ROCKY ROAD FROM DUBLIN – but Bernie Torme has travelled well.

I was last in touch with Bernie Torme in March this year just before his gig in South Shields. (The Dentist, March 2017) He had just released a triple album Dublin Cowboy and was starting a UK tour to promote the record. I asked him how did it go, were there any stand out gig’s or surprises ?

‘It went really well, which was great for new boy Sy Morton on bass. The boy done good. Stand out gigs? Well for political reasons since you’re from the North East I’ll say South Shields! It was, but actually they were all fucking brilliant!’

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‘Edinburgh was a blast, we had my old bass player Phil Spalding from The Bernie Torme Band back in ’77 -’78 play one of our punk classics Secret Service and the great Doogie White got up to sing Smoke on The Water. That was wild’.

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What was the initial feedback from supporters to Dublin Cowboy ? ‘Really good, different people had different favourites, everyone seemed to dig the Dublin Cowboy track lots, and the acoustic album and live album. It was one of the best reactions I’ve had to any album, pretty pleased about that’.

In 1988 you worked with ex Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider in the band Desperado, how did that come about, what was it like writing with Dee and did you play live ? ‘It was great working with Dee, I love the guy, he’s one of a kind, great guy, great front man, awesome singer. The singer bit often gets ignored because he’s such a huge personality, but that man could sing the ass off anyone’.

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‘He asked me to do it initially because he had heard the lead guitar work I had done on the Mammoth album (I was the potential Mammoth that just wasn’t fat enough!) it was an interesting time, just before the bubble burst on the mega deals for rock stuff in the music biz. I couldn’t have given a fuck about all that, but it was important to Dee and his management.

So we careered through a few years of huge money and chaos. Dee on Atlantic being sued by Bill Graham (of Filmore fame), chapter 11 bankruptcy and out of the Atlantic deal. A new deal with Elektra, turned out a bad mistake!

We recorded the album, which they initially loved, then they dropped the band after having a million dollars spent on us because someone had a bad weekend or something. That’s the politics of New York cokehead music industry execs…. Fuckin eejits! Quite traumatic at the time, but you survive and ride on free’.

‘Dee was great to work with, huge talent, good writer, always loads of ideas, sometimes a bit of a control freak, but thats understandable, he was the guy who had to carry the can. Fucking giant, I love the man’.

‘Only gig we ever did was in Birmingham, I think it was the International club or something? Maybe wrong about the name, but it was definitely Brum. It was a showcase for Atlantic, but with an audience. Good gig. Motorhead wanted us as special guest on their Euro tour in ’88 or early ’89 but Dee wouldn’t do it. I really wanted to, I still think not doing it was a big mistake, it would have put a real world value on the band’.

Bringing your story up to date what are your future plans, any touring in 2018 ? ‘Thinking about that one….not sure, maybe end of the year. Perhaps not, life is a bit complicated right now’.

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Lastly, what has music given you ? ‘A life, dreams, happiness, unhappiness, friends, enemies, experiences and seeing places. Meeting great people, shit people and doing things that a shy kid with a stutter from Dublin could never have imagined in a thousand years! Gave me everything really, for which I am eternally grateful, I wouldn’t have exchanged my life for anyone else’s. It definitely did not make me rich though! Hey music are you listening???!!!’

For information about the Dublin Cowboy album and more check the official website http://www.bernietorme.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist 21st March 2017.

BACK FOR GOOD ? Return of NWOBHM band Troyen

Troyen are from the North West UK, they formed in 1980 and were active until late ’82. The NWOBHM band reformed in 2014 and are now ready to release new material in July, drummer Jeff Baddley takes up the story…

‘We were requested to play Brofest #3 by the promoter Stu Bartlett, during and after the gig the reception was great we all agreed we had to carry this on. So the past few years we have been riding the wave playing around the UK and Europe. That’s included gigs at The Borderline in London and appearing at Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in Holland’.

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How did you get your name and who were your influences ? ‘We were originally called Trojan until we found another band in the UK with the same name. So we decided to change to Troyen which is French for Trojan and is inspired by 1858 Hector Berlioz opera Les Troyens.

We all have an eclectic mix of music and influences ranging from traditional classic rock like UFO, Rush and Judas Priest to new rock sounds like Shinedown, Alter Bridge, Opeth and Joe Bonamassa’.

Did Troyen get out on the road ? ‘It was really hard in pre-internet days for Troyen to get noticed. It was down to hard work and gigging as often as possible. We did over 130 gigs all over the country in the two years we were together, including support dates with Spider, Girlschool, Rhabstallion, and Diamond Head. We also enjoyed a six week European support tour with Nightwing’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our demo was Gil Norton’s first ever studio job. At the time, Gil was just learning how to record, engineer and produce music. Gil’s current portfolio consists of work for the likes of The Pixies, Foo Fighters, Feeder, Counting Crows, Terrorvision and many more of the same calibre’.

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‘The demo cassette was recorded in 1981 at Amazon Studios in Liverpool featuring Dreams Never Lie, Crazy Lady, Futures Friend and Don’t Send Me To War. That sold out of two runs of 250 copies and Troyen enjoyed good radio play alongside the promise of a contract with NEAT records for a three-track single and a possible LP’.

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‘Rough demos for the single were done, but sadly the band split prior to completion of the single’.

‘Since re-forming we have produced an eight track cd featuring digitally enhanced tracks from the original demo, two old tracks that never made to tape or vinyl, Syrian Lady and First Blood. Also two new tracks Backlash and the title track Finish What You Started. This was recorded at Elusive Studios in St Helens and was partially crowd funded’.

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘We have many ! Countless times meeting other bands in motorway services in the wee small hours of the morning and swapping experiences. Sadly most are not printable but here’s a few that are! We were gigging in Germany and driving down an autobahn, we didn’t notice till much later that someone was missing, it was one one our roadies !

