Monday, March 11, 2013

Ripple Conversation with Diamond Head

 Some bands don't need an introduction, and Diamond Head is one of them.  Legends of the NWOBHM, Metallica has cited them as a major influence in their creation.  Now the boys are back and still rocking just as hard, so we asked them to stop by the red Ripple couch and chat about rock, NWOBHM and life in general.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.  What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Brian Tatler: When I first heard Deep Purple’s Highway Star, the brilliant guitar solo by Ritchie Blackmore was one of the main reasons I learnt to play the guitar.

I thought ‘If I could play that’ and I started to practice more. My favourite song is Kashmir by Led Zeppelin and has been for about 30 years although when I first heard it I thought it was very odd and too long, it took me about 5 plays before I realised that it is a work of genius.

Karl: Hearing the Buddy Rich Big band,  Slade and Seeing AC/DC for the first time

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Brian: The riff always comes first. The lyrics are the last thing to be done oce all the music and the arrangement is in place. Very often a singer is re-writing the lyrics in the studio when he is at the microphone recording the lead vocals. Sometimes a better word appears or things are removed because they don’t scan correctly.

Karl: For Me it's a riff or chord progression. Occasionally I have a chord idea and a potential melody at the same time ( although that may have something to do with the Devils Weed) I'm not a great Lyricist . It all falls into place with extraordinary amounts of rewriting and arranging which can also have a negative affect on the song or pure luck, with a mistake thrown in for good measure.

Let 's go back to the NWOBHM.  I was a huge fan as an American teenager, scrambling to buy any imports I could find at the local record store.  I was reading Sounds and Melody Maker and it all seemed so vibrant.  What was it really like?  Was it one big scene with a burst of creativity or is that really romanticized?

Brian: It all started when Sounds Journo Geoff Barton reviewed Samson, Iron maiden and Angel witch on a three band bill in London in 1979. Then editor Alan Lewis coined the genre NOWBHM. Geoff went to Sheffield next to interview and review Def Leppard at a working men’s club. Both items were front page of Sounds and that to me kickstarted the whole thing. Once I had seen that unknown rock bands can grab the headlines then I thought it was a brilliant opportunity for Diamond Head to get noticed. It soon transpired that there were lots of bands all over the country playing rock music but it took Sounds to unify them all and give the movement a name.

Karl: That's a great question. There was a great music scene when I was a kid. I was playing trumpet in the County Orchestra before switching to drums. I had followed my Dad's dance band around and had broke in my drumming chops with a cover band.There were so many venues to play as a new original band. We had a do it yourself attitude. The first NHOBHM band I was in was 'Requiem'. We had pallets in the van to build a drum riser, black cloth for the drums, talk about wanna be rock stars. Although that term did n't exist at that time as we now know it, for me personally I just wished to be a full time musician that played Rock music in the concert scenario.

The Punk era had shown us that you didn't have to be a great player to write songs which could move people.

The UK socially was a very strange. High unemployment, soccer violence, strikes and a new government which led to a spill over from the Punk era into the NWOBHM.. Which I think encompassed the Punk attitude, with what had gone before. ie. Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple and the mid 70's bands UFO, AC/DC, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy etc.

Just look at the NWOBHM web-site, there's over 350 bands named on there that's how much of a scene there was. And then it was over.

Who during the NWOBHM rocked your world?

Brian: Geoff Barton was very important to me. It was a huge achievement when he added our demo tape in his Sounds Playlist. That meant that somebody in the music business thought we were good. I rated  Def Leppard and saw them a couple of times in the early days.

Karl: I was a Diamond Head fan.

Who'd you love playing with?  Hate playing with?

Brian: I love playing with my band Diamond Head. Support wise, I really enjoyed the 2005 European tour with Megadeth. Every night was sold out and the crowds were fantastic. I really like Dave Mustaine and he made sure we were all well looked after, I think even Megadeths crew gave Diamond Head a lot of respect. I hate it when we are booked to play a small club and turn up to find the promoter has booked FOUR very heavy metal bands that are de-tuned and shout or growl rather than sing. So we have to be quick with the sound check then move our drum kit so the other bands can set up then we often have to sit in a dressing room next to the stage listening to a right old racket for 3 hours.

 Karl: I enjoy playing drums with anybody.

You started out with a self-financed demo tape, like so many of the bands, and turned down offers to release your debut on your own label rather than a major.  Was there a real D.I.Y. ethic brewing back then?  Was it a reaction to punk or just a drive to get the music out there?

