THE GRANTHAM FOUR – 5 minutes with New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Overdrive

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Overdrive formed in 1978 in Grantham, UK. The current line up is Luther Beltz (vocals) Stuart Meadows (drums) original members Tracey Abbott (guitar) and Ian Hamilton (bass) who takes up the story…

‘Our influences were watching UK music programme Top of the Pops and listening to Elvis, Slade, T.Rex, Deep Purple and Sabbath. That spurred us on to start a band at school in 1974 – and we just kept going! Tracey’s dad played in a brass band and our parents funded the band and encouraged us. They also got us gigs’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘Our first gigs were in the Workingmen’s Social Clubs in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester. Then we went on the same circuit as other NWOBHM bands – places like the Penguin Club, Lead Mill, Monsal Head and other’s. We supported many bands including Def Leppard, Bernie Torme, Raven, Lionheart even Freddie and the Dreamers.

We had a gig once at Rotherham Arts Centre and due to home made pyrotechnics the show was stopped by the fire brigade. Recently the best gigs we have played have been in Europe, the fans really know how to rock!

(Overdrive self-released music under their own label ‘Boring Grantham Records’. First was a demo tape in 1978 with the tracks ‘All Day’, ‘Overdrive’ and ‘Once in a Dream Piebald Pinto’. This was limited to 50 copies. Next release was a 7” single in 1981 including ‘On the Run’, ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Stonehenge’. More releases followed).

What were your experiences of recording and did you record any TV appearances or film any music videos ?  ‘Now with modern technology it’s all done on a laptop in our kitchen but recording was strange in the early 1970’s. The engineer wore a lab coat and treated it like a serious school project. Recording was a mystery to us.

Our first recording was in a place called Drumbeat Studios in Leicester in 1976. Funnily enough the same studio Showadywady did their first album. We have never worked with a proper producer until our last album which was mixed by the Dark Lord himself, Chris Tsangerides (RIP). We’ve never been on TV or done a video. Just too damn ugly!!
(Chris Tsangarides was best known for producing heavy metal albums by Tygers of Pan Tang, Judas Priest, Anvil, Thin Lizzy and more. He has also worked with pop and alternative artists Depeche Mode, Blondie and Lords of the New Church).

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What are the future plans for Overdrive ? ‘We are now recording our 6th album, with the title Resurrection. Also planning gigs for 2018, with Greece Germany and Italy on the itinerary’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017. 

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunter, 12th 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.

SALEM: Increase the Pressure, 20th September 2017.

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

SNATCH BACK: Back in the Game, 21st October 2017.

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

JUST THE WAY IT WAS – Recording in Guardian Studio with Nev Larkin

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Nev Larkin was a member of Marauder who recorded 2 tracks for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal compilation album Roxcalibur, released on Guardian Records in January 1982. The album had followed on the back of another compilation released out of Guardian Studio’s called Roksnax released in 1980.

Roxcalibur featured 7 bands who contributed two tracks each they included North East UK metallers Black Rose, Battleaxe and Satan. Nev takes up the story…

‘I got cracking on with some lads from Ashington who were in a band called Marauder they needed a 2nd guitar so I joined them. We played the pub’s around North Tyneside and Northumberland. Then we went into Guardian Studio in Durham around late ’81 and recorded 2 songs, Woman of the Night and Battlefield. We were in for about 20 hours on the Saturday and went back on Sunday night and finished about 6.00 in the morning. Half hours sleep then straight to work at the Department of Social Security’

Did each band share the production costs ? ‘As a band we had to pay £400 for costs, that’s £80 each. The recording studio was in a terraced house next door to where the owner and producer Terry Gavaghan used to live. The recording area was in effect, a front living room with a booth for the drums. The singers girlfriend had made some pies in trays for the length of our time in the studio. So when recording Battlefield it was suggested that we take the tray of pies through to the recording area, smash them about and re-create a ‘battle’. Which we did to a great deal of hilarity’.

‘The other song which is on You Tube is Woman of the Night which was going to be a single, but didn’t happen. The singer Steven Ireland is still singing for a band called F.M. Strangely enough I guested for one gig only, when they were called Lone Wolf. In the end we got twenty albums each to sell. The producer said that if we sold them for £4 each, we would get our money back – he should have been a mathematician ! I ended up giving them away, not long ago someone told me they were going for a fortune on E Bay!

There is a story of a resident ghost at Guardian studio, did the owner Terry Gavaghan tell you about it ? ‘He did the trick with the moving microphone that was on a stand after he had fed us the ghost story. He had sneaked in through a different entrance and pulled the cable along the floor. I got my own back by having a blast of the fire extinguisher while he wasn’t there’.

Did you know if the album sold many copies ? ‘As far as I know, none of the bands got any royalties from the songs.  I think that he must have copped the lot.  Dave King from Battleaxe who were also on the album was going to chase this up years ago. I don’t know if he got anywhere with it.  I spoke to Malcolm Midwood a couple of month ago, who now performs under Wytchcraft, he never got anything’.

Where did it all start for you ? ’Seeing Status Quo as a teenager at the Newcastle City Hall made me want to learn guitar. My first band was called Redrock and our only gig was at Killingworth High School just a few miles from Newcastle. Then I joined up with some lads from Longbenton, the band was called Loser (appropriately enough) and we played only one gig at the Newbridge Dance Studio which is now demolished. There were more guitars in that band than Blue Oyster Cult !

Next was with some lads from Bedlington and we played around North Tyneside and Northumberland under the name of Scharnhorst. Steve Bird (guitar) Dean Heward (bass) Gary Young (drums) and me (vocals/guitar). Later we shortened the name to just The Horst. I can’t remember much about that band apart from one event at a gig in The Newton Park Hotel where we blew the mains circuit, leaving the pub in total darkness due to the amount of gear we had plus all the pyro effects, dry ice, medium maroon big bang cartridges the lot. Not long after that the band ended’.