Another one was in June ’82 and we were again in Germany playing the Schutorf Festival and during some down time we went to a park to play football, we recognised the other team but couldn’t think who they were. Turns out we played against Simple Minds. Think that was the night Jeff the drummer slept in a dog basket, or was that after a gig in Munster ha ha. Sorry we can’t reveal much more of this story but one night we had a very traumatic experience in a German night club with a pair of step ladders and a metal bucket’.

What are Troyen doing now ? ‘We have recorded an EP Storm Child to be released in July to coincide with appearances at the Drunken Monkey Festival in August, Grim Up North Fest in Bury with a great line up. Also the British Steel in France with O/D Saxon, Cloven Hoof, Salem and a few more bands. In addition to other gigs in the UK and Belgium which are being arranged as we speak, we will play as long as people want to hear us’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

STAND EASY – with heavy metal band Soldier

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Ian Dick guitarist and founder of New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Soldier recalls some of the lighter times on the road… ‘Usual stuff like trousers splitting on stage, fighting with the audience and a few times we had to send our original vocalist Garry to pick up money when the promoters were holding back payment. He could handle himself if you know what I mean haha’.

What music influenced you ? ‘The 70’s were an exciting time for rock music and the guitarists from that time really influenced me, players like Richie Blackmore, Pat Travers, Robin Trower and Jeff Beck. More up to date stuff from Mark Tremonti and Joe Satriani is pretty cool stuff as well’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I formed Soldier in 1979 and we were always a busy gigging band. Back then there was always places to play, the big workingmen’s clubs would book practically every night. In a week we would go from Northampton to Oxford travel over to Chesterfield, down to Brighton then back up to Blackpool. We had our own P.A system and were able to record a lot of shows straight out of the desk onto a tape recorder. Live Forces and Live @The Heathery were done like that’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘My first time in a professional studio was the first recording session with Soldier. That was at The Beck Studio’s in Wellingborough where we recorded Magician. It was all analogue gear back then so it was like being in Frankensteins laboratory with all this machinery around us waiting for a lightning strike before recording could start ! The guy running the studio had a small transmitter radio hooked up to the desk so you could hear your music back as if it was played on the radio’.

‘Other studio’s we used were Elephant in London to record several tracks Circuit Breaker, Blind Destiny and crowd favourite Dirty Doris. We recorded the single Sheralee and b side Force at Spaceward Studio’s in Cambridge. That was released by Heavy Metal Records.
We put out a compilation of demo’s, live song’s and the two tracks we recorded with Phil Lewis. Music for Nations initially showed some interest in us but nothing concrete came out of the meetings. After that we went our separate way’s, Phil went on to front LA Gun’s and Soldier called it a day’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘One night in Scotland we were playing a gig and Bob our roadie plugged the lights in, got a massive electric shock and was thrown across the stage. Then at one gig we wanted to make a big entrance so we started the intro tape, went on stage, tape finished, then on the first chord the band jumped in the air but the weight of all of us coming down at the same time collapsed the stage…but like true professionals the band never missed a beat haha’.

What are Soldier doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? ‘SKOL Records have been really good to us they released the Sheralee single and since 2012 we have released two albums worth of material.

Over the past few years we have constantly gigged around the UK and festivals in Europe but currently we are taking a break from gigging and concentrating on recording. Digital has made the whole process easier and we are in the middle of recording some new Soldier material which is planned for release later this year’.

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For more information about the band visit their site http://www.soldiernwobhm.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2017.

ALL ABOARD -Getting the band back on the right track with Dealer frontman Trevor Short

Formed in 1979 New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Dealer are from Cirencester, in the South of England. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Trevor Short got in touch…

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‘We had quite an entourage back then, to accommodate everyone and our gear we got a massive 28 seater ex US Airforce bus, and our first proper gig was at a pub in our home town, we ran it all from one plug socket – lights, PA and the back line haha!’… but where did it all begin ?

‘I was in the church choir as a kid and when I was 15, a local band were looking for a singer and asked if I was interested. We all had similar influences, basicallly anything metal from the late 70’s and 80’s like AC/DC, Budgie, Diamond Head and Scorpions’.

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‘Originally we were called Lone Wolf but had to change the name as Paul Di’Annio, who was sacked from Iron Maiden, formed a new band called Lone Wolf. We looked into fighting to keep the name but eventually gave up and that’s where Dealer started’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘We played all pubs and clubs up and down the country with memorable gigs in Swindon, then over to Oxford and into Cardiff. Then a couple of gigs where we supported Gary Moore and the mighty Motorhead at Chippenham Golddiggers.

The whole experience will stay with me forever. Motorhead and their crew could not have been more helpful. We spent most of the evening in their dressing room having been practically dragged in by Lemmy ‘Help yourself to beer and food guys’.

When it was time for us to go on, Lemmy and Philthy stood in the wings and watched our whole set. It was a sell out gig and everyone was up for it. We actually got an encore but we didn’t think we would be allowed to do one more and started to leave the stage.

Lemmy was having none of it and insisted we go back out for our encore. He was a very kind and generous man. The crew worked their asses of for us too. Nothing was too much trouble’.

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‘All in stark contrast to the Gary Moore gig. The man himself was quite friendly, he seemed almost shy but their management not quite so. We had to wait outside while the band sound checked. Then we were bundled on and off and pretty much made aware of our place. Good gig though’.
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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Tudor Studios in Swindon was our first time in a proper studio that was around 1980. I remember we recorded 3 songs but amazingly with all the archive material we collected there is no recording of this session, not a tape or receipt so I cannot even tell you how much it cost !

We have one track Strip Jack Naked which has survived from the 2nd session we recorded at a studio in Reading. Again we haven’t got much info on the name of that studio but I can remember we were struggling to find a place with a producer who understood heavy metal’.

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‘In 1982 we wanted to record an album’s worth of songs, but this would of cost a fortune so we converted our rehearsal space into a studio. We got all the necessary gear, a recording desk, quarter inch reel to reel and plenty of mics. Then went for it, totally live! The end product we called Boogie, Booze & Birds and put it out on cassette’.

