ACE OF BASS with North East musician Duncan Emmerson

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

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

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I haven’t been in a proper recording studio since 1992 when I recorded with a band called Honey at Dungeon Studios in Oxford. I was living in Oxford at the time when there was quite a healthy music scene with a few bands becoming high profile on a national scale. The likes of Ride, On A Friday who became Radiohead and The Jennifers who became Supergrass. I answered an advert in the paper for Honey and ended up doing a few support slots, usually at the famous Jericho Tavern.
In Dungeon Studio we recorded seven tracks in two days and slept under the mixing desk. We still keep in touch which is nice. Those experiences do give you a bond don’t they?  Actually, while I’m talking about them, our one claim to fame was that we supported a local band called On A Friday, who as any fool will know, changed their name to Radiohead’.

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

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‘I joined Warrior in 2014 as the band had been asked to play at Brofest in Newcastle. They needed a bass player and Sean Taylor, yes him again, was drumming for the band. He got in touch and asked if I would like to do it. We played the gig at Brofest in February 2014, and the year after that we played at Headbangers Open Air in Germany and Garage Dayz Revisited in that there London. I’m going to put this on record…thank you to Blitzkrieg for looking after us on both occasions’.

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‘Locally, we played the legendary venues of Trillians and the Penny Gill, and last year we played at Negasonic in Belgium which was a tremendous gig. Guido who runs it is such a lovely bloke.  Personally, I was delighted to meet Rock Goddess at HOA, we’d just come off stage and suddenly there’s Tracey Lamb asking me ‘What was it like mate’? Starstruck or what?  To this day I’ve never been able to talk to musicians I grew up admiring and listening to, even those who have gone on to become good friends. I just babble like a twat haha’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well, the one that springs to mind was doing a lunchtime gig with Requiem at a club in Sunderland which is notorious for two reasons. I’m not going to mention the second reason, but for the first one, the audience, and there’s usually a healthy turnout, take great pride in ignoring the band. They’ll read their papers and play dominoes, and revel in silence after each song.  Anyway, we did our opening number, finished to deathly quiet and Glenn, as he did at every gig announces ‘Good Evening (name of venue)’ at the top of his voice. Not a thing. Then we heard from the darkness ‘It’s lunchtime ya daft c**t’. Probably the only reaction ever, which should be a point of pride’.

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

 

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

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‘How that came about was Alan Clark got in touch and asked if I’d be interested as he’d been offered an album deal and wanted to resurrect the band. He’s a great singer and I jumped at the chance to work with him. Having Nick and Elliot on board as well was the icing on the cake. It’s nice to get the old rhythm section back together. Dark Heart are currently recording a new album to be released later this year via the Greek label Sleaszy Rider Records. We’ve already got rough mixes of around five or six songs so it’s well under way, and I have to say it’s going to be well worth a listen.  Watch this space….’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

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

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

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

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

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACK FOR ANOTHER BITE -with Kevin 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’.

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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 soundchecking 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’.

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‘I also play in a two guitar outfit called Balls of Steel playing a brand of anthemic, airpunching 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’.

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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 thats 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 motorcyles 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 rehease in a church hall on Wesgate 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’.

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‘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. 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 drumriser 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’.

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‘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’.

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’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’.

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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, yeh 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.

BACK FOR GOOD ? Return of NWOBHM band Troyen

Troyen are from the North West UK, they formed in 1980 and were active until late ’82. The NWOBHM band reformed in 2014 and are now ready to release new material in July, drummer Jeff Baddley takes up the story… ‘We were requested to play Brofest #3 by the promoter Stu Bartlett, during and after the gig the reception was great we all agreed we had to carry this on. So the past few years we have been riding the wave playing around the UK and Europe. That’s included gigs at The Borderline in London and appearing at Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in Holland’.