What happened after Marauder ? ‘I got together with some friends and did 3 self-penned songs and video in one of our flats in Heaton, Newcastle. We called this The Bedroom Sessions. Needless to say the neighbours did not see the funny side or, the video for that matter. We did a tour of friends houses on our motorbikes to promote this. We did one gig at Darsley Park, Benton. It was at this stage I effectively called it a day. I just seemed to be constantly chasing my tail trying to make things happen.

Still play guitar now but in the house only. I did try my hand at Stand Up Comedy (2001) but it got too tiring trying to do a day job then running all over to do gigs for ‘diddly’ (nothing).  I appeared on regional TV on a Friday night feature called Stand Up Britain. I think it was one of the fella’s from Phoenix Nights who produced it. It was a ‘dial up’ viewer vote where the winner went through to a National final in Manchester for a £7k prize. It was not me’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.

IT’LL BE ALRIGHT IN THE MIX with Tyneside rock drummer Mark Woodhouse

After nearly 40 years hard work and dedication Mark Woodhouse is still drumming in a pub near you. But in the 1980’s he was drummer with South Shields based Heavy Metal band White Vice… ‘We once got called White Mice by a free newspaper in Durham despite spelling it phonetically over the phone. Several times. Hardly a name to fetch the leather clad Metal hordes out to see us!’

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Heavy Rock had a big following on Tyneside, and South Shields was no exception did this genre of music have a big influence on you ? ‘It was early ’80’s I was heavily into AC/DC and listening to the Friday Rock Show which got me into Metal. By the time we got a band together I was on drums almost by default because everyone else either played guitar or wanted to sing!
I’ve never been a special fan of any particular drummer, it’s always been the music they were playing that I enjoyed and took influences from. Which is why one drum fill I often pull out of the bag is a close variation on what the guy on the first Go West album used to do ! Admittedly not very Metal but it works a treat’.

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What are your earliest memories of drumming ? ‘First drum kit was a Frankenstein drum kit from the West Park Community Centre in South Shields. It didn’t have any stands to speak of, the bass pedal broke after a couple of weeks, so for a year I played drums without a bass pedal. From an influence standpoint, I ripped fills wholesale from Accept”s Restless & Wild album, and I spent many hours playing along to tapes of Judas Priest albums.
We eventually got a band together and the nucleus was me and Steve McGinley. We went through a few names, at that time we called ourselves Trias, and there was a revolving door of members before the next permanent member Dave Johnston came in on bass. Barry Marshall joined on guitar and the final piece in the jigsaw was Tess Mulligan who took up frontman duties. This became the classic White Vice line up’.

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Where did White Vice rehearse and what can you remember from then? ‘In terms of rehearsal rooms White Vice used the Martec club, Baker Street and The North Eastern pub in Jarrow. That pub was brilliant. It was always freezing cold in the room we were in and over the top of the door there was an extension cable running from the bar. We’d be pounding drums, screeching guitars, laying out some serious slabs of prime Heavy Metal at full volume. Then nip into the bar for refreshment only to find a smokey room full of old Jarrovians in flat caps playing dominoes, supping pints and smoking rollies. Totally detached from what was happening next door. Even though it sounded like armageddon through a couple of 100watt Marshall amps.

I often wonder how we found these places and organised rehearsals given that it was before the Internet, social media, mobile phones etc. The organisation around the band must have all been done word of mouth, and the same for every other band around that time’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a couple of recordings with White Vice and punk band The Fiend. We recorded the first White Vice demo Thrash On Delivery on Easter Sunday 1986 at Desert Sounds in Pelaw and it included the songs Hard Rocker, Sacred Armageddon, Breaking Ice and Death From Above.

Then we went into Baker Street Studios on the Bede Estate in Jarrow and did the Hot Day In July demo on Sunday 5th July 1987. We recorded 5 songs in that session The Death Mosh, The Beast, The Time To Panic (Infectious Terror), and Search & Destroy.

Both White Vice demos were done from scratch in one day from probably mid morning until about 9pm. The Fiend ones I did took a little longer, probably a day and a half. But for the first Fiend demo I did my drum tracks and had to leave the studio to go back to work for 1pm. So I had no further input and the next I knew of it was when the tape was put in my hands!

‘The second session might actually have taken longer as the band had to go back for guitar overdubs as there was a distortion problem on the mic. Baker Street was a very high tech studio, in a local sense anyway and as for the recording, we were told it would be alright in the mix !’

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Around 1986 we did most of our socialising in Durham and Chester Le Street especially at the legendary Greenbanks Rock Night on Mondays. We had tracks from our demo played there regularly and this led to gigs in Annfield Plain, Willington, Washington Arts Centre and Fowlers Yard in Durham.

Some of our most notable gigs were self promoted, especially at The Bullion Hall in Chester Le Street where we employed DJs, a bar manager, door staff, PA and lights. Some of the bands that supported us there were Acid Reign and Battleaxe, who were New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legends and local to Chester Le Street.

We headlined what turned into A Battle at the Bullion in Chester Le Street November ’86 where Battleaxe were squashed on the bill in between our band and Pulse, also from South Shields. Let’s put it this way I don’t think Battleaxe took too kindly to being turned over on their home turf. Also at that gig was Karen McNulty she came as a guest of our singer Tess. Karen was vocalist for She, who recorded at NEAT records. Tess told me that he met Karen in Trillians Bar, Newcastle, he was putting studs in his jacket, sang a few lyrics to her bought a few drinks and she fancied the gig’.

‘While we played she sat at the desk with the soundman Howard Baker. Karen told us later on, that our set was tight and intense, like seeing Metallica walk onstage. She was surprised this was only our sixth gig, I’m pretty sure it was meant as a compliment.
A mad song title we had was Metal Minstrel ! It started with a clean guitar playing like a 16th Century lute, then the distortion pedal was pressed, then I simply had to play as fast as I possibly could. We used the same “wear Mark out after a slow start” technique for a few songs’.

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How did Howard Baker help the band ? (see interview Howards Way August 17th 2017) ‘Howard did live sound for us a few times, he had an old ambulance van that he ferried us around in, we were packed in the back with the gear. Don’t forget that he had Baker Street Rehearsal Studios where we practically lived as a band for about two to three years. Then around ’87 he added the recording studio plus he opened Baker Street Audios in South Shields’.

