TYGERS OF PAN TANG TOUR PIC’S SEARCH

The Roksnaps feature on this blog has photographs sent in by concert goers who captured the atmosphere of gigs at Newcastle City Hall and the Mayfair. Among the many bands pictured were Whitesnake, Motorhead, Scorpions and North East band, Fist.

Tygers of Pan Tang at Newcastle Mayfair 1980.

Whitley Bay’s Tygers of Pan Tang were snapped by John Edward Spence who told me “I used to go to loads of gigs at the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair. I was lucky enough to see the bands associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – just loved the music around then”.

John’s pics are from 1980/81 with Jess Cox on vocals who was eventually replaced by Welsh frontman Jon Deverill, and a second guitarist John Sykes joined Thin Lizzy and was replaced by former Penetration guitarist Fred Purser. The original Tygers engine room of guitarist Robb Weir, bassist Rocky Laws and Brian Dick on drums completed the line-up.

In 1982 the five piece band recorded one of their most successful albums, The Cage. On the subsequent tour I remember catching them live on their home patch at a packed Newcastle Mayfair on Friday 3rd September 1982.

Inner sleeve from The Cage album.

Recently the Tygers management issued a plea “40 years ago this month The Cage tour began at Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom. At the time it was the bands most successful outing and we visited the best venues in the country including Manchester Apollo and Hammersmith Odeon. Support came from our old mate Kev Riddles’ Tytan. It’s a pity we have no photos from The Cage tour, unless of course anyone out there has any?”

“We realise it was 40 years ago but if you can help with the request for any pic’s – maybe they’re in the loft or in a box at the back of the garage – there’s got to be some out there”.

If you can help please don’t hesitate to get in touch. All emails will be passed onto the Tygers management or contact the official website:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

Link to Tygers of Pan Tang pic’s featured in Roksnaps:

ROKSNAPS #2 | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  September 2022.

OLD PUNKS ARE STILL PUNKS

an evening with THE SADISTIC SLOBS

In an interview Angelic Upstarts singer/songwriter/leader/chief, Mensi Mensforth (RIP) told me that ‘To be in a band you don’t have to be a prolific musician or go to art school you can just bang a dustbin lid and you’re away mate’.

Sadistic Slobs 2022.

Over 40 years ago in a working class pit village in County Durham a gang of brothers crashed into each other and were named The Sadistic Slobs.

To sift through the damage I met up with Paddy (vocals) and Gran (bass) in The Littlehaven Hotel, South Shields.

Gran: Me and Paddy first met after I was locked up at Roker Park, Sunderland football ground. What happened was a lad standing next to me had a butchers knife and was banging it on the gates, he saw police coming so passed it to me.

Well I got marched around the pitch and put in a cell, and who else did I find there ? it was only Paddy’s brother. I told him my story wanting to be in a band and you know what he said ? ‘Don’t let our young ‘un sing…..he can’t’. But he’s still here now and doing a great job.

Where did it all begin ?

Paddy: In the ‘70s we were living in Fencehouses near Sunderland and nothing much was happening. I was into glam rock first then suddenly got hit by punk.

Gran: Never Mind the Bollocks changed everything, it opened my eyes, that Pistols album cannot be beaten, then I started listening to The Clash who I still play to this day.

Paddy: Suddenly around the village it was like an institution to be in a band, everybody was wanting to start or be in a group. Bands like The Carpettes were around, The Proles had just put out a single and we all thought ‘we want to do that’. I remember buying the 7” in a record shop in Houghton le spring.

Then starting a band there was lots of comings and goings of different line ups, someone once turned up with only a cymbal and a snare drum.

Gran: We started rehearsing one song and said ‘right that’s in the set’. All the songs were like that, done very fast.

Paddy: I remember our drummer used to bring his kit in a wheelbarrow.

Gran: Yeah we had a roadie as well, and his younger brother came along and made it two roadies!

Paddy: But eventually we got a settled line up in 1982.

Gran: Unlike other punk bands we weren’t political, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Paddy: We did play some Rock Against Racism gigs and done stuff for Animal Charity’s. Funny enough these days we are a lot more popular than we were back then, we have a decent following and the new album is out.

Gran: Five year ago we got back together and added more catchy songs to our set and we’ve recorded an album.

‘Simple Songs for Like Minded Idiots’ features Paddy (vocals) Rek (guitar) Rat (drums) Gran (bass).

Where did you gig in the early days ?

Paddy: Places like Peterlee football club, Fowlers Yard in Durham, Chester le Street and Ferryhill supporting GBH. We played in the Robin Adair pub, it was notorious as one of the roughest pubs in Newcastle and eventually got burned down. It was a sort of workingmen’s club.

