Dennis Stratton Interview - Oct 1999
Last Modified On 21 Mar 2009
On 27 October 1999 Dennis Stratton kindly agreed to allow me to interview him about his whole career at a pub on the River Thames in London. I don’t think he realised the extent of the Questions so I am grateful for his patience. I am still in the progress of typing this up but I thought I would release another section. Dennis’s Career to the end of Maiden.
JH - A Simple question to start with. Let me know when you get fed up! Did you have trials for West Ham Football Club (Soccer)?
DS - West Ham Boys. Yeah the youth team.
JH - Paula Yates reported it in Record Mirror on The 24th May 1980.
DS - Yeah anyone that was any good in East End played for their school football team. West Ham talent Scouts used to come over and watch the team and if there were a couple of boys that was shinning, they used to get them over for West Ham Boys training. But it was only for West Ham boy’s youth team. I think the age range was from about 11 or 12 through to 14 or 15. But yeah I played for the very young team. I was very young.
JH - You presumably played for your school team. Did they have county teams or anything?
DS - No, no you just played for the school and because it was a Catholic school you played for different cups and tournaments. No, you just played for the school and if you were picked to play for the West Ham boys side you would play once every now and then for that team. But it was only a very small youth team. It wasn't like nowadays where you get kids of only 7 and 8 getting signed for big teams. In those days you went through the ranks. You went into West Ham boys at 16 then you went into the Colts at 18. Then you would slowly try and work yourself through. Nowadays they are spotting 7 years olds and poaching them and putting them through a youth training scheme at 7. So it is completely different now.
JH - So you only played for the youth.
DS - Yeah it was only the West Ham Boys. It wasn't anything to do with the main team.
JH - Is that why you are a West Ham Fan?
DS - No my dad took me over to matches once I was old enough to walk. My Uncle, my Dad's brother Les, played semi-professionally and then he also played for England but he broke his leg. He broke his leg twice and it finished his playing career. My dad was very good at football and he could have been very good. A lot of people were watching him years ago but then I think he was working in the Docks and the War broke out so he had to go back to working in the Docks when Football was suspended. He had to go to work. And my dad used to take me over to West Ham every Saturday when we were playing at home and sit me on the bar of the crush barriers where people put their elbows. This was before we had all seater stadiums. Wallace St Pier??? was the head scout and my uncle knew a lot of the players so my Uncle used to get a lot of the autographs for me. And because my dad was a fan and I went as a kid when I grew older I started to go on my own. And I just went nearly every other week to watch the home games. So living in the area you are sort of West Ham born and breed really too.
JH - Who were your influences and why did you learn to play guitar?
DS - At the age of 16 I was knocking around with a group of lads around the East End. We'd play football and Table tennis and did everything together. They had a little band and for some reason the guy that was playing guitar decided he wanted to be the Bass player. So he wanted to sell his guitar and become the bass player. I bought the guitar from him although I couldn't play it and it just sat in the corner of my bedroom. And then they had a little band together that used to practice in church halls youth clubs and scout huts. And then at 16 I used to go to (and it was very illegal but I still did it) a pub called the Bridgehouse. I was supposed to be 18 so we made out I was 18 but I was in fact 16. We used to go up there and there was a band up there called Power Pack. They used to play up there every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And there was a band called Freedom which was Bobby Harrison from Procol Harum on drums and Walt Monham(????) who went on to lots of other bands including "If". And Roger Sanders who was the guitarist. Freedom years ago supported Black Sabbath at the Royal Albert Hall. Jesus that was a long time ago! Anyway they used to play on the Wednesday night. I used to stand in front of the stage watching them play. And I used to remember the songs they played. Although I couldn't read music or even play chords I used to remember the tunes that I had heard and I would sit in my room and learns the tunes I had seen in the pub. And over the next six months or so I started picking up chords and copying the songs. Because I was at the pub every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I knew the songs inside out backwards and everything. And within 6 to 9 months I was playing chords, just basic chords and the stuff they were doing like Morning Dew (Nazareth and Blackfoot did it). They were doing old stuff. I can't think of the names of the bands now. King Crimson and stuff like that. Deep Purple Smoke On The Water. And slowly I got to learn these songs and the guy I bought the guitar off said "Well now you are playing you might as well join our band". So I started. We started doing things like the Beatles "Get Back" or you know things like the Equals (Eagles?) Bobby Joe, Canned Heat "Let's work together" and things like that. It was all old stuff like that, which we were listening to.
JH - So how old are you?
DS - 47. I have to go back to the year I was born and work it out!
JH - Yes I am the same.
DS - So yeah I was about 16 at the time.
JH - So that would be about 1970.
DS - So 68-70. Yeah between 16-18. I was learning the guitar and watching them in this pub. And then when I was about 18-19 we started doing our first few gigs in pubs with hardly any PA. And I remember my mum and dad coming down to the very first gig I did in a pub. I was only about 16 or 17 and in the break my dad told me to get rid of the fellow on he whistle because the PA kept feeding back. He very sarcastically told me to get rid of the geezer on the whistle because it was driving him mad. And I remember it even until today.
JH - Did you ever want to sing?
DS - Yes, I always wanted to but I was always one of these people that sort of concentrated on harmonies and learning the guitar. When I was about 18 or 19 my idols were Wishbone Ash. Andy Powell, Ted Turner and the guitars. Blowing Free and all that. We copied Wishbone Ash to the letter. I even bought a copy of a flying V because I wanted to play like Andy Powell, you know? I saw every gig they ever did. I went all round England watching them and our set list used to have 4 or 5 Wishbone Ash numbers in it because I loved them. And that was how I got into Harmony guitars. So every band I was in was based around guitars.
JH - So you were normally in two guitar bands?
DS - Yeah the first band that we did early pub gigs with was always two guitars bass and drums. We had a band that was playing the Bridge House a couple of nights a week. Sunday lunch times and another night. Power Pack had moved on a little bit. They were only doing the odd nights there and Freedom weren't playing there any more. The Pub changed owners a couple of times. And then, yeah that's it, it wasn't the first band I ever played pub gigs with. That was only kids mucking about trying to get songs together. But the very first serious band was a band called Harvest, which were me and Steve Got??? who I went to College with and two other fellows. That was the very first serious band we did in the Cart and Horses at Stratford. That was before Maiden started. And that was us and Slow Burn with Lea Hart. They were up the Cart and Horses and we were up there. And the sort of stuff we were doing then was Mungo Jerry and stuff like that. I am just trying to think of the sorts of songs we did.
JH - In the Summer time was Mungo Jerry.
DS - Yeah and Hey Jude by the Beatles was another we did. That sort of era. And we were doing the Harmony guitar bits and everything. Then the bass player and me decided we wanted to try it with a keyboard player and drummer. We really got serious because the band then became Wedgwood with Jeff Terror??? on keyboards and Roger Diamond on drums. Then we went back to the Bridge House and we were doing really well then. We were packing it out. And we were doing a lot more involved songs. Yes's Long Distance Roundabout. Love Lies Bleeding by Elton John. All very dramatic songs.
JH - So this was just drums, keyboards, 1 guitar and Bass?
DS - Yes and that lasted maybe 18 months. I could be wrong it could be two year or maybe just a year I can't remember. But the songs were great. It was me and the keyboard player who used to do all the vocals. Then for some reason we just got restless without the two guitars. There was a band going around called ... oh I can't think of their name. They are Uncle Sam now. The guy that was playing with them Dave Edwards the guitarist
JH - Remus Down Boulevard?