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How long did White Vice last ? ‘Around this time our bassist Dave Johnston left so we enlisted a Chester Le Street musician known only to us as Space Debris. Yep really. But very few gigs followed and the loss of Tess on vocals pretty much put paid to things. His swan song was the Hot Day In July demo. Once Tess left the feel had gone so by 1988 the band had run its course’.

What are you up to now and are you still involved in music ? ‘Me and Barry Marshall have played together for the last two and a half years in Classic Rock Covers band Andromeda. I also play in a band called The Spacehoppers with bass player Ed Thomas who was in Shields bands The Cups and most notably Gunslinger, which is a whole other story!’ (See next post for an interview with Ed Thomas.)

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

First new Warfare album in 25 years. The noise, the chaos, the mayhem – the world of Evo.

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As we’re talking on the phone the memories from 30 years ago are flooding back for Evo…‘We recorded a version of Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer, the record company banned it and stopped it going out cos we changed the song to Addicted to Drugs. We done a gig at the Marquee in London and it was one of my dreams to play on that stage. It was a great gig and for an encore we did Addicted to Love. We got a porn model on stage with us, she stripped off and squeezed lotion all over the audience, the kids at the front loved it, lapped it up, it was in their hair, everywhere, what a laugh – backstage she wanted to play with my snare drum haha. Those were the days, and I lived it to the max’.

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It can be difficult to pick out the best bits of your career but isn’t it strange how events happen and years later they come back round… ’I’ll tell you about the inspiration that started me out on the long road to rock n roll. After 25 years I’ve released a new album. It’s a follow up to the noise I created in the 1980’s. On the album I’ve got a few friends and guests like Fast Eddie Clarke from Motorhead, Lips from Anvil and Paul Gray on bass (UFO/The Damned) he wrote Do Anything You Wanna Do.

I remember as a 14 year old boy in a cafe skiving off school I heard Eddie and the Hot Rods on the radio singing Do Anything You Wanna Do. That’s where it all started. The rest is history’.

How did you get started when you were young? ‘I could play bass guitar but drums appealed to me simply because they were loud and I didn’t want no 9-5 fuck that. I could create more mayhem than I even did at school. I wasn’t influenced by any drummers, I have my own style, possibly Rat Scabies from The Damned if anyone.

I started off in local shitty bands when I was around 16 they weren’t much but the first name band was Major Accident. We supported Chelsea around the UK, I was very young and enthusiastic wanting to get on but you know with some bands it just doesn’t work I got on really well with the group but thought I wanted to go up to the next level.’

During the early 80’s you were living in London, what was the scene like ? ‘Yes we were having a good time in London, however I went there for a reason, to further my career and experience. I went out drinking around Soho with the Stranglers and Motorhead.

There was a band called The Blood who were talked about as the next big thing. I joined them and cut an album False Gestures for a Devious Public which is regarded as a cult classic now. It got to number 62 in the album charts. But after some internal fighting I left the band and joined Angelic Upstarts’.

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Was that a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire ? ‘No I got on well with my old mate Mensi. We toured all the time, on my very first gig Mensi the singer said get yersel ready cos in a few days we’ve got a little gig up in Leeds.

I was still living in London and I went round to Algy Wards place (The Damned bassist) just around the corner from where I was living and told him about this small gig we’ve got. I’d never played live for about six month cos I’d only recorded with The Blood. Algy said, ‘what? no the gig’s at the Queens Hall – it’s called Christmas On Earth it’s gonna be the biggest punk festival’.

On the day we arrived at Leeds there’s huge Trans Am trucks inside the place unloading the gear, the place was massive. We ended up second on the bill. There was The Damned, Chelsea, Anti Nowhere League, GBH, UK Subs a few more…On stage you could feel the power of the audience. 15,000 people bouncing… a little gig in Leeds haha’.

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‘But I wanted to try a few more of my own ideas you know, fronting my own band. So I formed a  three piece mixing punk and metal – the way no one had done it before. Metal riffs and intellectual lyrics that stank of the street. Not at 10 but hitting the volume at 12, thrash wasn’t even invented then.

Around early ’84 I came back up North and signed for Neat records, this was the beginning of Warfare. Neat was known as a very loud label, no commercial releases, you’d always be garaunteed to get yer ears blown out.

A lot has been said about Dave Woods the label owner, some stuff I’ve heard about his dealings with bands. But personally I got on with him. It’s how you do business together isn’t it – he put me on a wage, because that’s what I asked for. We’d go out for meals, he became a family friend.
Anyway we went in the studio and recorded the first single Noise, Filth and Fury. On guitar there was Mantas from Venom, Algy Ward from The Damned on bass, and I did drums and lead vocals’.

(Nerd alert:The 7” three track ep single was produced by Evo at Impulse Studio’s, Wallsend the home of Neat records, and released in 1984. A side Burn the Kings Road, b side The New Age of Total Warfare and third track Noise, Filth and Fury.)
‘That immediately got to number 2 in the Heavy Metal charts. Then we cut the first album Pure Filfth’.

‘The 2nd album was Metal Anarchy and iconic Motorhead man Lemmy produced that. Tracks like Electric Mayhem, Disgrace, Living for the Last Days, a big seller along with Venom and Raven. You know looking back Neat had some good bands on the label, but if you really wanted your music big, angry and fucking loud that’s where Warfare, Venom and Raven came in. We didn’t take any prisoners’.

Any memories from that time ? ‘This one was fucking chaos. Typical Warfare. We played Newcastle Riverside and didn’t get paid. It was supposed to be 50/50 split on the door but the Riverside were letting in people free as a promotion before 8pm which I was never told about and certainly never agreed to. It all ended up in court.

Anyway, when they didn’t pay we went mad, headbutting the manager, pissing in the amplifiers, smashing a huge hole in the centre of the stage, the crowd pulled the speakers off the stage, I smashed a bouncer in the face with a bass guitar. We created absolute mayhem.

Same when we went to Holland, we gigged there and the same sort of thing happened. We threw real pigs blood at the audience. It was mental in Warfare – that’s what I wanted it to be – totally over the top. Gleeful and all in a days work’.

