Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gettin Nasty Nasty in 1986


Rewind everyone to 1986! Metal was everywhere. Turn on the radio and you'd get blasted with the latest singles by Motley Crue, Whitesnake, David Lee Roth (now solo) and Van Halen (or was that Van Hagar!). MTV and Canada's Much Music played an endless amount of Poison, Wasp, Ratt and Def Leppard. Life was good for a sixteen year old headbanger like myself.

As is always the case, when something becomes popular and makes people money then open the flood gates because here comes more and more and more of the same. Eighty-six probably marked the first huge wave of new, younger bands to flood the metal scene. Record companies were signing every big haired, mascara and spandex wearing rockers to cash in on the hard rock movement.

My good buddy Howard, had an older brother who would turn us on to new bands. I remember sometime in 85, Howard came over to my house with two of his brothers albums. He was super excited for me to hear his new "find". It was a badge of honour with my friends to get to say "I discovered so and so first".

Well that day we played the first two Black n Blue albums and I probably recorded them on cassette tape to listen later in my walkman. These albums were great, Hold on to 18, Without Love, Wicked Bitch, Bombastic Plastic all great melodic metal. These guys were cool, great find my friend!

So in 1986 I was eagerly awaiting the new record from this band out of Portland. The hype on this new record in metal circles was big especially for a Kiss geek like myself. It turns out that Gene Simmons himself had taken the band into the studio and was producing Black n Blue's third album. Magazines were telling stories of special guests like Ron Keel and Peter Criss! I couldn't wait for this album to come out.

From the opening chords of the title track "Nasty Nasty" it was love at first listen for me. Once Jaime St James "hawks the loogie" and the bass kicks in I knew I would love this album. Halfway through the song my ears picked up on a riff that I had heard before. Seems Gene Simmons had a hand in the songwriting here and recycled one of the riffs from "Only You" off of Kiss's Elder album.

It wasn't the first time or the last that Gene Simmons "recycled" and it didn't bother me in the least. Besides, maybe he figured that since nobody bought the Elder, who would know? Personally I loved how the riff worked within the song and as a Kiss geek I thought it was kinda cool.

From there the album is a pretty solid melodic metal album. Riffing guitars and pounding drums and Jaime St James belting out rockers like "12 O'clock High", Does She or Doesn't She", "Kiss of Death". One thing that really stood out at the time was the lack of a "ballad". Some might argue that "I"ll Be There For You" (the only song not produced by Gene) took that role, but really its more of a mid-tempo rocker heavily laden with keyboards. A great song that I am still puzzled didn't take Black n Blue to the next level.

Closing out the album is "Best In The West" a rip roaring rocker that brought out "rock n roll outlaw" Ron Keel and the familiar rasp of the "Catman" Peter Criss. Ron Keel's signature wail is so recognizable and to hear Peter rocking out again was amazing. A killer way to close out an album that in this writers opinion, should have done much better. Contrary to the opinions of Chris and Aaron, Nasty Nasty remains one of my favourite albums from 1986.

This album review is dedicated to my good friend Howard Holmes, still miss you buddy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Episode 70 - 1986 Year In Review part 2


Continuing our journey through 1986, Chris and Aaron jump right into their spandex pants and get things rolling. Chris gets the shredding started with his first pick, Vinnie Vincent Invasion's "Do You Wanna Make Love?"

Not just one former Kiss guitarist was busy in 1986. The same year Vinnie Vincent invaded, Mark St. John also released new music with White Tiger. The self titled debut album also featured Mike Norton (Mark's brother) on bass and David Donato on lead vocals. Aaron's pick from the album is "Runaway".

Keeping in line with the Kiss Guitar Tri-fecta, next up is a band produced by Gene Simmons and featuring future Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer. Black n Blue release Nasty Nasty and the title track is chosen as the third pick of the show.

Always room for Motorhead "Built for Speed" from 86's Orgasmatron album is Aaron's next pick. Although with such a heavy, awesome album it was tough to choose just one.

Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album released in 1986 would go on to be the best selling album of 1987. The hits from this album are still played every hour on mainstream radio so Chris chooses to spin "Social Disease" one of the few songs from this album not normally heard on the radio.

Aaron's pick, "Face the Day" comes from Great White's second album Shot In The Dark. This album was an independent release and was the catalyst to them signing with Capital Records.

The mighty Iron Maiden released Somewhere In Time in 1986 and Chris chooses "Sea of Madness". Up the Irons!!

Aaron's up next with "Slip of the Lip" from Sunset strip rockers Ratt. Ratt's Dancing Undercover album was their third release and although it didn't fare as well in sales as their previous release it did reach #26 on the US charts.

1986 was a banner year for thrash metal and of course Aaron chooses to assault our ears with some Slayer. Reign in Blood, some say the prototypical thrash metal album and Aaron spins "Raining Blood"

After the onslaught of pure evil, Chris gets melodic and a little spiritually uplifting with Styper.  "Calling On You" from the To Hell With The Devil album is about as far from Slayer as you can possibly get but goes to show how diverse metal can be.

Right back into the thrash scene, Megadeth released Peace Sells But Who's Buying in 1986 as  Dave Mustaine continued his personal war with Metallica. "Wake Up Dead" is Chris's choice from this metal masterpiece.

Blackie and the boys in WASP release Inside The Electric Circus. The last album to feature Steve Riley on drums as he would leave to join LA Guns. Aaron chooses "The Rock Rolls On" for your dining and dancing pleasure.