DS - No this is before that. Dave was playing in one band. It was the March Hares years ago and then I think they changed their name to Uncle Sam. Dave had a great voice. He was even on some of the Demo's I did with Lionheart. I had him come down and play on some. I still do gigs with him now in the pubs. We have known one another since we were like 12-14 years old and we still gig together now. Dave does a lot of work on Lead guitars he sets them up etc. Dave was playing with a band called Uncle Sam and me and Steve Gough??? were playing in a band called Wedgwood. We met up one day and Dave said why don't we just join forces and get a right Rock'N'Roll band together. Two guitars, me and Dave singing and we had two rehearsals at Leytonstone. We got Johnny Richardson in on drums who at the time had been playing with a band called Blockade doing quite a lot of gigs round the East End. Me, Dave and Steve Gough??? the bass player went into the rehearsal studio for two days and the following week we were up the Bridge house playing as RDB. Remus Down Boulevard. And the pub was absolutely chocker. Absolutely packed. Then we started to create such a buzz doing all the circuit, we used to do the Greyhound at the Fulham Palace Road, The Golden Lion at Fulham Broadway, the North Pole up by Wormwood Scrubs Prison. The Bridge House. We did the Live album at the Bridge House. RDB just took off throughout London and it was so exciting the two vocals and the two guitars. It was raunchy Rock and we started to write all out own material. And then we had a visit from Jonathan King. He was with UK records at the time (and is well known in the UK as a producer and performer of chart hits under various pseudonyms.) He came down the Bridge House in his White Rolls Royce he sat right on the front of the stage and listened and he was bowled over. He signed us to UK records and then he did something he had never ever done in his life before. He decided to do the very first album, with RDB, our debut album, he decided to do it live at the Marquee. This was something he had never done before ever. The Marquee was sold out and you just couldn't move. It was the old Marquee. And we did one night at the Marquee recorded live and then after we had all the photos done for the album. The logo was RDB, Remus Down Boulevard, in a circle, like a, I can't think of the car is it a Volvo? going down like that with a circle but the other way up (Sorry I can't remember what he drew) We have still got the plastic things that they made and everything was going 100mph and then Jonathan King decided to pack up his UK records business and go more into Production. The album got shelved.
JH - So it never came out?
DS - No. The album got shelved. We have still got the clipping we were on the front page of Music Business or is it Music week? The American billboard something like that. And there was us Ron Potter our manager Jonathan King all in a big crowd drinking Champagne. A big photo in the magazine and it never came out. Nothing ever happened. And then we thought "Well, sod it!" and we just carried on. Jonathan King was no more and we carried on doing the circuit and we supported a few bands on different gigs and we just blew them off stage.
JH - What did the name mean?
DS - Remus Down Boulevard? It meant The Station down the street. One of the Roadies who was working for us. They were all mad our road crew. When we used to do sound checks, you know the plastic 4" by 12" sound covers you put over the top of your speaker cabinets? The two Roadies would get inside the two 4"x12" covers in the hall while we are doing the sound check and run around so it would look like the two speaker cabinets were running round the hall. They were just lunatics. Captain Pugwash and Steve I can't think of his 2nd name. "Why don't you call yourselves Remus Down Boulevard?" "What does that mean?" "Remus," in America apparently, Remus is a station. Down and then Boulevard is a street. They just saw this sign. He was in America somewhere and he saw this sign up on a post somewhere with an Arrow "Remus Down Boulevard" And he said "Why don't you call yourselves Remus Down Boulevard?" So we went "Alright!" So it was RDB. And then we got involved with a couple of people that had these stickers done. RDB, in Red and no matter were you went in London, Chiswick, Fulham, King’s Road, and everywhere. They were there. They were on one-way signs. They were on No Entry signs. We were even looking up in the air to see if they were stuck on planes at one time. It was just ridiculous! Again we created so much interest. And then Quarry became very interested in the band. And Quarry management was Colin Johnson. Crutch Lee ??? Bob James. They managed Status Quo, Rory Gallagher, Jackie Lynton and a band called Nutz. And they signed RDB. They wanted the band so they signed us and put us out on the road supporting Nutz and we blew them off stage we were just Animals. We supported all bands like CoCoMo??? Snafu because of the connection with Bobby Harrison on Drums and Whitesnake's Slide Guitarist Mickey Moody. They were in Snafu. They were all old friends. It was all done through Quarry Management. The next big break came supporting Quo. Quo were doing a 3 month European/Scandinavian Tour. And they stuck us on tour with them and we just rocked. Everywhere we went we just brought the house down. And then we had really big problem getting a deal. We couldn't get a record deal for love or money. Loads of people were interested in the band but we were just hitting a brick wall. And then slowly the band just fizzled out. You know we had down loads of work. RDB used to play the Bridge House in Canning Town. That is where I first met Steve Harris.
JH - I was told there was a Live Week At The Bridge Recording.
DS - Yeah a Live Week At The Bridge that's it.
JH - That came out did it?
DS - Yeah that did really well. It's got Jackie Lynton. RDB. Salt, the blues band. Chris Thompson, from the Manfred Mann Earth Band. Steve Waller??? He did all the pubs and clubs. Roll up's??? which was Slow Burn??? which was Lea Hart again. Yeah it was a collection of about 5 or 6 bands and we all recorded two tracks each.
JH - "Gun Runner" and ?
DS - "Only For You". I wrote "Only For You" and Dave and I wrote "Gun Runner" together. Yeah it was a great album. As a matter of fact the last time we were in Japan we were in a record shop signing albums and one of the fans brought down a Live at The Bridge album for me to sign. I was amazed he had got hold of it. That was all when Terry Murphy had the Bridge House and he has got a record press now out at Stratford. But he got involved with Chris Thompson who did a bit of record producing and he just got involved. So that's how that came about. But yeah I think we had 6 days at the Bridge House they recorded the whole night and each band picked two songs for the release. They used our crowd every night because ours was the loudest! So yeah it was good. I think what happened was it just fizzled out because we were fed up of waiting for a deal and it was at that time when we were on our last legs and my wife at the time noticed an advert in the Melody Maker. "Iron Maiden, EMI Recording artists seek guitarist/backing vocalist" and we were debating weather to write off or phone up for it. In them days you had telegrams and I was doing a painting job at Stratford and I got on a bus at Stratford Broadway to go to Canning Town where I was living. And a girl came up to me on the bus and said "Your Dennis Stratton?" I went "Yeah" and she said "Oh Hello my names Lorraine. I am Steve Harris's girlfriend." And I said "Yeah" rather blankly. And she went "I take it you haven't been home yet?" and I said "No". "Oh well when you get home there is a telegram waiting for you to ring Rod Smallwood because they are interested in you joining Iron Maiden". And I said "Well how did they know about me?" She said Steve used to come down every night and watch the band play. I didn't know Steve at the time. He apparently loved it. Iron Maiden weren't allowed to play in the Bridge House club because they were too heavy. So they were over the Cart and Horses or the Ruskin???. On the nights they weren't playing and when he knew RDB were going to play the Bridge House he come down. Again one night I remember him in there because he had a West Ham Scarf on and I was taking the Mickey out of him. When I got home my wife said "there's a telegram here for you" and I said "I know what it is". And I picked up the Telegram and it just said "Dear Dennis, please ring Rod Smallwood at the above number Re Iron Maiden". And then the following day I was down at Wardour Street in the Ship pub near the Marquee. And I meet up with Steve, Dave Murray and Rod and from there on Rod said "Steve wants you in the band. I don't think you will have any trouble learning the material" I must admit I was a bit ignorant about Iron Maiden's material at the time because I had been so involved with RDB and the tour with Quo. I had therefore never really got to listening to the really Heavy Metal stuff. And he said they had a really big following and they had done the Soundhouse Tapes but "We are due to go into the studio and record the first album" on EMI.