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What’s changed in the world of Warfare, why choose now to release an album? ‘Back in the early 90’s I got really pissed off with the industry, I had ran out of ideas, I wasn’t a young kid anymore, it all came to a head really so I decided to stop.

Over the 25 years since, I’ve been offered jobs with name bands, guest vocals, producing albums, but always turned them down until I had a dream one night. No, seriously. I was in a band again. On stage, the lights, the noise.

When I woke up it was like the dream was still there. So I dragged my bass guitar out of the garage, I didn’t have an amp so I went to see my mate Fred Purser at his studio (ex Penetration, Tygers of Pan Tang) we knew each other from way back when we were starting out.

Plugged into a valve amp hit the first chord albeit a bit rusty and blew everything off the desk haha. He said ‘Evo can you not turn that fucker down ? I said ‘no, on the contrary Fred, I’m going to turn it up haha’. Then the noise filth and fury was back in my polluted bloodstream’.

Next stop was writing and recording during 2015 & 16, after hearing the newly released Warfare album on High Roller Records it sounds like he was having a blast, ironic that one of the studio’s was Blast in Newcastle.

Friends including Nik Turner (Hawkwind) Fast Eddie Clake (Motorhead) and Lips from Anvil making appearances. The album was also recorded at Wild Wood studios and at Trinity Heights, the home turf of Fred Purser who supplies guitar on 2 tracks.

The first ‘Screaming at the Sea’ a spoken word intro and bang into the attack of ‘Cemetery Dirt’ and attack again, again and again. Fast Eddie Clarke plays guitar on ‘Misanthropy’ ….’Step into the Fire they do as they are told, Greedy for a future always fighting for some gold’ …sounds like a scathing attack, look up the meaning of Misanthropy – well what else you got ?

Religion and the clergy are in the crosshairs on ‘Black’ and Evo keeps up the relenting pace from the spoken word first track, until the perfect book ending to the album ‘Stardust’ which offers a nice escape route. It must have made an impact – it will for you.

‘I asked Lips from Anvil to do a spot on the album he agreed straight away, great guy. I liked Anvil cos I always thought they were the first thrash band with Warfare being the first punk metal band. And we’ve got Nikky Turner from Hawkwind on the album that driving bass from Lemmy and the powerful sound they created’.

Have you any future plans for Warfare ? ‘Well the album is out now and doing very well but I’ve no plans as yet to take this out live, I’ve been offered shows but nothing has stuck with me yet. I’m looking to do some producing work, maybe if the right act comes along. I’ve got a top class engineer working alongside me so yeah looking to get into that side of the business.

Counting back I’ve recorded 17 albums in my career. I‘ve had quite a journey in music and a load of experience to take forward into production. I may consider doing a guest vocal or two’.

Warfare new album out now on High Roller Records http://www.hrrecords.de

For more info contact Evo Evans on his facebook page or Lucy at Mayhem Management levans@tiscali.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Steve James, Under the Skin, 9th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Staughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Current Tygers bassist Gav Gray with Richard Laws.

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

RUNNING WITH THE PACK ‘We had a gang mentality, we weren’t scared of any band’ back to the start with drummer Ged Wolf

Blast Recording Studio in Newcastle is the venue to record more stories for the blog. There has been over 50 interviews and over 6,000 views since starting in February this year. This time it’s Ged Wolf who has been drummer with North East heavy metal bands Tysondog and Atomkraft giving him many fantastic memories and great stories which he has shared here – let’s get started Ged.

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ’As a drummer I loved Cozy Powell, he was a hero, but what got me first into drumming was my brother. He was in a band with Tony Bray the Venom Inc drummer. Before they became Venom they used to rehearse on a Saturday at Clegwell school in Hebburn. I’d go along there and inbetween breaks used to have a knock about on the drums. I found I was natural, never had a drum lesson in my life’.

‘Then Christmas morning when I was 13 year old my brother bought me a Premier red sparkle drum kit. The noise was a nightmare for my parents so I used to put t-shirts on my drums to dampen it down haha. I got into listening to rock bands with other kids at school and in the meantime my brother started managing Venom and I ended up on the road crew. Used to go to the rehearsals and got a background in how things worked. Ended up as back up drummer for the band when I was 15, never had to stand in but I was there in case’.

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‘My very first gig at Newcastle City Hall was watching Whitesnake, (pic.above with Cozy Powell 3rd from left) the second was Bad Company and I remember seeing Twisted Sister at Newcastle Mayfair. You had to be over 18 to get in and I wasn’t old enough then but was with my brother and mates so snuck in with them. The Mayfair was the hallowed ground with a bar in it and surrounded by all the big boys haha.

It was a great sweaty gig but the very next day flew out to America with Venom to do a couple of shows. Out there they had Metallica supporting. They only done two shows at the Paramount Theatre in New York but they made a big impression.
We all lived together in one big house for about three weeks, it was the crew, Venom and Metallica. But me and the other drum tech Gordon were too young to go out drinking and watching bands with all the others so we stayed in the house and got drunk. But living with them was great, we had some real adventures haha’.

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‘The first gig in New York was memorable, we had made some huge bomb pots the size of footballs, you know Venom was all about the show. Well the guy in charge of the pyro was out of his head on something and he ended up loading the pots twice. The bombs went off at the start of their first song Witching Hour, one of the bombs went down through the stage creating a big hole. The other one went up over the crowd, past the balcony and embedded into the back wall. There is a plaque there now, Venom 1983 haha.

But the explosion blew the whole backline so for the second gig we had to get all new equipment. I’ve never had to work so hard all my life it was 24 hours non stop. I was that tired I was asleep under the drumriser when Metallica were playing. It was the only place I could stretch out haha’.

‘I was in the studio at NEAT records as drum tech when Venom were recording. I remember they were working on a new song Countess Bathory and Tony the drummer popped out for something to eat so I filled in on drums and played with Conrad and Jeff. I worked out the drums for the song. So when Tony got back they said Ged’s worked it out just do it like him!’

