Interview With Bernie Shaw 23rd August 1998
Last Modified On 21 Mar 2009
This interview was conducted over the phone. The conversation lasted just under 2 hrs so this is quite a lengthy interview and I have to say Bernie was a delight to interview giving very full answers. Thanks Bernie. And also thanks to Alex Glitin who helped get me in touch with Bernie in the first place.
I welcome any comments or criticisms of my interviews. If you have any additional questions you feel I have missed let me know.
JH – Thank you, for phoning it's nice to get chance to talk to you
BS - We've been busy lately. It's been crazy.
JH - Yes you've been getting on with the new album. Is the tour about to start?
BS - It's just a bunch of Radio interviews and Pre-tour Interviews right now. Because it is released September 14th. We have got a few more shows on the weekends coming up. Which are still kind of finishing off the summer festivals. Norway next week with Status Quo. And then 4 shows in the Czech Republic the week after that with Slade of all people. It should be a right laugh. It's Slade II little Dave's band. And then we start pre-production rehearsals for the new tour in October. We've got 1 show in London this year with Dio on the 22nd. That should be a good laugh as he is supposed to be a really good guy. And then about six weeks in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Hopefully taking us up to the 2nd week of December. Typical Heep we are going out and playing all over the place.
JH - Not America ?
BS - Not until after Christmas. We've Australia, Japan (hopefully), America, Canada right after Christmas because it's not released out their until mid January. So it's Europe before Christmas, America after. And then just follow on from there. We will hopefully get 14 months touring out of this record.
JH - So you get quite a few gigs then? A lot more than With Mantis ?
BS - Oh my God yeah (very strong laugh). It's funny it's exactly the opposite of Mantis. Mantis for one gig, like when we used to play the Marquee, we'd have like two weeks solid rehearsal and then do the one show. With Heep bar, really no shit , bar the audition rehearsals for the first tour that we did, I don't think we have ever rehearsed
JH - Really?
BS - We rehearsed new stuff for an album like Pre-production rehearsals but we don't rehearse. We just go out and do it
JH - Presumably you vary it a bit anyway ?
BS - Er yeah, we might drop in 3 or 4 new songs every tour. If it is an album tour, we'll learn as much of the new album as possible. But there is always a nucleus of old hits we will play. Which people would absolutely go crazy if we didn't. So we try and change them around. That's the beauty of having like 28 albums to choose music from. And a lot of them were really hit albums, thank God. We have a wealth of material. So we have a lot of fun. So as for rehearsing, what? (Laughs) I think Mick's philosophy is "If you don't know it by now" (Laughs) "That's what sound checks are for" (Laughs) so it keeps us on our toes. Even just now I've been playing the new CD. Rather than walk into rehearsals with just a handful of lyrics to re-learn I like to do early homework. And we're starting rehearsals around the 7th or 8th of October. But I'm starting now! I have got 14 songs to drill into my head. So it's a lot of work. There's a fuck of a lot of words. I think the average length of tune on this record is like 6 minutes. We've got maybe 1 or 2 that are 4 minute or 4 1/2 minute but the rest are all 6, 7, or 8 minute tracks. And 14 of them!
JH - Yes it is a lot of words. Unless there are long instrumental passages in there?
BS - Well there are bits and pieces but still a lot Of words. We've always been a lyric band. Which is really cool. A bit like Mantis. Especially with Chris which were very, very deep. And with a lot of words when Chris was writing songs. Tino seemed to be a little more whimsical and not so morbid. You meet Chris and he is such a nice guy but there is a lot going on in his head that you don't see.
JH - Yes I interviewed him in February and he was saying how he was naturally inclined to write about death and things. (Bernie laughs) Obviously this is worse on the last album with their father dying. But it has always been the case.
BS - Jesus
JH - I had a fan ask the other day why they never wrote love songs and er (Bernie laughs). It just doesn't interest them.
BS - Yeah really! I think the Closest thing we ever did to a love song was "Raining In Kensington" (Played Live but never officially released)
JH - Yes
BS – Still I love that song. It's a song that's timeless. It's a fucking good song. You can't say "Oh that was Written in 1970 or 1980 or 1990 ". It just sounds like a really nice song.
JH - Yes that's the favourite of the ones I have heard you doing
BS - Yeah? I really loved that song. I was green as grass when I joined Mantis. I 'd had a little experience with Grand Prix. But it was only one album. I mean because it was half way through recording the 2nd album that I got the tin tack (fired)
JH - Right. Sorry Can I start with my Questions ?
BS - Yeah sure.
JH - So were Grand Prix your first band?
BS - First UK band that's for sure. I had been singing in Canada since I was 12 or 13 years old. Garage bands then semi-pro bands. Then fairly professional band that never got too much, to writing original material. We did the Canadian Club circuit which is absolutely vast. It covers 4000 miles and we did that for about a year and a half, before I had my full of singing other people's songs and I wanted to do something different.
JH - So how did you come to be in the UK?
BS - Well it was a matter of going down to LA. or flying over to London, because I knew they were the two real stew pots of music, especially rock music. And trying to get a green card to work in America is, well they are as rare as rocking horse shit. My dad is English so he told me to get a passport and a Certificate of paternity so I could legally work. You know because he didn't think I would get a job with a band after one day. But he was wrong actually! (laughs) It took me three days to get into Grand Prix from the day I arrived. So that was pretty cool, luck was on my side.
JH - Were they already formed ?
BS - They were already formed. We called ourselves Paris for a while. We didn't even have a name when I first auditioned for them. It was basically Mick O'Donahue (?), and his friend Ralph Hood (?). And a keyboard player named Phil Lanzon who is now in Heep. But when I knew Phil he had long Curly hair and a Moustache. Drove a little Renault and was just playing 2 little Fender Rhodes (?) Piano with the boys.
JH - In my Record Mirror somewhere, it said something about you having collapsed on stage. Is that correct or have I remembered it wrong ?
