Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thunderstick




Following a resurgence of interest in Thunderstick (the drummer and the band) here is a 're-print' of the article I wrote about Thunderstick which appeared on the 'old' Sleazegrinder website back in 2009.

Since the original article, the Thunderstick back catalogue album and EP have been released on CD by Heaven & Hell Records, together with previously unheard demos, as 'Echoes From The Analogue Asylum'.  The music and packaging are killer, and on the back of the below article, I was invited to provide the sleeve notes.


So here is the original feature and interview in all its glory (thanks to Thunderstick and Rob Grain for many of the photos and graphics used!):





Thunderstick Interview
Words: Alex Eruptor (and Thunderstick!)
THUNDERSTICK is the insanely entertaining mad masked drummer who rose to infamy as a leading figurehead of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) due to his exploits behind the kit (and cage!) with SAMSON and also an early line-up of IRON MAIDEN (more about that later)
Thunderstick’s antics included terrorizing audiences, pouring copious amounts of alcohol over himself at each show and generally causing chaos amongst the pyro`s and smoke bombs that were exploding around him. Added to which, he wore a mask and played inside a cage.
Thunderstick would eventually forge his own band with a horror-metal image who made some great music as well as some great album covers. Although his time with Samson (and even Maiden, to some extent) is fairly well documented elsewhere on the internet not much has been written about Thunderstick “the band” beyond their official website and an article published in 2009 on the website sleazegrinder.com, which updated here in light of the ‘...Analogue Asylum’ CD release.
So, adjust your straight jacket and let the mayhem commence...

Photo credit: Rob Grain/thunderstick.co.uk
Starting Out
Thunderstick joined his first professional band, `The Primitives`, at the age of 19 after their singer spotted him playing with his then band `Tiny and the Hot Toddies,` at Windsor Free Festival in England (a week-long Hippy festival which ran throughout the early 70s before being banned by the authorities). The Primitives were based in Sicily, “it was a band that the Italians knew well and didn’t mind so much as to who was in it as long as it existed”.
“The Primitives was my baptism of fire, I went away boy and came back a man. We toured relentlessly thorughtout Italy, Greece, Sardina, eventually having a number one with a single called ‘Yeah’ all in Italian. This, believe it or not, was later covered by the American rock band Angel who called it ‘Aint Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore’!”
On returning to England the young Thunderstick joined a folk rock band by the name of ‘Archer’ who enjoyed a limited amount of sucess on a local level doing a good amount of major act Support slots with other ` electric folkies` such as ‘Steelers Wheel`, before moving on to form a band of his own called ‘Oz’. “This was very prog-rock, plenty of rehearsals but not too much gigging. From there I moved onto a working band named ‘Mr Zero’ also very prog, but once again limited success, then a change in musical direction to a heavier lesser known band : ‘Iron Maiden’!
Iron Maiden
This early line-up of Iron Maiden already had an impressive set of songs, many of which would eventually be recorded for the first two Iron Maiden albums and assorted singles, such as ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Wrathchild’, ‘Prowler’ and signature tune ‘Iron Maiden’. Thunderstick worked with Steve Harris on a piece of music featuring a rolling drum pattern and dramatic chord progression which would become well known to NWOBHM fans when it appeared as ‘Ides of March’ on Iron Maiden’s ‘Killers’ album, and also as the song ‘Thunderburst’ on the second album from fellow metallers SAMSON to whom Thunderstick had made the move to…. but more about that later.
His stint with Maiden ended abruptly - according to folklore this was due to a Keith Moon-esque episode in which he allegedly fell asleep behind the kit during a song. According to Maiden bassist and founder member Steve Harris in the bands official biography “Run To The Hills”:
“He'd dropped a couple of downers or something like that ...he stopped in the middle of the Drum solo and he yelled, 'Stop talking, you GREAT MUSICIANS, and listen to the maestro!'

An interview with Thunderstick published on a Samson tribute website (www.bookofhours.netSamson/) provides a better explanation:

“Right, I'll tell you the story behind that. I was married for eight years and I was having an affair at the time with this beautiful woman who had just told her husband that I was having an affair with her. My wife had just found out. All three were at the gig. I had just bought a brand new drum kit, a Gretsch, and I'd never played it before, not even to rehearse on it. I literally took delivery of it that afternoon of the gig with Iron Maiden. So it took me a little while in the sound check to kind of set it up and try it out. And, yes, I did drop something. It wasn't acid or anything like that, it was a barbiturate, it was a downer, a Valium or something like that. I was so on edge that whole gig, because of the circumstances of my wife standing there, right next to her is my girlfriend that I'm screwing at the time and her husband and my new drum kit... I was used to the other kit and every time I'd go around it there wouldn't be a tom tom there, I would be a gap so hence the reason that that happened.”