‘But I didn’t want to be a roady all my life, I wanted to be in a band, see the lights, hear the crowd an all that. I had ambitions of my own and had all these studio and touring experiences at an early age, and was considered a pretty good drummer in the North East.

One day I saw an advert in local newspaper The Chronicle for a band wanting a drummer. Thing was I had just got the Venom drum kit as Tony Bray had got a new one built, a Viking drum kit the biggest in the North East. So mine was second biggest haha. But I didn’t tell my brother I was going, I just went for the audition and didn’t tell the band my connections with NEAT and all that, kept it all quiet. I just turned up at the Coach and Horses pub in Wallsend with only a three piece drum kit – and I got the job !

I was drummer in Tysondog. They were like a Judas Priest sounding band so it was all fill’s which was fine for me. Every rehearsal after that I used to take an extra piece of kit so it ended up a twelve piece’.

‘But I wasn’t happy, I was a good 6-7 years younger than the others so as a young one I wasn’t getting listened to, but other aspects I had more experience. I was also a bit of a hot head you know. Well we recorded an album with NEAT records and just before it was due to be released I left the band. So that was it. They got in Rob Walker to replace me, great lad, good drummer’.

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How did the Atomkraft job come about ? ‘About 6 months after leaving Tysondog I was in NEAT Records and Venom bassist Chronos came up to me and said there’s a guy you should talk to. That’s when I met Tony Dolan. He was a bass player, so we had a few jamming sessions and got to know each other. It was going well, just playing a few Motorhead songs stuff like that, just bass and drums.

He had a band called Atomkraft but wanted to update it. They used to wear jeans, t shirts and bullet belts, it was like the press photo for Ace of Spades. We needed to freshen things up and arranged auditions for a guitarist and got 16 year old Rob Mathews in, he was from Pelaw. Tony was from Wallsend and I was from Jarrow. So at the time Atomkraft was just a three piece’.

‘We had punk influences, the metal thrash scene had that, we all loved AC/DC, I also loved Kiss but mix it all together and that’s what we were. The attitude side of it was from punk that was a big part of it’.

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‘We wrote, rehearsed and recorded at NEAT Records and came out with our first album Future Warriors in June ’85. Our very first gig was supporting Slayer at the Marquee in London which was Slayer’s debut European gig. We all went down there with our gear, done the soundcheck and out pops the assistant manager of the Marquee asking who’s in your roadcrew? Well we had 14 people on our crew haha. Basically it was our friends from Newcastle who came down wanting to see the gig haha’.

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‘The stage was so small I had to arrange the drums with Slayer’s drummer Dave Lambardo and see what was the best way to do it. We were supporting them and he played drums facing the side of the stage which was a bit awkward but we sorted it out. In the end he said can you lend me a pair of drumsticks I haven’t got any ? I said yes it’s the least I can do.

Well we’re on stage but after only three songs of our set the whole backline goes off. Even though we had 14 roadies not one of them knew what they were doing. We found it was the guitar that had gone off so me and Tony played along then after 30 seconds I just smashed my whole drum kit and threw it into the crowd. I’d just bought a new kit that was back home so I thought, fuck it, smash this one up !

We went off stage everyone is howling, funnily enough it went down great. We got some great press off it. Anyway stage is cleared and ready for Slayer to go on. Dave Lombardo says to me have you got them drumsticks ? – I’d hoyed everything into the crowd haha. So my drum roadie had to go out and get some back for him haha.
Yes that was Atomkraft’s debut gig. Then after that for about six weeks we went over to Europe with Venom and Exodus and had a great time’.

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Atomkraft only played a few gig’s in the North East. Was that a deliberate decision ? ’Yes by 1986 Atomkraft turned into a 5 piece and in came DC Rage from South Shields and Ian Swift on vocals. At a trial for that line up we got a 25 minute support slot with Girlschool at Newcastle University and then we played The Riverside at Newcastle.

But I was gutted at that gig because a lot of young kids couldn’t get in. The thing was at Atomkraft we were once at the Mayfair and someone next to us was talking to his friends saying ‘that’s the band that everyone has heard of but nobody has seen’. I thought that was a great compliment. We weren’t bothered, we knew we hadn’t played Newcastle, that’s just the way it was’.

‘Sometimes it’s not about ability it’s about determination and focus to where you want to go. We had that as Atomkraft, we used to go to the Newcastle Mayfair on the Friday and Saturday nights getting drunk but always made sure we rehearsed every Saturday and Sunday, that was our focus and dedication. Putting the groundwork in that’s how we got those tours. There’s no substitute for rehearsal’.

‘We had a gang mentality of it’s us against you, we don’t care if you like us we just went out on stage and done the best we could we weren’t scared of any band. We made sure if we played live or recorded we were rehearsed and ready to go. We went out with some of the top American bands and if you weren’t up to it you were off the tour, but we put the groundwork in and worked really hard’.

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‘Through our hard work and the management, in the space of two years we done three major European tours with Venom. They were at 5-6,000 seaters some were 10,000. We were young kids compared to them.

There was a point in 1983 when Venom were the biggest selling independant band in the world – not too bad for some guys from Tyneside. Venom were the big boys they brought over Metallica and Slayer for European tours. But the difference was that those bands ended up on good record labels that supported them with promotion.
Now there is two bands Venom and Venom Inc, it’s not a competition between them I’m friends with them all, it’s good what they are both doing’.

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Have you any memorable gigs ? ’A stand out gig for us was in ’87 The Longest Day at Hammersmith Odeon with Agent Steel, Nuclear Assault and Onslaught. There is a video of that and it went live on Radio One. Another stand out gig was when we toured with Nasty Savage and we were the first British thrash band to play Poland. The security was 2,000 armed troops circling the crowd. There was around 40,000 people there they loved the British bands. It was video’d and a live album was made which we never saw a penny from’.

Atomkraft’s biggest audiences were Holland and Germany. Another memorable gig was the Dynamo in Eindhoven. Testament and Onslaught were on the bill and Stryper were headlining. For that we had the Future Warriors image which was Mad Max style. We got off the tour bus heading for the stage and went past Stryper who looked at us and said what’s going on here ! Our vocalist Swifty had injured his hand so we gaffa taped his mic to his hand haha.