Brian: It was a reaction to Punk; it seemed like a viable alternative. We released our first album as a white label promo album with only 2000 copies pressed which sold out in about 6 months. A lot of the labels were not offering the sort of deal the management thought the band deserved, a couple offered a two single deal where if neither of the singles were a hit then we would be dropped. That was not the sort of band we were, we did not want to even release singles but kind of got talked into it.

 Karl: There was a total DIY scene.. We wanted to emulate our heroes also there was not much major label support at first for the new genres that were springing up. So you made tapes to play in clubs, put your own tours together, had singles pressed and in Diamond Heads case the legendary 'White' Album.

There was a rawness to most of the great NWOBHM, in production, but also in attitude.  Where'd that come from?

Brian: Probably from the fact that the bands were very young and hungry to make a mark, Diamond Head were all 19 years old when we made our first album.  Also recording studios were expensive so everything was done very quickly. Diamond Head would rehearse a song and play it live then go into the studio to record it live, only overdubbing the lead vocals and the guitar solo and these were often done in one take.

 Karl: The Culture of the country at the time and of course Hammer Horror Movies ;-)

Anything else you can tell us about the NWOBHM scene?

Brian: It was competitive, We would check out the bands that journalists like Geoff Barton & Paul Suter liked and usually we thought Diamond head were better. Between 1979 and 1982 we went to see Def Leppard/ Iron Maiden/ Saxon/Samson/ Angel Witch/ Shiva/ Chinatown/ White Spirit/ The Tygers of Pan Tang/ Girlschool/ Horsepower/ Vardis/ Praying mantis/ Girl/ Tank & Quartz among others and we always thought that Diamond Head were superior! We had a naive confidence in our own ability and no-one was going to stop us achieving our goal.

 Karl: When I look back on what was going on we were too focused on the band etc to even notice we were in this NWOBHM scene.

Obviously, Metallica cited you as a major influence which refocused attention on your music, but ignoring that, what legacy do you think you and the NWOBHM left on music?

 Karl: The NWOBHM laid the ground work for what was to follow. All the American Thrash Metal bands, just as Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple et al and the Punk era laid the ground work for NWOBHM.

Diamond Head's music speaks for itself and has been an influence on many a band. It was an honor to be part of the Big Four shows in 2011.

After you guys reformed, you played a 25th anniversary NWOBHM show with Witchfynde, Bronz, Praying Mantis and Jaguar.  A dream line up.  Any stories to share from that one?

Brian: The doors opened at 4pm so with 5 bands to sound check plus our bit being filmed we were told to be there for 12 midday. On the way to London we stopped at Marshall amps in Milton Keynes to pick up two Marshall stack and this made us late , but our singer Nick had a puncture on the way down and missed sound check altogether, arriving very stressed out.

Karl: It was good to meet the bands again and shoot the breeze. We have done a few shows with Witchfynde. They're always a laugh . We did Diamond Head's first ever US with them in 2002.

Now moving forward, what new things do we have to look forward to from the band?

Brian: This April Diamond Head have a 17 date East coast US tour taking in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Ohio, Montreal & Toronto amongst others. We are also planning a West coast tour for October and some dates in Europe in September so it looks like 2013 will be a busy year for the band.

 Karl: We're planning two US tours this year and a European run. And new product

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Brian: I keep looking for new bands and new songs, I love looking on Spotify and checking out stuff that I would not necessarily buy but am interested in listening to. For me it gets harder to be original as I get older.

 Karl: The past.  There's a saying "That it's all been done before" so, you gotta shake it up a bit and throw in some new shit.

I also just go and see or listen to something I have never heard of and leave the grey cells open.

What is you musical intention these days? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

Brian: I continue to keep my playing up to a good standard, I practice every day. I love the Diamond Head catalogue and hope others will love it too once they are exposed to it. I love this line up of the Diamond Head, we all have a lot of fun on the road.

 Karl: As a Musician I look forward to working as long as I possibly can. I have moved into production with my own studio.  I teach and have a numerous projects on the go in a number of different genres.

I have a band called 'Too Close For Missiles that is just getting up and running and has two tracks in a minor movie.

As a Musician I'm blessed to make a living at something I enjoy . I have had the greatest honor to work and  meet my heroes .

I want the audience to leave the venue feeling they have just seen the best band in the world and they have been inspired to pick up an instrument and believe

 What makes a great song?

