DOCTOR ROCK – in conversation with 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 practice 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. 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 definitely 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. 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 (laughs).

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’.

MINGLES

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 Wilsden, 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 two years on the road so we knew them inside out and for the recording process.

Chris 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 two albums with the Tygers. ‘Spellbound’ was his first along with new vocalist Jon Deveril who had replaced Jess Cox. How did Jon Deveril get the job with the Tygers ? ‘John Sykes first gig was Reading festival, 1980 with Whitesnake headlining, 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 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 two albums. ‘Spellbound’ recorded in Morgan Studio’s in London produced by Chris Tsangarides and released in April. The Tygers third album ‘Crazy Nights’ 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 three high in cages and fourteen 100 watt 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. 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 two 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 ten minutes short because of a Queens speech – and our spot was in those ten 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 plus 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, and asked 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 three 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 roller coaster, 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.

THE FAST & THE FURY with Jaguar’s mainman Garry Pepperd

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‘We supported Girlschool at the Royal Standard in Walthamstow, London. The DJ gave us a big build up, the house lights went down, he said ‘Would you please welcome…Jaguar…..total silence, then one lone voice shouted ‘fuck off’..…I could’ve cried….ha ha’.

JAGPROMO

Jaguar were formed in Bristol, UK in 1979 and were in the thick of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. The band released 2 singles ‘Back Street Woman’ in 1981 on Heavy Metal Records and ‘Axe Crazy’ in 1982 on Neat. They also released 2 albums ‘Power Games’ in 1983 on Neat records and a year later ‘This Time’ on the Roadrunner label.

They also appeared on 2 compilation albums contributing ’Stormchild’ to Heavy Metal Heroes in 1981 and ‘Dirty Tricks’ on the 60 Minute Plus released by Neat in 1982.

Jaguar Stratford Upon Avon 1981

Original member Garry Pepperd takes up the story… ’My very first band was at school, as I recall we were named Deadly Nightshade. Then at college I had been putting bands together but they kept falling apart without really getting anywhere. Jaguar was at the time our latest attempt at putting a decent band together, one that might actually stay together long enough to play a gig.

I remember watching Van Halen support Black Sabbath in 1978, that was a really big moment – blew me away. Then seeing Iron Maiden play in a tiny club in Bristol to a handful of people, they were awesome. It was moments like these that inspired Jeff Cox, original bassist in Jaguar, and I to want to do it ourselves’.

MARQUEE
‘We started gigging in 1980 in Bristol pubs mainly, then we started to go further afield. We got up to Bath, then Somerset, Devon, Dorset and into Wales. There was a UK music paper at the time called Sounds and they had pages of gigs for the coming week, with all the venues and telephone numbers. It sounds incredibly simple but we just used to go through the listings ringing up venues and asking for gigs, it worked.

We got loads of gigs that way, some were smaller venues but even so it was great. We would end up driving 150 miles to do a gig on a cold, dark, wet Tuesday night then have to be up early to get to work the next day – hardly any sleep but we loved it’.

Who were your influences ? ‘When I was young the bands I loved at the time, Motorhead, Sabbath, Priest, Budgie and Maiden. I loved UFO but I was also heavily into Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned and punk in general. An odd mix I suppose but all influences. Maybe that is why I like to play fast. Ramones still inspire me today as do Maiden. I am still a huge music fan – always have been’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Well I’ve been recording since 1980 when I first went into Studio 34 in Bristol to record Jaguar demos. Then we released two 7 inch vinyl singles before the first two vinyl albums Power Games and This Time, this was in the early eighties of course.

We did a BBC Radio 1 session for The Friday Rock Show in 1984 and boy how awesome were the BBC’s studios, even back then, state of the art! We were in the middle of recording the second Jaguar album at the time and didn’t want to go back to our own studio after that !

In the February 1983 edition of Kerrang magazine, Jaguar were interviewed by music journalist Malcolm Dome, and talked about the release of their first single ‘Back Street Woman’ on Heavy Metal Records…’We sold about 4,000 copies in only 10 weeks, which is good going right ? But the company refused to re-press it and never gave us a satisfactory explanation as to why. That’s part of the reason why we left them’.

AXE CRAZY PROMO

After a slot on a festival in Holland with headliners Raven, the Neat records label owner Dave Woods was in the audience. The result was their next single ‘Axe Crazy’ was released by Neat Records. Plus the interview in metal magazine Kerrang was a big help in getting exposure for the band…Garry remembers it was all going to plan…

‘Then the Dutch thing started to happen for us so we would spend weekends playing in Holland, quite often with Raven. That was a whole different ball game, bigger venues, lots of fans, great times, luckily we still get to play there nowadays. In 1984 we did a British tour with Girlschool, that was good, we played a lot of gigs supporting other bands and played with Lita Ford, Thor and Vardis’.

ADVERT

But by 1985 the band had run out of steam and were put on the backburner. Garry brings the story up to date…‘After a very long lay off we got back together in 1998 and have been together ever since. The line up has changed along the way, I’ve been the only constant member’. (Jaguar’s present line up is Garry Pepperd (guitar), Simon Patel (bass) Nathan Cox (drums) and Jarvis Leatherby (vocals)’.

‘We’ve been putting out CD albums, about ten I guess, along with some re-issues. Our last Jaguar album we recorded was in 2014. That was Metal X at Stage 2 studios in Bath. That album had a vinyl release too. We recently played at the Pyrenean Warriors Open Air festival in France and the Frost & Fire festival in the USA in October 2017 so we’re still going strong’.

WARRIORS

For more info, photo’s and gig dates contact Jaguar on their Facebook page.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

BACK IN THE GAME with St Helen’s rock band Snatch Back

‘We were sleeping in the van during a weekend of gigs. To pass the time before the evening gig, we were invited to an afternoon strip show. We returned to find the van windows had been broken. The singer was annoyed they only pinched his wooly hat and a half eaten bag of chips. The vintage guitars under the piles of sweaty underwear remained untouched’.

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Snatch Back formed in 1974 in St Helen’s, UK. What are they up to now…‘After decades of local fan interest we decided to reform the original line up in 2016. Ste and Ian had kept in touch. It was amazing how well we still got on. As soon as news got out we were invited to headline the St Helens Westfield Street Music Festival and got great press reviews.

We are now building on this to promote and enjoy playing our music again to a much wider audience thanks to NWOBHM fans’.

The line up is:
Ste Byatt – guitar & vocals
John Cowley – lead vocals
Steven Platt – drums
Ian Wood – bass & Vocals

Who were your influences ?
Ste: ‘Watching Jimi Hendrix performing Voodoo Chile on UK tv music programme Top of the Pops. I never believed guitar could be so moving and limitless. Later I saw local band Gravy Train at a local theatre. From the moment their guitarist Norman Barret hit the stage it was ‘I want to do that’.
John: ‘My influences were albums by Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Mott the Hoople, Frankie Miller and Free. I walked around school with long hair, tassled jacket and acoustic guitar strumming Neil Young tunes but really wanted to be like Ozzy from the Black Sabbath 4 album cover.
Ian: ‘After watching Ten Years After, Mountain and Mott the Hoople at Liverpool Stadium gigs I wanted to play hard driving blues rock bass. Mott gave an interest in tempering this by writing more melodic novel material’.
Steven: ‘Hearing Foxtrot by Genesis on album and then soon after seeing them at Manchester Free Trade Hall. Loved those complex but driving drums’.
Ste : ‘Our drummer Steve took me to see Hendrix Plays Berkely. We immediately decided to form Snatch-Back as a four piece writing original rock. We all attended superb, affordable music venues like Liverpool Stadium and Liverpool Empire as well as Manchester Free Trade Hall. We saw great bands such as Back Street Crawler, The Faces, Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Bad Co, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Queen. They were all very influential’.

Youth Club Gig

Where did you start gigging ? ‘There wasn’t much going on for us really. Our town was filled with social clubs offering bingo and variety acts. The only other nights out were cinema and working men’s pubs which had no music. There had been one non alcoholic blues club in the 1960’s but was closed before 1970. There were no rehearsal or recording facilities.