This might have been the last gig Thunderstick played for Maiden, but their paths were destined to cross again...

Samson
Joining Samson in 1979, Thunderstick and guitarist Paul Samson spotted a young university student named Bruce Dickinson fronting a band in their local pub and gave the singer his first big break fronting SAMSON.
Thunderstick was then offered a second stint with Iron Maiden soon after, after the two bands had toured together, by then the THUNDERSTICK image had certainly taken on a life of its own , with the mask staring out from the front cover of the then SOUNDS magazine, and many tales of his exploits. Steve Harris wanted just a drummer not a `persona`, both Maiden and Thundestick were heading in different directions. The job went to Clive Burr who THUNDERSTICK had just replaced in Samson! So Iron Maiden recorded their first album with a drummer who had ‘Samson’ stencilled all over his drum cases whilst Samson recorded their second album ‘Head On’ with Thunderstick’s drums cases emblazoned with Iron Maiden’s name and with their future frontman on lead vocals!
The Samson line-up featuring Thunderstick/Dickinson would last until 1981 and produce three albums amongst the best of the NWOBHM era. The first `SURVIVORS` leans more towards a blues rock influence with occasional glimpses of what was to follow. Number two : ‘Head On’ is a very enjoyable slice of hard rock/heavy metal notable for the influence of Thunderstick who contributed much to the recording process and the production including his trademark sound-effects on the awesome ‘Walking Out on You’ as well as aforementioned instrumental ‘Thunderburst’:
“I came up with a drum pattern that did that constant rolling. I would have ideas and Steve would then transpose that, because I don't play guitar. I think we played it a couple of times with Iron maiden as an opening track. Just an intro, it was a throwaway thing, not really a track. The story behind that was that after we'd recorded "Head on" and they'd recorded "Killers" Clive Burr went round to Paul's house to listen to the new Samson album and in turn took the new "Killers" album with him. So Paul put on side one and they were "Yeah, it's great stuff", turned it over and up came Thunderburst and Clive nearly fell of his seat and went "Fuck, that's 'The Ides of March'". Paul was like "What the hell is he talking about?" So anyway, long story short, I got summoned to EMI and there was Rod Smallwood and Steve Harris sitting there and a lawyer, solicitor, and an EMI representative and just me sitting there. So what was decided in the end was that Steve Harris would share 50-50 the publishing rights on the Samson version of it, but I never got Sweet F.A. on the Iron Maiden version...”
(http://www.bookofhours.net/samson/)

Other highlights from Samson’s ‘Head On’ album include the classic rock of ‘Vice Versa’, the pedal to the metal ‘Take Me to Your Leader’ and a track called ‘Hammerhead’ which gave an indication of the sort of historical lyrics which would become the hallmark of Dickinson’s later careers with Maiden and as a solo artist.
“Although Production on the album could have been better, as a performer I felt I had really expressed myself, There are certain drum fills that I consider to be unique and could only be me, the same as when you hear Keith Moon you KNOW it`s Keith Moon .”
The next album ‘Shock Tactics’ featured a slicker production courtesy of Tony Platt (who had previously produced Iron Maiden’s Top 40 hit ‘Women In Uniform’) and includes some of their best songs, particularly ‘Blood Lust’ a mid-tempo slab of metal based upon a Sabbath-style riff the likes of which many of today’s ‘stoner rock’ bands can only dream of creating, and once again includes some characteristic Thunderstick studio sound effects.
However, by this time there was unrest in the band , behind-the-scenes politics… the rest of the band wanted to play down the visuals and move back into a bluesier back-to-basics direction whilst Thunderstick wanted to increase the theatrics and mayhem. Coupled with some questionable management decisions, Thunderstick left Samson and wasted no time forming his own band, which (in true Alice Cooper style) was also known as ‘Thunderstick’.
His replacement in Samson was Mel Gaynor, and this line-up played a storming set at the 1981Reading festival (since released as a live album). However, despite Mel’s undoubted ability the dynamic of the band changed. Simply, what Thunderstick brought to Samson was more than just the beats, and perhaps the band had made a mistake in opting to go ‘back-to-basics’. According to Bruce Dickinson:

"Samson worked together as this crazy, fucked up set-up, and when you took Thunderstick out of the equation and replaced him with Mel Gaynor who was in the band very briefly, Simple Mind's drummer, this phenomenal drummer, there was no excitement in it there anymore. When he played he played everything perfectly. Everything was in time, there were no mistakes, there was no danger anymore. And Thunderstick had provided that unpredictability so I got bored."