One of Canada's greatest exports the Killer Dwarfs are busy in 1986 releasing Stand Tall and going on the road with Iron Maiden. "Believe In Me" is Chris's next choice as we start to wind down this incredible year of music.

One band that definitely embraced past influences and created a sound that would help mold the alternative movement of the 90's was Bad Brains. In 1986 they released I Against I, their 3rd studio album. Chris' choice of Secret 77 is a marriage between early 80's punk-meets-reggae and what would become the genre of grunge a few short years later.

Aaron's last pick of the night is Tesla's "EZ Come, EZ Go" from 1986's Mechanical Resonance album. A dirty, gritty no-nonsense rock band, Tesla seemed far removed from much of the spandex and hairspray of the day.

And with that, 1986 is in the Decibel Geek books!

Vinnie Vincent Invasion
White Tiger
Black n Blue
Bon Jovi
Great White
Iron Maiden
Killer Dwarfs
Bad Brains

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Look What the Cat Dragged In in 1986


What do you get when you cross four hot ROCKIN guys who wear blush and lipstick better than a 15year old girl on a Friday night? POISON!
In 1986, when Poison bust on the scene, the scene wasn't ready for them, but damn it the scene got ready. Poison's line up at that time (Bret Michaels-lead singer, C.C. DeVille-guitar, Bobby Dall-bass and Rikki Rockett-drums) came out with pure raw aggression, and ALOT of MAKE UP. Their first album "Look What The Cat Dragged In" not only showcased how dedicated and hungry the band was, but it also catapulted them to super stardom almost over night and started a whole new genre of metal, glam metal!

To the untrained eye, the guys look like a set of hot Sunset Strip strippers out on the town. But once you get close, maybe cop a feel and see an Adams Apple, you realize she is a he! I gotta admit, C.C did show a girl (me) how to apply eyeshadow correctly. But what set them apart, was that they actually had song writing skills and talent.

As with any album 'Look', has its share of hits, along with one particular song that was pretty over looked. I never thought of how good this song was til now. The song 'Play Dirty' is that song. From start to finish, 'Play' is just one big ride of sweat, guitar riffs and women doing stripper moves on candy poles. How this song was passed up as a single is beyond me.

Bret Michaels vocals are flawless on this track. Unlike 'Talk Dirty' or 'I Want Action', you can actually feel yourself in the recording studio on this one.  But seriously, this song should've not only been a single, but it would've made a great video. Not to say none of their songs were(are) great, but the producers really missed the train with this song.

The song reminds me of 'Girls, Girls,Girls'. In a sense of the way he sings about what sounds like a typical Friday night. Just  like I wanted to move to California after , become a dancer(like every parent wants to hear that), and fall in love with Nikki Sixx (yes HONESTLY...don't  judge me) after I heard Vince sing his ode to strippers across the nation. I wanted to find 'Tattoo Willie' and let him put his mark some where while we watch the boys across at the pool hall spill out into the street and fist fight for bragging rights.

Poison eventually went on to record a total of 7 albums with a slew of hit songs under their belts. Sadly, they soon became the typical band that did themselves in with their own demons. But the real kicker was in C.C. Started one song, then went on his own into another. Any real true metal fan remembers the MTV video awards when C.C started playing 'Unskinny Bop', then went into 'Talk Dirty To Me' on LIVE TELEVISION!! By this point it was obvious that C.C. Was becoming what we call here a SNOW GLIDER, his face and body showed it. Short end, C.C got clean, and along with Bret became a reality tv star. The band eventually reunited, and began touring again. This past summer they toured with Def Leppard and Lita Ford.

Now Hear This: Mr. Big


I'm guessing everyone who visits this site is already familiar with Mr. Big, the band featuring Eric Martin, Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan and Pat Torpey, but are you familiar with Mr. Big, the band featuring Dicken, Eddie Carter, Mike Higgins, Simon Saunders, and Paul Gibbens?

That's right, fourteen years before the American band Mr. Big released their debut album the British band Mr. Big released theirs. It was called Sweet Silence. Check it out:

Sweet Silence
Wonderful Creation

Mr. Big formed in the late sixties as Burnt Oak. Their manager took the liberty of changing their name for them, to Mr. Big, in 1972. In 1974 they signed with Epic Records in the UK and released several singles before their debut album, Sweet Silence, came out in 1975. Much of the album is quite heavy for the time and singer Dicken certainly gives it his all. The band played all over Europe, opening for Queen and Sweet, among others. In 1977 Clive Davis signed the band to Arista Records in America and they released a self-titled album.  It garnered them little attention stateside but they scored a top five single in the UK with Romeo. Not a great song, in my opinion.

Want to hear a much better song from that album?


In 1978 the band entered Abbey Road studios with the inestimable Ian Hunter at the helm to record their third album, to be titled Seppuku, which is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. You know, a guy sits cross-legged on the ground, preferably in the public square, takes a sword and...ouch. Seppuku is a really good album, but the label, EMI, shelved it. The album went unreleased until 2001, when Angel Air finally rescued it from the dustbin of history. The title track is amazing:


EMI did release a two song single from the sessions, a crappy song called Senora and on the B-side?  My favorite Mr. Big song. Check it out, you will not be disappointed:

Death Boy

The band broke up after the EMI debacle and singer Dicken formed a new band, Broken Home. They released a self-titled album in 1980, produced by some guy named Robert John "Mutt" Lange.