JH - So you didn't do Metal For Muthas then?
(Dennis wasn't really aware of these tracks)
DS - What it was he told me about this big following at the Soundhouse and Neal Kaye. They had signed this big deal with EMI. And What they were looking for was not only a guitarist that could do backing vocals and whatever but someone who also had a bit of experience in the recording studios and touring because you have got to remember they were still very young. And although they had done lots of gigs in clubs and travelled around a lot in the old Green Goddess. They done one night gigs up in Wigan and places but they had never actually done a full tour. So I said "Yeah no problem". There was a little bit of an argument about money because I was married and had a little daughter and I needed a bit more money than the rest of them because they were all living with their parents and whatever. So we got all that out of the way and they gave me a tape of some songs and I went home and I think the first one I played was "Phantom Of The Opera" and it had all these harmonies and I thought "Yeah this is all right". And then they were rehearsing over at Hollywood Studios, Clapham just round the corner from where Dave was living with his mum. I went over there and walked in and then realised they were also looking for drummer. So I went into the studio and there was tons of gear and I have never rehearsed so bloody loud in all my life. And we went through a few harmony things and they were over of the moon. They just said "this is exactly what we have been looking for. You’re in. Lets get going" and all that. And we went for a beer in the pub next door and I was talking to Steve and Paul or Dave and I said I didn't realise you were looking for a Drummer. And they went "Yeah". They were auditioning at the time and they had tried out Thundersticks (of Samson fame) and a few others and they said "Can you recommend anyone". And at the time I had played with two drummers Johnny Richardson who was an excellent drummer. Unfortunately his hearing was playing up. He was told by the doctor he couldn't carry on playing. If he did he would end up deaf. And the other drummer was Clive Burr. So I said "There are a couple of drummers I know". My preferred choice was Johnny Richardson. He was the best drummer very technical very clever and fast. He came down and gave it a go but he couldn't handle the volume. And he just said "Sorry Den, I can't do it". So I said there is one more person. I used to see Clive Burr over at the Fleece. It's a pub on Wanstead flats that everyone goes to in the summer. And they all sort of sit outside. I saw him in their one night and I said "What are you doing? I am now working with Iron Maiden and they are looking for a drummer" And he said "Well stick my name forward". He came down to the rehearsal the next day and played. And they went "yeah, fine" and that is how he ended up coming in.
JH - So can you explain what Harmony guitar is? (You might know but I didn't so perhaps someone else doesn't too)
DS - What Harmony Guitar is? (Dennis can't believe I am asking either!)
JH - Yeah as opposed to Lead guitar.
DS - Well it's two guitars playing like melodies instead of solos. A Lead guitar solo is something you would hear wailing away above backing chords and things like that. With Harmony guitars they play melody, a part of the song, which sometimes copies the chorus for instance. You know it would play what you sing in the chorus. And all it is two guitars, one playing the Root and one playing the harmony to it whatever the harmony would be.
JH - Is it what lead guitars are doing when it is not doing solos?
DS - No. No, no, no. You would say have a rhythm guitar which is just chords behind a vocal. And when the vocal finishes you would go into a lead guitar solo. Let's take Smoke On The Water then I can explain better. You have Der, Der, Dum, Der da, da Dum. That is the Rhythm. When it goes into the "Smoke On The Water, fire in the Sky" it goes into (sings a drum rhythm) and Ritchie Blackmore goes into a solo and that solo goes all the way through until it goes er, er, er, errrr and it goes back into the chords. Well that is a solo and chords. For instance in the Mantis stuff and even in the Wishbone Ash stuff, Harmonies would do a melody to either take place of the lead guitar solo or play it before or after the lead guitar solo. So for instance let's take a track we are both very familiar with "Best Years Of My Life" from Forever In Time. For instance it starts off (sings the section starting 0.27into the song.) That is two guitars in harmony playing the melody of the song. (Sings) "Looking at the photographs" that sort of thing. So the guitars are copying that. When it gets to the middle part of the song (3.46) Bump par Bump, ti ta ti. Bump par bump then the solo comes in. That's your lead guitar solo. When that finishes as it comes onto the later part of the song it comes back in with the main melody again (6.43). The Harmony guitars come back in. So the harmony guitars are taking the place of the vocal choruses by playing the melody of the choruses but they still give room in the song for a lead guitar solo.
JH - So is Tino a harmony guitar player as well?
DS - No we both are. It depends. There are no rules.
JH - So you are both lead and Harmony at the same time.
DS - No. Both of us play each part to make that Harmony. You have got to have two guitars doing the separate parts to make the Harmony. They don't play the same notes. They play the same tunes a few notes apart. When we play I will say "I'll Play this part, can you stick the harmony to that down". And we sit there and do it. There are no rules as to who plays the harmony and who plays the root. At the end of the day if the root of the song is sings "I'm living on memories" then the lead guitar that is playing the root would then play the same notes. The other guitar would then play the Harmony to it a little higher up. There are no rules as to who plays what part we just get together and say "Help, stick a harmony to this" or whatever. The best person to listen to for harmony guitar work is Brain May (of Queen). Because Brain May plays Harmony guitars but he plays orchestral Harmony guitars. He may put six or seven harmony guitar parts down. And you may hear those in Bohemian Rhapsody and all that. Them guitars that he did he has just tracked and tracked and tracked them. And he has put them from low to high and he might have put a dozen guitars on there which makes it more of an orchestral sounding harmony. Where as Tino and I just concentrate on the two parts. But it depends on how the band is put together. You would never hear Black Sabbath Free or Deep Purple playing Harmony guitars because there is only one guitarist in the band. Weather they have got keyboards or a three-piece band. One of the earliest bands I ever which I call Heavy Rock or Heavy Metal was Uriah Heep. They would use Harmony Guitars every now and then. Styx in America used a lot of Harmony Guitars. UFO used them a few times too. Phil Raymond the keyboard player used to go to second guitar. When I joined Maiden there weren't many harmony guitars going on in the band but because I was just totally obsessed with Harmony guitars everything I did with Maiden, I just sat in the studio and put harmonies on. And it sort of took form e.g. with Running Free and Phantom Of The Opera. All them were harmony parts that I have put loads of guitars on. And when we came to do the first Iron Maiden album the engineer had me in the studio all day and night playing harmony guitars. A lot of them we didn't use. And then we did Phantom of the Opera Paul did his Lead Vocal and I went in and did about 4 Harmony parts on vocals and built it right up and Rod Smallwood came into the control room and heard all these Harmonies. It sounded huge. And he turned round and said "It sounds like f**king Queen" and walked out. So half the vocals had to come off.
JH - So did they not have a 2nd guitarist before?
DS - To be honest I don't know. I wasn't interested in the band. I was always away on tour and doing so many different things so I never really heard their stuff. When they told me they had got a deal with EMI I didn't really hear any of the old stuff. They played me the Soundhouse tapes but a lot of it was very poor quality. So I just went in the studio and as soon as I heard the songs especially Phantom Of The Opera and things like that. Even Iron Maiden. Everything I stuck a Harmony guitar too. You know it was just in me and it made the two guitars sound different and a bit fuller rather than just playing chords while Dave (Murray) was playing we did the two together. But regarding to before I was with them, I didn't know because I hadn't heard them much. I remember when I first joined and I did an interview and the guy that was doing the interview asked me a question and I said "I am sorry, I can't really answer that because I didn't really know much about Iron Maiden before I joined them and I don't think I really liked the music that much" and Steve stopped the interview and said "You can't say things like that!" I went "Why? It's true". And he said "Yes but you can't say things like that". And that was when I started to learn who was running the band. It was kind of like being back at school.