BS - It was actually a little bit of over reporting. Grand Prix, when we actually got our shit together, we changed our name to Grand prix. We signed a massive deal. I think It was 1980 or 81, we signed a fucking great deal With RCA records. Because our manager at the time was working for RCA he helped get us the deal. Completely unknown to us it was a tax write off deal. That is why it was so big and I certainly don't know where the fucking money went. Just up everybody's arse I guess really. But we did Reading that year and we were special guests and we recorded our album at Markus music. Which was a beautiful recording studio. And they did the Limousine trip and all this wasting money big promotion. But the album never got in the shops because they never really wanted it to sell. It was like "Hey, we have got too much money this year". The Tourists were a priority and we weren't. So they wasted a lot of money on us but did nothing to recoup it. One of the biggest tours that year was Manfred Man's Earth Band. ALL across Europe and we were playing to 12, 000 people every night. The total tour was sold out. And Manfred had an album called "Chance" out. And it was screaming up the Charts and er really nice guys, great crew, great band. Non of that star struck stuff of you have only got 2 foot of stage space to play on which even Heep gets plagued with sometimes. So we went all across Europe. It was Brilliant. But we were in Austria sitting in a mountain top cafe and I keeled over. It wasn't on stage it was actually in a restaurant. And it was my Appendix. It was dam near ruptured. And the sound engineer said "Oh come on we'll shove him in the van". We were in Lienz (?) I think and needed to get to Graz (?) "when we get their in 5 or 6 hours we will check him in ". I can't remember who said "No" but somebody phoned the ambulance and they came and got me and within 20 minutes, I was under the knife. I would not have made it if not. It was the middle of winter, snow and all that. It was a frightening experience and luckily right at the end of the tour. We finished Europe had a couple of days off and then we played the Dominion Theatre. And I made it for the Dominion show. But that was my first show back with the band after about a fortnight. So it ended on a high note. But there is still a little part of me in a jar in Austria!
JH - So to your knowledge has the first Grand Prix album ever made it to CD?
BS - I don't think so. I certainly only have it on vinyl and tape. The 2nd album defiantly did because Phil has got one. It was called "There for none to see" and the third album defiantly did because it was called "Samurai" because that was a very Japanese influenced album.
JH - Why did you leave them?
BS - Unknown to me, totally, Ralph Hood, the bass Player wanted his friend to be the singer. I didn't even think there were any troubles. And still to this very day I have never been given a reason why I was sacked. But it was quite unceremoniously sacked! RCA were doing something very kind of silly. They said "We'll record half the album totally and mix it. We'll check it and if everything is going OK you will go back in and record the 2nd half". So we agreed and our manager said "Ok if you really want to do that". So we recorded half the album and my sister was getting married back in Vancouver. So we had a couple of weeks while RCA were making their mind up. So I flew back to Vancouver and within a week or 2 weeks of getting there my best mate here in London phoned me up. Because we were living With Phil Lanzon in his flat and he noticed there was this guy coming over and singing songs in the other room. You know my songs and he said "You better get your ass over here. They have got a new singer". And I went "Nah don't be stupid I know sud (??)". I knew this guy. He had been a friend of the guys for ages and he had his own band, they weren't doing much but he didn't have a voice anything like mine or a range anything like mine. Very, very different. So I thought and I was told "Oh it's OK he is only helping out with the demos and the backing tracks and when you get back from Canada you can go in and do the finished vocal track. " So I finished my vacation, came back and I was but and he was in. The album was done I didn't redo his vocals he redid mine! And within a week Phil said "Well your no longer in the band. You can't live with me any more, your going to have to find new digs" So it was a bit of a kick in the chops and I don't think about it too much because I get rather pissed off when I do think about it
JH - Understandably
BS - Well yeah there are ways to do things and ways not to do things. And they took the easy way out by getting the manager to say "Well it wasn't working out and it hasn't been working out for a long time". "It, it wasn't?" I must have been very, very blind or very, very naive. I don't know. But there is a lot of water under the bridge since then. I have seen the bass player Ralph once since then. And it was only a couple of years ago as he is now totally out of the music business. I think he sells insurance or works for a bank something like that. He's got dead short hair a wife, a mortgage and kids. And he still can't look me in the eye, not totally. So I know it was down to Ralph but at the end of the day it was up to the other musicians as well to either stand up for me or not. And I guess it went against me. But we all know what happened to the band after I left. It didn't get any bigger that's for sure. And actually the only guy that used it as a stepping stone and I have no ill thoughts about is Robin. Because he might not have been filled in on what the SP was from the beginning. And he was the only guy that went on and actually had a little bit of success. You know With the Michael Schenker Group, Frank Fairen (??) in Germany. He had some success with that cover of Led Zeppelin that they did. As far as I know he is in America right now. He has got a good voice. But it was just very, very different from mine. I mean very gruff almost between Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams. That kind of vocal. Where as my approach is more like Steve Perry or Lou Graham from Foreigner
JH - So were they your influences?
BS - Actually my main influence was a guy named Bert Cunnings (???) from the "Guess Who" a Canadian band they had a massive hit with one song that must have been big here called "American woman" (They did in May 1970). The Guess Who were brilliant. They did a lot of harmony work and they still had a hard edge to them. Burton actually lives in my home town right now. They were a back east band. A band from Toronto. But he lives in my little home town just outside of Victoria on a farm on Vancouver island. He still does solo stuff and he still has a great voice. But between him, and I used to listen to a lot of Rod Stewart stuff. The band I was with used to do a lot of Styx and Steve Perry to a point. His voice was almost to angelic. I liked the music because I liked all the harmonies. But I was more of a Kansa and Boston freak than a Journey freak
JH - And what made you want to become a singer?
BS - I didn't! I wanted to become a guitar player. I had my Gibson SG and my big Marshal stack. I couldn't really play it but I didn't tell anybody. And I went for an audition in Victoria's Premier rock band. A band called "Cold sweat" as a guitar player. And the same day I went out there they had a couple of other players go there and they were really hot. And the bass player who's band it was, guy named Bill Kempster said "You re.. You really can't play that, can you?" And I kind of sheepishly went "N-n-no I guess not to the degree you want" Because they were a good band. And he said "well our singer Don Sheepard has left the band.. ". Well I know Don so he said "Well give him a phone call because he has got a Sure SM58 for sale. And come back next week because we need a singer" And I went "Well I, I'm a guitar player" ( laughs )
JH - So had you tried singing then?