Broken Home-Run Away From Home

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Night Songs takes Cinderella to the Ball - 1986


I vividly remember the first time I heard Cinderella. Up here in Canada we had a show called Toronto Rocks, a one hour music video show that aired every day at 4pm. On Wednesday's it was "Midweek Metal Mania" and since I was usually at my after school job during this time, I would have our Sony Betamax (yeah my Dad still insisted it was better than VHS) programmed to record each and every Wednesday so I could watch and re-watch all the hard rock and heavy metal videos of the day.

Cinderella's "Shake Me" video came on one day and this song reached through the TV grabbed me by the throat and pun intended "shook me"! Tom's voice was like nothing I had ever heard, loud raw and raspy. I loved the way they swung the guitars around in the video and Cinderella became my "find". I was the first of my friends to pick up "Night Songs" their debut album and I was not disappointed as it is still one of my favourite albums today.

Night Songs opens with an epic intro that leads into the title track, a moody mid-tempo's rocker that gets things rolling. "Shake Me" has the band rocking out and singing about SEX with Tom Keifer's signature rasp. From there the album showcases Cinderella's bluesy, brand of sleaze rock. A little more metal than their future releases and that might just be why it is still my favourite Cinderella album. "Once Around The Ride", "Hell On Wheels" and "Push Push" kept the album rocking hard as hard as their hair was high.

Halloween night 1986, David Lee Roth brought the "Eat em and Smile" tour to Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens and opening up that night was Cinderella. I was 16, and was so excited for this show as I bought both a Cinderella and a David Lee Roth t-shirt (this was before they got so expensive you had to get bank loans to buy a shirt)

The houselights went down and the intro music to Night Songs came through the P.A. and I jumped to my feet. Cinderella kicked in and played a great warm up set playing through almost all of the debut album. I didn't exactly have good seats but I will never forget the one thing that happened during their set. Many of you know how Jeff LaBar and Eric Brittingham are known for swinging their guitars around their body while playing. It looks so cool but sometimes relying on the strap isn't always a great idea and on this night something went wrong.

Jeff flung his guitar with reckless abandon and either the strap broke or the strap button came loose. Either way, the guitar came away from his body slamming into the stage at breakneck speed. The sound that resulted was a little ugly until the sound man was able to kill the feedback, but Jeff just shrugged and took it all in stride. He soon strapped on a backup six string and continued on. I can't remember what was said but Tom teased him about it after the song was done and again he just shrugged all innocent like. Was quite funny actually and very rock n roll.

Produced by Andy Johns, "Night Songs" would go on to sell in excess of 3 million copies as the band would tour with Bon Jovi on their  massively successful Slippery When Wet tour. Although my favourite track "Shake Me" failed to chart, follow up singles "Nobody's Fool" and "Somebody Save Me" saw Cinderella all over MTV. All three videos were linked together playing up Cinderella's evil step sister story line. A move that although predictable, was very well done and solidified the band as MTV darlings beyond the debut album. Overall one of many great albums to land in '86.

My intro to Cinderella back in 86

Monday, January 28, 2013

Meister's "Views of the Cruise" - Volume #5 - Nigel Glockler of Saxon

Hello and welcome to my blog series concerning The Monsters of Rock Cruise: The Lost Weekend 2013.  I am The Meister, I was fortunate enough to be able to take part in last year's inaugural Monsters of Rock Cruise and I'm extremely pumped to experience it all over again this year.


Included here for this week's instalment is a little bio of Nigel Glockler and his tenure with one of my favourite bands of all time , followed by an interview with the long time drummer..............May I present SAXON!
Saxon played the very first Monsters of Rock festival in Donnington, England in 1980.  The Barnsley boys were even the first band to have a return engagement at the legendary Monsters of Rock in 1982 and now, continuing their long relationship with Monsters of Rock, they are poised to set sail on the MSC Poesia in March 2013 on the Monsters of Rock Cruise: The Lost Weekend.  Nigel Glockler was there in 1982 and and will be aboard ship thirty years later as well.

Saxon was born in Barnsley, England as a conglomeration of two bands, Son Of A Bitch and Coast, keeping the S.O.B. moniker.  They were signed to French label Carrere, changed their name to Saxon and released the self titled début in 1979.  They followed up with Wheels of Steel (1980) a year later and hot on the heels of that successful record came Strong Arm of the Law (1980) and then Denim & Leather (1981).

Nigel Glockler really brings the Heavy Metal Thunder with his thunderous drum beats resonating around the arena as Saxon rules the stage.  Born in Hove, East Sussex, England, Nigel began his professional music career as a member of the UK unit Krakatoa.  He then joined singer/actress Toyah Wilcox’s band later in the year of 1980.  Things really fell into place for Nigel Glockler in 1981 when, then drummer and original founding member, Pete Gill of Saxon suffered a hand injury.  Glockler was originally hired as a temporary fill-in while Gill waited out doctor enforced rest.  Gill in the mean time accepted an offer to join Lemmy’s Motorhead, making way for Glockler to be inducted into the Saxon ranks on a full-time basis.  The bass player from Glockler’s first band, Krakatoa happened to be Saxon’s manager at the time.  Nigel was under pressure right from the get-go.  Saxon was about to embark on their huge tour in support of the successful Denim & Leather record when they recruited him to replace Pete Gill.  He was challenged with the immense task of learning the entire set in only a day and a half in preparation for the first show!!  Obviously he persevered, they toured heavily in the UK and even made a historic return appearance at the legendary Monsters of Rock Festival in Donnington, being the first band to do so.