Snatch-Back bluffed our way into a local youth club to rehearse on the promise of organising live music concerts. We did this in two local clubs and encouraged recording bands like Gravy Train and Nutz (later Rage) to step down and play for door money’.

With Ste Kay Bass

‘Later the local cinema put us on between films by Status Quo and Rory Gallagher. This made the local news as an unusual event and ensured a larger following for us. Then a local social club was persuaded to allow us to run a Tuesday rock night. We partnered with another local band and filled this for several years with guest bands and us headlining once every few weeks. These audiences knew our own material from regular gigs but we had recorded very little apart from band rehearsals.

By this time we had moved rehearsals to a farm where the singer worked. We were constantly writing and recording live demos there but never released any. With more experience, and having money for a van, we gigged in the surrounding areas of Liverpool, Cheshire and Yorkshire.

These were all gained by doggedly phoning the venues for a gig. Our biggest venues were The Lion in Warrington, The Casino and Mr M’s Clubs, Wigan, The Cherry Tree in Runcorn. Stairways of Birkenhead. We were amazed to be playing the same venues at the same time as Vardis, Diamond Head, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Nutz, Limelight, Strife (later Nightwing) and even Alex Harvey’s final band’.

‘Unfortunately, late in the 80’s good venues closed for all but larger touring bands. Faced with longer travel for small pubs we again focused on our local St Helens to self promote and headline a Theatre gig with capacity 700 seats. Playing alongside other local original bands. We sold this out on two separate gigs.

Unfortunately, without management and commercial savvy, we lost hope of ever topping these achievements outside of our area and finally drifted apart’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ’We recorded in Smile Studios, Manchester sometime in 1975. ’My mate’s got a great studio, very cheap. You need to do a demo tape’ that’s how it started. Very cheap meant a Sunday morning a quick 2 tracks and an even quicker mix. Very rushed, very stressed. The band felt they had reached a significant milestone and by the following Wednesday we would be partying with Led Zeppelin after this ground breaking session !

The studio is rumoured to have been used by bands such as Slaughter and the Dogs. It was an 8 track mixer/4 track tape recorder in a basement of a tiny terraced house. Unfortunately, the engineer was anti-rock, so stressful negotiations ensued in an attempt to get it sounding half decent. We were however, thrilled to be recording and listening to our original stuff in glorious stereo…but vowed to improve’.

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‘We sent this demo around and gained some recording company interest. But it was not representative of our live sound. The whereabouts of the tapes are unknown. Tracks recorded were Shoot on Sight (updated version on our 2016 CD) and another we don’t recall as it was soon dropped due to it’s ‘formative’ nature.

Next was Central Sound Studios, Manchester in 1979. After playing a Blackburn gig we were approached by a studio owner looking to fill off-peak time. A deal was struck which included a batch of vinyl singles. A few late evenings recording were completed. We were much more insistant on the Marshall stack sound and worked hard on well rehearsed overdubs. We were much more confident and happy with the sound.

Again there was a poor engineering match as their experience was with Manchester Indie bands such as the Buzzcocks, who called in occasionally, along with various Manchester theatre and variety performers for all night recording sessions. Comedian Freddie Star popped in one night.

We even did a seperate evening mixing, time was tight though, with artists in before, during and after our sessions. Unfortunately we had never heard of mastering. If this had been good, then the final single would have been a lot heavier. Tracks we recorded were Eastern Lady and Cryin’ to the Night (Copies of the vinyl on our 2016 CD).
Fortunately copies of this single and unofficial mp3 files kept interest in the band and brought us to the attention of NWOBHM fans’.

‘Then in ’81 we went into Amazon Studios, Liverpool. Wow! A 16 track pro studio with great engineering at last. We took great care to get a superb drum sound which the band that followed us Rage, pinched for their Nice and Dirty album. We planned a separate day mixing and tightly rehearsed all the overdubs to cram 4 tracks into a one day session! Moving Out, Boogie Shoes, Got Trouble, She’s Dead.

Everything went great as we were much more experienced. However, more time and more overdubs as the engineer suggested, would have improved the sound. Unfortunately Ste B was over influenced by the sparse production of Van Halen 1’.

‘Last year we went into Catalyst Studios, St Helens. Pro digital at last. A determined project to update the bands earlier material and produce a CD for Westfield Street Festival. We had the advantage of a determined studio owner Andy to assist us and the ability to transfer tracks to home studio for interim reviews and adding backing vocals to save time.

Even so, we went over budget with extra guitar parts. Andy put extra hours in mastering and did a great job. We are very happy with the Back in the Game EP package. Would have been better with more time, a pro Rock producer and a mastering expert. But we had great reunion fun and its available through our media sites now.
Tracks recorded were Need Some Heat, Shoot on Sight , Gypsie of Love, Rough Treatment and bonus tracks from viny, Eastern Lady, Crying to the Night and a farm rehearsal track Nashville Splatt with rare drummer’s vocals. Additional drum and guideline tracks were recorded in these sessions which we are currently developing for future release’.

Did you film any music video’s or tv appearances ? ‘The only early video was of a 1980’s St Helens Theatre Royal performance. This was never purchased by the band and its whereabouts are unknown. We have a few radio interviews on local independent stations. We did received regular request airplay of our single on Liverpool radio stations with rock DJs such as Phil Easton on Radio City’.

Have you any stories from your gigs ? ‘A fantastic rock night in New Brighton on the Wirral was followed by the noise of motor boats in the street ! What happened was we were due to play at The Empress of India Ballroom watering hole, it’s a first floor Victorian dance hall. To disguise it’s decline it is painted black inside. Anyway, we couldn’t park the van next to the entrance. The manager standing next to his Mercedes, was laughing as we parked up the hill and watched us lug the gear down and then scale the multiple flights of stairs to reach the stage.

When the River Mersey winter tides came flooding in the water covered the ground floor but luckily it didn’t reach our van. But the Mercedes guy was waste deep in water attempting to retrieve his car arguing with the coastguard who were talking to him by megaphone. Haha what a scene’.

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‘We had picked up our new manager Mick. Eager to proove himself he copied the early Smile Studios demo and sent it to various record companies. A letter came back announcing a visit from a London A&R guy to our next gig. This was before the era of internet and mobile phones.

The showcase gig was to be at the New Brighton Empress again. The red carpet was rolled out and VIP admission organised. The gentleman arrived in his Bentley, walked in with a Saville Row suit on and a gorgeous model on his arm wearing an immaculate white afghan coat. They were greeted by a big hairy venue owner ‘I don’t care who you are, it’s ten bob to get in’.

They expected a polished club act but by then we had ‘matured’ to become a very hairy and very loud bunch of sweaty rockers playing to a sea of Newcastle Brown soaked bikers. ‘We’ve nailed it’ Mick the manager said as he waived the Bentley off.

The following week a polite letter arrived declining Snatch-Back as they had found a more suitable band… The Rubettes. Oh well, no way our hair would have fitted under those berets on Top of the Pops’.
(The Rubettes had a string of hits during the 1970’s and were regulars on UK music programme Top of the Pops)

‘A call from Mick the manager he said ‘Got you a great new venue – definitely rock, you’ll love it’. Yes it was rock…and roll too! It was a Teddy Boy jive night. We had to fill an hour and a half with Led Zep rock and roll plus very long Chuck Berry jams or get beat up.

Another time we played a late night club in a defunct church near Oldham, Lancashire. The owner was a dreadlocked Rasta who hated rock music but loved the amount of drink that it sold. We returned for a gig to be faced with another band already setting up. ‘Sorry man. We arrive early because we have trouble with our home made light show’.

The Rasta says ‘Sorry I’ve double booked. Thing is I can’t stand rockers. One band is as crap as the other and they are set up already, so goodbye’. The other band was Def Leppard and things seemed to look up for them after that gig’.

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What is the future for Snatch Back ? ’We are not against becoming involved with managers, promoters or record companies. We welcome any support or advice that we can get to promote the band. We aim to continue to play gigs by establishing contacts in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and local rock band communities.