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How did you get your name and who were your influences ? ‘We were originally called Trojan until we found another band in the UK with the same name. So we decided to change to Troyen which is French for Trojan and is inspired by 1858 Hector Berlioz opera Les Troyens. We all have an eclectic mix of music and influences ranging from traditional classic rock like UFO, Rush and Judas Priest to new rock sounds like Shinedown, Alter Bridge, Opeth and Joe Bonamassa’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

 

 

 

TEESSIDE POWER – with Millennium frontman Mark Duffy

Millennium came to prominence in the early eighties riding with the tribe of bands known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The five-piece were formed in Billingham, Teeside in 1983. Vocalist Mark Duffy looks back to where it all started…17359271_837818803016950_510042276823688340_o‘It all started when Pete McArdle and I who were school friends, started to go to guitar lessons at age 16. Pete would come over to my house with new albums that he thought were good and we would give them a spin. At the time we were listening to American AOR bands like Journey and Styx. Then one day he brought round the Black Sabbath album Heaven and Hell.  It totally blew me away, the riffs and the Ronnie James Dio vocals, that was the moment I wanted to be in a heavy metal band. From then on we listened to bands like Whitesnake, Saxon, Y&T and Judas Priest’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘Back in the 80’s Millenium played the local music venue The Swan in Billingham. It had a hall at the back of the pub with a bit of a stage. They had a rock night on a Tuesday.  We played a gig there supporting Teeside band Black Rose who had a few releases on NEAT Records.  Other than that Millennium only did one small tour around places like Stoke, Warrington, Kings Lynn, Wigan and Sheffield.
We’ve just signed to 3Ms Records and recorded our new album Awakening in Hesdin, France. We are releasing it this summer to hopefully create interest for us to do more gigs, something which has been lacking for us so far’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Millennium recorded a lot of demos over the years. Our first demo was recorded at Guardian Studios in Durham.  We heard a few bands had been there so we thought we would give it a go. The first demo we recorded Magic Mirror and I’m on Fire. We were pleased with the result so we done another three tracks there Steal Your Heart, Rock was Meant for Me and Nightmare (which later became The Devil Rides Out) before recording our debut album. The band were happy with the results of the demo’s so we were pleased to be recording our album there. We recorded and mixed the album over two weeks with label owner and producer Terry Gavaghan’.

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Despite rave reviews including one in Kerrang magazine the band seemed to lose their way after the album’s release. What happened ? ‘You are right our debut album did receive some great reviews especially from Xavier Russell in Kerrang. But the band lost ground with some unfortunate circumstances. First our guitarist Dave Merrington left the band soon after the recording of the album. Then the bands distribution company went bankrupt resulting in no more pressings of the album after the first 1000 copies. Also the band had a few disagreements with Terry Gavaghan and had a bit of a falling out which resulted in the band parting ways with the label’.

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‘They did offer Millennium a contract to record another album but we declined.
Guardian also released Magic Mirror, Steal Your Heart and Rock was Meant for Me on the Pure Overkill compilation album released in 1983. Playing alongside Risk, Spartan Warrior, Incubus and Tokyo Rose the album helped boost the band’s presence on the British heavy metal scene’.

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‘The band recruited guitarist Mike Muskett  and continued to record a number of demos between 1984 – 1988 hoping to secure a record deal. The Metal Era demo was recorded in 1986 on which the band made an unsuccessful return to their earlier style. The band took one last shot at regaining their lost glory with another demo in 1987 before calling it a day.
Other than vocalist Mark Duffy (who would go on to have success with thrash act Toranaga) the band members faded away. The band split in 1988.
Bringing recordings up to date No Remorse Records re-released our debut album in 2014 and also released Caught in a War Zone. That was released last year and contained an album full of recordings from 1985’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘We had a Spinal Tap moment at one of the gigs when we came on stage and the smoke machine came on for effect, smoke machines were used a lot in those days. Anyway this thing just kept belting out the dry ice or whatever they used so when coming on I couldn’t see the stage or mic stand. We couldn’t even see the crowd and they couldn’t see us!  After it calmed down and cleared a bit we started the gig but the daft bat doing the smoke machine set it off again haha’.

‘Another story was when we were going to a distribution company to drop off copies of the debut Millennium album.  The distribution company was somewhere down south so we set off on the A1 and got to the Yorkshire area.  We suddenly realised we needed petrol so for some reason we went off at the next exit looking for a petrol station and ended up driving around these mining towns.  Suddenly the police stopped us and surrounded us.  They wouldn’t let us go any further, gave us the third degree asking lots of questions like lho are you where are you going, how many of you in the van ? It turned out they thought we were striking miners going to join the picket line !  They made us turn back in the direction we came.  It took a long time to get to the distribution company that day!’