BS - Well I had always been a singer. I mean in all the little basement bands there has got to be someone who can open up their mouth a little bit. And that person has always been me. Even when I was 12 or 13 years old I had a little cheap Kent guitar and a gulotone (???) amplifier some would stick a microphone in front of me "You can sing". "Oh yeah OK". And we'd be doing old Yardbird stuff or Chicago stuff. The Hollies and Spencer Davies Group stuff. Going back a long way but it was something I didn't think about. "Singing? Yeah OK I can do that"
JH - So how did you become involved With Mantis then?
BS - Well through the Grand Prix bit. During the early 80's everyone was hanging out down on Waldorf Street and at "Ship" and at the Marquee and things like that and I knew Tino for ages. We were great mates and when I left Grand Prix, I think it was just a matter of course actually. I think they had just done "Time Tells No Lies" and Tino wanted to get someone in who could just handle the vocals. He thought that was their weak point, even though on record, it sounded really strong. Live they had a bit of trouble with it. Steve Carroll was a good singer but live he had a bit of trouble and Tino didn't think he had a strong enough voice for live work.
JH - He still doesn't!
BS - Yeah but he has got a great harmonies voice. And he is such a hooligan on stage! (Laughs) so we just sat down one day and worked out what we wanted to do. And I went "Yeah I will give that a try. Why not?".
JH - That was after a chap called Tom Jackson wasn't it?
BS - Tommy Jackson yeah. I don't know, Tommy and Tino were writing for a while. I think Tommy was just a little to head strong for the band. And he had his fingers in so many pies. I don't know that he could actually sit down and say "I will do this with you". I am not sure of his involvement there.
JH - I think there was a review in "Record Mirror" or something where they thought he didn't quite fit.
BS - A good writer though. Where as that was my weak point. Coming from Canada in the late 70's, every one was just doing cover songs. If I Could turn back time, one thing I would have steered myself to was getting out of the club scene earlier and getting into songwriting. Because now Western Canada is just wealth of song writers. They don't have much experience live any more because the live scene has dried up like a clam but writers Christ! I go back every year and there is like four or five guys I know writing and there is like 60 home studios in Victoria and there is only like 350,000 People in Victoria. It is a small place.
JH - Is that why Lawrence Gowan has been coming over hear and doing lot's of little Pub gigs then? He's from over there isn't he?
BS - Gowan oh yes he is very Popular there.
JH - I saw him in Colchester playing to six people the night of the England verses Romania World Cup game.
BS - Holy shit
JH - And yet it was a great gig.
BS - He plays to several thousand people in Canada he is quite a name. But you see Canada is a lot like France. It is quite a closed market. If you can break it that's great because Canada is 110% behind their own musicians now, which is something they never were. And it is like France, you can be huge in France and you don't have to worry about the rest of the world. But when you do step outside its like "Wow!" a slap in the face with reality!
JH - But he seems to enjoy coming over here and trying to break us. He's planning to come back again.
BS - Oh Cool! All power to him I like that sort of attitude because in Canada he is quite famous. And there are a lot of people like that that are quite famous over there and don't mean Jack Shit anywhere else. They can't get a look in in America because the Record Companies aren't that strong and America likes American music. Unless you have got huge amounts of money and power behind you record company and manager-wise like "Loverboy" did. But even "Loverboy" they cracked the world and then dried up again. There was a rumor last year that they were getting back together again but they certainly don't need to for the finances. And I hear the singer is an absolute, well Lee is 18 stone I think their singer isn't far behind (laughs) I don't think he would ever get back into those red plastic strides. Mind you neither one of us can I think (still laughing)
JH - When you joined the band the sound seemed to change slightly. Was that intentional?
BS - What do you mean?
JH - You seemed to go away from the Time Tells No Lies sound. I can't put my finger on it. You almost seem 2 different band to me.
BS - Er well we did some drastic changes. We got rid of Steve Carroll. And I think he is still doing his own solo thing right now. And we got a keyboard player. Musically it changed a lot. We still tried to keep the crunch but give it a little more harmony Americanism.
JH - It wasn't just a straight "let's add an extra vocalist." was it? It was a change.
BS - Yeah but that wasn't really down to me because I wasn't writing the songs. I think Dave Potts took a more active part in writing especially more on the lyrical side. Shit the weeks that we spent in Dave's 2nd dinning room. We would stay overnight for weeks on end writing stuff and working on stuff. And it didn't really come to fruition in the end. We had such good interest by so many people. I mean we were managed for a little while by John Colletta (???). I mean talk about heavyweights, he managed Deep Purple in the big years. He was still managing Gillan at the time. We used to go down to the West End and have the big band Meetings around this humongous 12 foot round amethyst table or something. I mean it was fucking huge. It was the Deep Purple chair room. And I mean he couldn't get us arrested. Ardie mogul (Don Arden?) who was a fucking mogul in his own right in America couldn't get us arrested. Which was a pain because I thought we had some really good songs. And even though we didn't get to play that often. As often as I would have liked. When we did we had a real laugh. And we were a working band. We actually got up there and worked. Which I hope came across. It was very akin to Heep. We have fun on stage with Heep. It's not stand there ignore everybody else and have your own trip. It's a band effort and it's a show. And with Mantis it was the same. We had a laugh. They kind of introduced me to camaraderie because we didn't have that with Grand Prix. It was like look at each other in the dressing room before the show and say "Have a good show see you at the end". And there was no interaction or no chemical bonding on stage. And I am sure that must have come across. With Mantis it was instant "All for one and one for all sort" of thing. Which was a laugh. I really love that. That is one of the things I love about Tino he is such a warm open guy and he is the sort of guy that unfortunately a lot of people will take advantage of. And he is exactly the same mould as Mick. They are nice guys they are true warm people. And I am not trying to be cynical but they say "Nice guys never get anywhere". It seems like they never get an even break. And Tino has put his heart and soul into Mantis. More than Chris. Chris almost hasn't had to. You know he is very successful in his own right with his work. And Tino lives it, breaths it and shits it. You know that's him. And he needs a different break. I wish these guys could go crash bam boom and take the world by storm. Because by Christ they sure deserve It. Just by sticking to it.
JH - That's right. They have been at it a long time.