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‘Not long after, we met a guy who owned a studio in Cardiff, we found that he really knew his stuff. He was a real saviour for our recorded output so for the next few years, Studio 2 was our real go to place. The result was our deal with Ebony Records’.

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‘Our next recording was at Ebony Studio in Hull. It was a pretty hectic time because we only had one week to record and mix. But we knuckled down and came out with the First Strike album, that was released in 1986 on the Ebony label’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?  ‘I mentioned that we got a massive ex US Airforce bus, well that was a V12 Chevy that was very slow and very thirsty! We added our name on the destination board at the front of the bus, we thought this was great but proved not to be one of our better ideas as the police would stop us on a regular basis. We had just done a gig in Guildford when we were stopped and hauled back to the police station. We were strip searched and held for over 5 hours…finally we were let go’.

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‘The bus wasn’t the most reliable as it would reguarlly break down and to get going again we’d have to push it. I remember supporting Spider in Newbury, we were late after breaking down again. We pushed the bus into the venue’s car park and all the people in the queue were watching us. It was like a scene out of the TV spoof documentary Bad News’.

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Have Dealer been active lately and is there any future plans for band?  ‘In January 2010 we played a ‘one last gig for old times sake’ gig in our hometown of Cirencester. To our surprise that gig was quite a success and I have to say it kinda stirred up the juices again. Also ONR, a Greek record label, released an album of our demo’s which was later released by German label High Roller Records’.

‘By 2011 of all places to gig, we were asked to tour Russia ! A 10 day tour was set up and that was an absolute blast. Our album First Strike was also remastered and released there. More festivals followed including the Heavy Metal Maniacs in Holland’.

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Then Dealer was put on hold after the tragic death of original bassist Pete Gentil. This was absolutely devastating. After a year of contemplation Dealer returned with new bass player Tom Bull to play gigs in the UK, we went back to Holland again and also got on the Lechlade Festival bill supporting Status Quo’.

‘Things were starting to look up again when Steve our lead guitarist developed a problem with his hand meaning Ash Doulton, was brought in to fill on guitar duties. This year with gigs ready for Europe, USA and India we are ready to keep the Dealer train rolling’.

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Dealer full line up:
Trevor Short: lead vocals & rhythm guitar
Rupert Irving: drums & backing vocals
Tom Bull: bass & backing vocals
Ash Doulton: lead guitar & backing vocals

Interview by Gary Alikivi  2017.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON -“I’ve been a professional musician all my working life” say’s guitarist Mick Maughan

Mick looks back on his time when over 30 years ago he recorded at NEAT records for NWOBHM band Phasslayne ‘Tracks included Run for Guns, Who’s Losing Now and Minute Man we called the album Cut it Up

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He also brings his story up to date ‘I’ve play all around the world, last year I played at the Sydney Opera house. I do summer seasons every year in Greece and in the winter move over to Switzerland and Austria. I’ve taught guitar, played on cruises, in football stadiums, done loads of session work and live backing of other artists’.

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‘I’m a self taught musician. Music is in my blood you know and I come from a very musical family. My father played piano and his mother was a music teacher. On my mothers side all of her brothers played guitar so it was a natural progression that I would do the same.

My first guitar was an SG copy which I got around 79. The guitars I play now are mainly Strats and Les Paul’s but I’ve got a great little Tele that I like too. Acoustics I play are Maton, Martin and Takamine.

Gear wise I’ve got a couple of Fender amps, a Bassbreaker and Blues Junior 111, a Bogner Alchemist and a Line 6 DT25. I’ve used amp modelling a lot until recently. I’ve also started using analog pedals again’.

Who were your influences ? ‘My influences range from Steely DanQueen to Stevie Wonder and of course The Beatles. Then heavier stuff like Deep Purple, Van Halen, Gary Moore and UFO, I soaked up all these different sounds, loved it’.

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘My first band used to rehearse in The North Eastern pub in Jarrow around ’81 and my first gig was at the PHAB club on Bede Burn Road in Jarrow. That was with Ian McElwee who later formed a band called Zig Zag with Ginger from The Wildhearts.
Around the same time I formed NWOBHM band Phasslayne. We rehearsed upstairs in the Dougie Vaults in South Shields and I remember our bassist borrowing his dads car and making multiple trips with Marshall cabs and drums, those were the days haha.

Amp wise in those days, I played through 2 x 100 Marshalls and 4 x 4×12’s. Also used a distortion pedal and WEM Copycat cry baby wah and a chorus. The line up had Barry Hopper on drums but Ian Matttimore stepped in when we started gigging, Paul Gago on bass throughout until the band split’.

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‘In the recent version he has been replaced by Brian Morton (pic. above) as I believe Paul has not played bass for many years now. Kev Wilkinson was the original singer who was on the first demo in 1983. He left to join glam/punk band Sweet Trash who were based in Newcastle.

Mustn’t forget to mention Maurice Bates from Mythra who is a very good friend of ours and was Phasslaynes manager, he helped us with decisions and advice from the very beginning’.

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What venues did you play ?  Phasslayne played the usual places around Tyneside, the Mayfair and Trillions in Newcastle. The Mecca in Sunderland and in South Shields we played St Hilda’s youth club and The British Legion social club. We could never afford the necessary equipment required for big shows as we were basically kids so we used to hire PA systems. For all those gigs we drove in a van with no insurance, no tax or m.o.t and the steering was goosed, but it still got us to the gig. In the end we scrapped it for a tenner haha’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘In the summer of 1985 Phasslayne were approached by Neat Records, Dave Woods was the main man there. What happened was we recorded a demo at Desert Sounds in Felling which they really liked so the label asked us to record a live no dubs demo in their studio in Wallsend. On hearing that Dave Woods signed us to do an album. But just before we got our record deal our singer Kev Wilkinson left and everyone looked at me so that’s how I ended up doing the vocals’.