We still find partner bands playing original rock and organise venues where possible. We love the recording experience but there is some regret that we didn’t do more recording in the 1970’s and 80’s. Our main focus then was keeping the band financially mobile by keeping the van and equipment running, and building a live fanbase. We are currently recording and working on new material for another release’.

Forthcomming gigs:
21st October 2017 E Rooms, Skelmesdale
16th December 2017 Yorkshire House, Lancaster
16th February 2018 The Griffin, Newton-le-Willows

Contact the band for more info including gig dates, photos, videos and shop at the official website snatch-back.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Jon Dalton on his journey from Glastonbury to L.A.

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A call came in from Los Angeles ‘Hello Gary, it’s Jon here how you doing, I received a message that you have been asking about Gold. Well here is the story’.

Before we go any further let me give you some background. Gold were formed in 1979 in Bristol, UK by guitarists Jon Dalton and Pete Willey. Like many of their contemporaries, Gold had grown up listening to first generation rock and metal bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Free and later Thin Lizzy and Queen. Gold’s music was a combination of space and glam mixed with heavy rock. Jon has lived in USA for 20 years as a professional musician.

‘I moved out to the US in 1999, I have Native American roots so it was like coming home. I also wanted to move my jazz career along. It seems that was a good call. I got signed to Innervision Records in 2003 and they released my first CD with them The Gift, and it did very well. The title track reached number 1 on New York’s CIM jazz chart.

I spent some time over 2006-2007 back in the UK touring and recording with a jazz organ trio with my friend John-Paul Gard on Hammond organ. I released the resulting album in the US in 2009 and it’s been very well received among people who like that kind of jazz. I still come back to the UK from time to time for mini-tours with John-Paul and I love doing that. Gives me a chance to catch up with my UK friends and my family’s mostly over here these days’.

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‘I keep myself busy playing live with a residency in Los Angeles. I also have a YouTube channel dedicated to jazz guitar with performance videos, instrument reviews and playing tutorials, that kind of thing. I just got done completing the first track of my next CD with producer Richard E.

Richard has done a wonderful job on that and a performance video cut will be up on YouTube soon. If things go according to plan, that CD will release on Innervision in 2018’.

When did you pick up a guitar and who were your influences ? ‘We had an 8 track player in the house and I’d listen to the Stones, Bowie, The Doors anything I could get my hands on, I was really into my music. I was already playing a bit of rock guitar but I was mostly into progressive rock like Yes. Then around 1975 I met Pete Willey and we hit it off straight away.

Pete and I formed a school band called Grafitti we did a few school gigs and played in some pubs in Bristol. One memorable gig was in The Naval Volunteer. My chemistry teacher came into the pub and saw me playing. Next day at school he said you were quite good last night, maybe that’s why you never do your homework haha.

That band split up after the summer holidays and I started hanging out on the free festival circuit in the west country. I used to like Steve Hillage and the band Gong and they were heavily involved in these festivals. I think it was 7th day of the 7th month in ’77 when I first went to a festival, yes very mystical ! And there was Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine ’79 Glastonbury with a laser light show I’d never seen anything like it – blew my mind.

I was a complete dyed in the wool Gong fan I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than sit in a damp field and watch them play at a free festival ! I may be wrong on the dates but I think it was 1979 when they started charging, it was a fiver to get in but Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine, Steve Hillage and Mother Gong were on the bill so I think it was probably the best fiver I spent’.

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Did you form a band again and what venues did you play ? ’I met up with Pete Willey again, he was more of a straight ahead rocker. He liked bands like Thin Lizzy, Queen but in common we liked songs from Free and Bad Company. Pete also had good knowledge of what was in the charts at the time.

He liked a bit pop music, I was a bit more of a rock snob really. We brought this sound together and that formed the early version of Gold. We started getting a few gigs one was at The Granary where all the top rock bands played. There was Tiffanys, The Locarno, we did have a good following for our spacey rock. This was at the end of the hippy rock era just before the tables turned and in came punk’.

What were your first experiences of recording ? ‘We recorded a 3 track demo Mountain Queen part one – I think the idea behind this song was a trilogy, but I can’t remember a bloody note of parts 2 and 3 haha. Other tracks were Change for the Better and Is My Love in Vain that was a really popular song a sort of love ballad with a guitar solo in the middle.

We then changed our bass player, the first was Andy Scott who was more of a new waver he played on that demo but he really wanted to do more new wave stuff. We got another guy in Paul Summerill he was more of a rocker listening to bands like Rush and played a Rickenbacker bass.

We had a guy called Steve Dawson on drums. There was a guy called Al Read who used to run a rock show on Radio Bristol and he played our stuff a lot and get us on for a few live chats’.

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‘But that line up of Gold split up and I started playing in a jazz funk band Climax. I still liked my rock though. I went to see AC/DC on one of their first tours in the UK and I remember the guy on the radio saying they were like a rock band but quite punky. I couldn’t see how the two would work together and I went more out of curiosity really and wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. But by the end of the concert I was dancing and jumping around, they were great.

The name of the band at the time was quite daring plus they were breaking all the rules with this punk thing. Walking outside I thought that’s the future of rock. The sound was edgier, harder and I could see that society was going that way, politics were changing, Thatcher got in power 1979 the whole landscape was changing and not in a good way.

Bristol had around 250,000 people and in the whole city there were a handful of homeless people. Then suddenly there was a big rise in people living on the streets, it became a different world. There was a sense that everything had hardened and that transferred over to music with the start of NWOBHM with Iron Maiden and Saxon’.

Were you aware then and now, the impact of the music scene – heavy rock/metal/nwobhm ?

‘Well, I can say that, at the time, music was incredibly important to a lot of young people. What you listened to defined who you were, where you hung out and who your friends were likely to be. Right down to every little sub-set of every kind of music you can think of.

Back then, if you bought an album, that could be the central talking point of your life for months. People would come to your house and listen to and discuss it. How it sounded in itself, how it compared to previous releases, where the act might be going. I can’t stress how important that kind of thing was to us. It was our lifeblood.

I think today, with the Internet and access to a gazillion tunes at your finger tips rather than having to go out and buy it, people are more eclectic in their tastes. That means that they tend to be less tribal but it also results in a sense of a greater loss of community. People are much more individual and isolated today than they were back in the day.

Many of my friends from Gold days, are still in touch now and we still have the same core interests that we used to have back then. I’m still a Heavy Metal hippie/biker underneath despite the fact that these days, I’m more likely to do a gig in a dinner jacket than a cut-off t shirt and spandex pants’.

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‘I would add that, here in the States young people still really revere the classic rock acts of the 70’s. Led Zep, The Who, Pink Floyd. They’re still seen as the classics, rather than that stuff your Dad used to listen too. That may just have something to do with the sheer size of the place.

New ideas take longer to roll out here to the extent it affects the culture. For instance dance music and electronica never really took off in the US at all beyond a small cult following. I can remember in the UK that you had to be really on top of things or people would laugh at you for being dated or old hat. That never bothered me because I couldn’t care less about trends and fashions.

Americans don’t seem to care so much about that. If something’s good, it’s good regardless of when and where it was made or who made it. I guess you need both angles to make the world work’.

How did Gold get back together ? ’I bumped into Pete we had always been good mates, and he said come and have a jam well I thought ok. I’ve seen AC/DC lets have a harder, rockier sound. There was Phil Williams on drums who had a great laid back powerful sound and that’s what we needed to move forward, it’s what we were looking for.

We went out with this new version of Gold and the crowds we were playing to then were headbangers in their late teen’s. We bought a pa system and rented it out to other bands to make a bit of money because we were broke. It was all coming together, we got a van and toured around the country. We got all over, up to Reading, Southend, Doncaster we were out a lot and picking up some interest.

I heard we were watched by scouts for the management team from Motorhead and Girlschool, they were looking for a support band for the tours. But one night we got back home at 4am after playing and for once we decided not to unpack our van. It got pinched. All our cabs, pa, the lot. We didn’t have the money to replace the gear, we had no idea who had done it or where it had gone. Sadly, that was the end of Gold. That’s the story in a nutshell really’.