Samson continued with a talented new line-up featuring singer Nicky Moore, drummer Pete Jupp, and also with 720/Torpedos/Bad Company guitarist Dave “Bucket” Colwell at one point, which recorded some great bluesy hard rock albums throughout the 1980’s, Dickinson joined Iron Maiden, and for Thunderstick there was now freedom to pursue a vision of his own....

Thunderstick “The Band”
Recruiting Ben K. Reeve and Colin Heart (former bandmates from ‘Archer’, ‘Oz’ and ‘Mr Zero’), Neil Hay and Scottish singer Vinnie Munro, Thunderstick the band was now established to perform female-fronted theatrical rock. Sold out showcase gigs at London’s famed Marquee club suggested a bright future but after recording with this lineup, Thundestick ( the individual) decided a new singer and guitarist were required.
Enter Ana-Maria Carmella Borg and Cris Martin. This new line-up recorded an EP ‘Feel Like Rock n’ Roll?’ which has since become quite collectible and three decades later is included in remastered form on the 2011 ‘...Analogue Asylum’:




This is the coolest record cover I’ve ever seen. I used to stare at this album in the bins of every metal shop I haunted for years and think, “Well, goddamn. That’s the way a rock record oughta look.” I mean, there he is- Mr. fuckin’ Crazy himself, peering through the darkness in his studded S&M mask. He’s got an executioner’s hood on, and he’s wearing plastic vampire fangs. This cat is obviously capable of just about anything. “Feel Like Rock and Roll?” Well, yeah, Thunderstick, I do. All the goddamn time. Flip the back, and there’s a zombie-girl and some black leather ghouls-with-guitars waiting for you. How the fuck could you resist? The cover and the title absolutely nailed the gonzo-rock aesthetic.” (Sleazegrinder.com)
Despite their growing reputation, yet again there were problems in the vocal area, with Anna suffering due to the full vocal assault required by the music. A replacement was found - American singer Jodee Valentine, who took up the challenge with aplomb. She joined as the band were in rehearsal for a forthcoming tour to promote the release of the E.P. It was decided to credit her and include her photo on the cover, as this was to be the touring lineup. This new line-up subsequently toured the UK in 1983 and it was not long before Jodee and drummer Thunderstick were Choreographing their own particular Rock`n`roll mayhem to accompany the bands Soundtrack. 



The setlist from this tour is documented by the website http://www.bookofhours.net/samson/thunder.htm and reproduced below. All of the tracks from the EP were included (although ‘Runaround’ featured was re-titled ‘Masquerade’) as well as the Samson classic ‘Earth Mother’.
Afraid of the Dark
Alecia
Buried Alive
Earth Mother
Thunder Thunder
Blackwing
Masquerade (n.b. "Runaround" with different lyrics)
The Shining
Feel like Rock'n'Roll
Lights (take me away).

Over Christmas/New Year 1983-84 the band entered Shepperton studio in Surrey, England, to record the first full-length Thunderstick album which was released as ‘Beauty & The Beasts’ (Shepperton is of course notable for its connections with the British horror film genre, the likes of which influenced the Thunderstick aesthetic).
This is a solid album of impressive musicianship and hard rocking songs such as ‘Another Turn Around‘, ‘Contact Angel‘ and ‘Heartbeat in the Night’ as well as some characteristic studio trickery and progressive production values from `The Stick` himself.