Glockler’s first recording with Saxon became the 1982 release entitled The Eagle Has Landed a live album recorded during the 1981 tour.  The record saw chart success, reaching number 5 in the UK.

Glockler’s next release with Saxon was their fifth and highest selling album to date, 1983’s Power & The Glory.  This was their first recording done in the USA and features a different sound that I've seen referred to as “like it was recorded in a tin can”.  I think this album fits superbly in Saxon’s catalogue.  The lyrics on this record shifted towards a medieval/fantasy theme.

1984 saw the boys move to EMI record label and offer up Crusader, continuing with the medieval/fantasy themes started on The Power & The Glory. Interestingly though Pete Gill is credited for song collaboration on Prelude and CrusaderSet Me Free was a cover of Sweet penned by Andy Scott.  The album sold over two million copies.

Innocence Is No Excuse was the next Saxon outing and took on a more radio friendly sound, confusing and alienating some of the fan base that had seen them as NWOBHM pioneers.  Critics and fans alike have warmed up to the recording over the years since it’s release and tracks like Rock & Roll Gypsy do surface in live sets.  Songs like Broken Heroes did make regular airplay on MTV, helping introduce them to American audiences.

Original member and bassist Steve Dawson decided to leave Saxon in the beginnings of 1986 which left the boys without a bassist for the recording of their next record entitled Rock The Nations.  Biff recorded the bass parts and soon after they hired Paul Johnson, who was credited on the album sleeve.  Elton John also played piano as a guest on two tracks, Party Til You Puke and Northern Lady.  

Glockler briefly left Saxon in 1987 to join GTR.  GTR was a supergroup originally founded in 1985 by Steve Howe from Yes and Asia and Steve Hackett from Genesis. By 1987 Hackett had departed and Howe tried to soldier on.  Ultimately the band folded and Nigel returned to Saxon by late 1988.  In his absence from The Wheels of Steel, Glockler only missed one album in the 1988 release of Destiny.

His first release after returning was the second live album Rock & Roll Gypsies (how fitting his very first was a live and now his return marked by a live album).  By now Paul Johnson had left and Nibbs Carter stepped into the bass role, this being his first album appearance.

Solid Ball Of Rock came in 1991 and with Carter writing or co-writing seven of the eleven tracks he proved to breathe new life into the Barnsley boys.  Starting off with the pounding anthem of the title track it was easy to see (hear) that Saxon was back to form on this offering.  The song co-written by Glockler, Requiem (We Will Remember) is an amazing tribute to all those musicians that have passed on.  I Just Can’t Get Enough is another stand out cut sounding a little like Bad Company to me.  All in all, a solid effort and a favourite in my Saxon Library.

Just a year later, a rejuvenated Saxon, saw Forever Free hit the shelves.  The single Iron Wheels was co-written by front man Biff Byford and Drummer Nigel Glockler and was about and dedicated to Byford’s father who worked in the coal mines of YorkshireForever Free was an even bigger return to their solid heavy metal roots that started with Sold Ball of Rock, abandoning the pursuit of American rock radio success.

A three year break we would have to wait until we saw Dogs of War get released.  Biff would come to write in the remastered re-release from 2006 that “The album did have it’s problems, mostly with Graham Oliver….”   Oliver was reportedly fired after recording the album for trying to sell recordings of 1980’s Donnington performance behind the band’s back and was replaced by Doug Scarratt, long-time friend of Nigel Glockler.  Not a bad track on the album, this is a solid honest metal album completing the guys return to their roots.

Saxon unleashed the beast in 1997’s Unleash The Beast record.  This was the first to feature Doug Scarratt.  Some of the stand out tracks here are Terminal Velocity, The Thin Red Line, Ministry of Fools and The Preacher.

Ten years after his brief hiatus with GTR Nigel Glockler had to step down as drummer for Saxon having been advised by doctors not to play drums due to torn muscles in his neck and shoulder.

But he did however remain involved with Saxon, writing material for albums Metalhead in 1999 and 2001’s Killing Ground.  Saxon also released Lionheart in 2004 containing the excellent track Beyond The Grave.  Nigel returned as Saxon’s drummer again in 2005 with his first album back being The Eagle Has Landed part III, you guessed it……a live recording! This double live disc came out in 2006 and featured live recordings of classic Saxon and new songs alike.

Glockler’s first studio album after getting situated once again behind the kit was 2007’s Inner Sanctum, the band’s seventeenth album.  The album was once again heralded by critics as some of the best work in years.  Lemmy Kilmister, Angry Anderson and Andi Deris were featured as guest appearances.  Glockler was tested immediately as the album starts out with a truly frantic pace assaulting the listener for the first three tracks before settling down a little into what has been cited as possibly their best album of the early 2000’s.

Into The Labyrinth was unleashed in 2009 and continued the sound and success of Inner Sanctum.  This strong release comes 30 years after their self titled, rather quirky début album hit shelves.

Saxon put forth their Call To Arms in 2011, another excellent disc, every track sounding new and fresh while staying true to their NWOBHM roots.  For the recording of the track Back In ’79 Saxon did something very cool and invited fans to visit the studio one night and be a part of the recording.  The tour for Call To Arms brought Saxon to Toronto for the first time in over 20 years, and thankfully I was able to make the show!  The Barnsley boys put on a stripped down, straight ahead rock and roll performance that seemed like they were possessed by the energizer bunny, to just keep going and going as they played song after song.