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What are Millenium doing now and have you got any plans ? ‘Millennium reformed in September 2015.  We were asked to do Bro Fest 2016.  Original drummer Steve Mennell and guitarist Dave Hardy (who joined Millennium in 1986) were involved along with William Philpot, Andy Fisher and myself.

We are looking forward to releasing the new album in the summer and playing the new songs at some gigs we are in the middle of arranging now’.

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For information about the band check their Facebook page MILLENNIUM UK.

Original line up 1982  Mark Duffy – vocals, Pete McArdle – guitar, Dave Merrington – guitar, Steve Mennell – drums and Dave Price – bass

Line up 2017  Mark Duffy – vocals, William Philpot – guitar, Andy Fisher – bass  Darren Moore – drums.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

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

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

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

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‘I’m a self taught musician. Music is in my blood you know and I come from a very musical family. My father played piano and his mother was a music teacher. On my mothers side all of her brothers played guitar so it was a natural progression that I would do the same. My first guitar was an SG copy which I got around 79.
The guitars I play now are mainly Strats and Les Paul’s but I’ve got a great little Tele that I like too. Acoustics I play are Maton, Martin and Takamine.
Gear wise I’ve got a couple of Fender amps, a Bassbreaker and Blues Junior 111, a Bogner Alchemist and a Line 6 DT25. I’ve used amp modelling a lot until recently. I’ve also started using analog pedals again’.

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

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘My first band used to rehearse in The North Eastern pub in Jarrow around ’81 and my first gig was at the PHAB club on Bede Burn Road in Jarrow. That was with Ian McElwee who later formed a band called Zig Zag with Ginger from The Wildhearts.
Around the same time I formed NWOBHM band Phasslayne. We rehearsed upstairs in the Dougie Vaults in South Shields and I remember our bassist borrowing his dads car and making multiple trips with Marshall cabs and drums, those were the days haha.
Amp wise in those days, I played through 2 x 100 Marshalls and 4 x 4×12’s. Also used a distortion pedal and WEM Copycat cry baby wah and a chorus.
The line up had Barry Hopper on drums but Ian Matttimore stepped in when we started gigging, Paul Gago on bass throughout until the band split’.

Phasslayne-Brofest-2015-2‘In the recent version he has been replaced by Brian Morton (pic. above) as I believe Paul has not played bass for many years now. Kev Wilkinson was the original singer who was on the first demo in 1983. He left to join glam/punk band Sweet Trash who were based in Newcastle. Musn’t forget to mention Maurice Bates from Mythra who is a very good friend of ours and was Phasslaynes manager, he helped us with decisions and advice from the very beginning’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview by Gary Alikivi.  2017.

 

 

CHAIN REACTION – with North Eastern Heavy Metal band Spartan Warrior

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This blog has featured quite a few funny stories from musicians during their time in the music biz, so when I talked with Neil Wil Kinson, the guitarist from Spartan Warrior I asked him, have you any to add ? ‘I remember in 1984 things were really looking up for the band, we had a record deal, and the night we were due to record our 2nd album we had a gig in our home town at Sunderland Mayfair. The bands future couldn’t look any brighter. We turned up at the gig, soundchecked, and went backstage to get ready. For stage wear I used to have these tight red spandex pants, looked good I thought. I remember the intro tape playing while I was standing at the side of the stage waiting to go on. You know ready to fuckin’ rock. The stage bouncer stood next to me, slowly looked me up and down and said ‘what are you playing tonight like ?… Fucking Swan Lake’.. ha ha What can I say ? totally burned on that one’.