After a few more live shows and another change of guitarist a new record deal was struck for a follow-up album, provisionally titled ‘Don’t Touch, I’ll Scream’. Unfortunately due to the demise of the company concerned the resulting recordings remained in the vaults, although two songs did appear on a hard-to-find compilation album of NWOBHM era rockers entitled ‘Best of British Metal’ and the awesome ‘Thunder Thunder’ was made available to listen to on the Thunderstick myspace page.
“In my opinion this contains the strongest material that we ever recorded as well as the best performances. The band were indeed truly fired up for these album sessions, unfortuantely it has not seen the light of day YET, however I am working on it.”
The band was put on hold whilst Thunderstick and Jodee went to the U.S.A with the mixes of `Don`t Touch...` to try to secure some American interest. This they did with involvement from a company based in New Jersey. They had been out there for a considerable amount of time and the original members had all long gone to various other projects. Whilst in the US a new set of vocals were recorded to the original “Feel Like Rock`n Roll ?”, finally addressing the balance of Jodee being truly on the E.P. and the couple also found the time to get married.
On returning to the UK they reformed the band with a completely new line-up for one last try but alas, the Major record deal that was required for such a theatrical project remained unattainable and after a few showcases Thunderstick called it a day.



A few Samson reformations during the early 1990’s and early 2000’s saw Thunderstick back in his cage for dates in Europe ,U.S.A, and Japan but the untimely deaths of guitarist Paul Samson and bassist Chris Aylmer signalled the end of the road also for that band.
Present Day
Fastforward to April 2009 and Thunderstick is somewhat back in the public eye. He is quoted heavily in a recent Bruce Dickinson biography and interviewed unmasked on the DVD (Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal). In April 2009 he was back on stage playing his co-written Samson material at the Keep It True heavy metal festival in Germany, and a number of interview features followed, including best-selling music magazine ‘Classic Rock’ which also voted him number 36 in a list of ‘50 Best Rock Drummers of all Time’. Praise indeed and proof of Thunderstick’s enduring appeal as one of the great rock n’ roll characters.
In the Spring of 2011 it was announced that the Thunderstick back-catalogue, encompassing the ‘Feel Like Rock n’ Roll?’ EP, ‘Beauty & The Beasts’ album, and a wealth of rare and previously unreleased bonus tracks would finally see light of day as a digitally remastered CD package entitled ‘Echoes From The Analogue Asylum’ (the title being a reference to the fact that this was the first time the music had been issued as a digital format).


And so it seemed like the perfect time to ask `Stick` a whole bunch of burning questions I’d been wanting to ask for years. Much has been written about his time with Samson and Maiden but little light has been shed on Thunderstick the band, so in addition to the information and quotes used in the biography above this was the main focus of our conversation conducted in two sessions via email, firstly in the Spring of 2009, then followed-up two years later to coincide with the ‘Echoes From The Analogue Asylum’ release.
So how do you begin an interview with a mad masked percussionist with a love of mindbending progressive rock and tendency to play his drums within a cage? Ask him about his favourite brand of drum sticks? Maybe something about his musical influences of memories of being interviewed for Kerrang! magazine? After some consideration I thought I’d get straight to the point.....
Alex: You are one of the most iconic figures from a particular era of rock music. Along with Iron Maiden mascot “Eddie the ‘Ead” perhaps the most recognisable. But without the mask do you ever get recognised? You must be tempted to put the mask/costume on in public from time to time. It would be awesome to go to the shops for a loaf of bread wearing full Thunderstick regalia.
Thunderstick: You’re raving mad! I never go shopping..... I wish! No, I never feel the need to dress up as Thundersick and go out in my immediate neighbourhood. As far as being recognised, the fact that I am unmasked on the “Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal” DVD (available at your local outlet) might just get me recognised – who know, who cares!
Alex: How has the image/costume evolved over the years?
Thunderstick: The image has evolved by a “softening”. It was a very stark image in the early days with Samson, resulting in much hatred from the newly formed Womens Liberation Group during the Cambridge rapist era (early 80s), the latter wearing a mask similar to the one that Thundersick wore. This led to tearing down of posters etc in areas that he had been active, and the accusation from these women that Thundersick wearing such a garment was glorifying the act of rape. This was so, so far removed from the Thundersick character who was, in my opinion, a loveable lunatic! I asked the aforementioned to debate this on radio but they always declined.

Alex: On the ‘Iron Maiden and the NWOBHM’ DVD you say that you enjoyed the Sex pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks...’ Album. Do you enjoy any other punk bands? The Thunderstick image is not totally out of place amongst the punk scene, for example bands such as The Damned.