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‘We really had a blast but listening back to recordings just before that happened I got the feeling I had enough, and it was time to move on. Although that loss of equipment was a tragedy I didn’t want to be stuck being a rock musician. I admired great guitar players like Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. They were brilliant guitarists but some became these crazy virtuosos, and hair metal bored the pants of me.

A band was at it’s best when you had team players, commararderie of playing in a group is what I like’.

Compared to the GOLD days what is the feeling you get today going on stage to perform? ’Well I’m a lot less nervous now than I used to be. I’ve always been a bit shy about performing which is odd because I get on well with people and I’m not exactly an introvert. But my hands used to shake like jelly and I could barely hold a guitar pick for the first few songs.

I did do about 8 years on what we used to call the Cabaret circuit, that would be playing covers around the world in bars and hotels and on military bases. After sometimes, playing five, forty-five minute sets per night every week and six on Saturdays that kind of work tends to knock that out of you.

I still get the heebee geebees a little today but nowhere near as much because I’ve kind of trained that out of me. I also realize that it’s only a gig. There will be another one tomorrow or maybe their won’t. As for the upside, that’s never changed. Every now and again you get a stonking gig. You can never tell or anticipate when that’s going to happen, it just does. Your playing kicks up a notch. The audience senses that something’s going on and focuses more clearly on what you’re doing and something transformational happens.

It’s moments like that, that keeps us musicians chasing the dragon in terms of live music. There’s nothing like that sensation and I’m as much a sucker for it now as I was 40 years ago’.

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What has music given you ? ’Music is my life. It has been since as long as I can remember. It’s defined me as a person. Taken me around the world, paid my bills, introduced me to my greatest friends and provided me with years of beauty, solace and wonder.

My greatest inspiration has always been watching my grandmother Ada Dalton who would get up, every year, on her annual church bash on the stage of the Methodist Central Hall in Bristol and sing When I Grow Too Old To Dream in memory of her husband John-Francis who died between the wars from complications of being a soldier.

She passed on in 1974 at the age of 88. She never had much, but her love and passion expressed through music, kept her going. I learned a big lesson from that. Mostly that you should never give up, whatever the cost. Some things in life are just too important to let slip away. To be honest, I’m still chasing that level of heart and conviction in my work.

I know I’ll never come close but it gives me a reason to get up in the morning. That’s what music’s given me. Thanks for taking the time to investigate Gold. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these experiences’.

For more information contact the official website jondaltonjazz.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT – with NWOBHM band Satan’s Empire

During winter 2015 heavy metal band Satan’s Empire reformed. They first got together in 1979 and were originally from Dundee in Scotland. Then moved to London in 1981.

Today the band have 2 founding members left, Derek Lyon on vocals and Sandy McRitchie on guitar. They replaced Duncan Haggart and Billy Masterton with Paul Lewis coming in on lead guitar and rhythm section Wayne Hudson (bass) and Garry Bowler (drums). The band sat down and revealed all about Satans Empire…

‘We’ve been really busy setting things up. We signed an album deal this year with 3Ms Music from St Albans and have finished recording the album, the final mixes are being completed as we speak’.

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Where did you record the album? ’The drums and bass were recorded at Smokehouse Studios in London, then we travelled to the Coach House Studios in Hesdin, France to do guitars and vocals. In all it took about 12 days to get it down. We are still sorting out the order of the songs but the album is called Rising.

Titles of some of the tracks, Satan’s Empire, On the Road to Hell, Slaves of Satan, Dragonslayer and Soldiers of War. It will be available early 2018 as a Limited Edition 8 track Vinyl with a bonus 7″ 2-track single of a demo from 1984. Sleeve design is by Andy Pilkington of Very Metal Art’.

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When you started out who were your influences and how did you get involved in music ? ‘ Music began for us from a school band doing covers and as our skills developed we played more difficult songs. Until eventually we started jamming and writing our own stuff, that was about 1979. We were listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden’.

When did Satans Empire start playing and have you any funny stories from those early gigs ? ‘We did local pubs and clubs as well as dates all over Scotland. For a name band we supported Budgie in Dundee at the first Dundee Summer Festival. I remember one time we did the American naval base at Dunoon in Scotland as a favour for a friend. When we turned up, we got the gear ready on stage, then looked around and saw most of the punters were wearing cowboy hats! One guy said ’Hey boys you must be the Country & Western band ?’ When we cranked up the volume and started playing they got a bit of a shock!

What were your early experiences of recording ? ‘Our first proper session was at Craighall Studios in Edinburgh. The demo was recorded on a small sixteen track where we came out with 2 tracks, Suicide Man and Soldiers of War’.

(Nerd alert: ‘Soldiers of War’ appears on Lead Weight, a compilation released by NEAT Records on cassette in 1981. There are 11 bands with one track each on the tape including Raven, Warrior, Blitzkreig and Venom. Although Fist are on twice, their first track is ‘Throwing in the Towel’ and they are listed as their former name Axe to record ‘S.S.Giro’.

Another compilation on NEAT Records is ‘The First Strike of N.W.O.B.H.M’ released in 1996. This also features ‘Soldiers of War’ and 16 other tracks by bands including Jaguar, Tygers of Pan Tang, White Spirit and Hellanbach).

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Are you aware of the impact that NWOBHM has had ? ‘We had a bit of an inkling when people kept asking us to reform – kind of cemented that assumption. There are a few bands within the NWOBHM movement that we are friends with and done gigs with’.

What is it like now rehearsing and playing live compared to 1980’s ? ’We rehearse at Farm Factory Studios in Welwyn Garden City and its fine there. To be honest there is no difference really only that we are more focussed at playing and not too much larking around. Bands we have met are more friendlier than the 80’s and we have made some good friends here’.

How do you sort out the set list, what songs are first/last and is tempo important ? ’We initially had sets for 30, 40, 45 and 60 mins to cover all options, and until recently, we always kept the same relevant set, but now we are just kind of flying it to see how it goes with the audiences’.

What are the future plans for Satan’s Empire ?  ‘By the end of this year we will have done around 30 gigs as part of the On the Road to Hell tour. We are up and running and when the album is released we will be ready to promote it. For starters we are off to Europe in October with gigs in Belgium and France followed by two dates in the North of England in November at Newcastle and Dundee’.

For more info contact the band on various social media pages Facebook, Reverbnation and Bandcamp.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

WEAPON UK: All Fired Up, 6th May 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TYTAN: Back in the Ring, 25th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast and The Fury, 24th October 2017.

PLAYED HIS CARDS RIGHT – celebrating a 45 year career with vocalist Pete Allenby

‘Every 5 years or so I still get very small royalty checks… about enough to buy a bag of chips!’

New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Tarot came from South Yorkshire. They formed in 1979 but folded in late 82′ ‘There are no plans to reform. I have a four piece rock band called The Method and we play covers of band’s like Toto, Rush, The Who and Queen. We do about 30 gigs a year, we do it for the love !’

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I first got involved in music when I was asked to join a band soon after leaving school, and realised I wasn’t that bad at it! My main influences then were The Who, Queen, Joe Cocker and Alex Harvey. 

My defining music moment was probably when I first heard Won’t Get Fooled Again then I bought the album, Who’s Next and played it to death! Also when I first heard Seven Seas of Rye by Queen. I’d never really heard anything quite like it before!’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or travelling long distances, and did you support name touring bands ? ‘I started playing in ’72 but my first gig’s with Tarot started in 1979 in working men’s club’s. The line up was me on vocals, Malc King on guitars, on bass we had Brian Redfern and Andy Simpson on drums. We quickly started playing at recognised rock gigs of the day, Ford Green in Leeds, Boilermakers in Sunderland, in Halifax was The White Lion then over to Jenks bar in Blackpool’.

‘We also supported bands like The Jags, John Parr, Fischer Z, Frankie Miller and Def Leppard -whatever happened to them haha. On those gig’s we played the Universities, Newcastle Mayfair, Queen’s Hall in Bradford, we got to Doncaster, played The Cock and Lion in Bridlington and The Pier at Lowestoft. Back in those day’s we got around the North a lot, we covered a lot of miles’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘From 1979-81 Tarot recorded three demo sessions, first was in Halifax where we recorded five tracks in one day. I can’t remember the studio name but I do recall it was on the fourth floor cos I nearly had a coronary carrying the kit up there !