Gran: On the night of the gig we went in with our mohicans and the poster on the wall advertised us as a comedy show group!

Paddy: There were only a few people there, I’m sure one of them had a dog.

Gran: Aye when we finished the committee guy popped his head around the door and said ‘you can rehearse here again next week’.

We played the famous Old 29 pub in Sunderland and a band called Animated Coathangers supported us. When we were on stage our friends were jumping about, the floor was bouncing and going to collapse. The manager ran out threatening them with a baseball bat shouting ‘will ya’ stop pogoing’ (laughs).

Paddy: It was like walking on a sheet of glass with all the broken bottles on the floor.

Gran: Rock bands played there on a Saturday afternoon, I remember before a Sunderland match we went in and two lads were pissing on the fire – imagine the stench! But yeah saw the Toy Dolls in there and The Proles of course who are still very good friends of ours. Aye really good days.

What other bands were around at the time?

Gran: There was and still is Uproar who we played with recently.

Paddy: Red Alert, Red London and we played in a band in the early days with Steve Straughan who’s in the UK Subs now. All good lads you know.

In the North East during the early ‘80s as the shipyards and pits were being closing down and the Miners strike was boiling over did you get involved in any fund raising for the miners families ?

Gran: No but we were pinching coal from the coke works ! We didn’t play any Miners Benefit gigs or charities to be honest we were just happy being in a band. You see its all about enjoying it for us, being with mates, not taking it too seriously and definitely no egos.

Paddy: We were never a protest band and we’re keeping it light hearted even now. A lot of songs are tongue in cheek. We’re nearly 60 year old we can’t be jumping all over the place you know.

Gran: In our songs we can take the piss out of each other, it’s all about having a laugh for us.

Paddy: I joined when I was 16 and probably took myself serious then but times change, life happens.

Gran: With our roadies and followers we all get on so well it’s like a family.

Paddy: Yeah it’s called The Slob Squad and not one of us are a full shilling!

Gran: Sometimes it’s like a day out for everyone like ‘last of the summer wine’. We played Rebellion Festival in August and went on stage 12.30pm, there was a couple of hundred people in the audience but more outside couldn’t get in, not sure why they were stuck outside might have been a problem with security on the main doors. But we just got on and done our thing on stage.

Paddy: We enjoyed it and had a great time, would love to go back and play again.

New album available on CD & record.

Where did you record the new album ?

Gran: My mate Wayne Marshall in Pelton Fell has his own digital set up at home that’s why it’s called Bedrock Studios. He was guitarist in a band I was in years ago called The Scream. It’s come out great he’s a talented lad.

Gran: We went ahead and got 500 copies printed of the album and that’s starting to sell and we are looking to record a second one. We’re not in it to make money, not that bands do anyway but to keep ticking over we’ve got a lot of merch on sale, even face masks!

Paddy: The quality is fantastic, ten songs, it’s heavy vinyl with a gatefold sleeve they’ve done a great job for us.

Gran: And on the back of the cover we’ve included a big thanks to people who’ve helped and supported us along the way.

Paddy: Yeah they’ve been with us for nearly 40 year. We done our first recording in Impulse Studio in Wallsend in 1983, I think the guy from Venom was working there then (bass & vocalist Cronos was tea maker/gofer).

What does punk mean to you ?

Both at the same time: Attitude.

Paddy: Now it’s as big as it ever was, we are getting more people at gigs than we used to. They have all grown up and their kids have grown up so they’ve time to go to gigs.

Gran: I’ve always said we are at a funny age – there’s a song in there somewhere! When we’re on stage once we stop seeing people laughing and enjoying themselves we’ll call it a day.

Paddy: In ’85 I was in The Scream we supported UK Subs at the Bunker in Sunderland there was maybe 15 people in the audience, now it’s growing because at a UK Subs gig there is easy 500 – 1,000. Always said that old punks are still punks.

Contact The Sadistic Slobs on social media for info/gigs and email gransarc@gmail.com for details how to buy the album.

Alikivi   September 2022

THE ENGINE ROOM with Huw Holding new Tygers of Pan Tang bassist

The ep ‘A New Heartbeat’ is released this week is it a follow on in style from the last album ?
The songs are classic Tygers and obviously new guitarist Franco has added a different dimension, but the Tygers are not looking to do a Jazz fusion reggae album – its Metal!

New Tygers line-up left to right Huw Holding (bass) Jaco Meille (vocals) Robb Weir (guitar) Craig Ellis (drums) Francesco Marras (guitar)

Did you listen to the Tygers when you were young and have you a favourite album ?