Marshall Amps had just brought out Jubilee stacks which were silver, we had 12 either side so our image and our stage presence really stood out. The crowd were jumping, absolutely bouncing, I’ll never forget it. That was the gig somebody threw something on stage, it was like a cannon ball with a fuse burning, everyone saying it’s a bomb ! It roll’s in front of my drum riser, everyone splits off the stage, so I do the natural thing and tell my drum roadie to go and get it haha. Turned out to be nothing just burnt itself out’.

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‘The headliners Stryper were a Christian band, and on that day nobody was allowed to swear, it was part of the contract. Well our singer Swifty went straight out there on stage ‘How the fuck ya doing Holland’ haha. But on the side of the stage Stryper just gave us the thumbs up, they loved us really’.

Was image important ? ’Yes we wanted to stand out, everybody was doing the Metallica thing, jeans, ripped t-shirts you know but the thing we had was as we progressed from a three piece to a five we sounded like Venom, a bit of Motorhead and Kiss. We were speeding up, the guitar sound was getting crisper, we knew we had to up or game.

But we were on NEAT Records who never put money into their bands and all American bands coming over on Music for Nations were getting money thrown at them for tour buses and that. We never got one advance from NEAT Records and we were selling a lot of records’.

What has music given you ? ‘I was talking to me dad years ago and he said he joined the merchant navy and saw the world – I joined a band and saw the world. I’ve been to so many places and met so many people, some good some bad, but I would never change anything. All those years ago learning how to play the drums in Clegwell School in Hebburn got me here today, it’s been one big adventure’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

BACK FOR ANOTHER BITE -with Kev Wynn, bassist with NWOBHM band Tysondog

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Have you any funny stories from gigs ? ‘I could fill a book really !!! Some of them unprintable haha. But one of the stupidest was when Tysondog were in Scotland and before a gig in Glasgow we were due to be interviewed by the legend that is Tom Russell on his radio Clyde Rock Show. We were trying to find the studio, no sat nav’s in them days !
We stopped in the Clydebank area and asked these young kids for direction, I noticed some of them were carrying guitars. Well years later around 1991 I’m in the Cardiff Post House hotel on business when I get talking to, well pissed really, with Wet,Wet,Wet, yes the pop band.
They had just performed at Cardiff Stadium in front of 50,000 people and after the gig the drummer Tommy Cunningham bought about a dozen bottles of champers in the hotel bar. Tommy says to me ‘Kev I hear you used to be in a band ?’ When I told him yeah Tysondog you won’t have heard of them we were a NWOBHM band from the 80’s.

Well from his reaction he nearly died. He jumped up shouting ‘No fuckin’ way man !’ ..yup …it was him and some of the other lads out of Wet, Wet, Wet, who we’d asked for directions ha ha.
They said that night they tuned in to the radio to hear us being interviewed and were telling everyone they’d met some rock stars haha.
Oh forgot to tell ya that after the radio interview we all jumped into our hotel swimming pool bollock naked. They had security cameras so most of the staff had a good laugh at a bunch of skinny, pissed up, hairy arsed Geordies !’

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Where did it all begin ? ‘When we were 16 year old we just played the local church halls and youth clubs. Then progressed to pubs in the Newcastle area’

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Kevin also talked about his influences…‘Early on I liked Bowie, Queen, Sweet, T.Rex. then proper rock of Deep Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin. That lead me to heavier stuff like Judas Priest and Saxon. I decided to get involved in playing music after watching my first concert The Sweet at the Newcastle City Hall. They were heavy as f##k !’

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first demo was a live recording of a gig in a working man’s club in Ashington, Northumberland. We sent a copy to NEAT records who had just started releasing heavy metal records. They asked us to record a single there. It was our first time ever in a studio and we came out with Eat the Rich’.

(In 1983 Eat the Rich was released as a 7” single on NEAT records. The studio also released two albums by the band. Beware of the Dog in 1984 and two year later Crimes of Insanity, which included a version of School’s Out, the Alice Cooper anthem).

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What are Tysondog doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? Yeah Tysondog released their third album Cry Havoc on Rocksector Records in 2015. In September this year we’ve got a gig at the Gaura metal festival in Brazil with Anvil. Later that month we go to Manchester for the Grimm Up North festival with a few bands on the bill including founder members of Saxon’.

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‘Then in December it’s the big HRH NWOBHM festival in Sheffield with Satan, Raven and a few others before a few club shows in Newcastle and over to Holland. Last gig this year is in December with Girlschool, Diamond Head, Tytan, Spartan Warrior and a few others, it’s a great line up at the Blast from the Past festival held in Belgium.
We are busy planning more European dates for 2018. Yeah that’s enough to be getting on with’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

STORMY DAZE – Life’s like that for North East guitarist Jim Clare

In the early 1980’s guitarist Jim Clare played for North Eastern UK bands Hellfire and Geneva… ‘It was hot pies and cans of Carlsberg Special in the rehearsal rooms with my first band, in the next room were Fist and the other was Hellanbach… it was like the Walk this Way video by Aerosmith and Run DMC haha.

During the late 80’s he was guitarist in Black Metal merchants Venom where he recorded the album Calm Before the Storm and went out on tour… ‘I remember we were in America and met up with the Cycle Sluts From Hell, basically they were the Spice Girls on PCP, that was some wild night at the Ritz in New York City’.

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Where did it all begin for you? ‘Music was around me from an early age, my older brother’s were into folk and my cousin Bob Henrit played in Argent and The Kinks. I started studying bass then moved on to guitar. In 1980 I bought my Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop (1972) for £300 and used my brothers HH amp. I was listening to British rock bands like Queen, Thin Lizzy and UFO also American stuff like The Doors and Van Halen’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘In 1980 my first proper band was called Hardline, we played The Mitre in Benwell and a few other pub’s in Newcastle. Then by 1981, I was in a power trio called Hellfire who had a couple of line ups and played a few gigs around the North East. That lasted until 1983’.