Brian: It must connect with the listener is some way. Some people love lyrics others love melody. I have always been much more interested in music than lyrics. To me a song like AC/DCs ‘Hell Aint A Bad Place To Be’ is a great rock song but I never think about the lyrics I am too busy rocking to the groove from the awesome riff. Lyrics suddenly become important to a guy once you find love. I like a wide range of songs from Black Sabbath to the Beatles.

 Karl: Another great question. Music and the Arts are so subjective that there's a plethora of great songs from many different genres.

I would say the common denominator for this is they're all songs with feeling that connect with people.

However if we're talking musical concepts as in "the way it drops from the major to the respective minor or the way it goes from point A to B then it's a whole different answer.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

Brian: I cannot remember the very first one but Sean and I started writing heavy metal dirge’s in 1976. One was called Black Ship Sailing, and another was called Going East.

 Karl: I thought it was great as I played all the instruments on it. It was horrible ;-(

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Brian: Am I Evil? It has fabulous dynamics and I realise that dynamics are very hard to write into a song. Sure Sean and I could do it when we were 18/19/ 20 years old but these days it seems impossible. That song has become a rock classic; it has a life of its own.

 Karl: The drum track on the DH song 'Truckin'  the demo sounds nothing like the finished thing. I moved the time around on that thing as if it was on a swing. All the tempo changes on the 'Death and Progress' album. Every song but one has a bpm change in it. Also my own stuff

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Brian: Muse write great songs, they are a very talented band. I also like Kings Of Leon, Porcupine Tree, Biffy Clyro and Rival Sons.

 Karl: I like Muse. There's a lot of Classical stuff in there (which I like)  they've mixed it up with some new shit and they own now it

There great live and they have stuck to their guns and have stayed together which is the number one reason bands fail

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Brian: In September 1998 Lar Ulrich called me to say they had recorded ‘Its Electric’ for an album of covers (to be titled Garage Inc) I was about to visit California in a week’s time so he invited me down to the studio while I was there. Lars played me Metallica’s version of Its Electric in the control room which sounded great, then he suggested I play the guitar solo. Unfortunately I had not played it for about six years and could not remember it properly. Doh!

 Karl: Changing the tyre on the van at last years Bang your head festival behind the stage. Getting ready in the Van behind the stage at the Knebworth show with the Big Four minutes before going on ,; we could n't find the dressing room. Forgetting bass rig for said show. Nick's face wipes. The constant request for Genesis on the bus followed by comments "where is the song"

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Brian: Its CD for me, once i made the change in 1990 from Vinyl to CD then I have stuck with it. I probably have around 300 CDs. I cannot get on with iPods, I don’t like to put the little headphones in my ears and I don’t like listening to headphones much anymore, I like the sound on a good pair but I am worried about doing and more ear damage as I already have tinnitus.

 Karl: I prefer listening to Vinyl.. However for us as a band we have to utilize every possible format..However you do lose something in the digital realm when compared to vinyl

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice.

Brian: Beer, I hate whiskey, but i mainly drink larger. I like a good beer like Bathams bitter.

 Karl: Vodka and The Devils Weed.  No hang over on quality gear..

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Brian: I live in Stourbridge and we do not have any record shops anymore they all died out with the advent of digital downloading.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Brian: Keep the faith in music, without music life would Bflat.

Keep posted to the Official DIAMOND HEAD Facebook for more news:

4/10 – White Marsh, MD @ House Of Rock
4/11 – Wilmington, DE @ Mojo 13
4/12 – New York, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
4/13 – Amityville, NY @ Revolution
4/14 – Seymour, CT @ Dewy’s
4/15 – Montreal, QC @ Foufounes Electrique
4/16 – Quebec, QC @ Coop l’Agite
4/17 – Buffalo, NY @ Club Infinity
4/18 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Dead Horse Cantina
4/19 – Toronto, ON @ Hard Luck Bar
4/20 – Lansing, MI @ Uli’s Haus Of Rock
4/21 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
4/22 – Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s
4/25 – Long Branch, NJ @ Brighton Bar
4/26 – Allentown, PA @ Jimmy’s Place

9/27 – Oostrozebeke, BE @ Ages Of Metal Festival

1 comment:

Leo said...

Amazing interview! However, by their words, I don't think they would put together a nice record again. It seems that they are still nacisist about their own qualities and don't look much to the others. In the music camp, it seem two guys that grew up and rock music doesn't assume a big role in their lives. I hope I'm wrong.

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