Following on from Clive Jackson’s interview (Slice of Life, 22 Feb 2023) this post looks at the 90s music scene in Newcastle and focuses on guitarist Ed Box.
Originally born in Kendal, Cumbria, Ed moved to Newcastle in 1988 to study Popular Music – a big year in Ed’s life as he ended up making his home in the Toon.
But his pivotal year was 1979… That’s when I was drawn to music. First album I bought was Replicas by Gary Numan & Tubeway Army, while my older brother was recording songs off the Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio One.
Also that year, heavy bands like Rainbow, Motorhead and Judas Priest were getting on Top of the Pops. These were my gateway bands.
For me that was the start of heavy metal and then NWOBHM formed. The passion and energy in the music was a window to the outside world to a boy from out in the sticks in Cumbria. Then I got a guitar for Christmas 1980 – and away I went.
With some friends from Newcastle college, we formed XLR8R (pronounced Accelerator), and started writing songs. I knew it would take a lot of patience, practice and dedication but I was prepared for that.
We started to gig regularly around the Newcastle area. A buzz was going around and the gigs were getting packed out. We were members of North Tyneside Music Collective at Buddle Arts Centre in Wallsend, they organised gigs at venues like the Old Eldon Square during the summer.
Every band around then were doing demo tapes, Greedsville, who you interviewed a few weeks ago, were busy in the studios. XLR8R recorded three, one of them got demo of the month in Kerrang and a bit of interest from a label but that fell through. So we put our money together, made an independent album and got it pressed on CD.
We heard there was a music collective over in Deckham village in Gateshead that had a studio so we joined up. A guy called Gary Clennell ran that and set us up on a cheap studio rate. £30 per day was a lot less expensive than the others charging over £100 a day.
We spent six days doing four tracks. They were all done on reel to reel half inch tape, I think it was a 16-track desk. We designed our own covers and used the Print on Tyne shop for typesetting. We would make fold out covers with pictures and credits on, just trying to make the tapes look interesting. Pretty naïve, but a start.
Our next tape was recorded in Linx Studio, that was run by Tony Bray (Venom drummer) and Eric Cook (Venom manager) previously owned by Brian Johnson (Geordie, AC/DC). They had a 24-track using two-inch tape. This was a step up in quality, the engineer was Kev Ridley who also sang in Newcastle bands For Gods Sake and Skyclad.
Our third demo was in Trinity Heights, what happened was Tygers of Pan Tang manager Tom Noble got us a deal recording in the studio with the owner Fred Purser, who was ex-Tygers guitarist.
Linx studio was good but Fred’s was another step up, with his experience of being in the band and working in studios in London gave us a lot of confidence and pushed us on. After we had recorded the first track, we played it back and it sounded great, really polished, really pleased with it – if you’re reading this, thanks Fred!
In 1996 I was still in XLR8R when ex-Greedsville guitarist Clive Jackson got in touch. He had made a three-track solo demo and was offered a radio session on BBC Newcastle. There was also label interest but they were looking for a band not just a solo performer.
So, Clive got a band of solid musicians together who we knew had been on the 90s Newcastle scene. We went in and played the session at the BBC, then recorded a few more tracks and done a gig as Arch Stanton.
Things were coming together when Sue Wilkinson from local music agency Generator got involved, Sue was also Greedsville manager. She got us some Lottery funding to go into a studio and make a four-track demo.
Sue also got us some local TV coverage on BBC North East News and a brief clip on the National Lottery Show. Another band around then called Undergroove, got a slot on East Coast Main line.
Over a two year period we done around 15 gigs, we played on the Twang Nights at The Bridge Hotel which was promoted by music agency, Bright Orange Biscuit, I remember they also did work with Uncle Sam’s Studio in Newcastle.
Sadly, Arch Stanton came to an end, but I’d developed my guitar and vocals a lot. I was in my late 20s by then and felt I was playing better than ever.
The last album I worked on is out now, it’s called 130R. The name came from Formula One racing that I was into, the hardest corner on the track in Japan is the 130R.
The idea came at the time of Covid lockdown when I wasn’t doing much guitar teaching because of restrictions. I put together a few demos then asked mates to get involved, it was totally organic.
It built from there and we added a few more tracks until we had a full album. I sing on a couple of tracks but the main singer is Newcastle based Ian Humphrey. We might do some gigs in the future but we are really happy being studio based.
A lot of the rock and metal bands that I saw many years ago are still recording and gigging especially with the Festival circuit around Europe. The NWOBHM bands can make great recordings with the studio equipment and access to technology that is available now. It’s still alive and kicking.
Guitar playing has been my passion for over 30 years. Across that time I’ve been running a number of guitar lessons in schools and workshops playing Rock, Pop and Jazz, to Country, Blues and Metal, I always learn new things when teaching – you’re never too old!
For more information about Ed Box check his official website:
Alikivi March 2023.