I loved the first three, production on ‘The Cage’ (1982) was a bit to “modern” for me with synth drums etc – but the songs were great. The last four albums have been incredible and that’s the reason I wanted to be part of the Tygers.

Unlike other bands of that era they aren’t living in the past, the newer albums are as good as, or arguably even better than their 80’s stuff.

I lived in Durham since I was 3 or 4 and the Tygers have a strong connection with Durham, their first gig was at the Coach and 8 in Durham. I saw them at Dunelm House when I was maybe 11, my sister was a big Tygers fan so that was passed onto me. I can also remember watching them on music TV shows E.C.T and the Whistle Test.

The street where I lived was full of teenage rock fans and at weekends used to have camp fires on the field next to me and play rock metal stuff – mainly Motorhead, Hawkwind and Sabbath.

We also had Guardian Studio’s in Pity Me village where me and my fledgling musician mates used to get music lessons at the time when the Tygers were doing the Spellbound demos at the studio, although I never met them.

I still see Terry Gavaghan (former owner/producer) and chat to him about his recollections of the Tygers, Terry loved working with the Tygers and got on well with Robb.

Huw learnt his trade playing in the North East with a number of bands before joining metal outfits Avenger and Blitzkreig.

I was asked to join Avenger in 2006 then a few year ago Brian Ross (vocals) got in touch and asked if I was interested in playing on a Blitzkrieg album as bassist Bill Baxter had left and they were about to sign a record contract. I agreed because at the time Avenger were not busy and it was my perception that Gary Young (drums) was doing a lot of work with his Death Metal project Repulsive Visions.

But Gary decided that my agreement with Blitzkrieg would limit Avenger’s opportunities so I was replaced. I have to say this was a business decision and there was no personal fall out, I’m still friends with all the Avenger boys.

In retrospect I’ve mixed feelings about my decision to join Blitzkrieg, but equally if I hadn’t joined I wouldn’t be with the Tygers now, and I wouldn’t have become good friends with Ken Johnson (guitar, Abaddon) he was ex-Blitzkrieg and principle song writer for the last 20 years, also Matthew Graham who is a great drummer and a fabulous chap, despite looking like a cheap tart.

After bassist Gav Grey left the Tygers last year to pursue other musical interests – then got the gig with NWOBHM band Tank – Huw stepped up to the plate.

I joined the band in August 2021, but on quite a few occasions before that I met the Tygers when I performed on the same bill at festivals when I was with Avenger or Blitzkrieg.

After submitting a demo I was invited for an audition on 31st July. I can remember the date because it was the day after my birthday, so instead of having a night out I stayed in to make sure I knew the tracks well.


For the demo I had to play along to Damn You from the last album ‘Ritual’ and Slave to Freedom from ‘Wildcat’ their debut. At the audition we done a few songs, the two tracks from the demo plus Love Don’t Stay from ‘Crazy Nights’ and Take It from ‘Spellbound’, we also played Gangland which I already knew from my younger years.

How’s it going recording the new album ?
The new album is going great. It’s been quite hard work because I had to learn the full 20 song set list while also working out bass lines for the songs. The new songs had already been written before I joined so my contribution has only been to add to them. The band have been happy to include my favourites into the set list which was great.

The EP released this week ‘A New Heartbeat’.

As for the recording process I had to adapt to modern technology cos of Covid restrictions and play along to the demos using my home recording gear then email to the band members who say what they like or don’t like.

Once I got through quality control I then recorded the bass directly over the drums with a guide guitar from Franco. This is then sent to the studio who can ‘Re Amp’ my bass and Robb does his stuff.

Have you any live dates scheduled this year ?
We had to reschedule dates that we had to cancel in late 2021 and early 2022, at the same time we need to keep time available for recording – yes we have a busy time ahead.

New EP ‘ A New Heartbeat’ is out now and to find out latest news and tour dates go to official website https://www.tygersofpantang.com/

Interview by Alikivi  February 2022

A NEW HEARTBEAT with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Robb Weir

In the early 1980s the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal included the big five of Raven, Fist, Venom, Satan and Tygers of Pan Tang. After a load of gigs played, records made and over 40 year experience in the music biz you’d think Tygers guitarist Robb Weir had seen it all.

The last three live shows the Tygers played were back in March 2020 when we went to Holland, Belgium and in Germany with Saxon. When we returned back to the UK a national lock down was imposed and that meant no more live appearances for a few months, or so we thought.

Here we are in February 2022 nearly two years on and our live shows are still being postponed, what is really going on? If you know please tell me as I have run out of patience!

The new Tygers line-up left to right Huw Holding (bass) Jaco Meille (vocals) Robb Weir (guitar) Craig Ellis (drums) Francesco Marras (guitar)

How did you handle the lockdown ?