BS - It's the same with Heep. Ok Heep had a lot of early success but when I joined Heep it was at the absolute nadir. And Mick said "we're one step from breaking up. I have nothing to offer you except the chance to go up. Because there is only one way. We are absolutely on the floor." And I went "I'll take that chance." because he reminded me of Tino. Unfortunately, and I really get pissed off, I haven't talked to Tino for about a year and a half now. Almost the last time was my 40th birthday and I am 42 now. And that really pisses me off because I love the guy to bits. But I think that I am so busy with Heep that people and friends just fall by the wayside. And I don't want them to fall too far. Because I really love the guy. I mean they have gone through personal changes as well
JH - Oh Yes!
BS - The worst thing, the absolute nail in the coffin, was when we went from Praying Mantis to Stratus. I never liked the name I don't normally have bad things to say about anybody, but when Dave Potts got off the drum stool and into a three piece suit he might have felt he was growing 6 inches. Because he was always self conscious about his height (laughs). But it was the kiss of death I mean Clive Burr is not the be all and end all of drummers. May be Clive thinks he is or thought he was because he came from a very popular band. But there were reasons they didn't want him any more and we never looked at that side of the coin. We went "This guys a fucking star" and you meet him he just comes across, you know, as big as a house personality wise, Peroxide hair, BMW and "Hi". And we were sucked right into it. But when it came down to sitting on the drum thrown the boy ain't much cop. Dave I think plays rings around Clive. Well he used to teach Clive. They used to sit together and Dave would go "Try this", "Try that". But Dave wanted to be a businessman.
JH - Is that why he left then?
BS - Yeah. It wasn't really leaving it was "I'm now changing. I am not going to be on the drum thrown. I am going to be in the office. I am going to manage the band" And he did and he did his best.
JH - Was that during Mantis or when you became Escape?
BS - Er, it was actually Stratus. I can't remember, which came first Escape or Stratus?
JH - It was Clive Burr's Escape then Stratus.
BS - What a fucking awful name that was!
JH - There was also Tygon.
BS - Oh Jesus, that only lasted a couple of month's. We were trying to find our niche. We want to get as much mileage out of this as possible. We were all writing new songs. The songs weren't bad but Clive was a bit of a drawback. I mean he was still a star. And we weren't and you can't have that. So he would come to set up his drums with a fucking roadie. A roadie! We were roadies. You know we set up all our own gear. He was OK I think he gave us something to strive for. If we were lacking any pride or self respect we'd go "Fucking hell, look at Clive wearing the Armani suit and Cateseo(?) shoes. We can do that". Unfortunately at the end of the day if you strip off all the fancy clothes and Peroxide hair you are as good as you are naked. And when push comes to shove Dave was a much better drummer. And he was trying to do something, OK bless him, we were all learning at the time. But he was learning how to be a manager and we were feeling the mistakes of that sometimes and it didn't go very far.
JH - Ok we are getting a bit ahead on my questions so can we just step back a bit?
BS - Ok sure
JH - What happened with Steve Carroll then? You say he got the Push?
BS - Yeah again this was all being talked about. As I was coming in, he was going out. We only did a couple of gigs together. I remember the very first gig was at the Marquee Steve was still on stage with us but there was an underlying unhappiness. And Tino defiantly wanted to go with the keyboard bit. To give us some more scope.
JH - That was Jon Bavin wasn't it?
BS - Yeah. And we were trying to phase out the two guitar thing and get a replacement instrument. We did not need to two guitars and keyboards. We only need one guitar and a keyboard.
JH - So there was only a few gigs where you were a 6 piece and then It was back down to 5.
BS - Oh yeah only a couple. Unfortunately it's all turning into a bit of a haze.
JH - Oh yes! You memory seems to be a lot better than Tino's.
BS - Really? Better? Holy shit (laughs). I still have the original 8x10 (inch) black and White photo we had took when Steve was still in the band. Right after I joined. I can't remember what record
JH - There's a red one on a bootleg with you as a six piece but I have never seen a black and White one.
BS - Oh it was the Black and White photo put out by Jet I think. Because we were with Jet records for a while. Because I remember talking to the main man (Don Arden). Christ! and then there was his son who went to prison for him. I mean fucking hell we were dealing with the Ardens (laughing) I don't believe it! I mean we had the heaviest people around the band at the time. And I don't know why it didn't things click. It sure worked with Ozzy Osbourne. What was the difference between Ozzy who was out of Black Sabbath and us? We were writing better songs in my opinion. I mean the first Ozzy lineup was horrid! I mean he is a right character. I love him to bits but Jesus you know. I mean give us a break. With all that we still didn't get a break. We played Reading we had a gas. We got buckets of piss thrown on us. It was amazing. It was great. You know believe it or not it was so much fucking fun we had a laugh.
JH - There was some talk at the time that you were too hard to be pop but too soft to be Metal.
BS - I would agree with that.
JH - You were sort of in between the two and you sort of missed it that way.
BS - Yeah but who has to pigeonhole it like that. Why can't we just be accepted for what we do? In America your not pigeonholed like that. It's only in England. And they have got to put you somewhere. A reporter or a correspondent has got to put you in a box. And the box can't be Praying Mantis it's got to be someone else's box. With you know, we're not as heavy as Saxon and Angel Witch and the B, British heavy metal wave, all that shit. I can't stand all that everything turned out to be initials TTFN. Just say goodbye. We're just a fucking rock band. We have got melody and England is not renowned for melodic rock bands America is. That's why Heep stood out amongst the rest. Deep Purple and Ian , Led Zeppelin had Robert and fucking Ozzy Osbourne for Sabbath. And then Heep fuck me five singers "Ha! What do we do with that!" Did they get slated? Oh my Christ. That's why the band had to break Germany first. Because England wouldn't have it. They couldn't put them in 2 pigeonhole "They are very heavy". "Yep but mmm. God they have got a lot of harmony. Phew! We don't have a box like that" And that 's exactly what happened to Mantis your right. But we liked it. It worked for us. I didn't want to be heavy because I don't have a heavy voice.
JH - Can you recall any thing about the recordings for the second Mantis album made in Germany but never released?