Now with 2013 approaching we eagerly await Glockler and Saxon’s newest release due to drop in February, entitled Sacrifice.  The album being produced by Andy Sneap from fame of Accept’s latest (arguable best ever) releases.

Presented below is my interview with Nigel Glockler, someone I seriously look forward to shaking hands with aboard ship!

MEISTER:  What got you interested in music and being a drummer? Who are your idols and who biggest influences?

NIGEL:  I started playing when I was seven or eight - it was noticed by a family friend that I was constantly tapping along to records, radio etc from about the age of five so he persuaded my dad to get me a snare drum - I'd done the usual before that - biscuit tins, metal plates etc. The Shadows had the best drummer back then. After that I was listening to all the usual stuff - Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Who, Small Faces, etc etc. The first band I was really nuts about was Grand Funk Railroad - their gig in Hyde Park, London, was my first concert.The second was Black Sabbath on the Masters Of Reality tour - and Bill Ward amazed me - I'd never seen anyone hit so hard! For me, he was Sabbath - along with Tony. Then prog came along - Yes, Genesis, Aphrodites Child, Gentle Giant - this was brilliant stuff . Then fusion happened - Billy Cobham, Lenny White, all that Return to Forever stuff, Eleventh House with Alphonse Mouzon. Of course Rush was happening too during most of this. Musically now, I listen to everything except rap and Hip Hop.  I actually love listening to Russian Orthodox Choral music!- no drumming there!  Drummer-wise, Simon Phillips is my favourite player, plus Neil Peart, Vinnie Coliuta - oh, too many to mention, but I've just really got back into Joe Morello - great, great player.  Everything I've ever listened to has, I'm sure, had some influence on me, whether drumming, or composing.

MEISTER:  Your first band was called Krakatoa?

NIGEL:  Yes, that was my first professional band. Around that time - mid seventies - I was doing the usual stuff, playing in local bands - in fact I had been doing so while still at school - but the band I was in at that time, Bel Air, had decided to split up and we were booked to play our last gig at a pub in Brighton, our home town  - The Alhambra, now sadly demolished - however we were double booked with a band from London so we let them play as they'd travelled down. While watching them a guy came over, asked my name, and said there were some people at the bar who wanted to talk to me - turned out it was a couple of guys from Krakatoa who we all knew were a proper pro band. They asked if I'd be interested in having a jam with them as they needed a new drummer - the end result was that I joined them and we spent nearly three years gigging around the UK until the New Wave thing killed us as we couldn't get a record deal, even though we were selling out small theatres and Town Hall gigs - we did a pile of demos with a producer called Robin Black, who worked with Jethro Tull, Sabbath etc, all to no avail! Incidentally, the keyboard player was Hans Zimmer, who does loads of film soundtrack work! And the guitarist, Roger Adams, is a co-writer with me on a lot of TV music that i do here in my studio at home.

MEISTER:  Is there any connection with the Saxon song of the same name from 1985?

NIGEL:  No not really - it was just a subject that we were interested in - maybe the Krakatoa band name came up in conversation but I really can't remember. Actually, I think it's a great track!

MEISTER:  And from there you joined Toyah Wilcox? Who is that and what style of music did that band play?

NIGEL:  That came a bit later on - after the Krakatoa thing fell apart, I got myself involved in doing sessions - through this I met various record company people and was asked to audition for a New Wave band called After The Fire, who had a few big hits during this period - a friend of mine was playing with a guy called Bruce Woolley who had himself been involved with Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn - together they wrote Video Killed The Radio Star, Clean, Clean, and others - Geoff and Trevor broke away and formed the Buggles while Bruce formed his own band and released an album under the moniker of Bruce Woolley And The Camera Club - Thomas Dolby was on keys - anyway, they asked me if I'd like to have a blast with them as a warm up for my audition, and little did I know their plan was to audition me for their band, which I duly joined. But an A and R guy at CBS, who Bruce was signed to, screwed us up for the second album, by putting us with a producer we didn't want and the end result was a binned album - a great pity because the songs were great but the production was dire and we took the fall as CBS wouldn't put any more finance into rerecording the record. So it was back to session work and it was through this that I was asked to play on a Toyah release - she'd had three albums out and was changing the band around for her new single. We recorded this and went on tour, after which we wrote and recorded her next album which was very successful, and toured again to totally sold out venues.  Musically, I guess it's quite arty pop music - Toyah, incidentally, is married to Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame.

MEISTER:  And from there you found your way to Saxon.  How did that all come about?

NIGEL:  The bass player from Krakatoa had become one of Saxon's managers and rang me up asking if I'd help them out for the Denim And Leather tour as Pete Gill had damaged his hand/fingers.  

MEISTER:  I read somewhere that it was a very quick thing when you joined Saxon, having only a day and a half to learn the entire set of music for the start of the Denim & Leather tour?

NIGEL:  Yep - I had a blow with them on Sunday and the tour was starting on Wednesday, in my home town I might add - I was a fan of the band and had bought tickets to see the show!! I really had two days to learn nineteen songs in - we moved to the Brighton Centre on the Monday - they were doing pre-production rehearsals there - and I hammered through the songs, making notes as I went. The show went OK actually - think I screwed one thing up but nobody seemed to notice!! After a few more gigs I ended up joining them.