Our second and third recordings were at September Studios in Huddersfield, where we recorded 6 tracks in all, 3 at each session. I can’t remember how much the sessions in the recording studio cost, but coming from Yorkshire I guess it wasn’t mega expensive. HOW MUCH! Being the Yorkshire man’s mantra haha’.

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‘The only published song from these sessions was Feel the Power which appeared on the compilation album – New Electric Warriors released in 1980. I remember seeing the album in the local record shop, was a bit disappointed with the cover. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it.

How that came about was someone got in touch with us via Sounds magazine I think, they had checked our name as we were in the metal chart most weeks. Streetfighter were also on the album, I met their manager a few times. We did a gig with them at Leeds Uni and the BBC came to film some of it including us. I’m sure it was something to do with Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper not sure why. I don’t remember it being shown on tv’.

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‘We also done a mini promotional tour for the album. To be honest I don’t know how many copies of the album were sold back then. It was re-released as part of a triple box set of NWOBHM, which I bought a copy of. I managed to by a cd version a few years back of New Electric Warrior’s and also a vinyl copy too! I still get very small royalty checks every 5 year or so, about enough to buy a bag of chips !’

‘All the Tarot material has just been released for the first time, on a remastered cd Rough and Ready. To order a cd you can contact me directly at horacedog@talktalk.net or the band via facebook page’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

INVADER FROM THE NORTH – Spartan Warrior guitarist Neil Wilkinson

In a previous interview on this blog (Chain Reaction, May 21st) Neil said…’After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studio asked if we wanted to do a full album, we said yeah let’s go for it’.

Based in Sunderland North East UK, Spartan Warrior recorded 2 albums in the 1980’s, ‘Steel ’n’ Chains’ on Guardian Records and ‘Spartan Warrior’ on Roadrunner. They also appeared on compilations ‘100% Pure Metal’ and ’Pure Overkill’.

The band are still playing live so I got back in touch with Neil and asked him how long does it take to prepare for gig’s ? ’Well the amount of preparation depends on the gig really. Gigs abroad are definitely more complex as we have to book ferries or flights and there’s usually travel to the airport or ferry terminal to take into account. For a lot of gigs that involve the ferry travelling through Dover is usually the cheapest, which for us in the North East involves an overnight drive to get an early ferry and then drive to a gig.

There’s been times I’ve set off around 9pm on a Friday evening and drove to Dover for an early morning 6 o’clock ferry which gets us to Calais for 8am allowing for an hours time difference. Then drove to a gig and literally gone straight on stage to play having not slept a wink. I’m certain that’s a situation that’s not unique to us’.

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‘Also if we need to hire a van it can be a lot of work – you wouldn’t think it, but it is. Also with a van comes a higher cost on the ferry. The whole thing can be a lot of work and probably way more involved than people think.

So far there’s been no problems apart from the time Dan decided to wear his bullet belt going through Heathrow airport ha ha – he actually put it through the scanner. He was lucky to make it to the gig that time and I was sat in the airport thinking how we could busk the gig as a four piece’.

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Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Spartan Warrior played their first gigs ? ’There’s a definite difference. These days after gigs people want to talk and meet us and even sign stuff for them which is really nice’.

What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ? ‘We get all ages at festivals I’ve seen old blokes – like me – and parents with babies with ear defenders on. Its quite a small scene so you do get to see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of them are now friends’.

The set list, how do you decide what goes in/out, is tempo important to the order, how do you choose the first and last songs ? ’Putting a set list together is usually a joint exercise. There’s a core of songs that we class as must do, the one’s we think people expect to hear us play. Other than that we try and switch the set up as much as possible so that people who’ve seen us before will get to hear something different. Tempo is important and we sometimes try and run songs into each other.

Playing the gigs we do and with 4 albums worth of songs we usually have limited time so we try and play as many songs as we can. Both first and last song we try and choose something that will hit hard from the off. I remember reading something that had been written about us at Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany, they said Spartan Warrior opened with Stormer, ‘and nearly ripped my head off’. Well that was job done and exactly the reaction we wanted !’

In the coming month’s Spartan Warrior have a few gig’s coming up are there any that stand out ? ‘We’ve got the Trillians gig in Newcastle in November and we are looking forward to Grimm Up North which is a charity event’.

On September 30th in Bury is the Grimm Up North Festival. On the bill are fellow NWOBHM bands Salem, Weapon UK plus a whole host of others who are coming together to help Steve Grimmet vocalist from Grim Reaper who tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America…‘We are really looking forward to those gig’s, not just because we are playing but we also get to catch up with loads of mates in bands who are also on the bill’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

MYTHRA: Still Burning, 13th February 2017.

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

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

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

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

VENOM INC: Antony Bray, Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.

ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.

SPARTAN WARRIOR: Chain Reaction, 21st May 2017.

HELLANBACH: Kev Charlton, The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 2017.

INCREASE THE PRESSURE – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara and Simon Saxby

This year UK metal band Salem completed dates at Brofest in Newcastle, Metarock in Barcelona and Wedfest in Hertford. They have also been working on new album ‘Attrittion’ with release date early 2018 on Dissonance Productions.

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The Hull based group have lined up 4 gig’s starting September 30th in Bury at the Grimm Up North Festival. On the bill are Spartan Warrior, Weapon UK and a host of metal bands coming together to help one of their own. Steve Grimmet vocalist with Grim Reaper tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America. It left him and his family with massive medical bills. With a lot to sort out, Salem guitarist Paul Macnamara (pic. below on left) and frontman Simon Saxby told me about their plans.

Paul: ‘We played at British Steel in France 2015 and we’re really looking forward to do that again. Blast From The Past is new to us though we have gigged in Belgium several times already. And then Grimm Up North, well that’s something else quite special’.
Simon: ‘Preparing for gigs these days takes less time than it ever did when we were young and keen. I think because we’re old and keen to get out of going shopping…again. We tend to rehearse at home, and have a full band rehearsal nearer the gig just to make sure. Paul Mac does most of the travel arrangements and thankfully, so far nobody has forgotten passports. However we are guilty of forgetting that it takes longer to remember whether you have got everything you need before you set off. Maybe that’s an age thing’.
Paul: ‘I do remember one time when arrived to pick up Simon at 6am in the way to a gig in Europe. He was asleep and didn’t hear his phone – so we resorted to throwing stones at the window of his third flat apartment!

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On 7th October they go to France for the British Steel Festival playing on a bill with Tytan, Satan’s Empire and headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon. How do the band write the set list, decide what songs are in/out and is tempo important to the set order ?
Simon: ‘The set list is obviously governed by the time allotted, however, as we have continued writing and recording new material the choice of what to leave out gets more challenging. The first song is always one with impact and power and thankfully we have a few to choose from. The last song is usually a song like Forgotten Dreams. The pace of the set fluctuates between those two’.
Paul: ‘We try to select a good blend of old and new, some from the 1980’s and increasingly more from the recent albums. We are always excited to include our newest material, so we may start incorporating songs from our forthcoming Attrition album soon – maybe!

During December the band have two more festival gigs to wrap up the year. On the 2nd they are at the HRH NWOBHM in Sheffield with Avenger, Diamond Head and headliners Raven. What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ?
Simon: ‘With the popularity of rock music and the organisers of gigs being family people, we find a mixture of all ages. There is an honesty and warmth amongst the metal community that is ageless and the audience always reflects that’.
Paul: ‘And we do see more and more people at our gigs who have become our friends over the years. It’s great to see them there – singing along to all our songs.  We really appreciate their support’.