Thunderstick: Yes, The Damned I love. I enjoyed the overall energy and forcefulness of the Punk movement. Out of any movement there will emerge a chosen few with the rest falling by the wayside. This in turn happened and we have the few bands that we look back on now with mainstream reverence as opposed to dismissal.

Alex: Do you see any influence of what you were doing in the 1980’s on any artists since?
Thunderstick: Yes..... SlipKnot where’s my namecheck!

Alex: So, about ‘Thunderstick’ the band. What were the musical objectives?
Thunderstick: TO BE GOOD! I know this sounds ‘twee’ but I always regarded the band to be of good muscianship. The quality of the music stood for itself, and by the fact that I had a female vocalist at the front of it, it was somewhat different for its time. There were not that many female-led rock bands, for it is ‘rock’ as opposed to ‘metal’. Add to that the highly theatrical imagery.
The mixes, in hindsight, are not all they could have been, but given the limited facilities and time I produced an album that I am still proud of. Upon listening to it even now I still think it stands up to the test of time.

Alex: There were various line-ups of Thunderstick the band. Any particular memories from each line-up?
Thunderstick: The line-up with Vinnie the first singer, would be the first set of rehearsals on hearing that a female vocalist would actually work at the front of my band, and the Thundersick band appearance at the sold out Marquee Club, extremely hot having to have oxygen backstage. This was probably the hottest I have ever been, at times finding it actually hard to breathe behind the mask despite the fact that we had on stage with us two industrial fan blowers. It was the middle of a unrelenting heatwave!



Second line-up Anna, much rehearsal resulting in me using her on ‘Feel like Rock and Roll’ EP her then her losing her voice whilst in rehearsal and subsequent trips to the Ear, Nose and Throat hospital with worries that she could have permanently damaged her voice. That’s why I had to let her go She found intense rehearsal for any length of time unmanageable and subsequently she and the band had to part company.

Enter Jodee, Jodee we toured with, did both albums with, during which time Meatloaf asked her to join him when he was recording his ‘Modern Girls’ album. Contact was made through our then publishing company. He wanted both recording and touring commitment. After much deliberation he was turned down as a result of the fact that we were mid-way through recording our second album. By this time she and I were “an item” both personally as well as professionally.

Alex: You released music on Thunderbolt records, which your website says was your own affiliated label. Was this your very own label?
Thunderstick: I did not own the label, but was instrumental in setting it up – in other words, other people’s money........ politics and the good old rock and roll industry!
Alex: The aesthetic of the band – everything from the clothes to the logo has that old horror movie vibe to it. I especially like the haunted castle logo! Are you a fan of Hammer Horror? If so, which are your favourite films?
Thunderstick: Fantastic! Can I congratulate you. As far as I can see you are the only person that has written about Thundersick the band that has picked up on the aesthetic of the band. All others seem to have an opinion that all was done on the cheap. This, to a certain extent, is true. There were never mega-bucks to be spent on the band in the way that large acts such as Iron Maiden have at their disposal. However, the whole ideal of the Thundersick image was indeed an amalgamation of “Hammer kitch”, my love for cheapie horror movies, Victoria London legend, eg fog-filled passageways with Jack the Ripper type characters lurking on every corner, the Rocky Horror Show and Edgar Allen Poe stories. I tried to sprinkle the band with an amount of each. Something that I truly enjoyed, but plainly sailed over the heads of any prospective reviewers et al. I am not sure even if the audiences picked up on it, so I thank you for seeing it as it was intended!
Favourite films: Vampire Lovers, all the Hammer Draculas, Countess Dracula; indeed I was honoured to take the lovely Ingrid Pitt to lunch once, an event I will NEVER forget!

Alex: Thunderstick always had awesome record sleeves. Your website biog says that the ‘Beauty and the Beasts’ album was released with inferior packaging to what you had in mind (you even had a different title for it). So were there any ideas/designs that you had which didn’t get used?
Thunderstick: Yes indeed, there was a diferent title for it, it was to be called “Inomini Patris” which is Latin for “In the Name of the Father”, intimating that Thundersick was the daddy of the band – not literally but spiritually. The original album cover was to be a similar set-up to the “Feel like rock and roll” cover with the Thundersick character holding a playing card size photograph of the picture which was ultimately used as the full cover; this was to indicate transition from individual to band. Then, on the back cover individual photos of the band. However, the record comapany deemed that it was probably too expensive to engineer therefore went with the soft option of just using the original “mausaleum” shot.