MEISTER: Another thing that I have read somewhere was that you fell off of the stage one night on your first tour in the U.S.A.?

NIGEL:  No, that wasn't on the first tour and I didn't actually fall off the stage either - that happened during a US tour with Iron Maiden - I jumped down the stairs at the end of our show and landed on a large coil of cable hidden under a carpet resulting in my ankle going over and, according to the doctors at the nearby hospital, nearly ripping the ligaments clean off - they said I was lucky as I was nearly at the point where I'd never walk again. The result was my left leg being in a cast for a couple of weeks, and having to use crutches to and from the stage each night. That was quite an eventful tour as one night I set my drum riser on fire during my solo!

MEISTER:  What was it like working with a legend like Elton John?  I understand that if you can listen closely you can hear him swearing as he cut his finger on one of the piano keys during the recording, but I myself have never heard it.

NIGEL:  I've never heard that one either! But Elton was great, as was his band - became good mates with his drummer Charlie Morgan. Elton would come in with outrageous clothes on under a raincoat - multi-coloured beach shirts and matching shorts!! - different every day. He and his band would spend hours in our studio instead of theirs next door, grooving along to our tracks. A funny story was that it was the first World Cup football tournament since the Falklands War (I think!) - so there's about twenty or so Brits eating dinner in the dining area of the studio - us, some of our crew, and Elton's guys and crew - and this guy walks in to see his mate serving at the bar and he's wearing a complete Argentinian football strip - as one we all turned to look at him and glared and he didn't stay long!!!!

MEISTER:  I hear that there were some wild stories during that recording session (Rock the Nations), like Paul ramming his BMW into a tram?  What happened?  Was he OK?

NIGEL:  That happened much later in Vienna during the recording of Forever Free. Yep, he was fine!! I guess he thought the tram could and would swerve - of course it couldn't and it didn't!!!  Rock The Nations was quite a sedate album to make compared to some!!

MEISTER:  How does the creative process happen for a Saxon song or album?  I see that some albums, like Innocence Is No Excuse for example, was mainly written by Biff and Dawson where as other albums are more group collaborations, why the difference?

NIGEL:  We were going through a lot of litigation with Carrere records at that time, and not touring because of it so, because Biff and Steve lived near each other, they just got together whilst we were off the road - once we got together in the studio some other songs were written.
Generally, once we get together in a rehearsal studio, everyone brings in any ideas and we thrash them about and basically turn them into songs. There has to be a starting point, say a riff or melody or rhythmic idea etc - you can't just go 'one, two, three, play!!' That's a general rule of thumb with our albums nowadays. Everyone works on ideas at home and brings them to the studio and, providing everyone likes them, they'll then get Saxonised!

MEISTER:  You co-wrote the song Requiem (We Will Remember) for 1991’s Solid Ball of Rock record.  One of my favourite Saxon tracks, tell me about the song.

NIGEL:  We just decided to do a track dedicated to all the musicians that had passed on up to that time - that's about it really - a lot of them had influenced us individually during our formative years of learning our instruments etc.

MEISTER:  In 1987 you took a brief Hiatus from Saxon to join the “super group” GTR.  What led to that move and where did GTR go?

NIGEL:  I was really pissed off at Saxon's management so wanted to leave and then I got a call, whilst in the US, from GTR's management offering me the gig - I'd been recommended by Phil Spalding, the bassist, who I'd been in Toyah with. We started recording the second album but things obviously weren't right within the band - Steve Hackett had left and there was a lot of tension around so it all imploded after a while - which is a great shame as I think that album, had we finished it, would have been superb. Someone has got hold of the unfinished tapes, demo's etc, and released them, and, I have to say, it sounds awful, but, had we been able to complete it, a great album would have been the result. I then went on to do some playing on Steve Howe's next album and another one he was involved with. Also, through GTR I met Geoff Downes and hence played on the Asia album 'Aqua'.

MEISTER:  Then you left again in 1998 due to an injury, but were still involved with the band in song writing?  How did you injure yourself and how did it feel being sidelined for that time?

NIGEL:  I ripped a muscle between my neck and my shoulder but didn't notice it at first as it was probably only a tiny nick - I think it happened in Brazil whilst playing a rental kit - my kit can be set up to within a millimetre every night but that little extra stretch on a rental kit, maybe going for a china cymbal? - that's what did it.  Then we went to Sweden and it started hurting as I guess I was tearing it more and more each night.  I went to chiropractors, osteopaths etc, thinking I'd done something to my neck but an eventual visit to my doctor sussed it and he said I had to stop for around five months to let the tear heal - that's how i got into doing the TV music - and I played an intro to Metalhead and by the time they were ready to write Killing Ground, I was OK to drum, so I went up to the studio for the first writing sessions and co-wrote four tracks for that album. I also had Doug and Paul over to my studio to get formative ideas for Lionheart. All this time I was actually enjoying not being on the road and concentrating on writing at home so I wasn't the least bit bothered about being sidelined - in fact I was very happy!

MEISTER:  Your first Saxon album was The Eagle Has Landed, a live recording from the Denim & Leather tour.  After your brief hiatus in 1987 you returned with the live album Rock & Roll Gypsies and then ten years later your last album was The Eagle Has Landed Part II and your return in 2005 was marked by The Eagle Has Landed Part III.  Is that just co-incidence with all the live albums marking your returns to the band and is it making you superstitious about releasing live recordings?