(We spent a few Minutes trying to get Bernie into the right Time frame. Sadly this was not helped by the fact I could not remember where I had stored some information which might have helped. So we will jump back in at)
JH - So can you recall where Raining in Kensington was first recorded?
BS - Shit! (long pause) It was a little studio over here because Jon Bavin did the production. He did the mixing and he was the producer but where it was I couldn't tell you
JH - There was a Mantis Fan club newsletter at the time and that seemed to say a lot of tracks had been recorded and they were due for release in a couple of months.
BS - I thought it was basically demos. It wasn't really an album.
JH - Right it looked like it was very imminent.
BS - Yes but it never came to fruition. We recorded some songs. I think we did a single basically because I still have somewhere a cassette copy of that with "Raining in Kensington" on.
JH - Oh that's interesting
BS - I don't think it ever made it to vinyl.
(A bit more Memory searching without success)
JH - So it was only demos then? Which is what Tino thought.
BS - Yes it was only demos. That is why we were trying to shop around to get the deal. And we got a couple of grand (2000 ukp) to do some demos. And Jon Bavin did all the production. Oh shit I remember the vocal booth, a very dark blue vocal booth. It was a really good microphone and Jon had a great mix. And we did Raining in Kensington and you could have heard a pin drop. "I had never heard my voice sound that good before. Because on the Grand Prix album you can't even hear the fucking vocals. It's a disgusting mix. And everybody had the hair on the back of their neck and Tino went "Yeeeaahh" And Jon went "I think we can work with that. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" And I think it was one take. That's when I first heard the phrase "one take wonder" because I did not have much studio experience. "Fuck me we've got a one take wonder. It's got all the emotion and everything" and it was really cool. And we were thinking holy shit if we get a recording deal how are we going to better some of this. But where sorry.
I then listed the set for 1982's gig at the marquee prior to the Reading
Festival show ie
1. Intro (The Steps By Visage)
2. A Question Of Time
3. Panic In The Streets
4. Running For Tomorrow
6. Raining In Kensington
7. Give Me A Reason
10. Tell Me The Nightmare's Wrong
11. Time Slipping Away
12. Enough Is Enough
13. Turn The Tables
14. Flirting With Suicide
BS - That was a poppy song "Give me a reason" Fucking hell we ail have our crosses to bare.
Cheated was a great song. I really liked Cheat ed. It was one of the old ones but it had something about it Heartache or Heartache city?
JH - It was Just Heartache
BS - Ok
JH - There are several songs there never released but clearly for the next album. Did you have any writing input ?
BS - Yep on "Enough is Enough" and "Turn the Tables"
JH - Oh yes I think you get a credit on that (wrong! strangely it is "The Horn" on Captured - Alive in Tokyo City)
BS - There was one that I never had my name on and it always pissed me off because I went "Hey Tino, didn't I help on that" and he went "Oh yes your right". But we never worried about that because Mantis was always a 5 way split unlike Uriah Heep. Welcome to reality! You don't write it you don't get a fucking penny. But I still think Mantis's way is better. It keeps everybody happy and you always get 110% out of everybody 100% of the time. I know there is a little bit of animosity with whose song is going to make it on to the album because there is only room for 2 and we have 3. We have just run across this with Heep. We've got 14 tracks on our new record 75 Minutes 36 seconds. That's too long for a CD you start loosing quality. So we have had to drop a song and Wow! (laughs) But Tino was never having that. 5 ways. And sometimes I did not write too much my effort even with Heep is on the arrangement side. I seem to be able to hear something and go "No we don't need that fluff. Lets change that, put half of that Intro, add that and try that" And although it's not writing it's arranging.
JH - And that's often where the arguments start because often a drummer can't right an actual song
BS - A lot of times no. Dave I thought was a pretty good song writer. He had some good lyrical ideas. I thought some of his melody lines were a bit bland but he always came up with pads and pads of rhymes, poems and lot's of lyrics
At this Point I Mentioned Tino was in contact With Dave again. Bernie said he had only recently wondered what had happened to Dave.
BS - I bet he hasn't changed a bit. Still looks like Cozy Powell's grandmother (laughs).
I also mentioned that Tino occasionally plays in pub bands in London.
BS - That's Tino's forte. He will play with anybody anywhere. I remember when Tino used to wrap himself gaffer tape and electricians tape with no shirt and go on stage. It used to rip all the hair off his body. He would do anything for entertaining that's what I love about him.
JH - So can you remember how Escape came about?
BS - That's when Clive joined the band and it was Dave's idea that he wanted to become the manager. He could get us a deal no problem. All our problems would be solved.
JH - Was this in response to the jet records deal falling through?
BS - Yes everything fall through. All we ever got was knock backs and Dave was a good spokesman for the band a little bit to heavy because he has this thing about the Godfather, respect and all this. He was so wrapped up in this little cartoon caper of Mafia and this sort of shit. He reads all the books and he watches all the films. All of a sudden he gets his hair cut and gets a halibutton (?) suitcase (briefcase?) and a 400 pound Armarni suit "No, give me respect", your know? It was really quite hilarious at the end of the day. We never laughed at his face. We always made sure we left the room "Holy fuck!". Bless him, he tried. He had Tristar happening with Alan Gordon. And he worked with Clive and said "We can make this work. We will use this as a selling point." So it was Clive Burr's Escape. And it never worked because It was "Clive? Clive who? Oh yeah the guy that got sacked from Iron Maiden" You know it was Quite laughable.
JH - Nothing seems to have happened between mid 82 and the end of 83 when you had your first Escape gig ?
BS - No we had a lot of time off doing up Dave Potts's(?) house. I was roofing for him. I have done everything now I have been a builder a plaster a painter a roofer all within Praying Mantis!
JH - And it said in one of the Interviews that you had three albums of material written. Do you think that likely ?