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Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘If there was anything that made me want to join a band it was probably watching Queen on the Old Grey Whistle Test, also seeing Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall on the Rising tour. It was the first gig I’d been to and it was life changing !
Looking back I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. Even as a toddler I remember just listening to music all the time. When I was about 4 year old I remember going on and on for a drum kit for xmas. I never got the kit but I did get a guitar and I just started messing around on that’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I suppose my earliest influences were bands like The Sweet. Shortly after that my older brother was listening to bands like Black Sabbath, UFO and Van Halen so I started listening to that stuff. In terms of guitar playing I would have to say that Michael Schenker was my biggest influence, in fact he’s still my favourite guitarist. Guitar partnerships also had a huge influence on me with my favourites being KK Downing and Glenn Tipton and later on Chris De Garmo and Michael Wilton. In fact Queensryche had a huge influence on me’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘I started a band with my brother Dave and some friends from school. That band only did 2 gigs, one at Bede School in Sunderland and one at a Youth club. My next band after that was the band I’m still in today, Spartan Warrior. When we gigged during the 80’s it was mainly local bars like The Old 29 in Sunderland and clubs like Newcastle Mayfair. We didn’t really get the chance to play further afield as the band split just as the 2nd album came out. Since reforming Spartan Warrior we’ve been playing mostly rock clubs and metal venues plus festivals in mainland Europe and the UK’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘I started recording in 1983 when we got the chance to put a couple of songs on a compilation called Pure Overkill for Guardian Records in Durham. We paid for the studio time and recorded Steel n Chains and Comes As No Surprise. Also on that album are tracks by Tokyo Rose, Millenium, Risk and Incubus.
I think Spartan Warrior were also on some other compilations, one was a Roadrunner release called Metal Machine and the other was an album I only found out about recently called Hell Has Broken Loose on the Bronze label. Between those two albums we’ve featured alongside some great bands like Slayer, Motorhead and Raven, which is fantastic’.
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‘After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studios (owner and producer Terry Gavaghan has appeared in a few previous blogs) asked if we wanted to do a full album we said yeah let’s go for it. Most of the band were working so time wise we could only record 2 songs in each session. We added the songs Cold Hearted, Stormer, Hunted plus a few other tracks and Guardian put it out in 1983′.
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‘Shortly after Pure Overkill was released Roadrunner Records got in touch with Guardian, they contacted us and a meeting was set up in the Swallow Hotel in Newcastle. We met Cees Wessells from Roadruner and signed the deal there. We started work on the 2nd Spartan Warrior album pretty much straight away. (Assassin, Son of a Bitch, Black Widow and a few more tracks where on that self titled album. It was released by Roadrunner Records in Europe and Canada in ’84, Japan in ’85 by Far East Metal Syndicate and a re-release on cd by Metal Mind Productions in 2009.)
Around ’85 there was some stuff being planned including an appearance on ECT, the new TV rock show on Channel 4, but it just didn’t come off. Lee Arron who was also signed to Roadrunner stepped in’.

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‘I also did various things including a brief stint with Waysted. There’s not really much to say about the Waysted thing. I auditioned and got the job after playing just 2 songs even though I learnt the entire back catalogue. I went down to Bournemouth to write for the next album, that was around 2007. I went back home after a week of solid writing and then next thing I know is I’m told that the previous guitarist is back in so that was that. I did get credited on a couple of songs when the album The Harsh Reality was released. It was a highlight for me to be involved with something with Pete Way as I am a UFO fan.
After that I was contacted to see if I would play guitar for a small tour they had put together to promote the album, but I couldn’t do it as work wouldn’t give me the time off. I often think what would have happened if I’d stuck with Waysted. Who knows ?
I also got to guest on my friends Risen Prophecys last album which was nice to do’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  ‘Well at the moment the priority is finishing the new Spartan Warrior album, which is nearly mixed. There’s a few companies interested in it so I’m hoping for a release date later this year.
We’ve also got a few gigs coming up. We’re off to Portugal in September and then there’s HRH NWobhm in Sheffield, that line up is pretty impressive with Raven, Diamond Head, Satan and our friends Avenger on the bill’.

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‘We’re also doing the Blast From the Past in Belgium in December. Diamond Head are headlining along with Tytan and Salem plus a few others.
We’re also doing Grim Up North in Bury to raise funds for Grimm Reaper vocalist Steve Grimmet who recently lost a leg while playing in South America. Get well soon Steve !
Plus working on another set of dates in Germany and Belgium with our mates in Avenger because that last tour with them was so good. So plenty for an old bloke to be getting on with !!!’

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

Recommended:

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

DUTCH STEEL – Martyr, Still Believing After All These Years

Dutch Heavy Metal band Martyr are celebrating 35 years together. Guitarist Rick Bouwman talked about their latest gig supporting Tygers of Pan Tang  ‘During our tour promoting new album You Are Next we supported the awesome Tygers in The Hague Club, Musicon’.

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‘We caught up with Tyger Robb, and Michael McCrystal plus our sound engineers did some shows with the Tygers in the past so it was a bit of a reunion. Also some of our most loyal fans are from The Hague, so a big party was guaranteed haha’.