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Finally they travel onto Belgium for Blast from the Past festival playing alongside The Deep, Tysondog and headliners Diamond Head. Is there any difference from coming off stage now to when Salem played their first gigs ?
Simon: ‘Yes it’s more tiring but many times more rewarding. We actually take time to enjoy every second on stage and enjoy a cold beer, a chat with people afterwards. Then a good night’s sleep before setting off again’.
Paul: ‘Definitely. For a start, we are playing bigger events than in the 80’s so there are a lot more people keen to talk with us at the merch table – which is great – and the dressing rooms are better, rather than having to change in the toilets! I’m sure we work harder to put on a show which as Simon says is tiring – and it’s so good to engage with the audience. It is such a brilliant feeling to see so many people enjoying themselves who know our music and are singing along with us’.

For more info on gig’s, album releases, merchandise and listen to some of the tracks contact the band at the official website salemband.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, April 6th 2017. 

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

TYGER BAY – interview with Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tygers of Pan Tang original bassist

In 2016 Tygers of Pan Tang released an album of new tracks mixed by Soren Anderson, filmed video’s for the single’s Only the Brave and Glad Rags, completed tours around Europe, including dates in North and South America – not forgetting their own beer -Tyger Blood !

This year they continue to support the album with UK dates arranged for November. But way back in the 1970’s in the small seaside town of Whitley Bay in the North East of England…

‘I think it was about 1976 when I met Robb (Weir, guitarist) and Brian (Dick, drums). I knew Brian through some other musicians I used to hang out with. Drummers were rare beasts in those days, especially one’s as good as Brian so I made sure I jammed with him as often as possible.

I met Robb when someone gave me his telephone number as he was interested in getting a band together, actually we didn’t start playing together at first. I started roadying for his punk band first, they were called Trick’.

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Who were your first influences and how did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I wanted to be in a band from a very young age. A live band played at a Christmas party for kids where my father worked. This would have been in the sixties so they were a bit like The Beatles and had red guitars which I was fascinated by.

I got a very cheap acoustic guitar as a Christmas present but didn’t know anyone who played guitar or could teach me and the few lessons I had only taught stuff I didn’t want to play.
It was only when I was given a copy of Space Ritual by Hawkwind and heard Lemmy play bass, especially Lord of Light, that I knew I wanted to play bass guitar. So I got a cheap bass and started learning bass lines by ear. So yeah, as a bass player it was definitely Lemmy that got me playing’.

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When did you meet up with the Tygers, when did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘When Brian and I decided we really wanted to get a band together I suggested we try jamming with Robb. It was an instant success! We started writing songs and looked for a singer and a guy called Mark Butcher joined the band. We did about 25 shows with Mark.

After Mark left we had a bit of a hiatus then got back together and Jess Cox joined as singer and we started gigging regularly. There was no real metal scene around Newcastle at the time. There were no regular venues for local metal bands but there was a metal audience for bigger bands who played the Newcastle Mayfair or City Hall.

There were three metal bands already playing locally when we started. There was Raven though they had not really hit on their athletic rock style at that time. There was Axe, who eventually became Fist, and there was Fastbreeder who now would be most notable for having Andy Taylor on guitar, later he joined Duran Duran !’

‘What separated us from these bands was that they all predated punk rock whereas we were starting during the punk scene and were heavily influenced by it. Although there was not a local metal scene apart from the three bands I mentioned, there was a thriving local music scene generally in Newcastle in the mid to late 70’s.

Many pubs had a room upstairs where bands could play and take money on the door. I can’t remember all the pubs we played but the Gosforth Hotel and the Bridge Hotel were ones we played regularly, as well as pubs further afield in and around the North East.

In fact the Tygers first ever gig was at the Coach and Eight in Durham. As well as pubs which didn’t pay very well we got a club agent so we could play the CIU working men’s clubs’.

‘Often these clubs, as well as serving the excellent Federation Ales would have rock nights where we could play, even playing our own material. You had to play two one hour sets, so you had to have quite a lot of material and obviously you had to play some covers. We played AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Motorhead, Status Quo, ZZ Top among others.

One club we played was Sunderland Boilermakers, though playing in Sunderland was always an adventure for us Whitley Bay boys as of course they never clapped, something which Sunderland was famous for. Though you were still expected to do an encore, which they called a false tap, on the basis that if you were still alive they must have liked it!’

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One of Tygers of Pan Tang early gig’s at Mingles Bar, Whitley Bay.

How did the record deal’s come about with NEAT and MCA ? ‘We invested in some pyrotechnics which always ensured a good reception in the clubs as they were a bit unusual. We played schools as that way you could play to kids who couldn’t get into the pubs and clubs. It was at a show at Whitley Bay High School where we were seen by David Wood of Neat Records. His kids went there and I think having a fan base with school age kids was what helped our first single to sell.

A big help to our early progress was doing a residency every Wednesday night at Mingles nightclub in our home town of Whitley Bay. It was already a venue but I think even after we stopped playing there it carried on being a sort of Heavy Metal club.

Our biggest local gig before we had a record deal was when we headlined the Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle. It was a bit of a disaster as we had loads of technical problems and probably because I was nervous I had got completely pissed and could barely stand up!

Still we attracted 1,500 people which was a lot for a local band and due to a misprint this got reported as 15,000 in the industry magazine Music Week and we got a record deal with MCA Records as a result!

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Did you come across other NWOBHM bands ? ’The first support we did was Iron Maiden for two nights at the Marquee in London. This was the first time we had travelled any distance to play and the first time I had ever been to London. The venue was packed and they were amazing gigs. Maiden were unbelievably good and you could tell they were going to be big.

We did a support tour with Magnum which was our first national tour. Later they supported us on a UK tour and they weren’t very pleased about it. We also supported Def Leppard and Saxon. Saxon were very good to us as Motorhead had been good to them in the same circumstances. Saxon were my favourite NWOBHM band and when we toured with them we helped out in their show by doing things like operating smoke machines, dry ice generators and spotlights just for fun.

We also supported Scorpions at quite large venues and it was a steep learning curve as we were not used to big venues. They weren’t impressed by our first couple of gigs and I think we were close to being sacked off the tour but we had a storming gig in Glasgow and then everything was fine. We learned a lot from Scorpions as they did everything very professionally’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I would be a bit hazy on dates! We first recorded at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. In fact our first session was doing three tracks for which we got cheap studio time by doing them as a competition entry for the Vitavox Live Sound Awards, this was David Wood’s idea. This would have been in 1978 I suppose. We hadn’t really thought about the Awards competition, we even put false names on the entry form. But actually found that we had to play at the competition and won it!

We did two other sessions at Impulse one of which was just to record our live set so we just set up and played the whole set live without stopping and no overdubs. Much of this was eventually released as the First Kill album so those tracks would be a pretty good example of what we actually sounded like at the time.

We also did a session to record the Don’t Touch Me There single with two b side tracks, which was our first single and was released on Neat. All of the Neat stuff was produced by Steve Thompson’. (Featured in an earlier blog The Godfather of North East NWOBHM in June 2017)

‘I don’t think he had worked with a band who knew so little about music, as we couldn’t have played a scale between us! After we got the record deal with MCA, at first this was through Neat. Well Neat wanted us to record our first album in their studio at Impulse in Wallsend, but the producer Chris Tsangarides came up to look at it and said he couldn’t work there and wanted to use his usual studio which was Morgan Studios in London. That was where we did the Wild Cat and Spellbound albums.

We actually demo’d Spellbound at Guardian Studios in Durham. The demo’s were the first time we had recorded with new singer Jon Deveril and new guitarist John Sykes both albums represented an amazing leap forward for the band. When I first listened to the demo’s at home after the sessions, I couldn’t believe how good this line up sounded’.

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‘Recording Wildcat and Spellbound was a great experience but there was no time for self-indulgence and both albums were done in a couple of weeks. Guitar, bass and drums were recorded in a couple of takes, then guitar overdubs and vocals. We did get to add a few extras like kettle drums and bass synth pedals, I was a big Rush fan at the time!

‘The next recording we did was with a mobile at a gig in Nottingham at the Rock City venue. For some reason which I still don’t know, John Sykes listened to it and said it was unusable and it got forgotten about until it was released some 20 years later. I think it would have made a massive difference to our career had it been released at the time because instead we had to do the Crazy Nights album, and we weren’t ready.