BS - We had at least two for sure. We had a wealth of material. We didn't have enough money to get it demoed so we would just rehearse it, rehearse it, rehearse it, rehearse it, rehearse it and eventually play just one show. Very demoralising. But we were the most over rehearsed band on the planet. By the time we actually got to the gig we were all so burnt out and stale. We had the adrenaline because it was finally here but talk about over-rehearsed. Maybe, well I won't pull any punches, Clive needed a lot of work but the rest of us didn't. You know there is over rehearsed and the rest of us I thought sounded over rehearsed. And you get sloppy because of it. And because you think you know it so well and inside out you go "Holy fuck, where do we go from here"
I asked Bernie what he recalled about Escapes first keyboard player Don Garbett and he didn't remember him at all. Not surprising really as he was only in the band a Month or so. Or as Bernie put it "three weeks of rehearsals and one gig then!" I then listed the set of the first Escape gig at The Marquee, London on 17th December 1983.
All Over Again
One Of These Days
Enough Is Enough
Raining In Kensington
Woman Of The Night
Tell Me The Nightmare's Wrong
Top Of The Mountain
Turn The Tables
Take No Prisoners
BS - OK we were getting some duffy songs happening there weren't we ? It really took a commercial, very clean a little bit sucky side there. "Romancer" and things like that.
JH - Ah you disliked that! I have a friend that really hates that one but I like it for the keyboard break.
BS - Yeah but there is more to a song than a keyboard solo.
JH - Agreed.
BS - Alan was a good player I liked Alan. He had no idea what live show was all about. I mean he would go on in a anorak and eat chocolate bars all day. He was skinny as a pin and he had no outward pizzazz. Unlike Tino who drips it. And Alan we had to dress him
"What do I have to wear these fucking awful cloths for?. I don't feel comfortable in these"
"I'm stuck behind my fucking keyboards"
He was a laugh he was a good keyboard player. I enjoyed working with him.
JH - "Top of the Mountain" came out on a compilation. Was it just a BBC session or was it recorded for a single too?
BS - I think it was just demoed and they recorded it for a BBC session as well.
JH - That's what I thought. So you thought some of the numbers were getting a bit weak by then?
BS - Yeah taking a very commercial turn. They didn't have any bollocks any more.
JH - Yeah the audience seemed to be complaining that the songs were too slow. You were having a really good rapport with the audience.
BS - Yeah we were getting better stage-wise but the songs weren't there and that was more again… Dave Potts was still writing with the band. Clive had some influence with the writing. And I didn't really like the direction we were going in.
JH - You even changed the order of the set between the first and second Marquee gigs in Dec 83 and Jan 84 which I found quite interesting
BS - Yeah well I don't actually remember sitting down and checking the flow of a set. I mean Heep we have got it down to a fine art. You start heavy and go up and then bring it down in the middle to get every one nice and mellow and then you go straight for the jugular at the end of the set. We never really grafted stuff out like that. It was more of "What song are we going to put in?". I don't remember it being that thought out. And when you play it for real you go "Oh fuck, that didn't work" up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down, and down and down and down. Something like that. "Oh Fuck, the old set worked better" with "Tell me the nightmares wrong" and "Raining in Kensington". But the new set didn't flow so I think that was why we changed it.
JH - Can you remember what sort of touring you did as Escape?
BS - I don't think we did tour
JH - So you probably only did the Marquee gigs
BS - We did the Marquee gig that was our Dishcloth chic. Do you remember that? It was a picture of me in remnants of a string vest
JH - Oh yes I have a photocopy of that from a Kerrang! or something.
BS - Yeah it was from Sounds or Melody Maker it was called "dishpan chic Clive Burr's Escape" I still have an article somewhere where Robbi Millar or someone… We used to get slated all the time. But they never used to mention Biff (Saxon's Vocalist) and his white boots. And he still wears them!
JH - Only two new songs from that era made the Stratus album. Any ideas why?
BS - I don't really know.
JH - And it's surprising that "Raining in Kensington " was lost completely.
BS - Yeah That Whole recording session in Germany was just a complete nightmare from first to last. Dave Potts got sucked in by this Millionaire guy who was well shifty. And he is still around in Germany. I met him a couple of year ago when we were on tour with Deep Purple and I could not believe he was still alive and not in cement overshoes. And this guy bought into the company. And "Yeah, we're gonna do this" and "We're gonna do that" and "I owe my own recording studio in Germany, we'll do the album I will pay for it. We will get the deal and then you will pay me". We said "How are we going to get there? Are you going to fly us.". "Oh no, no because you've got to take all your gear. I'll buy a bus and" blah, blah, blah and it sounded cool. Fucking hell he turn up with like a 1958 Czechoslovakian school bus painted bright florescent green with a giant Union Jack (UK Flag) painted on top and the words "Mr. Henry" written in bubble letters across the side. And it was gutted. There were just a couple of seats inside and this was our tour bus. And the bus was going to take us from London to Germany. It broke down. It overheated. It was awful. We finally got to Frankfurt and we all check into this place, because we all had to live on premises, and it was dreamboat studios. Fucking life raft studios! It was such a dilapidated clunker of an old studio that the patching bay had these humongous inch and a half diameter ceramic plugs. It didn't even have like Canon plugs on it. A kick start steam driven mixing desk and oh it was a fucking nightmare. Absolute nightmare. Bless him, this is when Norman Goodman came on the scene and Norman (laughs) was right in at the deep end. And him and the Germans. There were two Germans a tape operator and a engineer running this thing. And it was just… it hurt from beginning to end. It took ages to get a drum sound and I remember Clive going over and over and over his tracks. I think we took fourteen days to get fourteen tracks. Something like that. It was really long and really painful. And in the end it was just a complete waste of time and money I think. It never got anywhere it was just Nicky Barryshime(?) doing a little shister deal somewhere. The only thing that came out of it was one of the tracks was used. Because we finally signed for a record company called Skytracks or filmtracks? Something tracks. And they have a film outlet side and they were doing a film, actually made in Canada, called "The class of Nuke'em High". As in Nuclear. And one of our songs is played 7 times in this film. And I should have a word with Tino about this because this film was on general release and I even saw it on video 10 years ago and we have never had a penny for it.
My main fondest memory was, because I used to be a chef, I was to cook every meal. We had to stop recording sessions sometimes so that I could start the dinner! We ate a lot of fillet stake. It was right above a Porsche showroom and in this showroom were all unique conversions, special paint jobs, fairings and all that and we used to go "Which one are you going to buy when the album sells a million?" (laughs) and then we would walk upstairs to this old dilapidated building. Oh God!