I think Keith Nichol was the engineer.  For guitars I used my Strat and Maurice Bates from Mythra loaned me his Les Paul. But in the end Phasslayne weren’t getting any support from NEAT plus more lucrative jobs were being offered. So that was the end of that really, and I moved on’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘I have a few yes, one was where we had a gig booked in South Shields which had been booked for a few month and we weren’t going to cancel even though we had lost our singer. So I took over. I wasn’t sure of all the words to the songs but we got thru it somehow. We didn’t audition for another singer so I remained on vocals, also drummer Ian Mattimore left and we brought in Andrew Stidolph to replace him’.

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‘Around ’84 or ’85 we entered a Battle of the Bands competition at Buddy’s nightclub in South Shields. All I remember of that gig was we played three songs and came second. I can’t remember the bands name who won but they changed it to The Playboys. Was it Vila La Something or other ?’

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ? ’Still keeping very busy. I play on the new Cirkus album and recorded most of the guitars in Greece and there’s also a Bouzouki featured on one of the songs played by one of my Greek friends who is one of the top players there. The guitars on that album are my Fender Strat, a Gibson Les Paul and a Maton Acoustic. The band have arranged a deal where it will be released on the 17th June so really looking forward to that’.

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‘For Phasslayne, that is an on going project, we were asked to perform at Brofest 3 in Newcastle a couple of years ago and we are now currently writing a new album. Always keeping busy you know, forever on the look out for new projects, it’s in my blood’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.  2017.

MEN AT WORK – On Call with Steve Dawson from Oliver/Dawson Saxon

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747, Wheels of Steel, Heavy Metal Thunder, Never Surrender, And The Bands Played On are just some of the Heavy Metal anthems recorded by Saxon during the late 1970’s and early ’80’s. After the band split up, original members Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson formed their own version of Saxon. Here Steve talks with honesty and humour about those early days and how he is still enjoying the music biz.

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‘Looking back on my career so far I’d say my proudest moment was the first time going on Top of the Pops with Wheels of Steel and my mother finally accepting that I had got a proper job!’

Who were your influences and what got you playing music, was there a defining moment of hearing a song or watching a band when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?
‘What started it all off for me was listening to The Beatles – Day Tripper and Last Train to Clarksville by The Monkeys’.

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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, what was the feeling betwwen Saxon and Iron Maiden who were leading the charge, and did you realise how influential the movement was on bands like Metallica ? ‘Of course we did many shows with Iron Maiden, loved them all. And bands like Vardis, Samson and the Tygers were around then. We didn’t think too much about the future, we were just going for it you know, to be honest we were just happy to make it to the next week !
As far as Metallica goes I remember first time coming across them when they supported us at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. It was not until much later that we heard Metallica were heavily influenced by Saxon, the drummer Lars Ulrich came out and said that. It’s nice of him to acknowledge our influence but we didn’t know about it really we were just playing the music we loved’.

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Have you any memories of the day’s when Saxon played on the bill of the Monsters of Rock festival in 1980 & 1982 ? ‘First time in 1980 we were playing with so many of our hero’s. We were listening to records like Killing Machine by Judas Priest and Long Live Rock n Roll from Rainbow and here we are on the same bill! We just hoped we got through the set without making any mistakes. At that time it was the biggest crowd that we’ve ever played, so you could say we were a bit nervous’ !

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‘In 1982 Gillan were on after us then Status Quo were headlining. Anvil and a few other bands had been on before us but it was over very quickly and at the end we got a good fee for playing, so that turned out to be a good day’s work’.

Is there a commaraderie between musicians when you are on tour ? ‘We are all in it together, and we are just musicians at work having a great time. Unfortunately there are some arseholes in the music biz so it’s best to keep away from them as much as you can. You never stop learning in this job and we are forever grateful that we can earn a living doing what we love’.

Does your experience of the early Saxon days help you enjoy performing now ?
‘You know life on the road is one big adventure and like all musicians we have stories from the road. When we are together we can talk for hours about the laughter, the tears and the heady nights so this is a nice lead into telling you Graham and I have a new book coming out, called Saxon Drugs and Rock & Roll, the Real Spinal Tap. It’ll be packed with lot’s of stories of life on the road, so that’s one to definitely check out soon on Tomahawk Press’.

(The 1984 mockumentary Spinal Tap was based on Saxon, plus a few other bands have claimed an influence on the film which follows a fictional British Heavy Metal band on tour. The writer Harry Shearer went on tour with Saxon and took notes which formed the basis of the script for the film.)

What has music given you ? ‘Music has given me a good job that I love, lots of great times, and more sex than I could have wished for. Oh and a failed marriage’.

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What are Oliver/Dawson Saxon planning for the rest of the year ? ‘Later this year we are recording a new album, we have a few idea’s for that already. It’ll be produced by the band and Paul O’Neill in his Wigan studio. We are keeping the same team together who recorded Motorbiker in 2012 because that went really well.
We’ve also got load’s of shows this summer around the UK and a few festivals in Europe like Stormcrusher in Germany, British Steel Festival in France and November we’re in Holland. It’s hard work but we love it’ !

With that Steve is off to work to put another rock n roll shift in.

All tour dates and information available on the official website http://www.odsrock.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

UNDER THE BLADE – Against all odd’s with Tokyo Blade

Andy Boulton, Lead Guitarist for NWOBHM band Tokyo Blade talks about the high’s and lows of being in the music biz…

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Our first big break came when we did two big festivals in Holland and Belgium with Metallica, then our second big break came when we supported Mamas Boys throughout Europe. We were received in an unbelievably positive way and in a heartbeat we were back out on our own headlining tour. That was really incredible, there we were all in our early 20’s with a big flash tour bus and an Arctic truck full of gear playing sold out shows of 3-4000 capacity venues all over Europe which continued almost non-stop for three years.