We didn’t demo that album and quite a lot of it was written in the studio. It was recorded just bass and drums with a guide guitar and later guitars were added then vocals. It wasn’t a very good way to record because we had never actually heard the songs before we recorded the basic tracks as there were no lyrics, just a chord progression or riff. Only a couple of songs were actually written properly before recording. There are virtually no overdubs and no backing vocals.

We hadn’t used Chris Tsangarides, partly as we just wanted a change but partly as he wanted a writing credit on a track on Spellbound which annoyed us.

Anyway we got in Dennis MacKay on Gary Moore’s recommendation but he was totally wrong for the band. He was doing a Stanley Clarke album in the States at the same time and was flying back and forwards. It was also our own fault as we were partying too hard at that point and not taking the music seriously enough. Still there are some good tracks on the album.

Crazy Nights was partly recorded at Trident Studios in London which closed down straight after though I don’t think this was our fault. The vocals were done on the Virgin recording studio on a boat on the Thames!

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After the first three albums what was the band’s approach for the fourth ? ‘After the problems with Crazy Nights we decided to get serious and get a commercial producer in and this was Peter Collins. He had never done rock before but he must have liked the experience as he went on to do Rush and various other rock bands after us.

He came to a rehearsal said he couldn’t believe his first experience of hearing loud rock guitar in a confined space! Our first recording with Peter was Love Potion No 9 while John Sykes was still in the band. Love Potion No 9 got a lot of radio play and was our biggest single. Obviously it is a cover but it doesn’t sound much like the original. It was suggested by Peter Collin’s manager who was Pete Waterman who later became part of Stock, Aitken and Waterman of Kylie Minogue fame.

At that point John Sykes left the band to try for the job with Ozzy after Randy Rhodes died. He didn’t get the job but when he asked to come back we said no and looked for a replacement. At first Fred Purser was just supposed to be temporary to do a French tour we had booked but we got on so well we asked him to join full time. Fred had been in local punk band Penetration but in fact he was quite a sophisticated musician, at least compared to the rest of us’.

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‘We recorded The Cage with Peter Collins at Marquee Studios in London. We had picked some cover songs to do after the success with Love Potion and there were also some co-writes with people outside the band and Fred had a few songs so it was a different pool of songs to our usual stuff.

We still didn’t get that long to record and it was the usual couple of weeks to do most of it but Peter Collins was a real slave driver so we got a lot done. The Cage was a commercial success and was our biggest album and we went to Japan and did a big UK tour and did supports and some headlining in Europe’.

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What festival’s did you play, what other bands were on and was there any stand out moments ? ‘Festivals in the UK in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were not like they are now and were pretty rough and ready. I’d say they were a bit like the wild west and from the stage you looked out on thirty thousand people seemingly all throwing cans of piss at each other. It was pretty scary.

The only UK festival we played was Reading which we did twice. The first time was 1980 it was John Sykes first proper gig with the band. It was mega exciting to do though we were well down the bill and must have been playing early afternoon.

The second time we played Reading was in ’82 after The Cage was released and was scarier still as by this time we were well up the bill. In fact we had been given a very strange spot. There were two stages but these were for the same audience and they were set apart so they could be setting up one bands gear whilst another played. One stage was slightly smaller than the other so the top of the bill and second on the bill played the bigger stage and we had to play between them on the second stage. Therefore we were sandwiched between Blackfoot and Iron Maiden.

We knew how good Blackfoot were and were not keen on the idea of going on after them as they were a bigger band than us. We contemplated not doing it but a majority of the band wanted to do it so we went ahead. Our agent said the secret was to start playing the moment that Blackfoot left the stage so that is what we did and it was a fantastic success’.

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‘Reading in 1982 was still a bit lawless and during the performance I did get hit by a bottle though I barely noticed it at the time and there was a large bruise afterwards. Backstage was a bit different, before our performance we were eating strawberries and cream with Brit Ekland!

In Europe we did a few festivals and we did two in the Netherlands a week apart which left us staying in Amsterdam for a week with nothing to do but enjoy ourselves! Festivals in Europe were different to UK festivals as they were not specific to a genre of music.

So in one festival we played with The Beat and Killing Joke, at another it was Dexy’s Midnight Runners and at a festival in Sweden we headlined one night and Simple Minds headlined the next night. In the UK the different audiences would have killed each other but they all got on fine in the festivals in Europe’.

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The Tygers recorded a few TV appearances notably The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube. How did they come about and what other bands were on ? ‘There wasn’t as much opportunity to be on the TV in those days. You had to have a hit single to get on Top of the Pops and we were one spot away from that with Love Potion but never actually made it.

Our first TV was in Manchester on a show presented by Tony Wilson who went on to start the Factory label. This was on the Wild Cat tour and is on YouTube. It is the only film of us with Jess Cox and we did Euthanasia. We did a local North East TV show but I can’t remember the name of it. It was a kind of chat show and we were the band that played in the middle. We did Don’t Stop By off Spellbound but whilst there are some photo’s there is no surviving film.

After Crazy Nights we did a TV special about Viz magazine. The show was called Something Else and was a kind of magazine show that each week did something about a particular city. The one on Newcastle centred on Viz. The two bands on were us and Angelic Upstarts who were great’.

‘The music bit was filmed in London at BBC TV Centre and we did Raised On Rock and Love Don’t Stay these are both on YouTube. Whilst we really liked Viz, they didn’t really like us and I know that Simon Donald of Viz didn’t want the Tygers on but was told he had to have us!

We then did the Old Grey Whistle Test. The other band on was someone from Wings but I can’t remember who they were. We did Running out of Time from Crazy Nights and Love Potion No.9 which by then I think was out as a single. This was our last TV with John Sykes on guitar.

By the time we did OGWT the format had changed a bit from the early days and there was an audience of sorts but when they applied for tickets they didn’t know who was going to be playing. It was just a generic TV audience and not fans of the band. After filming we went out for something to eat and were stopped by the police as apparently we fitted the description of people they were looking for in connection with criminal damage. We were able to give them an alibi !’

‘Our final TV performance was The Tube in 1982. It was one of the early episodes of The Tube and we were on with Iggy Pop and Twisted Sister. Unfortunately Iggy Pop was a total dick and a complete diva and by the time he was happy with his sound there was no time for anyone else to sound check.

It was great meeting Twisted Sister. They were a fantastic band, great performers and we felt very reserved and British in comparison. They were all absolutely enormous as well, it was like meeting a bunch of wrestlers!

I think The Tube was the last time the version of the Tygers I was in played together. We split up shortly after. We were not in a very good state of mind but the film which is on YouTube is better than I remembered it at the time. As to who arranged the TV appearances I suppose it was our managers or the record company. I know our managers used to badger local TV to put us on as we were a local band’.

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NWOBHM, did you realise the impact that the genre of music would have ? ‘NWOBHM was quite big at the time and had pretty much an instant impact but I certainly didn’t realise that anyone would be talking about it in thirty years time. Or that it would directly influence the future of metal by inspiring the thrash metal bands that would come after it.

The first time we heard about NWOBHM was Geoff Barton’s piece in Sounds Magazine. At that point we were doing quite well on the local scene. There was a local indoor music event called the Bedrock Festival at the Guildhall in Newcastle and we headlined one of the nights. There were many local band’s on so I would say we were quite a big local band. However, the problem was how to expand outside of the North East and the NWOBHM was that opportunity’.

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‘When the first article about Def Leppard and the second about Maiden was in Sounds magazine our manager sent Geoff a tape saying that we were a similar sort of band but in Newcastle rather than Sheffield or London. The next week there was a sort of round up of heavy rock and metal bands around the country and we were in that.

Our single started selling outside the North East and we started to get national attention. I don’t know if any of this would have happened without the NWOBHM. Obviously there was a few NWOBHM bands at the start including Maiden, Saxon, Leppard, Diamond Head and Girlschool but I think we kind of stopped thinking about being part of the NWOBHM once we got to release our second album.