JH - So that is why the mix is very thin? The band were not happy with it either? I once asked Tino about what happened to his guitar sound but all I got was "I must have had a crap amp!"
BS - Oh I think we took most of our back line from the UK. It wasn't really sound proofed. It didn't have hardly any outboard gear. I haven't heard the album in a long time but I know Norman worked his bollocks off trying to get the best out of it. But you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear. He was trying his damnedest and I know what he is capable of because Norman was the engineer and mixed our newest CD. And that was really cool because we hadn't worked together since Mantis. And we had a few good laughs "Do you remember …" "Yeah do you remember … ha, ha, ha ". And he has done a bollocks Job on Sonic Origami, just amazing.
JH - Do you have any idea who the female vocalist was on "Back Street Lover"?
BS - Her name was Carol, she was German. She was Clive's bit on the side basically. I think it was Carol. Doesn't the album say
JH- I don't know I only have a bootleg of it at present
BS- Ask Tino
JH- Yes I have never really tackled Tino on Stratus I will wait until I have him pinned down sometime
BS- It was nothing it was Clive's little bit off fluff that knew him when he was in Maiden. They used to go to all the cool places in Frankfurt when we were working because, you know, once he did the guide drums he was off.
JH- Someone was hoping to release the Stratus album in Germany.
BS- Fucking hell I hope not ! Not without a serious remix and a lot of re-recording ! (laughs)
JH- Were Stratus and Escape full time bands or did you have to work for a living ?
BS- I had to work we were never on wages we tried it with John Coletta and I think I am one of the few People that got a couple of hundred quid out of john Coletta! And in Ok end I started chefing .I was working at the players theatre for over a year . I was at another place called the AA cafe which was a great little restaurant It was basically a breakfast and luncheon restaurant down the street from St. Paul's Cathedral And I worked there for almost a year I think because Mantis was Just doing nothing .
JH- Do you know if Stratus ever played live ?
BS- No I don't think we did. No I tell a lie the very last show.
JH- What the last show in 87? That was Praying Mantis
BS- Yeah that was Stratus but we have come full circle here, "lets go back to our roots", "lets do one last gig for the fans as Praying Mantis". Because we had exhausted all avenues and nobody wanted us.
JH - You can't remember who Huge was that was on rhythm guitar?
BS- (It turned out no) Well the only people that believed in the band at end of the day were Tino Chris and myself. Dave Potts was really on the outside, you know, the business side. Outside our little nucleus so when a gig came up we would pull in people to fill out the band. Because everybody said they wanted something and we said "We are working for nothing." And the Marquee paid something like 7ukp a man back then. It was musician union wages.
JH- Some one suggested you were practicing for that gig the same time as you were practicing for Heep
BS- Nope definitely not because it was after that show. We had a sound engineer called Howard Menties (???) for Praying Mantis. And Howard actually worked for Heep as well as Mantis. And for the final gig at the Marquee, Howard had bought down Mick because knew that Mick was looking for a singer. And after the show there was a little knock on the door of the dressing room at the back there and Mick came in large as life and gave Tino a big hug and a kiss and said "Ah fucking Great" blah, blah, blah. And then he turned to me and said "Ah fucking Great" blah, blah, blah. "I want to have a word with you". I said "Oh what's the matter". "Well er, I am looking for a singer" and I said "Today is just your lucky day. I am looking for a band" and he went "Oh fucking hell" He knew all the time this was going to be our last gig and he came back to my place and we got excruciatingly drunk on some vintage cognac and he passed out under my coffee table here. He woke up the next morning with a stonker of a headache and I was sick as a dog and I have pictures of us absolutely Pissed. And he woke up "Fuck me, I think I have got a sicker" And I never got the gig! Everything was hunky dory, we did like an audition thing where I did two songs and Mick said in all honesty I Have flown this guy over from America because he has submitted this tape. And his name was Steph Fontain and he was a good singer. The tape was the fucking bollocks and as it happens they were on the way to do an American tour. And I didn't get the gig. Mick was gutted he said were going with the other guy Heep is a five way thing not just one man and they felt they wanted to go With Steph. And I was fucking gutted because I had told everybody "I'm going to join Uriah Heep. Yeah!" and everybody was happy for me and in the end they went off to America with this guy Steph. Now I am so glad I didn't do that because it almost broke up the band. The guy turned out to be a fucking lunatic and they had nothing but trouble all the way all the way across America. Gigs were being cancelled. The tour bus was a 1956 GMC tour bus with air conditioning that didn't work. And I know because we toured there two years later, on the same bus and it still didn't work. So they came back tail between their legs and I got a call from Mick and he was really sheepish and he said "We made a really big mistake here. We took the wrong boy out to America. Aare you still into doing it?" I said "Well I don't know." My pride was hurt. Then I said "What the fuck. Yes" And with in a couple of weeks we were in rehearsals .They don't even acknowledge that Steph was in the band half the time because he was only with them for something like 3 months. He was actually caught outside in either Seattle or Victoria. Trevor had got up in the night or something to get some coke out of a coke machine and he went past the Hotel front lobby and there was the singer with a suitcase. He said "Where are you going?". "I am going home man. You can Fuck off! This is fucking shit." And Trevor almost knocked seven shades of shit out of him. He said "You don't fucking leave us in the lurch like this. You don't leave in the middle of the night crawling back to LA" And I don't think they did finish the tour. I think they did come back early but they don't often mention this boys name.
JH - What was your first Heep album ?
BS - Live in Moscow
JH - So what was your first studio album ?
BS - Raging silence
JH - Because you had a video called Raging Silence to didn't you?
BS - Raging through the Silence
JH - I don't know much about Heep to be honest. I have most of your albums with them but I don't like the earlier stuff much
BS - No?
JH - No
BS - It's not every ones cup of tea I mean had never listened to them.