Then it was the USA tour and back home to film Live in London, a one hour show from the Camden Palace and a live session for BBC Radio One’s Friday Rock show with Tommy Vance. It was all travel, birds, booze and rock ‘n’ roll so we wouldn’t want that for a lifestyle in your mid 20s haha’

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That being the high, what was the low ? ‘At the risk of being overdramatic and sounding like a pompous arse the cost has been very high both financially and personally and on more than one occasion I’ve questioned why the fuck I still continue to play guitar with Tokyo Blade !
I think the biggest tragedy in our heyday was Vic Wright leaving the band to live in America just after our first US tour. We were on the verge of signing a major deal with WEA when he left and we never really recovered from that. Plus the fact that we were screwed for an awful lot of money forced Blade to fall apart’.

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Let’s go back to the beginning Andy. How did you get involved in playing music was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’? ‘I think if you’re a real musician then it’s in you somewhere. Your soul or spirit, it’s there from birth. My mother was a fantastic pianist and had an amazing ear. She could listen to something once and then play it perfectly, it’s definitely from her that I got my gift for music. I guess that something triggers inside you it must be DNA I guess, that sort of inner feeling to play music.

If I had to name one defining moment that moment would be when I was about 12 year old. I was at a friends house and his elder brother had just bought the second Queen album, he put on the first track of the second side Ogre Battle and that was it for me, my journey to the dark side was underway!

I started digging out my sisters albums she had Schools Out by Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin II and of course the almighty Led Zeppelin IV. I just soaked up everything I could. I begged my mother for a guitar and being a musician herself she understood and bought me one as soon as she could afford it. And I started with a red Jedson a sort of Telecaster’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘We started in the way that most bands start, at school with friends just playing youth clubs. As the band got better we started playing pubs, just local stuff at first. As time progressed we all knew that what we wanted to do was to play rock and metal but we desperately needed decent equipment, so we decided that playing working men’s club’s was where the money was.

This meant we had to play a load of material that we didn’t like, including country and western ! But we worked our asses off and saved some money to record a demo, we gave a copy to Tommy Vance who played it on the Friday Rockshow, and from there we gigged all over the country’.

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‘We did two big festivals in Holland and Belgium one was the Aardschock around ’84 on the bill were Metallica and Venom. We were really surprised by the number of Blade fans there and the amazing reaction from the crowd. Then our first big break came with the support for Irish band Mamas Boys throughout Europe. There were more tours and albums that followed and Tokyo Blade became a well respected part of the NWOBHM genre.’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘A fucking nightmare in short, everything we ever did was with no real money. We signed to an awful record company who eventually took every penny we made. The first album we done was at Wickham Studios and was recorded and mixed in four days. We slept on the studio floor and lived on chip butties.

The second album Night of the Blade was little difference other than we had two weeks to record and mix it, real luxury ! We slept in a rough Bed & Breakfast it was a working man’s dosshouse really, with bedbugs and really greasy breakfasts, yep the whole 9 yards’. (The album got a USA release in 1984 under the title Midnight Rendezvous). 

‘We financed the third album ourselves, Black Hearts & Jaded Spades and had a slightly better time of it and successive albums have been recorded under more or less similar circumstances’.

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‘We had a call one day from our agency, there was a proposal from London Weekend Television who wanted to film one of our gigs and would we mind playing at the Camden Palace and have it recorded for broadcast? Oh there’s a fair bit of money in it for you as well. Where do we sign ? haha…the whole thing turned out great, a huge part of the Tokyo Blade history’.
(It’s worth checking out the concert Live in London filmed in 1985 also recorded for the show were Girlschool, Rock Goddess & Warlock. Also the newly released box set CD ‘Knights of the Blade’ received a favourable review by Philip Wilding in May 2017 edition of Classic Rock magazine ’sounding like a fledgling Def Leppard some songs could of bought them their own tour bus).

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?  ‘Millions my friend far too many to tell but if I had to pick one it would be the tour with Mamas Boys and what follows is 100% fact and perfectly illustrates the luck or rather lack of it that Tokyo Blade has endured throughout its entire history’.

Sharp intake of breath and here we go –
The 1983 European support tour with Mamas Boys had been set up and dates arranged and confirmed. The problem was our record company had persuaded us that our vocalist was not good enough as a front man and we must find a new singer. So we searched but had no luck. Our manager was going to pull the tour when a few days before we were due to leave a demo tape arrived at his office, we listened and it sounded promising. The singers name was Vic Wright.

So we called him up and asked him when he could come for an audition. The catch being that he lived in Bradford 300 miles away and had no car. The audition would be the sound check for the first show of the tour ! He eventually made it to my house in Salisbury. How, I’m not sure ! I handed him a Sony Walkman with a cassette of the songs and some of the lyrics. We sat there all night and left my home at five a.m next day for the ferry’.

What sort of budget did you have for the tour ? ‘We had no money for hotels or food, and only a small amount for diesel. The money that we were to receive from the shows would only just cover our diesel to the next show, so our saving grace was to be two boxes of Tokyo Blade T-shirts which our manager said we would need to sell in order to get cash for food.’

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What type of transport did you have ? ‘A large Fiat Daily, it had to be large enough to carry five band members, four road crew and all our gear. To be honest there wasn’t enough room to scratch your bollocks plus with no money for hotels we were going to have to sleep in the fucking thing…yes all 9 of us!!!’

We eventually got on the road down to Calais where the charming French Customs Officers searched the two cardboard boxes full of T-shirts. This being pre-EU days we had no license to sell anything in Europe. Oh how we laughed as they deprived us of the T-shirts and they also added a lovely little fine which took care of most of our diesel money.

Anyway we still had all our duty free fags, until that is when we decided to stop and cheer ourselves up with a beer and in the very short time it takes to down one small beer some friend of humanity decided to smash the van window and nick all our duty free and my Sony Walkman which our new singer had conveniently left for them on the front seat.