JH - So you only played on the album and a couple of singles afterwards presumably.
DS - Woman In Uniform and Running Free.
JH - Were you on the Live In Japan EP?
DS - No. I didn't go to Japan with Maiden.
JH - So did you do any live recordings with them? Any Videos?
DS - We did a Woman In Uniform Video.
JH - How about a TV special in Germany? No that was after you.
DS - We did a Metal for Muthas Tour with Praying Mantis.
JH - How did you get on with them?
DS - Brilliant. Well I always get on with everyone because I had toured before. Paul Di'Anno had a bit of a star trip and wouldn't talk to anyone and wanted his own dressing room. But I got on well with Mantis Tino and Chris and .. I can't remember who was in the band then. But as soon as I joined Maiden I always got on well with the crew and everyone. I used to share rooms with Dave Lights. I would always travel with the crew because they were more of a laugh. That's what Rod didn't like and nor did Steve but that was me. I just like to be different every now and then. You can't live out of one another’s pockets all the time. I think what happened was the Metal For Muthas tour got called to a halt near the end. It didn't complete the tour because Maiden got offered the Judas Priest tour. And that caused a big problem because we were due to go on the Judas Priest tour and Paul slagged them off in the Press. They then didn't want us on the tour and that caused a little bit of politics on the tour. But I got on really well with Glenn Tipton. He used to lend me his guitar tuner because we didn't have one. Yeah I got on really well with them and we completed the Judas Priest tour we flew out and did the Kiss tour. We meet the out in Milan or somewhere out that way and we toured with them right round Europe and Scandinavia.
JH - Did they mix?
DS - What happened was Dave Lights and I used to share hotel room and we used to like enjoying ourselves. Rod Smallwood didn't like the idea of me going and having a laugh or whatever and he wanted to keep everyone in one little band. And I tried to explain to him that by having everyone living out of each other’s pockets we would end up rowing. I knew this because it had happened before with other bands. What put the icing on the cake was we all had Walkmans and our own little players in the hotel room and one of my favourite songs was "Soldier of fortune" by David Coverdale. Late at night when my head used to be pounding because of the volume and the fact I had a lot to do on stage. I used to do a lot of work. I used to do all the backing vocals and everything. And I just wanted to relax. Clive and I used to swap tapes. I used to listen to things like George Benson, Average White band, Eagles. Loads of Eagles, just relaxing. Little River Band, you know all interesting melodic stuff. And it got to the point we were in one Hotel and Rod came up and started shouting at me saying I am not supposed to be listening to this type of music. And I said to him "If I listen to Motorhead 24 hours a day my brain would be gone. You can't do things like that to people" and he said "Well you can't be into the band if you are listening to that sort of stuff.". It just got silly. It got out of hand. We weren't mixing well and it got round to Oslo I think at the end of the Kiss tour. I had "Soldier of Fortune" on Stun volume because I was in the Shower. And he had heard it. And he was saying "If you are going to keep listening to all this slow soft stuff ... " and it just got a bit silly. I said something like "Your just a bully" and we just fell out. And after the Kiss tour he said "Right we're not getting on. Your not into the band." I said what do you mean "I'm not into the band?" He said "I can't fault your playing and your singing but you are just not into the band." I went "Oh f**king hell" and just walked out of the office and that was it.
JH - Right. So it was basically because of what you were listening too rather than real musical differences?
DS - Yeah. It was nothing to do with musical differences.
JH - If you were a drummer you would probably have got away with it.
DS - May be. Of the job I was doing he said "I can't fault your playing. I can't fault your singing. Nothing". Geoff Barton a reported for Sounds at the time knew what was going on because he came out for a few days on the Kiss tour and he saw what was happening. When we got back to London and I went up the office and Rod said it wasn't working out, I was a bit gutted and I left it a couple of days and then went up and saw Geoff. I told him about the Eagles stuff and he couldn't believe it. He said "I knew Rod ruled it with an iron fist but not that much". And Steve as well. It was the pair of them. Oh that was it because I used to stand up for myself and no one else would at the end of the Kiss tour we hadn't been home for 2 or 3 months and Rod came up and called a meeting in the dressing room and said after the last show, him and Steve are flying back. And we have all got to get a train. And that pissed me off! I said "I have been away home the same time as you. The money that this band has earned you can't tell me we can't afford to fly us all home.". And I stood up for everyone and he didn't like it. But in the end we all flew home.
JH - So it was Steve Harris's baby even then?
DS - Oh it was Steve's baby even before the album was recorded for EMI. Every decision was his. And that was another thing, with Kiss I really got on with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and on my birthday in Stockholm they took me out for a meal and Rod went mad. He said "No one's allowed to mix with Kiss except Steve" And I had all these photos taken with them without their makeup on and they loved it. Dave Lights and I used to go out with them and it all just got so silly. And I got depressed just trying to do my job. When I saw Geoff Barton at Sounds he said "I can't believe it" And you know every week in Sounds they used to have a play list. The people at Sounds used to pick songs from their favourite albums. The following week, and I have still got the press cutting at home, it's got number 1 dedicated to Dennis Stratton The Eagles "Take It To The Limit". Then it was basically two weeks after that, that I got involved with Jess Cox and from there it went on to Lionheart. Then the rest is like Lionheart and Mantis. And funnily enough after the Maiden thing I got Lionheart together with Steve Mann (who Mixed the "Nowhere To Hide" album) and Rocky Newton. I went back and started to do more gigs in the pubs with Dave Edwards from RDB and we carried on doing the pubs and the clubs because it was extra money and we still enjoyed playing together. It was good.
JH - Did you regret losing it with Maiden?
DS - I must admit hand on heart I did find the music a bit hard to chew. A lot of people see the early stuff and then say they lost their direction. I can't see that as they have made an absolute fortune.
JH - Mmm I can understand it. I liked the first album but not the 2nd (at the time). I was very disappointed as it sounded so rough.
DS - I think that is because I wasn't there and they got someone else in who made the direction kind of change. I don't know. I have had a lot of people say to me that the first album with the original line-up and all the Harmonies ... but you can't stop that band. They have taken off and they have become one of the biggest bands in the world. I did tell Rod Smallwood there was no way Maiden would ever break America while Paul Di'Anno sang in the band. I was in the ship in Wardour Street when Bruce Dickinson told me he had been offered the gig. And I said "Yeah take it. And if you take it Maiden will be big in America" because he had the range to go up against your Robert Plant's and Sammy Hager's and people like that. Whereas Paul didn't. But looking at the other side of the coin I would have been a very rich person and wouldn't have to worry about money again in my life so there is two sides to it really. I don't know perhaps if I had stayed in Iron Maiden then my son Jack wouldn’t have been born and then you have got your bonuses. (Incidentally The Ballad "Whenever I'm Lost" on Nowhere To Hide was written by Dennis for his son Jack)
JH - You might not have been as happy music wise
DS - That's right. You have too look at all the different sides of how your life takes shape and be thankful for what you have. My son Jack he is 13 now and he has seen me play since he was 5 years old. He says to me "Just think Dad if you had still been with Iron Maiden you would have been living in big house. Would have had a nice car and you wouldn't have to worry about money" and I said "Yeah, but then you wouldn't have been born" because he wouldn't, he wouldn't have existed. So you have to look at what is precious in your life now. And as I say there are two ways of looking at it.