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How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences? ‘My brother borrowed a guitar from a friend and I grabbed it. I knew 3 chords added a Big Muff distortion pedal and blew the neighbours away. These 3 chords made a lot of impact on some guys I knew that were already in a schoolband so I joined them.
When we started in 1982 Martyr’s main influences came from Japanese metal bands like Loudness, X-Ray and US metal bands like Queensryche and early Metallica. And of course we liked UK bands like Iron Maiden and Raven’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘My first real gigs with Martyr were in local clubs in our hometown Utrecht in Holland, and immediately we got serious about being a band. With our stubborn attitude and our specific style of metal we had quite a following straight away.
Over the next few years we played many headlining gigs all over Holland. We played festivals and big rock clubs like Paradiso in Amsterdam supporting bands like Exciter and Lita Ford’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first recordings were with cassette decks in our rehearsal room. We had a different singer then, and one of the guys assisting on the recordings said, I can do it better than that guy. He proved it and became the new Martyr frontman. It turned out to be a lousy production but you could hear what the band Martyr was all about’.

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‘The next demo tape Metal Torture was recorded in an 8 track studio in a garage. This time it was a better production, and it sold over 1,000 copies and was spread all over the world due to tape trading in the metal underground. Selling 1,000 copies meant we had to copy these tapes one by one on our cassette decks. Damn that was a hell of a job, especially when Boudisque, a famous record store in Amsterdam, ordered them a hundred at a time. Our next demo For The Universe was recorded in Trinity Studio’s and that also got orders from Boudisque.
Due to those sales the band got picked up by Megaton Records and released For The Universe demo on vinyl. When one of the guys left from Megaton to start his own record company Metalloid we joined him. We went straight into a professional 24 track studio for a month. We recorded and released Darkness At Times Edge. The whole time was one big blast for us as youngsters’.

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‘I remember we didn’t have a drivers license in the early day’s so one of our dads took us to the studio for the Dutch Steel session in Groningen. We were working with the famous producer and radio DJ Alfred Lagarde. As we were still very young guys, and one of our dads was in the studio, Alfred needed to get his daily dose of stimulants away from our view’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘One time in 1985 we had to fill in for Killer from Belgium, you can say they are the Motorhead of Belgium. This was arranged just the day before the show. But as no internet existed then the fans of Killer were not aware they would be getting Martyr instead.
Although we were very heavy we had a totally different image. We wore the colors of our home town of Utrecht – red and white, including our total backline and drumkit. So as soon as we got on stage we were yelled at for being pussies by a big group of bikers who had came to see Killer. Also our singer had shall we say some very intimate fun with one of the bikers ladies so you can imagine we had to run and hide haha’.

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What are Martyr doing now and have you any plans for this year? ‘Martyr are very much alive and kicking. We reunited in the mid 2000’s, toured Europe several times and did many headline and festival shows. We played with bands like Lizzy Borden, Flotsam & Jetsam, Vicious Rumors, and supported Trivium, Raven and Saxon’.

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‘We’ve also released 3 more albums Fear, Cirlce Of 8 and our latest You Are Next which we are promoting right now with dates across Europe throughout the summer and leaving for Japan in September. Then on September 22nd we have a big show in Club P60 in Amstelveen to celebrate our 35th anniversary. It’s all looking good for Martyr !’

Album releasese, tour dates and more information on the official website martyronline.ni

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

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

0527b5b359.jpg re sizedThe band are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. But rewind nearly 40 years to Mansfield in the UK where Chris Bradley and Andy Dawson formed Savage. Little did they know the influence they would have on one of the biggest bands in the world. Chris takes up the story…

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

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

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Pretty soon after forming Savage we started writing our own material so we recorded a few demo’s. I think our first one was in 1979 that was recorded in a local 4 track studio in the cellar of a terraced house.
Our first experience of a more professional set up was a full day in a 16 track studio in Wragby, Lincolnshire when we recorded two songs for the classic Heavy Metal compilation Scene of the Crime. As I remember the band’s paid about £200 each to cover the costs. There was Panza Division, Manitou, Sparta, Tyrant and us. We recorded two songs Dirty Money and Let it Loose. In the end they released the album and we got 25 copies to sell. A copy of the album ended up in the possession of a young Lars Ulrich which started the Metallica connection that I was talking about earlier’.

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

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

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

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