To look on the bright side we had youth, enthusiasm and testosterone on our side so unanimously we thought ‘we’ll be ok, we’re gonna get through the next 14 days of this tour somehow’. We headed for the first venue’.

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What happened when you arrived for the first gig ? ‘When we arrived we were allowed to do one song for a soundcheck and luckily for us our new vocalist Vic Wright sang fine. So with half a ton of gaffa tape one of our road crew stuck his lyrics sheets all over the stage.

The gig itself ? We went down an absolute storm, the entire place erupted from the moment we hit the stage until we left ! We couldn’t believe it we knew this was going to be hard but it was going to be made a helluva lot easier playing shows like this every night. After the show the crew had piled all the gear into the van and we drove to the next venue in a better mood’.

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‘We arrived very early in the morning and parked in some woods nearby to try and sleep. I’ve always been lucky in as much as I can sleep on a tight rope. Having said that sharing the front of an extremely cramped Fiat Daily van with nine very sweaty guys is not conducive for a good nights shut eye. It was at this point that our drummer Steve Pierce smugly announced that he had brought a tent for him and our bassist Andy Wrighton to share. It was pissing down with rain though.

Apparently during the night the tent leaked, a lot, and while Steve was having sweet dreams of steak and chips in a four poster bed, poor old Andy decided he couldn’t take anymore and being soaking wet, extremely tired and pissed off decided to go for a walk. A nice little woodland stroll.

Meanwhile the rest of us who had slept sitting upright in the van began to stir and decided to leave for the venue in the hope that there would be showers inside so we could at least get rid of some of the previous night’s sweat. We all crawled out of the van to discover one very damp drummer and zero bass players.

The only conclusion we could reach was that poor old Andy couldn’t take any more and had decided to just go home. So we all piled back into the van and decided to drive about hoping to find him, meanwhile he had returned from his woodland walk to discover no tent, no drummer, no van, no band l!!’

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‘To say the poor bloke was in a state of extreme panic would be an understatement, he was left standing damp, cold and very much alone in the middle of the woods somewhere in Northern France with no money, no fags and no idea of how we was going to get anywhere. Remember these were the days before mobile phones.

Meanwhile we scoured the nearby area to no avail so unanimously decided to return to the woods where we found a very distressed but a very much relieved bassist. It turned out to be a very emotional reunion and Andy’s vocabulary was now confined to expletives clearly designed to upset our more sensitive little personalities. He hadn’t taken our departure from the woods in good spirit, to say the least’.

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With no money for food how did you feed yourselves ? ‘Our roadie Cliff was very adept at stealing things and for the next three days he stole all the food he could get from various shops. This led to some very interesting meals, strawberries and bread, crisps and jam, apples and ham, those meals stick in my mind.

After about three days our luck turned and Mamas Boys came to learn of our wild style of existence if you ever read this boys although I’ve said it 1 million times thank you from the bottom of my heart, Pat, John and the late and much missed Tommy (RIP brother).

Not only did they allow John and I to sleep on their tour bus but also their catering ladies gave us the left over food they had cooked. All the bunks on the tourbus were taken so John and I slept in the seats at the front but it was a damn site more comfortable than the van.

And so we completed the tour and returned home to good old Blighty in high spirits like conquering warrior heroes. Successive tours saw us in our own tour buses and artic lorries carrying all the gear. Total luxury and as a result of that tour we always treated our support bands the same way we’d been treated by Mamas Boys’.

What are you doing now and did this experience put you off music ? ‘Trust me when I say I am incredibly proud of what Tokyo Blade has achieved over the years because everything we’ve done has been against overwhelming odds. It’s all helped to turn us in to the tough, determined and tight band we are today.

Although the music business chewed us up and spat us out, my band of brothers and myself battle on, still making new music still touring and still doing what we’ve always done to the best standard we can.
As I’ve said in more than one interview for me personally Tokyo Blade captures the spirit of the underdog, our spirit lies with the working class and the downtrodden or dogged persistence against all odds – means we are still out there doing what we do best. I make no apologies for Tokyo Blade and I’m fucking proud of what we’ve achieved’.

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‘As of today with our original vocalist Alan Marsh back on board I think we are the only New Wave of British Heavy Metal band still going with an original line-up and the new album to be recorded this year plus more tours to come. Unless I die I’ll crack on with that!

Life is not a rehearsal, you get one crack at it so why waste it being unhappy? what ever life chucks at you just duck so it hits some other fucker and laugh your arse off, all the hard times make for the best stories and memories and that’s all we have left at the end of the day isn’t it?’

‘Let’s face facts we were hardly the darlings of the UK music press who slagged us off at every available opportunity and continue to do so, but thanks to all our fans worldwide last year alone we headlined two British metal festivals, several in Europe plus a tour of Chile, Brazil and Ecuador.

Apart from anything else music is my raison d’être. If anyone is to blame for my persistence with it blame Brian May for ever recording Ogre Battle oh and my late Mother’s DNA of course!

God bless you all xxx

Tour dates and information is available on the official website at Tokyoblade.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi 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.

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

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

BACK IN THE RING – Going Another Round with NWOBHM band Tytan

On the eve of releasing a new album Tytan mainman Kev Riddles comes out fighting ‘We’ve now had a settled line up for two years and recently wrote and recorded the new album Justice Served. The album was produced by the legendary producer Chris Tsangarides and recorded at his Ecology Rooms Studio in Kent’. (Chris was responsible for producing records by Anvil, Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest and Tygers of Pan Tang who feature in an earlier post).

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Chris otherwise known as ‘The Dark Lord’ is an amazing character both in and out of the studio. He works very quickly, coaxing good performances with very few takes. The whole album was recorded and mixed in 13 consecutive days with as much time spent listening to Chris’ stories and anecdotes as spent actually working !’

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‘Justice Served was very different from making Tytan’s first album Rough Justice, which was recorded in 1982 at a studio in London owned by The Who. In those days studio time was hideously expensive and for the same money I could have bought a terrace of houses in Stockton on Tees’.