JH - I much prefer your era but now I have got into the live in Moscow tracks I am starting to like or at least be interested the earlier stuff
BS - Mantis had a fair amount of changes while I was with them but nothing compared to Heep. At least we have been stable now for 12 years which is longer than most bands even stay together which is kind of cool. But the first, Ken Hensley, David Byron and Gary Thain. That was a great line-up. They did some neat stuff. Very heavy stuff and then after Gary died they got Trevor in and l didn't realise Trevor had been in since 1976. I think they have had 35 or 4O people in Uriah Heep still with Mick on guitar and mostly with Lee Kerslake on drums and Trevor on bass. But the amount of people in and around on Keyboards and vocals. Holy shit and a lot of it didn't work. The chemistry wasn't very good. They got fame with David Byron singing, fortune with John Lawton singing. Because John sung on the biggest money making songs. John actually sings in a little Pub band called Gun Hill now but he is a great fucking singer a very strong voice
I read out some song titles of a demo I had heard about with Bernie on vocals. He had no memory of these tracks at all and was surprised that he had sung on them. He then said he would be interested in hearing some old Mantis era bootlegs as he did not have much from that era at all. We the got onto the subject of Japan.
BS - When Heep Went to Japan the last time, the only fucking time in 1991 ,we played Club Citta and places like that where Mantis had already played and we had a great reception and I could not believe the amount of people that came up to me and wanted to talk about Praying Mantis. And I thought "Fucking hell this is kind of cool". Ever since we have been with a record company called Metal Mania and bands that are on Metal Mania do not play Japan because none of the promoters will book you. So Heep has had this stigma over it's head for the last 9 years. But with the new album we are on a new label and hopefully we will be able to re-open those doors. It's a great market out there. It sure keeps Mantis alive right now. I've got most of their new stuff. I feel very sorry for Tino because he has never been able to get a singer and just nail it. They have had more singers than I have had hot dinners
JH - Yes and of course it is the worst thing to change
BS - Yes because it is the focal point and they have had some very good singers like Colin Peel. Great singer not much of an image very "West End" musical sort of thing but he had a great voice and he is a pretty nice chap. And then Dougie White who I have always rated as a singer. When "Midnight Blue" supported "Uriah Heep" on one of our tours I thought this guys a great fucking singer and he has gone from strength to strength and last year he sent me a CD and it is with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.
JH - I must admit I wasn't keen on him myself
BS - Well he wasn't right for Mantis but he was great for Rainbow
JH - Why did Stratus fold? Presumably because you did not get any where?
BS - We got no where. We got absolutely fucking no where quick
JH - Do you have any idea what happened to Alan Nelson?
BS - No he completely disappeared into the woodwork. I haven't even seen him in a pub since. I don't even know what has happened to Clive recently.
Some how I side-tracked onto the fact Paul Di'Anno had recently played Brazil
BS - I have got to take my hat off to that boy I mean he is not the world's greatest singer and he is certainly not the world's greatest song writer. But people have stuck by him because he was Maiden's original singer and he has a very strong fan base all over the world. You don't just hop on a plane and go to South America for nothing. I mean there has got to be your visas, your equipment, your sound spec and your light spec. Your hotels ,your crew and your airfare. Your internal transport. Even if he went down there for Ten bucks a show which he wouldn't there is too much money and too much organisation to go down really small time. We go down to south America but usually only down to Brazil. We haven't cracked Chile and Argentina like Nazareth have. And they pay well. We play in a place that reminds me of glorified club Citta down in Rio. We always do two days and it is a fucking humongous black room with golden rails everywhere and it's a giant club and that is where everybody plays. Rod Stewart is on the door. Tina Turner is on the door. Were on the door. Bachman Turner Overdrive are on the door. Everybody that goes down there and plays has a little gold plaque on the dressing room door and everyone who goes down there plays this place. And they pay you in American dollars and you have laugh. So if he is still doing that far away stuff that is great. People say to us "Hey you guys can only get arrested in the Eastern block". Well that ain't true we play everywhere but we will play 1200 to 1500 seaters in Germany and we will play 18,000 to 25000 in the Eastern block or in Russia. We did 3 shows in July and the smallest one was to 18,000
JH - I bet that is quite a thrill still then
BS - It's cool Yeah. And for the first time the dressing room had a little entrance and maybe a 30 foot walk to a van limousine/van thing and there were something like 50 Police men cordoning off the sidewalk from the door to the van. And there was like 6000 or 7000 screaming kids and we had to go through this little tunnel of policeman. It was like the Beatles in shay(?) stadium for fuck sake. It was cool! We went "Hey ha, ha" That was the first time in 12 years that had happened. Usually your so far away from the crowd at the back door. But this was so fucking cool. And you don't get that happen in London. I would not want it to happen everyday as it was a little scary. Faces just pushed up to the window of the van and the driver having to drive though masses of people. It's still fun. They had a good time and we had a good time.
JH - Presumably you are full time now are you?
BS - I have never been anything but
JH - With Heep
BS - With Heep. From the very first gig it's been full time I mean even if we have four or five weeks off it is usually around Christmas and then we all bugger off. We had a month and a half break two years ago. We were still looking for a new record deal and things were at a bit of a low ebb and we weren't working too much in the summer. For a laugh I got job as a motorcycle messenger you know a courier and I rented my Honda CX500 and got all the fucking gear. I never want to work a 9 to 5 again. I mean I like motorcycles. I have a Harley and I have a laugh with that but this was hard graft I almost got killed a million times. I started work at 7.30 didn't get home until 9pm and barley had time for a burger in the middle of the day. You know these boys work there butts off. And just to have a little taste off reality I did that. Holy shit! But normally I don't have time to think of anything else but Heep.
JH - So it is a case of album tour album tour?
BS - Album tour, tour, tour, Album, tour, tour, tour. I don't know many bands that work as much as we do. Maybe in America they do but for Europe we go on a major tour four or five times a year. Because we play all over the fucking world. Which is neat. Mind you it doesn't leave much time for socializing.
JH - To a certain degree that must be part of the problem with Mantis. They never really go out and toured
BS - No we were never much of a live band. We always wanted to but there was never the output. I don't think we did an English as a real English tour. We just played in and around London
JH - So you didn't do a tour after the 82 Reading Festival then?
BS - I don't think so. We opened up for a few people but that was about it.
JH - Well I think I have exhausted my questions now so thank you very much. I am very impressed at how much you still remember
BS - (Laughs) You were dusting off some Grey cells there I tell you. Especially on some of those song titles "Oh my God. oh yeah"