I write music all the time so when we were confined to our ‘living spaces’ I took the opportunity to demo some of the ideas I had with thoughts of the next album in mind.

Along with all this lock down caper we changed our guitar player and welcomed the amazing fretboard talents of Mr Francesco Marras into the Ambush – if you didn’t already know an ‘Ambush’ is the name for a gathering or group of tigers in the wild!

What was the recording process ?

I demoed about twenty songs and sent them to Francesco to get his input and fresh ideas on them. Francesco re-recorded them in his studio and with his musical additions took them to the next level. The only problem we had was deciding which ones were going to make the final cut onto the new album as they were all contenders.

At the same time we also decided to record an EP to give everyone a taste of what’s to come, also to showcase Francesco’s ability to play a lovely melodic guitar solo, so two new tracks were written.

We also asked Francesco which was his favourite track from Wildcat our first LP in 1980. He said ‘Killers’ was always one of his favourites and I had a bit of a passion to re-vamp ‘Fireclown’. 

We set about recording these four tracks remotely in our own studios, I recorded my parts in Gav Gray’s studio as mine is out of the ark. The finished tracks were sent to Marco Angioni, at Angioni Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark to be mixed and then across to Harry Hess in Canada to be mastered.

Is there a release date for the record ?

‘A New Heartbeat,’ is officially released World Wide on February 25th with an accompanying video but can be purchased pre-release online now from the Tygers web shop (link below) also our record company’s web shop Target Records.

What’s next for the Tygers ?

Gav Gray (bass) decided he wanted to visit ‘pastures new’ after we finished the new recordings so we have now welcomed a new bass player into the Tygers family, Huw Holding.

I’m very excited about the new Tygers material as I feel it’s the strongest yet, but we’ll let you be the judge of that….best Tyger wishes to you all!

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site 

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2022

MIDNIGHT MELODY MAKER in conversation with songwriter Bernadette Mooney

When you’re young you have energy, you’re fearless and full of passion and drive. I didn’t realise how different I was being a female heavy metal singer – there wasn’t many about in the UK. I loved that time.

When I think back to the ‘80s playing live we’d have all our gear in a tiny venue plus we had pyro all around the stage, you wouldn’t get away with it now. We came on stage to a big explosion then the crowd were shocked to see a female at the front for a heavy band called War Machine.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

It was my 21st birthday and I remember it well. The band were travelling to a gig in Yorkshire I always sat in the front and the rest of the band and roadies piled in the back with all the gear. But the van broke down and we spent the whole night at the side of the road drinking cans of lager. We eventually got back to the bassist’s house and all he had in to eat was tins of beans (laughs).

Things were really happening around then, Neat records had released our demo tape and the track Storm Warning got a lot of interest. Someone got in touch with Kerrang and they asked me to come down to the London studio for a photo shoot, the photographer was Ray Palmer. We were also busy recording the album Unknown Soldier so it was great timing.

HEAVY METAL TREATMENT

Neat had just got a new mixing desk and you could add samples so a lot of our songs had a foghorn, sound of chains on, a few other pieces – yes we were their first band to do that.

All my songs tend to be laid back and moody and I write from life experiences. Storm Warning was wrote on an acoustic first like most songs. I wrote the lyrics and melodies on the War Machine album then Steve and Les put it all together – they were given the heavy metal treatment with guitars and drums.

But we felt rushed in the studio, Venom were the main band at Neat so they got the most time, we would go in around 10pm till 2am. In all it took a couple of weeks.

NEVER SAW A PENNY

Being young and naïve about contracts we didn’t realise that we signed everything over to Neat so when the album sold, and it done well over in Europe, we never saw a penny – it still sells now.

We also featured on a Neat records compilation album and never received anything from that. People say I should be loaded ‘Never seen a penny’ is my answer.

Les Fry & Steve White

HOT ‘N’ HEAVY

Our bassist Les Fry handled all the promotion and used to send tapes all over that’s how it got popular on European radio. I once remember doing an interview on French radio. I used to co-host the Hot ‘n’ Heavy Express show with Alan Robson on Metro radio here in Newcastle, done that five or six times plus he interviewed the band.

We had a following in America but now it tends to be the European market where there’s still a big culture of ‘80s heavy metal bands – I still receive messages and requests for autographs. War Machine have still got a big fan base in Germany, Poland and Russia and the photo session from Kerrang is still about (laughs).

Lady Killers photo shoot for Kerrang magazine.

MIDNIGHT MELODY

People search for the War Machine heavy metal songs from 1983 but also hear my new stuff which is a different style. When I’m song writing a lot of times the lyric comes first then I pick up the guitar and a melody comes, sometimes it’s strange as the song is just right there when I pick it up.