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Where did it all start for you Kev, was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ?  ‘That’s easy, it can be summed up in one album…Age of Atlantic ! a 70’s compilation album featuring the likes of MC5, Iron Butterfly but mostly listened to the two tracks by Led Zeppelin! You can imagine the effect of hearing all of those bands on one album, at the tender age of 12 years old on a poor boy from Hackney !
It inspired me to nick the album from a record store, take it home and play it to death’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘My first ever gig was playing french horn in a brass chamber ensemble at a girls boarding school in Yorkshire – yes really ! I’ve never been so nervous but the lure of rock n’roll had me in its grip from that day, the girls and music, yep what a combination haha’.

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‘In the halcyon days of Angel Witch (pic above) we toured constantly, either in our own right or with the likes of Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Saxon, April Wine and Girlschool. We played all over the UK and Europe. My favourite gigs to this day are still Newcastle City Hall, Manchester Apollo, Hammersmith Odeon and the Marquee’.

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In September ’82 I went to Newcastle Mayfair to see Tygers of Pan Tang and Tytan opened the show (my ticket above). What can you remember from then Kev ? ‘In ’82 with Tytan we went all around the UK on The Cage Tour with Tygers of Pan Tang. During the tour we had an exotic dancer that used to come on stage and perform a rather raunchy routine with our singer Kal during the song Money for Love. The fans loved Carmine Brudenell but the Tygers hated how well she went down, so tried to stop her getting on stage. They put up barriers at the side but she always managed to appear, she even once climbed through ‘The Cage’ and did her routine from the drum riser ! Strangely we weren’t asked to do the European tour!!

Then in my days with Paul Samson’s Empire, I’ve good memories supporting Iron Maiden on the Somewhere in Time Tour in ’86”.

In the book the Story of Anvil written by Lips and Robb Reiner, they talk about Anvil paying £30,000 to be first on the bill headlined by Status Quo at the Monsters of Rock Festival in 1982. Did you experience this type of deal ? ‘What you’re talking about are called buy-on’s. At the time deals were always done behind the scenes, usually between managers and without the band’s knowledge, although everybody sort of knew it went on. When I was in Angel Witch we certainly never did any deals as we were popular enough in our own right. Our record company for Tytan may have invested in this way but I don’t know for certain. And to my knowledge Iron Maiden have never asked for buy-ons from any support band’.

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Way too many comical interludes to mention but a couple would include when playing on stage at Manchester Apollo I knocked myself unconscious while head butting my bass. I had to get numerous stitches for that one. Then at Brofest 2016 tripping and falling on my arse. I finished the song flat on my back !’

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Any future plans for Tytan ?  ‘Since being asked to reform in 2012 for the German festival Keep It True, we haven’t stopped working.  In the very near future we have a series of gigs in place with more to be added. They are to celebrate the release of the new album which co-incidentally is released on the same date as my beautiful wife’s birthday’.

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Tytan’s new album Justice Served is released on Friday 26th May by High Roller Records. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 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.

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

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

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

 

CHAIN REACTION – with North Eastern Heavy Metal band Spartan Warrior

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This blog has featured quite a few funny stories from musicians during their time in the music biz, so when I talked with Neil Wil Kinson, the guitarist from Spartan Warrior I asked him, have you any to add ? ‘I remember in 1984 things were really looking up for the band, we had a record deal, and the night we were due to record our 2nd album we had a gig in our home town at Sunderland Mayfair. The bands future couldn’t look any brighter.

We turned up at the gig, sound checked, and went backstage to get ready. For stage wear I used to have these tight red spandex pants, looked good I thought. I remember the intro tape playing while I was standing at the side of the stage waiting to go on. You know ready to fuckin’ rock. The stage bouncer stood next to me, slowly looked me up and down and said ‘what are you playing tonight like ?… Fucking Swan Lake’.. ha ha What can I say ? totally burned on that one’.

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Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘If there was anything that made me want to join a band it was probably watching Queen on the Old Grey Whistle Test, also seeing Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall on the Rising tour. It was the first gig I’d been to and it was life changing !

Looking back I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. Even as a toddler I remember just listening to music all the time. When I was about 4 year old I remember going on and on for a drum kit for xmas. I never got the kit but I did get a guitar and I just started messing around on that’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I suppose my earliest influences were bands like The Sweet. Shortly after that my older brother was listening to bands like Black Sabbath, UFO and Van Halen so I started listening to that stuff. In terms of guitar playing I would have to say that Michael Schenker was my biggest influence, in fact he’s still my favourite guitarist.

Guitar partnerships also had a huge influence on me with my favourites being KK Downing and Glenn Tipton and later on Chris De Garmo and Michael Wilton. In fact Queensryche had a huge influence on me’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘I started a band with my brother Dave and some friends from school. That band only did 2 gigs, one at Bede School in Sunderland and one at a Youth club. My next band after that was the band I’m still in today, Spartan Warrior.

When we gigged during the 80’s it was mainly local bars like The Old 29 in Sunderland and clubs like Newcastle Mayfair. We didn’t really get the chance to play further afield as the band split just as the 2nd album came out. Since reforming Spartan Warrior we’ve been playing mostly rock clubs and metal venues plus festivals in mainland Europe and the UK’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘I started recording in 1983 when we got the chance to put a couple of songs on a compilation called Pure Overkill for Guardian Records in Durham. We paid for the studio time and recorded Steel n Chains and Comes As No Surprise. Also on that album are tracks by Tokyo Rose, Millenium, Risk and Incubus.

I think Spartan Warrior were also on some other compilations, one was a Roadrunner release called Metal Machine and the other was an album I only found out about recently called Hell Has Broken Loose on the Bronze label. Between those two albums we’ve featured alongside some great bands like Slayer, Motorhead and Raven, which is fantastic’.
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‘After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studios (owner and producer Terry Gavaghan has appeared in a few previous blogs) asked if we wanted to do a full album we said yeah let’s go for it.