Alex: Where were the photos that were included on your record sleeves taken?
Thunderstick: At a mauseleum just outside Shepperton, I can’t remember exactly where. All I remember was that it was an early shoot on a very cold winter’s morning.

Alex: Any video footage of Thunderstick the band?
Thunderstick: Yes there was a video promotion shot in the old Great Western Railway hotel at St Pancras Station (i.e. the main building). At the time it was deserted, was completely gothic and also rumours of it being haunted. It was a building I first spotted on the inside cover of ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’ by Alan Parsons. In the inner booklet there is a picture of a girl dressed in white descending a large staircase. After some enquiry I found this to be St Pancras. I did three photoshoots there as well as a video. The video was financed by the then management company who paid for it. On separating from the management company (I am afraid they have to remain nameless due to legal reason) I was asked to pay what I considered to be an exhorbitant amount of money for the tapes, hence it exists ... somewhere, but I have never seen it I only saw the rushes. What I did see of it would have been absolutely perfect. There is a still from it on the Thundersick My Space site. The track that we were doing was called ‘Thunder-Thunder”. It was absolute Hammer-horror revisited.

Alex: Awesome, I’d love to see that!! Talking of pictures, the pics from the Autumn ‘83 tour look like you had some fun! Any good tour stories?
Thunderstick: It was indeed a good tour, but somewhat frustrating for myself as I was finding it heavy going trying to break the band through in the popularity stakes. This was hard at times as I still had (due to the image) my female haters, even though there was now a female at the front. Coupled with the fact that there was a defintive Thundersick image from the Samson days to try and iradicate and project an upgraded version through the band. A task that at times seemed impossible. As regards tour stories, these will be in my book if I ever get time to write it!!



Photo Credit: Rob Grain and Thunderstick
Alex: What were the high points and low points of Thunderstick the band?
Thunderstick: The high points, probably (a) sellling out the Marquee Club, completeing the first album which I wrote, co-engineered and produced .... I remember long long sessions.
Low points, being reviewed for that same album by a self-opinionated, biased, theatre rock hating wannabee (I know the destination, but I don’t know how to drive the car!!!!) psuedonymed female rock ?........., my final word would have been “journalist”, but I am to this day not sure that she ever was, “Heavy Metal Heather”. She started the review by saying, “the one bad thing about this album is, that I have to actually sit and listen to it to review it. To all intents and purposes to my friends I wasn’t in by turning of the lights and hiding behind the curtains......” It went downhill from thereon in. It was plain by the review that she hadn’t fulfilled her duty to actually listen to it, but had formed her biased opinion on face-value by the very nature of the fact that it existed in the first place. Something to this day that still enrages me and we are talking over 20 years later....... That’s how angry I was, and still feel. It probably wasn’t the greatest album ever recorded but a lot of work went into it.