Being creative is in our blood, I’ve got an Irish Catholic background and a lot of Mooney’s came over from Ireland to Wallsend in the North East, my uncle was a guitarist and my Mam and her sisters were singers and used to go out on tour.

When I was 14 I used to write lyrics and poems all the time then bought a guitar to put melodies to them. I was self-taught and started joining bands at 15 to sing and play rhythm guitar. It always felt natural to do, and a compulsion really.

HUM THAT TUNE

I record on an old eight track Tascam but sometimes if I’m in the supermarket or somewhere I use my phone. It can be embarrassing when you’re on the metro humming in a tune to a voice recorder (laughs).

I remember for the song Still Waters I woke up around 2am and had this tune in my head I don’t know where it came from. I recorded it and finished by 4 in the morning. I record during the night as I’m more of a night person for my music, I’m more creative then and my ideas come together.

I wrote Rush for a DJ called Tony Devino, that done well and last year I wrote Soul of Me. I have another three songs which I hope to get in a studio to record. I’ve always been song writing wherever I am, in the ‘90s I was working in London as a theatre designer doing costume and props for stage and when I moved back up North I was doing a lot of studio backing vocals and guitar for different musicians.

In the 2000’s I played a few gigs and wrote some songs including Still Waters. Some are available on Reverbnation and I’ll be uploading more onto Spotify soon and will send you the link.

A LIFE IN SONG

At gigs people would prefer to watch a full band so I spend more time writing and recording as my songs are more laid back – I’m planning to contact some musicians soon to go in the studio and record them on better equipment.

My passion is song writing and that’s what I continue to keep doing, I’m comfortable and happy doing that. I’m still in touch with the other members and would love to get up on stage and play a War Machine song, not sure if my vocals are strong enough for heavy metal though (laughs).

A previous interview with Bernadette from April 2018

LOST IN MUSIC – with North East musician Bernadette Mooney. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  November 2021

250,000 MILESTONE MESSAGES #2

And the messages keep coming in to celebrate the quarter of a million milestone of the North East Culture blog.

Dave Curry ‘Congratulations on the fantastic milestone you’ve achieved. I would like to say that without your interest and drive the photos that were recently included in the 40th anniversary of Motorhead’s ‘No Sleep’ CD would still be sitting in the loft. Keep up the excellent work’.

Julie Clay (Promoter) ‘Wow what a milestone, 250,000 hits on your blog….well done Gary! Great to meet you and be part of such a great blog. Good luck and all the best for 2022.’ 

Jon De Ville (actor, ex-vocalist Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘I spent some of my best years of my life in the North East and I love returning. My very best wishes to everyone and here’s to a rockin’ 2022’.

Alison Stanley (Actress, Writer & Theatre producer) ‘I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Gary on a couple of occasions, both of which have been thoroughly enjoyable. Gary’s blog has been an excellent means of telling everyone about my work as an actress/writer and has allowed me to reach a much wider audience.

I love reading Gary’s pieces and was really chuffed to join the ranks and be interviewed myself. I would definitely recommend reading’.

Carol Nichol (Lowfeye) ‘With social media there is often an overload of mundane feeds, so when you see an Alikivi review you are keen to hit that button with interest, whether it be a review of a band, a character from local history, there is always something brilliant in the creation of these blogs/reviews, through the research and the way they are written and presented, they are a little jewel in the world of social media today. It’s very evident how passionate Gary is in seeking out these largely unknown stories. Fantastic stuff!’

Garry Hunter (Creative Director) ‘This resource is key to continuing and reaffirming Tyneside as a cosmopolitan centre, with quarter of a million views it’s testament to Alikivi’s global reach, proving that Geordies get everywhere in the world, whether as engineers, artists or musicians, our impact is immense.’  

Tom Noble (Music manager & Promoter) ‘Gary’s blog has contributed significantly to the promotion of culture in the North East at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to get coverage for anyone but the most successful acts, he has supported local music admirably.’

Par Can (former stage technician) ‘A few years ago I had a major health issue which left me with time to read and take proper notice of things I’d previously just skimmed over. One of those was a site run by Film Maker Gary Alikivi. If you can’t find a plethora of interesting, amusing, informative articles to entertain you then you have somehow ended up on ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Boris dot com’ ! Thank you for all your hard work Gary. Look forward to many more great articles’.


Tony Hodge (The Pirahana Brothers) ‘Great news hitting 250,000 views of your excellent blog. I love reading the stories you feature covering many aspects of the North East especially its huge contribution our entertainers make. Keep up the good work and here’s to the million mark’.