JH - And did you go straight into the studio to record the first Maiden album when you joined?
DS - Yeah we spent two or three weeks over at Hollywood Studios in Clapham just getting familiar with the tracks.
JH - So everything was already written?
DS - Yeah. There were just a few things that needed tidying up.
JH - And did you do the following singles in that session as well?
DS - No, no. We went back in and re-recorded Running Free. It had to be a different mix and have different bits in it for Radio play. It was the same with Woman In Uniform. With that we got back from the Kiss tour from Oslo and the Rainbow Theatre was booked to film the next video in. And we went to the Rainbow Theatre and all the lights and the PA and back line, the drums and everything. And when we started to film Woman In Uniform I couldn't work out why there wasn't a camera on me. And what they had decided to do was still film Woman In Uniform despite Rod having decided it wasn't working. And so in Woman In Uniform there are only little clips of me. And most of it is with the rest of the band so it was like phasing me out before it actually happened. Rod did things very dirtily. But the funny thing was, and I know you can't really say you got satisfaction with years to come, but one of my arguments with Rod was that if you live out of one another’s pockets too long you will end up falling out and not talking to one another. You have to have a break every now and then and get away from the band. You know even if you go with your mates somewhere. Or your Road crew. You have got to get away. Rod tried to hold it together like a little boys youth club. And four years later in 1984 I walked into the Rainbow bar in Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. We were doing the Lionheart album there for CBS. I walked in with Steve Mann and Rocky Newton and we were standing at the bar. And a man came over said "Hey, a man over at that table would like to buy you a drink" and when I turned round it was Rod Smallwood. He had his own table their. And I went over shook hands and sat down. And he said "Look, no hard feelings?". And I said "No" and that is how we left it. It was not one of those things where "I told you so". I just knew. You have to just keep away from people for a day or two.
JH - Lionheart then. Basically can you tell me the story of Lionheart?
DS - Directly after the Iron Maiden separation I got a call from Jess Cox. After the Tygers Of Pan Tang had finished he decided he want to do a few things with me. I was very, very keen to get back into doing something straight away because it is important to try and bounce back while your name is still in the news or people will forget about you. Jess came down to London and I met with him a couple of times and he said he wanted to get a band together. He looked great and everything about him was great. Then without getting too long winded we got into the studio with Steve Mann and Rocky Newton and things didn't go as well as we hoped. Rocky bought along Frank Newton the Drummer. I think we might have auditioned a few drummers on a couple of occasions in the process of getting Steve and Rocky down. We then got into putting some Demo's down. Some basic Portastudio stuff. Just some songs that we had quickly written in order to see how we would sound. Steve, Rocky and myself were doing a lot of the backing vocals, which I really loved because for once I was with two other blokes that could really sing and play. The three of use when we sung together were really brilliant. Unfortunately when we recorded Jess's voice it wasn't the voice we expected and every time we tried to record him it just wasn't right. So in the end we had a meeting between Steve, Rocky and myself and decided what direction we wanted the band to go in. It was a case of we all liked what we were doing but Jess's voice wouldn't blend with our three voices and the sort of material we wanted to do which was more American. We therefore parted company with Jess. And that was where our troubles started. Trying to get a lead Singer. We went through loads of new singers just trying to get the right one and they ended up just falling away. It was just a nightmare for years. For three years Steve, Rocky and myself were trying new singers and all this time we were busy writing new material. We would demo them with either Rocky or myself doing the lead vocal still looking for that lead vocalist.
JH - Oh right so you were never intending to have the band with you or Rocky on Lead vocals?
DS - Well we kept being told when we were with Nigel Thomas and Blakenham Pots (??? Sorry I have no idea) that we didn't need a vocalist. We could do it with just the three of us. I.E. Rocky and myself sharing Lead Vocals. We did a few tours with different people. Small tours with us singing and it went all right but you stilled missed the extra quality of a lead vocalist. Especially in recording.
JH - Do you have any trouble playing guitar and singing at the same time?
DS - No I never have done.
JH - Is that because you are doing Harmony guitar?
DS - No I just never have done.
JH - I see. I ask because I know some people do. For Instance BB King says he finds it totally impossible to do both.
DS - Yeah also George Benson. No it's not a problem. It is quite easy. The fact is I haven't got a lead vocalist voice and neither has Rocky. Nor has Steve. It's the same with Mantis. When we are writing, I will sometimes do a guide Vocal. It might be a song I have written or Chris has written. I will do a guide vocal and then we will send it down to Tony so he has some idea of what we are thinking. If I do guide vocal for Tony it doesn't matter how well I sing it when Tony sings it is sounds a million times better because he has the quality of lead vocalist and I haven't. We persevered with just the three of us in Lionheart singing but it was no good it wasn't what we were looking for. Although people kept telling us it was better or it was good we still carried on looking for that lead vocalist.
JH - So that will be why you were singing about July 81 when Sounds magazine reviewed you at Wimbledon. It said someone in the audience rather harshly felt you sounded like a pub singer.
DS - That's it. That's probably right yeah. That's what I am talking about the extra quality that a lead vocalist has. So we kept persevering and we had singer in and out every month or so. It got a bit of a long running joke how many singers we got through. Then we finally settled with Chad Brown. He came along and he had a brilliant voice. So that is when we settled with him and from end of 1983/84 we started to put tracks down for the album in America.
JH - Listening to the Unearthed Demo's the stuff goes from Heavy Rock at the start to more commercial stuff at the end. The sound is really changing. I love the first few tracks especially Ace In The Hole.
DS - Yeah that was all recorded on a 4-track portastudio back in 1982 or so. They were all the things Rocky and I were singing to because we didn't have a singer.
JH - And that would be the stuff you were performing Live at the time would it?
DS - Yes. Lionheart and Car On The Hill and things like that.
JH - Did you change the sound because you weren't getting anywhere?
DS - No that album the Japanese wanted to release. They wanted to bring together all the previously unreleased tracks we had written. So what happened was when I contacted Rocky and Steve I told them what Pony Canyon wanted to do we dug out all the tapes we had. If you look at it, the first stuff was mainly what Steve, Rocky and I did and mostly we sang on them. There were only a couple of songs that Chad sang on and we couldn't put songs from the released album "Hot Tonight" on Unearthed. What you have to remember was this was all done on poor quality 4 tracks with Practise Amps and whatever. You know the drum kit only had two or three mics on it. So it was all done very roughly. Pony Canyon said "We would like every song you have ever written with Steve and Rocky and never put out in any form" So I got together with Steve and Rocky and we went through all the old Lionheart stuff and a lot of it was terrible. We therefore picked a dozen or so songs. Pony Canyon said "No we would like more". They were thinking more like 20. So what happened was we search again and came up with some of the later songs which Rocky and Steve had written and recorded on a 24-track studio.
JH - You don't think the style of the songs you were writing over the period of 82-85 changed? It's just that they were unfinished and unproduced?
DS - Yeah I think some of them were bad some of them were good. When we finished the album in 1984 in Los Angeles things like Dangerous Game and all the early stuff. Actually the stuff that got released on Hot Tonight. "Waiting For The Night" and things like that. That was our best stuff. When we came back from America at the end of 1984 and the band started fizzling out in 1985 we never got a chance to write another album for Lionheart.
JH - It says in this review that you did "Misunderstood" and "Modern Love"?
DS - Modern Love? What's Modern Love? No we didn't do that. We did do "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". That was the old Animals song. We did it live. We never recorded it.