‘Then I moved down to London to join metal band Tank who were signed at the time, but that didn’t come off I can’t remember why exactly, it’s lost in the mists of time.
So I came back to the North East and although I couldn’t play NWOBHM to save my life, and still can’t haha. I auditioned for a few heavy metal band’s that were on the scene, Warrior, Tysondog and Tygers of Pan Tang.
But eventually joined AOR band Geneva in 1985 and again gigged around Tyneside notably at Edwards Bar, Mingles in Whitley Bay, Tiffany’s in Newcastle, yes loved that band’.

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‘Then I joined Venom in 1986 which lasted a couple of years, that line up was Tony Bray on drums, (featured in an earlier blog) bass and vocals was Conrad Lant with me and Mike Hickey on guitars. Around ’89 we had Chris Patterson on drums and were called Cronos then. That lasted till around 1993’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘First recording was using a 4 Track at Desert Sound in Felling. Ian McKie was the engineer he used a 1/4” Reel to Reel with Roland 301 Space echo. A great little sound with nice tracked guitar’s’.

‘With Hellfire we went to Guardian Studios in Durham. I can safely say that was the worst recording experience of my life. Starting with little or no overdubs, the producer told us all the old stories that the studio was famous for…including the one about the studio ghost as well as the solo he played on The Carpenters track haha.
Other studio work was when I played for Warfare and Venom. We recorded a few things in Impulse Studio where NEAT records were based’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘To many to mention but here’s a couple of snippets for you. We were playing a gig in Newcastle with Hardline and for dramatic effect we came bouncing on stage on space hoppers and used a lot of smoke bombs. The landlord went crazy as it turned the beer flat and people retching in the toilets.
On tour with Venom we arrived in Japan with all our guitars and amps still back in London. We were sound checking with cheap radio systems that picked up samba music on the radio and it was blasting out of the 4×12’s’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I play with The Ballbreakers who’ve been described as ZZ Top on crack. We’ve played quite a few Bikers festivals where we do a range of our own tunes She’s On….I’m Off and Shaved By The Bell. As you can tell with those titles we’re not collecting for charity, we refuse to compromise even when we do covers we do them our way. I’m joined along with Pete Green on bass and Matty Wilson on drums. Right now we are in the middle of finishing our debut album which we are recording in Alnwick’.

‘I also play in a two guitar outfit called Balls of Steel playing a brand of anthemic, air punching cheese rock where the punters and the band have a lotta fun. And I run , I’ve been lucky enough to have taught players that are now ripping up the North East scene. So I’m busy as hell’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2017.

HEBBURN OR HELL – Venom Inc. drummer Antony Bray decides…

Out of the North East of England came a band who exploded onto the heavy metal scene and created their own genre of music. Black Metal. In the early 1980’s they scorched a path for American thrash bands Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica.
Over the past thirty years Venom have released a series of studio, compilation and live albums. This year Venom Inc. signed a record deal with Nuclear Blast and release a new album in August. But what is the story behind Venom ?

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In an open and honest interview, drummer Antony Bray looks back….Venom had it’s own momentum we were trying to do everything wrong, be blasphemous, be over the top, HMV wouldn’t display our third album in the window things like that. We were trying to get banned, wanting to be in the worst top ten records all that, we were trying – but it kept working’.

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What is the situation with Venom Inc now and how did the band get back together? ’A guy called Oliver Weinsheimer who promotes the Keep it True festival in Germany, came over to Brofest in Newcastle and saw Tony Dolan on stage with his old band Atomkraft. Guitarist Jeff Dunn was also there and he got on stage and played a couple of songs.

Well I was stood at the bar there and Oliver came over and said would you fancy doing six songs at Keep it True in 2015. I said yeah if the rest of the band are ok about it, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. So that’s how it happened. We got together to do a one off festival in Germany, just rattle off some old songs we thought it’ll be good fun.

After the gig the phones lit up, people saying will you do it again, will you come to Japan, places like that, we got requests from different countries. There was a lot of interest. We got together, sat around the table saying do we realy want to do this ? We talked it through, just forgot our old problems and yes, we agreed to go ahead and do it.

After that there was a month in America some time in Europe, Australians want us over there. We went back to America twice, been to Asia, done a South America tour, it’s been a very busy time. Actually were doing more gigs than the original Venom did in the 80’s’.

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Compared to Venom’s earlier output, production of the new single ‘Dein Fleisch’ has a very slick and polished sound, is that what the band were going for ? ’Jeff had a lot to do with that, his Empire of Evil stuff is quite slick, he spent a lot of time on it with pro tools. Jeff said the record company are happy with it and that’s cool. We had the opportunity to crash through some demos but it went very modern and slick.

We don’t live in the same country never mind city haha so it suited us to work this way. I done the drums at Blast Studio in Newcastle, Jeff sent over some guitar licks from Portugal, Tony lives in London’.

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‘There’s different ways of recording and I like the new Mythra album to be honest. It’s like getting back to how we done it in the early days you know, getting in the room kicking it around and see what we can do because that’s what Venom were about. With raw metal bands like us, if we are all in the room we can change it up and effect it.

Last month we were in California and we played one of the tracks off the new album. We played the song as it is on the record but Tony said ‘can we pick this up ? ‘Yeh I said, it needs a bit of drive I was hoping you would say that.

We were sitting on a hotel roof in Rio being interviewed when Jeff said I have worked out what makes the Venom sound and he turned and pointed at me, well I was stunned it was great to hear that. I know I’ve been a hammer and nail’s drummer but that’s what Venom have only ever wanted’.

Where did it all start for you Antony ? ’Used to go and see loads of bands at the Newcastle Mayfair and City Hall. The first band I seen was when my brother took me to see Deep Purple, then I went to see bands like The Runaways, Rainbow and Rush. We’d queue up all night to get tickets.

When I left school I worked at the electronics engineering company Reyrolles, in my hometown of Hebburn, that’s where I met Eric Cook. We started on the same day. Little did I know that later he would become our manager.
I started playing drums around ’77 and my first drum kit was called Viking, it was built by Mick Lewis in Jarrow. He showed me how to make them and I made all my toms there. Then I was in a band called Oberon with Eric Cook on guitar. As everyone was buying motorcycles with their first wages from Reyrolles, Eric bought a Stratocaster’.