Alex: Apart from drumming, what other jobs have you had? I read that you roadied for Chicken Shack and worked as a gym instructor?
Thunderstick: Not that I have anything against roadies, they are the salt of the earth, however I have never roadied in my life. I was a live sound engineer for both Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack and Stevie Marriott (RIP) throughout German tours. I was also house sound engineer in South East London by the name of Barrington studies, where I engineered and produced an album by a band named the “Bomb Party”. As well as engineering all the sessions the studio had booked. This came to an end when my marriage to Jodee Valentine fell apart.
Yes indeed, I have worked as a gym insructor, I am Bawla qualified which enables me to teach both children and adults alike in weight training, conditioning, olympic lifts and power lifting. Having said that, I haven’t taught for a few years now.
Thunderstick was back in Germany slaying crowds at the ‘Keep It True Festival’ in 2009. How crazy was it?
Totally crazy like stepping back in time 20 years, all wearing balck leather , denim with various band patches, circa UK 1980, I played two Samson tracks with a good backing band called Roxxcalibur, a NWOBHM `tribute` band. The tracks were ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Too Close to Rock’. The singer was an American by the name of Harry Conklin who sings for a band called Jag Panzer, he had various Bruceisms both in voice and stage postures. I managed to pull a guy out of the crowd, stuck an extra mask on him that I had, let him dance around a bit, then covered him in 2 litres of water, retired back to the kit and left him there at the front of the stage soaked and masked, Dare I say `Dancing Fool` Frank Zappa.!!! I think I went down well, along with various members of Demon, Tank, Bleak House, Girlschool and others.
Alex: The world would be a much duller place without Thunderstick! So, fast-forward to 2011, this will be remembered as the year Thunderstick (the band) finally makes it into the digital era and onto CD! What took so long?
Thunderstick: Letheragy on my behalf probably, coupled with the fact that it has taken longer than I expected to get back the rights for my recorded material. But now its mine, all mine (laughs maniacally!)
So, the original versions were released on vinyl over 20 years ago. How easy was it to remaster them and how pleased are you with the results?
It has taken a few months to remaster the original material. I have managed to add a large amount of unheard material both within the mixes and as additional unheard tracks, pleasantly kicking it into the ‘today’ fighting and screaming, making the transition from analogue (hence the title) to digital. Engineered by my friend and longstanding associate, Rob Grain (our backline tech back then) we have spent nostalgic hours transported back to the day. It has been a labour of love and we are both delighted with the subsequent outcome.
Alex: Has this release emptied the vaults or is there more Thunderstick music waiting to see light of day?
Thunderstick: Yes there is definitely more. The band’s proposed second album waits silently in the shadows. After a short break we intend to start remastering that album and subsequent extra tracks.
Alex: Any plans for brand new Thunderstick music or any live shows in future?
Doubtful but I never say never! I think Thunderstick the band, was a product of its time and its genre. Having said that though, there are so many idioms these days that I am sure a modern day Thunderstick would sit snugly within any particular musical arena.
Many thanks to Thunderstick, Rob Grain, Ken McKintyre at Sleazegrinder.com, and Jeremy Golden at Heaven & Hell Records.  
More Thunderstick info available from the highly informative websites:
www.thunderstick.co.uk

Any fans of Iron Maiden and related bands with an interest in 'the early years' / nwobhm that are reading this, you can find tons more info on Barry/Thunderstick's time with the Irons at any and all of the following Facebook groups:







- Alex Eruptor

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Welcome to Loopyworld.....


By Alex Eruptor


Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse is a former roadie of Iron Maiden and since August 2012 has been posting a series of recollections on his blog Loopy World, hosted on the MetalTalk.net website.


For anyone interested in the embryonic years of the heavy metal beast that is Iron Maiden, Loopyworld is essential reading.  Although the band had already been playing for a few years with different line-ups (such as in the below photo featuring guitar player Bob Sawyer [aka Rob Angelo] and singer Dennis Wilcock) before Loopy’s involvement.....




.... his story with Iron Maiden began at an important time in the evolution of the group, when his school-friend Paul Taylor was offered an audition to be lead singer.  Taylor got the gig.....


.......and, using the more rock n’ roll name Paul DiAnno, fronted the band into a world-wide record deal with EMI and recorded two of the most best known metal albums of the 1980s – Iron Maiden’s eponymous debut album, and its follow-up Killers.

Loopy’s writings provide fresh insight into how Iron Maiden evolved and what it was like to be involved behind the scenes as they progressed from a determined pub band to a  global mega-brand.  It is perhaps a more critical version of events than you will find in the various official biographies.

Another outcome of the website is that it has brought together a number of Iron Maiden enthusiasts around the world, and uncovered new information around the involvement of guitarist Paul Cairns on the Soundhouse Tapes demo tape and EP.  Additionally, Loopyworld has its own facebook group and seems to have also acted as a catalyst for a new Ex-Iron Maiden Members facebook group.



In June 2014 I contacted Loopy with the idea of doing a quick Q&A.  Results as follows…….



What prompted you to start the Loopyworld pages on MetalTalk.net?

I was contacted by Steve Goldby, Metaltalk’s main man, two years ago, asking if I had thought about writing down my experiences of the early days of Iron Maiden. To be honest, I like writing, and tried to get a book published about 10 years ago, with no success I might add, but the thought of writing about Maiden hadn’t even crossed my mind. It was Steve’s idea really. I asked him what sort of thing he expected and he just said “Write something up and we’ll see what we can do with it”. So I got writing and after 5 or 6 chapters I sent him my first piece, but he didn’t get it warts and all. I have a good friend, Jules, who does all my editing, crosses the t’s, dots the i’s etc, so she did her thing, sent it back to me, and I sent it on to Steve. He liked it so much he gave me my own column. By the time the first column went ‘live’ I had already written 10 chapters, and Jules had returned another 5, so they sat in a file, and I would post one a month to Metaltalk. I used to love seeing my column come out each month, and Jules did such a great job that it never got touched by anyone before it went ‘live’.