I was aware of Venom of course as we knew Conrad (Cronos) quite well from before Venom and in fact I went to their first gig with Cronos. I just didn’t understand it at all though, of course they were right and I was wrong as they went on to be probably the most influential NWOBHM band other than Maiden‘.

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Can you remember when the Tygers called it a day? ‘Unfortunately in the success of our fourth album The Cage lay the seed of the bands demise. MCA records wanted to do more covers and more rocked up versions of soul classics and we didn’t want to do it. We had a four track machine on which we demo’d some songs written by Fred but this did not change MCA’s mind and whist other companies were interested in the band they were not interested in buying us out of our deal with MCA.

However the fifth album demos were interesting as we recorded live drums and everything as we would in a studio but on the four track. We turned one of the rooms in my parents’ house into a studio and put mattresses on the walls and used the next door room as a control room. Fred was actually a pretty good producer and now owns a studio in Newcastle. Anyway, as a result of all the frustration we split up as there seemed no way forward.

Apart from Venom I was completely unware of all of the bands who came along as the kind of second wave of NWOBHM or that NEAT had become some sort of NWOBHM label. The Tygers thing all happened between ’78 and ’82 and then it was over and I completely lost touch with the whole scene that carried on after that’.

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Mischief or Madness, have you any funny stories from being in the band ? ‘There is a rule among bands that what goes on the road stays on the road so there is a lot I could tell you about which I am not going to tell you about haha. But a couple of funny things come to mind.

We were always looking for practical jokes to play on people or each other and when staying in a large hotel in France, having returned from the gig Brian and I noticed that people who wanted their breakfast in their rooms hung a cardboard notice on the outside of their doors with what they wanted for breakfast, and more importantly what time they wanted it. So we went round and changed all the times to 6am.

The next morning pandemonium ensued as half the hotel were woken for breakfast several hours before they wanted to be, including our band mates and managers who were traveling with us’.

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‘Another time whilst recording at Morgan Studios we knew our manager was coming to visit the studio so we set up pyrotechnics just inside the studio door and got reception to warn us when he was coming in. He opened the door and found himself in total darkness and then a few seconds later a whole bank of magnesium explosions went off! He didn’t know what had hit him.

We didn’t always know when was a good time for jokes and when wasn’t. Jon Deverill was doing vocals at the studio and the rest of us were at the apartment we had rented so we decided to set up a few surprises for when he got back. What we didn’t realise was that he would actually get back at about 4 in the morning after a particularly gruelling vocal session, was exhausted and was therefore not really in the mood to have a bucket of water on his head from the top of the door, his bed sheet folded over so he couldn’t get in properly, and the legs of his bed collapse once he was in it!’

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Current Tygers bassist Gav Gray with Richard Laws.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I am involved in the music business as after the band I qualified as a lawyer and started working in the music business and have been doing that for the last 30 years or so. I tend to represent companies rather than artists and whilst I still do a lot of record company and publishing company work, the industry has changed in the time I have worked in it. There is a lot more brand related work and merchandising.

I don’t go to many gigs these days as my days in the Tygers left me with permanent hearing damage and some gigs now are so loud it is actually painful unless I wear hearing protection.

I did go to see the current line-up of the Tygers about a year ago and it was great to see them as they were really good. It was great to see Robb again as I hadn’t seen him for 30 years though I am now in touch with some of the old band on social media and speak to Robb on the phone occasionally.

I still play music though I didn’t for many years. I only started again because at one of the places I worked someone had the idea of putting a band together for the Christmas party so I dug out my bass and we ended up doing quite a few private parties just playing covers. Now I just play for my own amusement and guitar rather than bass, though I still have my old Rickenbacker bass from the Tygers days. At least I know some scales now!’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

ACE OF BASS with North East musician Duncan Emmerson

‘Is there a bass player out there who didn’t want to be Lemmy? Motorhead were always my favourite band, and still are to this day. One of my proudest moments was meeting Fast Eddie’.

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Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘Blimey, there’s a question. Probably hearing Overkill and seeing my first gig, Motorhead supported by Saxon at Newcastle City Hall on December 2nd 1979. That did it for me, and for the following few years I was virtually a resident both at the City Hall and The Mayfair. I still maintain 1979-1984 were the best years in music. Ever’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I haven’t been in a proper recording studio since 1992 when I recorded with a band called Honey at Dungeon Studios in Oxford. I was living in Oxford at the time when there was quite a healthy music scene with a few bands becoming high profile on a national scale. The likes of Ride, On A Friday who became Radiohead and The Jennifers who became Supergrass. I answered an advert in the paper for Honey and ended up doing a few support slots, usually at the famous Jericho Tavern.

In Dungeon Studio we recorded seven tracks in two days and slept under the mixing desk. We still keep in touch which is nice. Those experiences do give you a bond don’t they?  Actually, while I’m talking about them, our one claim to fame was that we supported a local band called On A Friday, who as any fool will know, changed their name to Radiohead’.

When did you start playing gigs in the North East and what venues did you play ?  ‘The first local band I played in was a three piece called Requiem, the brainchild of Glenn S Howes, until recently the singer/guitarist with Fist. I was on the bass, and Sean Taylor from Satan was the drummer. We were a cover band, did gigs on the local pub circuit, bike rallies and the like. This went on for a couple of years from about 2008’.

WARRIOR BELGIUM

‘I joined Warrior in 2014 as the band had been asked to play at Brofest in Newcastle. They needed a bass player and Sean Taylor, yes him again, was drumming for the band. He got in touch and asked if I would like to do it.

We played the gig at Brofest in February 2014, and the year after that we played at Headbangers Open Air in Germany and Garage Dayz Revisited in that there London. I’m going to put this on record…thank you to Blitzkrieg for looking after us on both occasions’.

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‘Locally, we played the legendary venues of Trillians and the Penny Gill, and last year we played at Negasonic in Belgium which was a tremendous gig. Guido who runs it is such a lovely bloke.  Personally, I was delighted to meet Rock Goddess at HOA, we’d just come off stage and suddenly there’s Tracey Lamb asking me ‘What was it like mate’? Starstruck or what ?

To this day I’ve never been able to talk to musicians I grew up admiring and listening to, even those who have gone on to become good friends. I just babble like a twat haha’.

GODDESS

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well, the one that springs to mind was doing a lunchtime gig with Requiem at a club in Sunderland which is notorious for two reasons. I’m not going to mention the second reason, but for the first one, the audience, and there’s usually a healthy turnout, take great pride in ignoring the band. They’ll read their papers and play dominoes, and revel in silence after each song.

Anyway, we did our opening number, finished to deathly quiet and Glenn, as he did at every gig announces ‘Good Evening (name of venue)’ at the top of his voice. Not a thing. Then we heard from the darkness ‘It’s lunchtime ya daft c**t’. Probably the only reaction ever, which should be a point of pride’.

‘One more semi funny tale. When Warrior played HOA we did a signing session after the set. One guy presented us with a cd by the band from Chesterfield with the same name, the album was called Let Battle Commence. Despite the fact they were a trio, he refused to be convinced he had the wrong band and wouldn’t leave until we signed it. I think he had to be removed eventually haha.’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I’m currently playing bass for the recently resurrected Dark Heart, who had an album out in 1984 called Shadows Of The Night on Roadrunner Records. I joined Dark Heart after I left Warrior. The line up is myself, Alan Clark who was an original founder member on lead vocals/guitar, Nick Catterick, an outstanding lead guitarist who I’ve known for many years now, and Elliot Sneddon on drums who I played with in Warrior’.

‘How that came about was Alan Clark got in touch and asked if I’d be interested as he’d been offered an album deal and wanted to resurrect the band. He’s a great singer and I jumped at the chance to work with him. Having Nick and Elliot on board as well was the icing on the cake. It’s nice to get the old rhythm section back together.

Dark Heart are currently recording a new album to be released later this year via the Greek label Sleaszy Rider Records. We’ve already got rough mixes of around five or six songs so it’s well under way, and I have to say it’s going to be well worth a listen.  Watch this space….’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 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.

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

Harry Hill FIST: Turn the Hell On, April 29th 2017.

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

Kev Charlton HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

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

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.

ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.

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