Jon Dalton (Jazz guitarist & Composer) ‘Thanks for all the work you’ve been doing here and particularly your focus on the NWOBHM. Not just music from the North East but also bands like ours from the opposite corner of the country. That was an important time for so many of us and it’s great to see those stories recognized and remembered’.

Sam Blewitt – aka Sam Blue, (singer for Ya Ya, Ultravox, The Streets, The Young Punx, Dizzee Rascal, The Attention Seekers). ‘The history of North East music is a very important piece of cultural history, Gary chronicles it beautifully. His interviews and historical pieces are carefully and thoughtfully put together, making them a joy to read. I really enjoyed being interviewed by Gary, his questions allow scope for a wider answer. I had to really dig deep to remember dates and locations, but it was great fun and brought back some wonderful memories. Great Job Gary, keep up the good work’.

Jeff Brown (BBC Look North) ‘Enjoyed being a part of the project, Gary – keep telling the world about the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.’

Antony Bray (Abaddon/Venom Inc) ‘After forming Venom Inc I was lucky enough to begin touring in Europe again followed by the Far East and USA, this continued and we toured the world for three years. Of course many, many interviews went hand in hand, but none more satisfying and relaxing than the one I did with Gary Alikivi right on my doorstep.’

Micky Crystal (Tygers of Pan Tang/New Breed Revolution) ‘Huge congratulations on a quarter of a million readers Gary. Honoured to be part of the Alikivi North East blog’.

Quentin Kopp (Chairman, The Orwell Society) ‘Gary continues to do a wonderful job of keeping aspects of the history and people of South Shields alive. For me, as Chair of The Orwell Society, a highlight was Gary’s evocative film Wildflower about Eileen O’Shaughnessy, Orwell’s first wife who grew up in South Shields where her Father was the Chief Customs Office.’

Richard Blair, Patron of the Orwell Society and son of George Orwell ‘Since the start of 2017 I have been amazed by the number of people who have shown so much interest in both my father and mother. Eileen was a child of South Shields, who fell for an impecunious and relatively unknown young author, but she had great faith in his ability. The tragedy was that she was to die before the publication of Animal Farm, a book that she contributed so much to when George Orwell was writing it.

The Orwell Society has identified with the Tyneside area with the help of interested people from the North East, and from time to time we are able to bring some of the members up to see her birth place, the area she was brought up and also buried. I hope that we might meet some of you when the Society visits in March to unveil a plaque to Eileen.’

Joe Peterson (Big Red & the Grinners) ‘I love reading posts on ALIKIVI the North East culture blog, it’s the only true record of what it was like to be a musician in bands in the North East, it’s a great piece of archive for future musicians too who will be able to look back and get a sense of what it was like for us.’

Big thanks to all you lovely people for the messages…keep spreading the love !

LOUD AS HELL  – The North East connection from Venom to Megaforce U.S.A

The last post featured Jon Zazula and his latest book Heavy Tales. Zazula and his wife Marsha founded Megaforce Records in 1983 in New Jersey, USA, and released one of the most important albums in Heavy Metal history – ‘Kill ‘Em All’ by Metallica. This post looks at the North East connection.

The couple also ran Rock n Roll Heaven, a record shop selling the latest NWOBHM imports from bands like Venom, Raven, Iron Maiden and Angel Witch who were heavily in demand. Their customers would read Kerrang then ask for the latest releases from bands featured in the magazine.

Jon’s wife Marsha used to buy the records from distributors and pick up extra albums by Girlschool and Motorhead that she thought customers would like – and they did. The couple also bought in records from American bands, The Rods, Y&T from California and New York’s Twisted Sister – ultimately creating a vibrant metal scene.

Over in the North East of England, Venom were rehearsing in a church hall in Newcastle and after releasing a demo through Neat records, exploded onto the scene.

Back in 2017 Venom drummer Tony Bray told me “Before we started there was no Slayer or Metallica. We were in front of all that. We heard Motorhead and knew we had to be louder and harder than them”.

“Venom had its own momentum, we were blasphemous, over the top, trying to get banned – and it kept working”.

Pic of Venom from the book ‘Heavy Tales’.

Megaforce got in touch and brought them over to the east coast where they played shows with Metallica opening for them.

“This all happened in one big wave. We played our first proper gig in Belgium, it got massive reviews” said Tony. “Next we went to New York and Metallica opened up for us. We did two nights on Staten Island, New York but got our gear impounded, we were due to play the Aardshock festival in Holland with King Diamond and Raven”.

Read the full interview with Tony Bray:

HEBBURN OR HELL – Venom Inc. drummer Antony Bray decides… | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Heavy Tales also details the story how Megaforce were responsible for managing and releasing important Heavy Metal albums by Anthrax, Ace Frehley, Testament, Kings X and many more. The book includes over 100 photographs taken by friends and from the Megavault.

Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As lived by Jon Zazula out now on kindle or paperback.

Gary Alikivi  June 2021.

HEAVY TALES – new book by Megaforce Records founder, Jon Zazula

Jon Zazula

Heavy Tales is the story of how one American couple who ran a flea market stall, helped create the golden era of Heavy Metal and released the most important albums in its history.

Marsha Zazula and husband Jon founded Megaforce Records in New Jersey, USA in 1983, and were instrumental in the careers of Metallica and Raven.

By the early ‘80s Raven had released two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ on the Neat record label based in North East England. But when Neat got a call from Zazula, Raven knew their future was Stateside not Tyneside.

Zazula has documented the story in his new book where he remembers listening to Raven’s first album Rock Until You Drop.

‘That album was recorded for about 1,000 pounds with a group of the greatest fucking musicians. You’ll hear the greatest jam, grooves and change up’s. I saw a number on the back of the cover and called David Wood, head of the label’.

I asked Jon if he can remember meeting Wood.

‘Yes the mastermind. This man had the key to the pulse and Neat records was his Kingdom. He came to the US and stayed at my home and we discussed the breaking of Raven and Venom in America’.

‘Venom were a crazy lot. They stayed with me in the States. Abaddon burnt down my kitchen and Cronos ate my glassware. There was blood and glass in my sink from when he spit it out. Mantas was quiet but always held the centre. No Mantas no Venom. But he had two maniacs at his side’.

Raven and Metallica.

Around this time, Zazula unexpectedly received a demo tape from an unsigned band.

‘As soon as I heard it I was blown away. I thought this was America’s answer to the NWOBHM. When I came upon Metallica it was like mounting a lightning bolt’.

We also worked with Raven on releasing their album and had them headlining a summer tour with Metallica. When Raven hit the stage nothing can compare. They tore it up. I can honestly say that Raven were heavily on the rise. When they toured with Metallica as their opener, they were still able to maintain headline status every single night’.

‘The Raven/Metallica tour was a success. We sold a lot of band merchandise and people took notice. Raven and Metallica played an amazing show in Chicago which we filmed in case they would ever use it for promotion’.

‘I spent some time in Newcastle. I stayed in a flat with Raven drummer, Rob Wacko Hunter. I was fortunate to meet John and Mark’s (Gallagher) parents. They were wonderful people’.

Zazula remembers offering the bands a place to stay when they were out on America’s east coast gigging.

‘There was a point when Raven, Venom and Metallica were all hanging at Casa Z ! I was trying to work in the basement with my desk surrounded by sleeping bodies snoring away’.

In 1983 Megaforce released Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All and became the label in America for Heavy Metal. The book also includes stories of managing and releasing albums by Anthrax, Ace Frehley, Overkill, Ministry and more.

HEAVY TALES: The Metal, The Music, The Madness. As lived by Jon Zazula – out now on kindle or paperback.

As a mark of respect this post was held back due to the death of Marsha Zazula, on 10 January 2021. Rest in Peace.

On line interview and book extracts by Gary Alikivi  December 2020 & June 2021.

MAKING TRACKS #2 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson. Impulse studio/NEAT records

In the second part of an interview with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson, he talks about his time as in-house producer at Impulse studio/NEAT records and crossing swords with Northern metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Raven

METAL CITY

The basic idea at Impulse was to have an in-house producer. Some places just had an engineer but I would be on hand to help in song construction, production and putting product out on vinyl and releasing it.

There was quite a scene with muso’s getting together in some bars on the North East coast of England. Part of the scene was a club called Mingles in Whitley Bay. This was the place I checked out Raven, they were due in Impulse studio so I wanted to get a feel of what they were about. I’ll never forget the first time I met bassist John Gallagher.

I was standing at the back of the room with my back against the wall watching the band on stage, which must have only been six inches high. John took his bass and pointed it at me like a javelin, he raced toward me and only stopped right at my throat. I didn’t flinch. He gave me a wink as though to say, yeah you’ll do for us.

CRASH, BANG & DON’T FORGET THE WALLOP

Producing their album was an intense but rewarding experience. When I agreed to produce the album it was only on a three-day week basis. I figured I would need time out to recover from the sessions. I’ve heard these guys described as ‘athletic rock’, and that’s just about right.

In fact they were so energetic that I was obliged to gaffa tape the headphones to their heads otherwise they were just bouncing off as their heads where banging ten to the dozen as they recorded.

When I first heard them I thought yeah this is heavy as hell, not what I’m writing at the moment but it was constructed, well thought out and clever with a huge sound for a three piece.