NIGEL:  Ha! -  interesting! However, The Eagle Has Landed part 2 wasn't the last one before I left - it was Unleash The Beast! - no, I'm not that superstitious although I do have a certain ritual before I go on stage - no big deal but I try to stick to it during a tour - as to what time I start getting ready, warm-up time etc.

MEISTER:  So, what are the respective stories behind the departures of Steve Dawson and Graham Oliver? 

NIGEL: I really think all that's been covered before in the documentary and a lot of it is quite personal.  

MEISTER:  What happened with the name dispute and have you heard any of the Oliver Dawson Saxon CD?

NIGEL:  Basically they were told they could use the Saxon name along with their names using a different font and of equal size - that's it!  As for the album, I've heard a few things.

MEISTER:  Tell me about your solo album with Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt, Mad Men & English Dogs.

NIGEL:  That was Doug and I writing some stuff in the vein of music that had influenced us down the years, or stuff we really like to listen to now. It was great as we didn't have to stick to any one genre of material - we did what we liked and what pleased us. It was done on a very low budget but it's had some great reviews, a lot of it is being used in TV land, and I think there's more in the pipeline - however, I might go back and revisit a couple of the tracks and play around with them when I have some time - maybe re-do some parts or take them somewhere else - 'Snow-capped' springs to mind here, although I'm very pleased with the version as it is. I just love playing around on keyboards!

MEISTER:  I see that you are credited (along with Biff and Nibbs) on Fastway’s Bad Bad Girls CD from 1990 as very special guests.  What role did you play for the band and how were they to work with?

NIGEL:  Nibbs had already played on the previous Fastway album so he was booked straight away for the next one and Lea asked me to do some drum tracks - Biff did some backing vocals. Lea was very meticulous in what he wanted - we had a big joke that there were to be no big drum fills - as in the Hawaii Five-O intro - which is what we called them. Lea wanted it as straight ahead as possible. Nibbs and I did quite a bit of work for Lea after that - Paul Di'Anno, a Japanese cartoon soundtrack etc.

MEISTER:  Also listed on your website are several other albums that you've done work on, Celtic Spirit or Paul Di’Anno for example.  What are your most memorable, other than Saxon of course? 

NIGEL:  Every album has it's own memories - the Asia one was fun, and convenient, as it was done in a studio not far from where I live, and I love working with Geoff. The Tony Martin album was good fun too, and it introduced me to Revolution Studios in Cheadle Hume, near Manchester, where we ended up doing the drum tracks for Dogs Of War. Celtic Spirit was an ethnic ambient type album on which I had one co-written track. I just love writing different genres of material as well as playing on it. This is what I enjoy so much when I'm doing my TV library/film stuff - one day I can be in the mood to do something really heavy like an industrial metal track a la Rammstein - lots of riffy guitars and angry synths, and yet, the next day, I turn into Vangelis and do something ambient and dreamy!

MEISTER:  Although you weren't with the band for the first time around, what was it like playing the Monsters of Rock festival, being the first band to make a returning performance in 1982?  You’re also booked on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2013, that’s a long standing relationship with the Monsters of Rock festivals.

NIGEL:  We had to fly back after doing a show with Rainbow in Dallas - That gig was a bit of a nightmare for me personally - not on the playing - front I might add, but the management decided my tech should stay in the US and a roadie, who I'd never met, and who had never set up my kit, let alone seen it, should look after my gear - ludicrous!! - I ended up putting on a long coat over my stage gear, plus a hat, so I could set up my own drums! I was so pissed off at that! Otherwise, the gig went great and that was the biggest crowd I'd played to up to then. I'm looking forward to the cruise - I just love being on the sea!

MEISTER:  Saxon is confirmed to headline the rock stage at Sweden Rock 2013 (I'm planning to make the trip from Canada) and you've promised to bring the “Heavy Metal Thunder” production.  What is that?  I've only seen you once in Toronto last year, a small club show and the stage presence was mesmerizing.

NIGEL:  We did that show at Wacken this year - it's a big production with gas jets, fire, loads of lights, and a levitating drum riser!!! - should be fun!!

MEISTER:  That Toronto show marked the first time in 20 years that you had played there.  Why so long?

NIGEL:  No-one asked us to come back - it's all down to promoters - if we're not asked then we can't play there.

MEISTER:  What’s it like playing a huge festival versus a club show?  Which do you prefer? And with such an immense back catalogue of music, how do you guys go about deciding on the set list for your shows?

NIGEL:  I find it more nerve racking playing a club - the audience is so close! I definitely prefer huge festivals. With festivals we generally do a greatest hits package as do most bands. When we're touring an album then that takes precedence over everything - that's why you're there - to promote the new album. But it is so difficult to decide on a set list  and, the more albums we release, the harder it gets!!

MEISTER:  How was the feeling of the band during the different eras?  And how does that affect the stage performances? When you started Eagle-Crusader (early 80’s)?  Innocence-Solid Ball of Rock (late 80’s)? Forever Free-Unleash The Beast (mid 90’s)?  Metalhead-Into The Labyrinth (2000’s) and Call To Arms-Sacrifice (2010’s).