JH - And it says "Rocky Newton's voice showed distinctive (if under-rehearsed) promise on the newer songs such as 'Modern Love'."
DS - I don't know "Modern Love". I can't remember that one. It can't be the Bowie song. We never did a David Bowie song.
JH - You can't remember writing one?
DS - No
JH - So what would you have been doing during those troublesome years? Were you touring?
DS - Yeah we did the Def Leppard Tour.
JH - I saw that one and had completely forgotten about it until I came across you in the tour program one day! What a shame. I would love to see it again now.
DS - We did a Whitesnake tour. I don't think we had a vocalist for that. We went out with Def Leppard and More. We did the Reading Festival. We did quite a lot even though we were going through different vocalists. We still carried on as a three piece of Steve, Rocky and me. And we were even changing drumers at the time. A lot of the time we had Clive Edwards from Wild Horses. Also Les Binks and Steve Hopwood. We had quiet a few different drummers. We went through everyone really. We just wanted to get what we wanted as our line-up. That is why we used Bob Jenkins on the album. He was a session player and he could do the druming. When Chad Brown came in that made it complete because he was a great singer. That's how the four of us got going. Unfortunately after the album came out in America CBS let us down big time. They promised us tours with REO Speedwagon and Kansas and nothing happened. We came back to England and we just sat around waiting and just nothing happened. So slowly the band fizzled out.
JH - So how would Phil Larzon (ex-Grand Prix and now Uriah Heep) have come into the picture?
DS - Andy Burn the drummer. They were both in Grand Prix.
JH - So was he just a session player at the time?
DS - No I think we did try it with Phil and Andy for a little while but because the band wasn't busy all the time. I.E. we only had odd little gigs like the Marquee or TV thing. There just wasn't enough to keep everyone interested. So it just fizzled out. Every time we tried something we got let down.
JH - So were you having to work at the time?
DS - No Steve Rocky and I were based down at Lillie Road off Fulham Road. Their office was in Lillie Yard and we had our own rehearsal studio downstairs. We were there 5 days a week like a job from 10 in the morning till 6 at night. Writing, demoing and recording. Just the three of us with a drum machine.
JH - So that is why you have so much unreleased material?
DS - Yeah we had quite a lot of songs that never got finished.
JH - Why did you put "Nightmares" on "Hot Tonight"?
DS - I can't remember. I think we all liked the track. I think the producer might have selected it over a couple of other choices we were down too. The producer Kevin Beamish thought it was a good track so we went for it.
JH - So how did you get to hear it? Oh, Gillan released it as a single didn't he?
DS - I think I heard it as a demo and on a compilation album. We liked it so we did it but it didn't come out as it should have done.
JH - It is very difficult to find the questions, as I don't know much about Lionheart. Did you enjoy making the Hot Tonight album?
DS - I loved every minute every second that Lionheart was together I loved. From the first day we meet one another to the day we went our separate ways I enjoyed every minute of it because it was exactly what I was looking for, probably most of my playing life. Steve Mann was another great guitarist. Rocky was a good bass player. Great voices and when we sung together it was just brilliant. It's the same as when Chris Tino and myself sing together. It's just the blend. It sounds good. And I was in my element just sitting back and listening to all that stuff from all those years ago. I loved every minute of it.
JH - Once the album came out did you have much promotion for it?
DS - No because we were signed to CBS in New York and when we finished recording in Los Angles and it is was all mixed and finished, we to the CBS office in New York and had a big meeting. As I say they promised us all these tours REO Speedwagon, Kansas and loads of other bands. And when we got back to England nothing happened. And that was when we got frustrated.
JH - So what sort of sales did you get?
DS - I can't remember
JH - Were they happy with sales?
DS - Yes I think so. It did quite well.
JH - So it was just they couldn't put you on a tour.
DS - It was all excuses all of the time. "REO Speedwagon and to be remixed." "Kansas weren't touring." It was all false promises. So when we came back we just got more and more frustrated.
JH - So why did you split from Steve Mann and Rocky Newton?
DS - I think we just realised we weren't going anywhere and nothing was happening so we decided to go our separate ways. Then months later the pair of them got involved with Michael Schenker. So they didn't go on to do it while we were together. It was just a case of us deciding to leave it and then that happening later.
JH - Do you remember doing the ETC TV program recording for Channel 4 (in the UK)? You did Heartbeat Radio and Hot Tonight. It seemed to be a Live Broadcast was it?
DS - Yes it was live. And Andy Burn messed up on drums. That was a song we had been rehearsing and he was so cock sure he could do it and he would get it perfect. We kept telling him this is live. And he said "Yeah it's no problem" and he cocked up!
JH - It was good fun seeing you with long hair and everything.
DS - You should see the Lionheart Video "Die For Love". It cost a fortune. We spent 4 days on it. That was with Nigel Thomas. The album came out and they wanted a video to go with it. We filmed it for four days. We had Helicopters explosion everything. That was a good video.
JH - So how do you actually rate the tracks on Unearthed? EG Things like Car On The Hill and Lionheart
DS - They just sounded dated. They were good when we were doing them back in 1981 at the Marquee. But listening back to them now the quality of the recording and being dated material they do not excite me. I remember doing them and I still have font memories of them but I feel they sound dated and poor quality.
JH - How about "Hot Tonight" the album. How do you feel about that?
DS - The songs on the album I think are great. The production of the album I didn't like. I think Kevin Beamish went over the top with the big drum sound, this huge Lexington effect of the snare drum and everything. It wasn't what I heard. The songs were what I heard but not the production.
JH - But you were happy with the album overall?
DS - Yeah. We were Starstruck.
JH - How do you think the songs stand up today?
DS - Oh I still think they stand up well today. Yeah. I think you can put that Lionheart album on against anything. The Production I don't like and the songs sound a slightly dated but I wouldn't be embarrassed. I would put it on against anything and just listen to it.
JH - You had Nikko (Now Iron Maiden's drummer) try out with you?
DS - Yeah it wasn't a permanent thing. He did one recording with us but he kept speeding up dreadfully. So he is perfect for Maiden and their 100mph style. I think he did a little showcase with us at the Nomiss??? Studios Fulham but he was totally committed to the other stuff he was doing. This was before he joined Maiden. He was basically just a mate playing with us.
JH - How did Bruce Bisland come to play on some of the tracks?
DS - I think he knew Steve Mann. This was when we were going to knock it on the head. I think Steve knew Bruce from The Sweet.
JH - What happened after Lionheart then?
DS - Not a lot really. I did a few gigs with different bands in pubs and clubs. When we knew things were not going to work Nigel Thomas our manager suggested we split. This we did but then he sued us for spliting up the partnership, and somehow we lost! We then spent a period of time where we couldn't work.
Eventually Steve and Rocky started working again. And I started doing a few little things. Pubs and clubs or whatever. And then I got the call from Paul Di’Anno about the Japanese wanting to a ten-year anniversary of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM).
JH - So had you been in touch with Paul all those years?
DS - No
JH - So how did he know how to contact you?
DS - I think through some mutual friends.
JH - How had you got on with the band after you left?
DS - I got on fine. My daughter who was 18/19 went on tour with them and looked after Steve Harris's children in America. I still bumped into Dave Murray every now and then. Lorraine Steve's wife at the time was good friends with my wife at the time and that is how my daughter got the job. So we still had little bits of contact. It wasn't all the time, but you bump into each other at gigs and things. Then in 1989 I got this call from Paul Di’Anno. Him and Tino. Tino came into the picture. The idea was between Tino, Chris Paul Di’Anno and myself. They wanted us to do a selection of songs across the board, which would range from early Maiden, early Mantis and Lionheart. We rehearsed for a couple of weeks and we went over there and they recorded it for the Live At Last album.