You know some studio work is psychology, getting the best out of people. For instance the harder I pushed Raven the better the output was. Some people you have to be gentler with and try not to make a mistake. Most of the time humour was what worked best. They have since said one of the things they remember about our time in the studio was how much they laughed.

THROW THE KITCHEN SINK AT IT MAN

We experimented a bit, we decided we wanted a marching sound to bring in the Rock Until You Drop track so we mic’d up the toilet floor next to the studio and went in there and marched. It wasn’t right though.

I took a coffee break to ponder the problem and then it struck me. The disposable plastic coffee cups had just that crunch factor we needed. We spread a hundred or so and stomped on them. We then did several takes but had to keep replenishing the cups. In the end we used the entire supply of three thousand.

Venom

SEDUCED BY THE DEVIL

I remember being in the studio when our tape op was a young guy called Conrad. It was his job to fetch and carry, make coffee, thread the tapes onto the machines, make tape copies and cassettes. Conrad fitted in well.  He was a good tape op and got on well with everyone. He was always going on about his own band.

It seemed they saved up for about three months until they could afford enough pyrotechnics to blow up half a city, then had to save up to do another show. Conrad said very little about the music, it was mostly about the explosions. Nearly forgot to mention, Conrad’s band was called Venom.  And what about the time I gave Venom the Devil (laughs).

The Devil is a nick name for a musical interlude called the Tritone. And it’s heavily discordant if you crank the volume up, basically the sound of The Devil. I remember in the studio I loaned them my bass and Conrad played it through a Marshall stack and a fuzz box. Apparently the loan of that bass gave birth to Black Metal. I’m responsible. Sorry.

They were very unrefined but had absolutely bags of enthusiasm, but that was the last thing I recorded there. I never took a production royalty, just said ‘There’s the tapes lad’s, I’m off’.

Eventually I sold Conrad that bass – a Gibson EB3. I said ‘I have no use for it now but you must take care of it’. Next I saw it had an upside down effigy of Christ nailed to it and holes drilled through it. Some years later I asked him did he still have it, he replied ‘It died in L.A.’

Tygers of Pan Tang

A BIG TIDE AT TYGER BAY

One of the earlier times in Impulse, Dave Woods – NEAT label owner – came in and said there’s a band out there making a big noise why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT – the first two releases were not heavy metal.

We recorded their first single Don’t Touch Me There, now we know it was the start of what is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), and the tide was coming in that very evening (laughs).

Anyway we put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. Our paths parted then, but sometime later I was looking for somewhere to live, and the Tygers had a spare room for me to move into.

Next up read Making Tracks #3, where Steve talks about song writing & recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017

MAKING TRACKS #1 with songwriter & producer, Steve Thompson. From Consett to Wallsend.

Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson has had a hell of a career in the music biz, from producing heavy metal bands Venom, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, to mainstream artists Sheena Easton, Elkie Brooks and Celine Dion recording his songs, plus working with Pete Waterman, Gus Dudgeon, and The Hollies. Here he talks about his early influences and forming Bullfrog.

A BIT OF BULLY

Records I was fond of in the ‘60s were The Beach Boys. Brian Wilsons skill in making records was unbelievable. I used to listen to the radio and they were so far away like gods playing this music. But the thing that got me into playing guitar was seeing everyday guys around town playing guitars, just ordinary people.

Like all kids in my town, I went straight from school into Consett Steel Works. With three other steelworkers we formed a band called Bullfrog, and served two apprenticeships. One of them by day working in the steelworks, the other by night playing the pubs and clubs of North East England. That was my first stab at the music industry.

Bullfrog supported a lot of bands like Vinegar Joe and Edgar Broughton. On October 10th 1974 I got a call from our manager to say there was a gig going that night supporting Wishbone Ash at Newcastle’s Odeon Cinema and could I get the band together. When the call came in I had been dying my cream coloured platform boots, I fancied green. But because I was in a rush, I turned out on stage that night with one green boot and the other still cream.

Steve (in blue) in Bullfrog.

I’VE GOT A PLAN, MAN

When Bullfrog were in Island Studios in London our first producer was Roger Bain, he also produced Black Sabbath. I was introduced to his friend and record producer, Gus Dudgeon of Elton John fame, later on I did a lot of work as a songwriter with Dudgeon.

The whole process of studio and song writing really intrigued me so I knew where I was headed. I wrote a few songs put them out and a guy called Dave Wood heard about me and found a slot at Impulse Studio in Wallsend.

Next up read Making Tracks #2, when Steve is producer at Impulse Studio in Wallsend, home to New Wave of British Heavy Metal label NEAT records, and crosses swords with metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview Gary Alikivi  from June 2017.