NIGEL:  When I joined the band it was on the up so to speak so the mood and camaraderie were at optimum level. Power and The Glory was a wonderful time for the band but we got brought down to earth with Crusader - we didn't like the production but the songs were great - however, it went on to sell well so what do we know? - we felt it could have been even better. I loved 'Rock The Nations' - personally I prefer it to 'Innocence', which I felt was over-produced - it sounds like a band to me - I thought 'Innocence' was a little sterile. But it was the touring of 'Nations' that made me want to leave - I got really bad food poisoning in the US but we couldn't afford to cancel any shows so I just had to suffer, and I hated management for that!  Solid Ball was like a new birth of the band - we were still playing smaller venues but the excitement had picked up and things eventually got better with 'Dogs Of War' and 'Unleash The Beast' - by then Doug had joined the band and it was sounding fresh again as everyone was on the same wavelength. I can't really comment on the next three albums as I generally wasn't there but 'Sanctum' was a great high for me - we were all writing some great material, I'd had a long break from intense drumming and had grown to love that instrument again - and I loved the tour that followed. And that brings us up to the present - i think we're still getting better and better as players, songwriters etc.

MEISTER:  Saxon’s new album is set to drop in February, called Sacrifice and produced by Andy Sneap.  What can we expect from this record? How involved in the writing process were you?

NIGEL:  Everyone was very involved writing-wise - as I've said, there has to be a starting point for each song, be it a riff, or keyboard idea, a drum pattern, melody, title, or whatever, and I personally think this album's a killer - but that's just my humble opinion! Andy's done a wonderful job on it - I was determined that there should be no samples on the kit - I didn't want it to sound euro-metal like so many other bands - I love the fact that I can hear the softest snare ghost note but the mix still tears your head off!

MEISTER:  What’s it like releasing a recording in this day and age of downloading and I-tunes?  Do you think that hard copy will eventually disappear?  What do you think about the resurgence in vinyl?

NIGEL:  As we all know, record sales have gone down and I think a lot of bands now make their living from playing live as opposed to album sales. I think the downloading thing is a great idea - as long as it's from legal sites - everyone's got to earn a living and music is ours so I don't think it's too much to ask for people to pay something for a track. Also, I might just want one or two tracks but not the whole album so that's great too! Re hard copies disappearing, it might happen but I hope not - sure, the convenience of having everything on an iPod etc is wonderful - gets rid of clutter in the house - but I love the fact that, if I want, I can look at a cover and see who played what on what track - for example, with Steely Dan, I can look up instantly who played a certain guitar solo and not have to go on line to find it - it's right there in my hands.  I have a few vinyl releases but I'm not really that technical minded where I want to compare CD with vinyl - I just want to hear the music, the melodies etc and not piss about wondering if the bass response on the vinyl is better than the CD  As long as it's a great production it'll sound fine. But I do miss the artwork on albums - Disraeli Gears by Cream is, and always will be my favourite album cover - also Wheels Of Fire - I love all that bubble writing, the loud vibrant colours - total psychedelia - brilliant!!!

MEISTER:  When I get home from work I usually open a beer and kick back with my favourite tunes on.  Do you ever listen to your music like that?

NIGEL:  I like to listen to music in the car, particularly on a long journey, but even just going to the market enables me to listen to new albums etc. My wife and I have quite different musical tastes, although she loves what I do, but she hates a lot of the prog stuff I listen to so the car is my very own listening domain!!

MEISTER:  Lastly, what are your favourite Saxon recordings, albums and songs?

NIGEL:  That's a hard one - I have favourite tracks on each album, for instance, 'Battalions of Steel' off 'Labyrinth' - I think as whole albums, it's got to be the new one, 'Sacrifice' and "Inner Sanctum" that do it for me! 
To catch up on your cruise reading check out the previous volumes of Meister's "Views of the Cruise" with the links below:
Volume #1 – 2012 Recap

Volume #2 – Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) Interview

Volume #3 – Heavy Metal Maidens of the Voyage
Volume #4 – Discovering New Music/Bands

*****The Monsters of Rock: The Lost Weekend Cruise is now sold out, but you still may be able to find a cabin on this rock & roll party boat through Facebook's find a cabinmate page.  Check it out and join me aboard the MSC Poesia in March 2013*****

*****If you can't join us on the voyage, but still want to catch some of the bands live in Fort Lauderdale and surrounding areas as cruise bands roll into town and play gigs before and after the voyage.  Here's a few that I know about so far:
March 13th - Faster Pussycat is playing in Cape Coral at the Dixie Roadhouse. THIS SHOW IS UNCONFIRMED AS YET! (It was my plan to attend this show, but we'll have to wait and see if it's a "go" or not)
March 13th - L.A. Guns will be at Dirty Harry's in Daytona for Daytona Bikeweek.
March 14th - has a packed bill for the Rockerz Gone "Wild" Pool Party at the Days Inn Bahia Cabana along with L.A. Guns, Bang Tango, Ted Poley, Glitter Boys, Pretty Little Suicide and recently announced Liberty Lush (who are currently touring with L.A. Guns).  Tickets are still available for the pool party with this link:
March 15th - L.A. Guns takes the stage at Jake's Tavern in Sarasota
March 15th - Bang Tango is at The State Theatre in St. Petersburg
March 15th - Queensryche plays The Ritz Ybor in Tampa.
March 22nd - sees Bang Tango in Jacksonville at Brewster's Pit & Pub
March 22nd - has Queensryche playing H.O.B. in Lake Buena Vista Florida.*****

*****Watch for next week's "Views of the Cruise" as I explore the music of my esteemed countrymen joining me aboard the MSC Poesia in Volume #6*****

The Meister
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