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After a few line up changes Venom settled on the unholy trinity of Conrad Lant on bass, Jeff Dunn on guitar and Tony on drums. ‘We used to rehearse in a church hall on Westgate Road in Newcastle where all the motorbike shops are. Really Venom were punks with long hair. We saw the instruments as a means to an end. Conrad was really proud of his lyrics and put them across the best way.

But as instrumentalists it was always about making the biggest noise and craziest fashion. Sometimes we used to get a crowd of 30-40 people come in to see us rehearse. Our neighbours in the North East, heavy rock band Fist came in one time, their drummer Harry Hill heard us and said what is that, I can’t hear myself think haha’.

‘Drummers have a different style of playing depending on what bands you’ve heard. Before we started there was no Slayer or Metallica. We were in front of all that, we had heard Motorhead, and knew we had to be louder and harder than them. Venom weren’t known as a big touring band, yes we did some festivals, there was plenty in Europe.

But when we started out we played a gig at a heavy metal disco at the Quay club in Hebburn on Tyneside. Eric Cook ran the disco and he arranged to put Venom on. We bought our stage effects from Sound & Lights store in Newcastle where former Satan and Blind Fury vocalist Louie Taylor was working. (Louie features in earlier blog Rock the Knight February 2017).

He ended up doing some pyro for us, we were big on that haha. Louie was all about the safety aspect and I was all about let’s chuck some more powder in and see what happens. Well that gig we fused the building, lights went off right through the whole club, the bingo mafia downstairs went mad haha’.

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‘We were putting all the money back into Venom, buying the pyro, all the stage effects. We got our drum riser built for us in the shipyards, the whole scissor lift, it was just one big thing it never came apart. It was huge, they couldn’t get it out of the doors haha.

Around this time Conrad was tape operator at NEAT doing a few days here and there and he bugged the owner Dave Woods about getting spare time in the studio for the band. He kept asking him ‘can my band come in on the weekend ?’ Woodsy got so sick of him bugging him he just said ok, just do it, but pay for the tape.

So we recorded a three track EP and we thought it might get a little review somewhere. I was still working at Reyrolles then and one morning I wandered in and someone had a copy of the Sounds. Couldn’t believe it, there’s a two page spread about our EP, f’ing hell look at this. When Woodsy saw it he thought, I hate the band, think they are bloody awfull – but kerching!’

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

We trudged over there with no gear but we did take with us the Bloodlust video that we shot at the Peoples Theatre in Wallsend. It cost £3,000, the first sales of our album Welcome to Hell paid for that. We told the promoter what had happened and he watched the video and loved it. He said ‘This is the idea, we’ll show it on the screens and you can get up and tell the crowd you are sorry you can’t play because of what’s happened with your gear, and then you’ll sign some stuff afterwards’. We said yeah no problem.

As Raven were setting their gear up on stage we walked out and told the crowd what had happened but we will play next year, big cheers. We played the video and the crowd went apeshit. Dave Woods was backstage saying ‘I don’t get it, I just don’t get it’.

‘I was in the NEAT offices one day as I was doing photo’s for bands like Avenger, and logo’s for Atomkraft. Just hanging around the scene and happy to be be there. A guy called Michael Rod came up he was from the TV programme Tomorrows World or something. He had a film company and was partners with Dave Wood in D.W. Enterprises who had NEAT records and Impulse Recording Studio.

Woodsy pulled me to one side and said do you want to do this video with a few bands on, it’s called ‘Metal City’? Funny because Woodsy didn’t like heavy metal apart from Raven. We had a laugh putting it together but not sure why Saracen were on because they weren’t heavy metal like the other bands Avenger and Warfare. A couple of Venom live track’s were on from Hammersmith Odeon plus a video for Nightmare. Yeah it was good fun’.

’We brought Metallica over here and they opened up for us, they were heavily influenced by the North East NWOBHM. I remember we were topping a bill in Europe, I was on the gantry at the side of the stage. I was looking down and listening to the band who were on before us. I turned to the person next to me and said ’They’ll be headliners soon’. This was around 1984. The band were Metallica

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After one more studio album ‘Possessed’ was released in 1985, Venom were heading for changes…’Jeff left the band, so me and Conrad got Newcastle musician Jim Clare in and an American lad called Mike Hickey. Venom only recorded one album then as I had a falling out with Conrad’.

1987’s studio album ‘Calm Before the Storm’ was released plus a live album. Conrad went on to front his new band Cronos… ‘I went along with Eric Cook to see Brian Johnson’s ex-wife Carol, we bought Lynx Recording Studio off her and as we were on a hiatus from Venom we were just putting other bands through the studio. We had Kieth Nicholl engineering for us after ex-Angelic Upstart Mond Cowie left.

One day a call came in and it was Music for Nations, they wanted to meet up. So I went down to a meeting in London and talked to the label. They said they would be very interested if Venom got back together. Travelling back on the train to the North East I thought this could work. So I rang Tony Dolan who was a long time fan of the band and he said I’ll take your arm off to be in Venom.

We got Jeff Dunn back and we made the album Prime Evil in 1990. We stuck together a few years and recorded three albums in that time. Because it was a really good label, there was proper advertising, the lot, it was a big step up for us’.

Fast forward to 2017, what are the future plans for Venom Inc ? ‘We’re working our balls off. In the past two years we’ve done 300 gigs. Now we’re promoting the album it’ll get heavier. We have another five festivals in this summer, then five weeks in America starting September. We’ve got UK dates in November and then full European tour through Christmas and New Year.

We’ve got good set up’s in America, Australia and Europe keeping us working. Our set is an hour and a half and a lot will be off the new album but we’ll always do Black Metal, Countess Bathory, Die Hard and a few others. People at gigs shouting for some other old songs so we are re-learning some of them, yeah really looking forward to the tour’.

For more information about the new album ‘AVE’ released by Nuclear Blast and the latest tour dates check official website http://www.venom-inc.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

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

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

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