’.
Have you played in many towns/countries for the first time ? ‘We recently played Germany in a town called Wassauberg, think that’s how you spell it haha. The gig was Escape Open Air we had a great time and made a lot of new fans from that one’.

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The band have quite a wide range of influences from The Eagles, Pantera, Extreme and Metallica. Are there any other musicians/bands who you admire ? ’I admire anybody who can get up and play/sing to be honest. On a vocal level I’d definitely say that Otis Redding inspired me throughout my singing journey. The feel and energy he put into his singing just shone out to me’.
How did you get involved in music ? ‘I started singing in a school choir before even thinking about a band it was just one of the classes we had to do. I didn’t realise I’d enjoy it as much as I did. Then one night I watched Nickelback on TV and knew I wanted to be in a rock band’.

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Bigfoot are Antony Ellis on vocals, lead/rhythm guitarists Sam Millar and Mick Mccullagh. Bass is Matthew Avery and Tom Aspinall on drums. In their short time together Bigfoot have filmed a few music videos.. ‘Yes we’ve quite a few videos on you tube that are worth checking out. One in particular was for our single The Fear that we released under Frontiers Records’.
I did check out ‘The Fear’ and the chorus has… ’Cos I gave all I got to the fear, of living in the real world, it’s a fight to survive but I’m here’ ….. Music video’s for ‘Run’, ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ and already mentioned ‘The Fear’ all capture the energy of the band using live camera work, fast cutting, moody lighting and smoke machines. Don’t expect a storyline just focus on watching the band rip it up.
What are the future plans for Bigfoot ? ‘Try and get out as much as we can and in turn making our feet bigger’.
Bigfoot are out on tour in November starting on 2nd in Stoke, Cardiff 3rd, Cannock 4th then coming up north to South Shields on Bonfire night. Glasgow is on 9th, Sheffield 11th, the Winterstorm Festival on 24th including Heavy Pettin’, Bernie Marsden, Praying Mantis then finally Edinburgh on the 25th.

TOUR

For more info contact the official website: bigfootband.co.uk
Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

Recommended:

PISTON: Little Devils, 9th January 2017.