JH - So it was literally just going to be that tour originally?
DS - Yeah.
JH - They basically got in touch with Paul first and did he get in touch with Tino?
DS - I think so. Somewhere along the line we must have spoke on the phone. I can't really remember
JH - Because you didn't know Tino particularly then either?
DS - Yeah I did because he supported Maiden.
JH - But you hadn't really seen much of him since then?
DS - No but we still remembered one another. And I might have seen him at say a Def Leppard gig or something like that and we would all have a beer. But no I didn't see him at all. Somewhere along the line they just wanted a combination of Maiden, Mantis and Lionheart and the only way they could do that was to do it with Paul and me, Tino and Chris and then combined.
JH - So it was nothing to do with All Stars then?
DS - Oh that was it, you have just reminded me what I was doing. Lea Hart had contacted me and asked me to go into the studio and do some Demo's. And I said "Yes" because I wasn't working. I must have gone in about half a dozen studios with him. And we went through about 8 to 10 tracks. What happened was he told me these songs were demos and he was going to try and get a deal with them. And that is where I got Clive Burr involved with True Brits and going to Russia. He got us a couple of festivals but it was all miming with live vocals. It was like a showcase. He had me thinking that we were going to try and get this deal and whatever. What he was really doing was getting me to sing old Fastway songs. I had no idea I thought they were all new stuff he had written.
JH - That is where he came from is it?
DS - No he was with Slow Burn and Roll ups. He got involved with Fast Eddy of Motorhead and the he got himself involved with all the recording and he had all the master tapes. And what he decided to do, behind everyone's back, was start releasing all these compilations of lots of different artists most of which hadn't actually played on the album. He just used their names. He got a distribution deal in Japan and Europe or whatever. Basically he just got these advances for the material and never paid anyone. He had me singing and playing on them but I never knew what he was doing. He was going behind everyone's back. I didn't realise what a mess he was making in Japan. Then I went to Japan with Mantis and Di’Anno. I didn't know we would be offered an album when we got back so when Lea Hart asked me to go to Russia to do some shows there, some big festivals I said "Yes". I did them and when I got back Pony Canyon got in touch with me and told me Lea Hart had released this press release saying I had left Praying Mantis and was now a member of All Stars and True Brits. I rang him at home and couldn't get hold of him and that was the beginning of the end of me and Lea Hart because he went behind everyone’s back. He released these compilation CD's of everyone saying so and so played guitar and they didn't! All they were, were old recordings of the Fastway stuff with different voices on them. And he just re-released them and robbed people.
JH - And he has done it very slowly as well hasn't he?
DS - Yeah and he has caused a lot of trouble. I corrected things when I went to Japan after that. I did an interview with Burrn! and I made it quite clear the man was a liar and a thief. I will never speak to the man again because of what he did. He caused a lot of trouble for me at that time sending all those press releases out. But thankfully all the interviews I did with the magazines allowed me to correct that.
JH - There was a Metal XS video magazine that reported on All Star and showed you on a video for Give Me One More Reason.
DS - In Poland? I have got a long coat on?
JH -Yes. On that it sounds like Mantis was going on in parallel and Lea Hart trying to get you a solo career going.
DS - He was trying to get me to do a solo thing that is what he told people but what he did was getting my voice and guitar on things and then f**king off and he just didn't want to know.
JH - So he wasn't really trying to get you a solo deal at all?
DS - No. He wanted it for himself because without my name and Paul Di'Anno's name he wouldn't have been able to get a distribution deal. They just wouldn't have put it out with people’s names on it. And that is why he has Bruce Bisland playing on things he has never played on. And he has Tino playing on something he had never played on.
JH - He does do a backing vocal because he is on that video.
DS -Oh yeah that's right there was a big circle off us. But then again that I don't think the Mic was on. It was all recorded for the film. What happened was because we didn't know there would be another album for the Mantis thing when Lea Hart came along with this idea for the All Stars thing we went a long with it because it was a laugh and something might come of it. But he just used everyone and then released the album on his own.
JH - So how would he have got Biff from Saxon?
DS - Because he had probably recorded it ages a go telling him the same thing he told me. And then what happen was because Paul had his other band going Killers or whatever we got a fax from Japan saying the Record Company would be interested in another album by Praying Mantis. A studio album. So Tino Chris and me got together and said "What are we going to do? Yeah let's go for it" and then we needed a drummer and since Bruce had done the Tour we said lets get Bruce back and that was how Predator In Disguise came about.
JH - So how did Bruce actually come to be the drummer?
DS - Because he had been working with Tino in Wondering Crutchless. So it was all friends really.
JH - So is that how the set list got chosen for the Di’Anno tour then? It was supposed to be Chris and Tino the warm up. Then you join them?
DS - No it just started as a early Mantis Lionheart and Maiden. We rehearsed the set that we were going to play and then when we got to Japan Masa Ito (Japanese DJ) and Tets Mario (Pony Canyon) said they had an idea to do it the way we ended up doing it. But it wasn't decided until we got there.
JH - So how did the Predator album come about then?
DS - Oh another thing I was sucked in by Lea Hart again. I had a couple of tracks on the album and he had a couple of tracks he had been mucking about with someone else. Tino and Chris were working on some tracks like Can't See The Angels and things like that. So that is why it is a bit of a miss-match of songs. I am more into the Heavy Rock EG She's Hot and Chris and Tino were more interested in the Melodic stuff of Can't See The Angels and things like that.
JH - So you have actually gone heavier with age?
DS - Yeah. She's Hot was more like a Bon Jovi/Extreme type of song. More Rocky like a funky Heavy Rock song.
JH - Mmm that surprises me I would have thought your stuff more melodic than Chris and Tino's.
DS - Yeah I it's just phases you go through. As soon as we got rid of the Paul Di’Anno and Lea Hart thing I got back to more Melodic stuff with Chris and Tino.
JH - So where did your songs come from. Were they for a band or something?
DS - No. "She's Hot" was an Idea I had working with Lea Hart. I wrote the lyrics and O'Shaughnessy wrote the guitar riff. "This Time Girl" was a pop song that we did a video for with Pony Canyon. "Listen What Your Heart Says" was a track taken off a Fastway album and I just sung it not knowing it was already released. "Still Want You" was a song I wrote. Also "Only You". It's all stuff that was in my head at the time.
JH - Di’Anno sang "Listen What Your Heart Says" as well.
DS - Well he got him in after. It's another one he has re-releases and reproduced.
JH - So it was a Fastway track?
DS - Yeah. He has even got a bird to sing it.
JH - Oh I haven't heard that one yet. Presumably Jackie Bodmine or someone then.
DS - No but I can't recall who it was. He did have a girl singer doing it though.
JH - So was this album a rush album?
DS - Yeah.
JH - Because it sounds to me like the Troy tracks were Mantis. But your tracks hadn't been Mantis-ised
DS - Yeah that's exactly right. Plus the fact we produced it ourselves and what Tino and Chris wanted on their tracks and what I wanted on mine was like chalk and cheese. That's why it was put together like that. You see we didn't know we were going to get asked to do the album so it was all a last minute rush. We really wanted to do it.
JH - Predator came out on Music for Nations in the UK. Did they have anything to do with its creation or was it just a licensing arrangement with Pony Canyon.
DS - They were just people that got interested in it after it was released in Japan.