Since going online with this you’ve picked up a lot of readers, has it surprised you how quickly the website has grown?



I don’t even know how many readers my column reaches. I have asked, but Goldby must be busy. LOL. On the back of the column, I set up LoopyWorld-Iron Maiden on Facebook, just for fun really. I did try to set up LoopyWorld.com, but found it time consuming and not knowing my way around web building, I gave it up very quickly. Don’t try looking for it, I gave up the rights to it recently. Getting back to the question, am I surprised about the page growth? Of course I am. In two weeks time LoopyWorld-Iron Maiden is one year old, and to have almost 5,000 followers is incredible. And these people are from every corner of the planet. Just incredible.

I even have my own t-shirts, which are selling well. That must say something.




It sounds as though you have toured a lot of the world. Of all the places you have been which have been the most memorable?

Being in the Bahamas for 2 months while Maiden recorded Powerslave will always stay with me, as will my one and only time in Japan, but as silly as it sounds, being in the UK means never being that far away from a roast dinner. You can eat all the delicacies in the World, but there’s nothing like coming home to a roast.


Obscure b-side question time: I understand that the song 'Burning Ambition’ was from a demo session for EMI, featuring Doug Sampson on drums, and that this was the same session that yielded the demo version of 'Running Free' which turned up on the various artists 'Axe Attack' compilation.  Do you remember whether or not that is true, and were any other songs demo'd with Doug around that time? Or with Clive Burr as part of the pre-production for the first album - or did they just go in and record the versions that were included on the actual album?

I honestly don't remember Doug doing any other recording other than what's already out there. As for the album, Harris knew which songs he wanted to use, so both Clive and Dennis were given a crash course on those tracks, and after a few warm up dates, we went straight into the studio and recorded it. The whole thing was done in just over a week. Although, according to my diary notes, Maiden recorded the single " Running Free" at Morgan Studio's on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th, January 1980, at least four weeks before the rest of the album. 




Maiden and crew are known for being enthusiastic about the sport of soccer.  Are you following the 2014 FIFA World Cup?

Yeah, of course. It’s the biggest competition in the World. I’m a big West Ham United fan, but don’t get to see them as much as I should. I try to watch as much TV footy as I can, English, Spanish and MLS.  At least with the World Cup they have a 11pm kick off, so I get to see some live games. I work from 2-10pm at a Royal Mail Processing Centre, so early or evening kick off’s are something I have to read about in the papers the following day.


Quickfire Round:

Favourite Iron Maiden artwork?

I love all of my friend Derek Riggs artwork, but couldn’t single one out. He has some outstanding new work you should check out.


Favourite Iron Maiden song?

Hallowed Be Thy Name. Might be after I left, but I knew that the band were heading in that direction. Steve always had idea’s, and would play snippets in the dressing room of his latest idea’s.


Best thing about working for Iron Maiden?

I always enjoyed travelling, so that was definitely one of the highlights, and it’s not a bad job for the money you get, and not many people can say that.


Worst thing about working for Iron Maiden?

The long hours, but other than that, I had a blast


Any bands/musicians from the NWOBHM era that could have/should have been bigger?

I always had a soft spot for Angel Witch, and really wish they had followed us to the top. And MORE were a great band, but bad management tore them apart. I’m sure there were a lot more that could have done better, but when you work for the best of all of them, you don’t tend to care too much about the ones you leave behind.






Ever get fed up of being asked about Iron Maiden?

Of course, but people need to know. I’ve been interviewed about 10 times in the last 5 years, so when you consider that’s only twice a year, it’s a little hardship, when you realize you are making millions of fans happy by reading your words.


All the best for now…Loopy



Thanks Loopy.  So there we have it, a rare interview with an original Iron Maiden crew member who was there during the lean, mean years of early ‘Maiden history.  Visit Loopyworld to read all about recording the seminal Soundhouse Tapes EP and debut album, touring in Japan, and all kinds of craziness.



You’ll find Loopyworld here: 

Also mentioned above was the artwork of Derek Riggs, whose iconic artwork and Eddie designs are as much a part of Iron Maiden as twin-harmony guitars, over-sized drum kits, and galloping bass-lines. You’ll find Derek’s work online here:








- Alex Eruptor
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