Most of the band were working so time wise we could only record 2 songs in each session. We added the songs Cold Hearted, Stormer, Hunted plus a few other tracks and Guardian put it out in 1983′.
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‘Shortly after Pure Overkill was released Roadrunner Records got in touch with Guardian, they contacted us and a meeting was set up in the Swallow Hotel in Newcastle. We met Cees Wessells from Roadruner and signed the deal there. We started work on the 2nd Spartan Warrior album pretty much straight away. (Assassin, Son of a Bitch, Black Widow and a few more tracks where on that self titled album. It was released by Roadrunner Records in Europe and Canada in ’84, Japan in ’85 by Far East Metal Syndicate and a re-release on cd by Metal Mind Productions in 2009.)

Around ’85 there was some stuff being planned including an appearance on ECT, the new TV rock show on Channel 4, but it just didn’t come off. Lee Arron who was also signed to Roadrunner stepped in’.

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‘I also did various things including a brief stint with Waysted. There’s not really much to say about the Waysted thing. I auditioned and got the job after playing just 2 songs even though I learnt the entire back catalogue. I went down to Bournemouth to write for the next album, that was around 2007. I went back home after a week of solid writing and then next thing I know is I’m told that the previous guitarist is back in so that was that.

I did get credited on a couple of songs when the album The Harsh Reality was released. It was a highlight for me to be involved with something with Pete Way as I am a UFO fan. After that I was contacted to see if I would play guitar for a small tour they had put together to promote the album, but I couldn’t do it as work wouldn’t give me the time off.

I often think what would have happened if I’d stuck with Waysted. Who knows ?
I also got to guest on my friends Risen Prophecys last album which was nice to do’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  ‘Well at the moment the priority is finishing the new Spartan Warrior album, which is nearly mixed. There’s a few companies interested in it so I’m hoping for a release date later this year.

We’ve also got a few gigs coming up. We’re off to Portugal in September and then there’s HRH NWobhm in Sheffield, that line up is pretty impressive with Raven, Diamond Head, Satan and our friends Avenger on the bill’.

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‘We’re also doing the Blast From the Past in Belgium in December. Diamond Head are headlining along with Tytan and Salem plus a few others. We’re also doing Grim Up North in Bury to raise funds for Grimm Reaper vocalist Steve Grimmet who recently lost a leg while playing in South America. Get well soon Steve !

Plus working on another set of dates in Germany and Belgium with our mates in Avenger because that last tour with them was so good. So plenty for an old bloke to be getting on with !!!’

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.
Extra record information from discogs.com

Recommended:

Neil Wil Kinson, Spartan Warrior, Invader from the North, 21st September 2017.

THE MANSFIELD FOUR – Shaping Up for Another Attack from Heavy Metal band Savage

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The band are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. But rewind nearly 40 years to Mansfield in the UK where Chris Bradley and Andy Dawson formed Savage. Little did they know the influence they would have on one of the biggest bands in the world. Chris takes up the story…

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‘Our first show outside the UK was playing to a 10,000 strong audience at the Aardschok Metal Festival in Holland. The headliners were Venom with Metallica as special guests. Metallica came to our dressing room for some pre-show drinks and told us that in the early days they were fans of the band and used to play our songs. In fact they recorded our tracks Let it Loose and Dirty Money and put them on the demo tape that got them signed to Megaforce records, run by Jon Zazula. And you know what, they never told Jon that it was our song’.

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What venues did Savage play?  ‘The first ever Savage show was in 1979 at High Oakham Youth Club in Mansfield, then most of the shows were at local pubs. Then from around 1983 as our star began to rise so to speak we started to expand across the whole country to various rock clubs and eventually spread out to festivals in Europe. Kerrang gave us favourable reviews of our shows so that helped a lot in getting more gigs’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Pretty soon after forming Savage we started writing our own material so we recorded a few demo’s. I think our first one was in 1979 that was recorded in a local 4 track studio in the cellar of a terraced house.

Our first experience of a more professional set up was a full day in a 16 track studio in Wragby, Lincolnshire when we recorded two songs for the classic Heavy Metal compilation Scene of the Crime. As I remember the band’s paid about £200 each to cover the costs. There was Panza Division, Manitou, Sparta, Tyrant and us. We recorded two songs Dirty Money and Let it Loose. In the end they released the album and we got 25 copies to sell. A copy of the album ended up in the possession of a young Lars Ulrich which started the Metallica connection that I was talking about earlier’.

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‘In 1982 we were on another compilation album Metal Fatigue produced by newly formed label, Ebony Records in Hull. Other bands on the album included Assassin, Hot Wire and Headhunter. In all I think there were nine bands on the album. For that recording it was a similar deal to Scene of the Crime, we paid about £200 each to get a day in the studio and record one song. We recorded Ain’t No Fit Place and the producer was Darryl Johnston who was also the founder of Ebony. Basically that was the start of our relationship with the label’.

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‘After the critical success of the track, we went back into Ebony and recorded a double A side, Ain’t No Fit Place and China Run. For that 7” single we payed to the tune of £1,000 and Ebony released it on their label. Again the sales went really well, so well that they proposed a deal were they would pay for recording a complete album and releasing it on their label. We went for that and Loose ‘n’ Lethal was born’.

What are Savage planning for the rest of 2017 ? ‘We are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. Writing in the studio is a new approach for us so it will be very interesting to see what we come up with! Last year we produced and released 7, our seventh studio album. That included a second disc called Live ’n’ Lethal recorded in our home town. Featuring our entire first album plus selected numbers from the other albums. We are still an active live band though most shows now tend to be in Europe’.

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Both albums and more merchandise is available from the official website http://www.savageband.com

Current line up is
Chris Bradley: Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1978 – present)
Andy Dawson: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals (1978 – present)
Kris Bradley: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals (2010 – present)
Mark Nelson: Drums (2000 – present).

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 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.