JH - So who were Thomas and White? Co-Writers on "Listen"?
DS - Terry Thomas was the producer and he helped write some of it. They just put my name on it because I sang it I think. I had never meet them.
JH - So you didn't really have much writing on Listen but you did the others?
DS - Yes.
JH - How do you actually view "She's Hot" now?
DS - I love it. As a matter of fact a mate of mine was playing out of his top window at a Bar-B-Q in the summer and it was sounding Brilliant. It's a rap track. Rapping to rock riffs. I have never done it since. It was just a one off.
JH - So Chris and Tino didn't get to influence your sides of the tracks much at all?
DS - No it was too quick. It all happened to quickly. It was just done and released as soon as possible because they wanted a studio album and we hadn't anticipated it so we weren't prepared.
JH - How did you decide to do the vocals?
DS - I sang my songs and Chris sang his.
JH - And why did Chris sing the their side of the album?
DS - Because he was the best singer out of him and Tino.
JH - I mean Tino used to sing the majority of songs in the old days.
DS - I don't know. I never heard it.
JH - You've never heard the old stuff?!
DS - No. I am not sure about Tino's voice. It is good for backing vocals but I am not sure it is good enough for Lead Vocals.
JH - He certainly seems extremely worried about it now.
DS - Yeah I don't know. I know Chris has got the more in tune melodic voice out of the two. So perhaps Tino is better at the Rockier stuff. So basically Chris sang their stuff and I sang mine. It was all thrown together quickly.
JH - But you also tried out Gary Barden?
DS - No I didn't, I didn't want him in the studio. Bruce who was working with Tino and Chris in the Crutchless was good mates with Gary Barden. I know Gary Barden from old and Tino said to me "We would like to put Gary Barden on a couple of tracks". I said "Fine". Then there was talk about him joining the band. I said "I would have big reservations about him actually joining the band" a) because he likes to over indulge and b) because he can't reach the high notes live. And I stood by this through the years until Gary actually did join the band and Tino said "We would like to give him another chance". I said "Well I am not changing my mind. I am sticking by what I said but if you want to try him out again fine". We tried him and he sounded great. Then what happened? He came back and he did the "To The Power Of Ten" album he got on the booze again and he couldn't sing live what he had recorded. When we came back Tino, Chris and I started to work on some new material that we wanted to put Gary's voice on. We asked him over and tried to get him to record some demo vocals for the next album and he just wasn't in a fit state to work so that was the end of that.
(I missed the fact my tape deck had stopped recording a few minutes earlier so we are recapping conversation in the next bit)
JH - What can you say about the video for "This Time Girl"?
DS - "This Time Girl" was a video recorded in Easy hire studios in front of a live audience as if it was a live show. And "Can't See The Angels" was recorded at Beachy Head (Near Brighton on the South coast of England) in Black and White. We were just standing on top of the cliff and freezing to death.
JH - And the Japanese actually did the filming and everything on that?
DS - Yes they did everything. They paid for it and were in total control of both videos.
JH - And then we moved on to Dougie White.
DS - We were rehearsing in the studio to go back and do the tour for Predator In Disguise. Chris and I were doing lead vocals and trying to get everything together for the tour. We had Jem Davis with us on keyboards for that tour and he had his own band Midnight Blue which had Dougie White on Vocals. One day he brought in a cassette of Dougie White singing and when I heard the cassette I just said to everyone that was there "Why are we doing lead vocals when there is a great singer on this tape". Consequently what happened was Jem bought Dougie down. We thought Dougie and Jem were into Mantis and committed to the band and maybe interested in taking things further. What was really happening though was the Dougie and Jem were just using Mantis as a stepping-stone to further their own careers with their own band. So when we got out to Japan we were surprised to find Dougie talking to the Record company about different projects.
JH - Were you hoping for a new record deal at the time?
DS - Well that isn't how it works. We do an album and they just sign us for each album that we do.
JH - OK so were you expecting to get to do another album?
DS - Yes. The idea was to go out there with the Predator album and do well and when we get back they will hopefully says "Can you do another album?". But we found out they were going behind our backs and having little meetings with the record company just to further their own careers. So that upset us a little bit. Dougie lived things up a bit while we were out their and when we got back to London we played a couple of shows and he was just a waste of time. He was all over the place. He even finished the set something like two songs two early. He said "Goodnight" and walked off and we still had two more songs to play. So things just fell apart almost straight away with Dougie.
JH - There was a TV interview with Neal Kaye about the state of Metal at the time and he didn't seem very committed on that.
DS - Yeah and it was the same with Mark Thompson Smith. When we went out there with Mark and every time we did an interview that involved Mark all he was interested in doing was talking about himself and his future plans. He was never ever committed to Mantis and it used to annoy us because we were looking to get someone in full time and all these people were doing was using the band to try and further their careers in Japan.
JH - On the clips I have seen I didn't really see that but then he didn't do much talking.
DS - No.
JH - Why didn't Dougie White appear with the band straight away on the Predator Tour? You did a couple of numbers such a Lovers To The Grave and Children Of The Earth alone.
DS - I don't know. I think it was just a personal thing at the time. I think it might have been a record company idea to break the evening up a bit. I think it was just to give the crowd more of a spectacle. Some new thing to get them excited.
JH - You don't think it was to follow the previous tours format?
DS - No. I think it was just an idea at the time to get him on after a few songs.
JH - I have part of a set list for that tour. Would you have any idea what else might have been played?
DS - No. I remember the shows but it is so long ago I can't recall the sets or anything.
JH - I have that set because it was shown on a TV Special. Were you aware of it being recorded? i.e. was it recorded with TV in mind?
DS - No. We never knew if the record companies would have cameras their until we got on the stage for the sound check. It was something they would set up. If they thought the shows worth recording they would do it.
JH - So you wouldn’t' really be aware that one was shown on TV over in Japan then?
DS - No. We don't get to hear what appears on TV or anything like that.
JH - Borderline and another video have been shown as well.
DS - Yeah what they did with Borderline was when we finished recording This Time Girl In Easy Hire Studios they still had some free time left. So they decided to record Borderline quickly to make the most of the situation.
JH - There is a "Live In The East" Bootleg. On it you do Johnny B Good.
DS - Yeah, well that must just have been a rock'n'roll encore.
JH - So Dougie White didn't work out. You then got a deal for another album.
DS - Which was Colin Peel wasn't it?
JH - Yes. Did you start to do that one with your own vocals again?
DS - No I think they put in an advert for a singer. And I think just as we were beginning to write some of the stuff Colin got involved. So he wrote a few lyrics on it and got involved in the Pre-Production of it. So he was quite committed then.
JH - How did he work in the studio at that time?
DS - Great. The only problem we had was Neal Kaye got involved with the guy from Newcastle Gary Flounders. He was engineering with Neal Kaye when we started recording rather badly and that is my only regret about the whole process. Luckily it was rescued by Kalle Trap in Germany. We had a lot of input from Colin on the vocals and the songs we getting more established as a Mantis sounding band and more commercial. At least that's the way I heard it. Things like Journeyman. It was more of a band album. We were locked out down in Boundary Row Studios and we just went for it.
JH - So why was it mixed in Germany?
DS - Because that is where Kalle Trap was based. He had a good name in Japan so the idea was Norman Goodman and Kalle would get together and rescue it and that is what they did. They made a very good job of it.
JH - And how did Bernie Shaw come to do a backing vocal on the album?
DS - I can't remember. I guess he just visited the studio sometime and sang a couple of choruses or something. There were a few people came down. I am not sure if we kept much of it. But people used to pop in and do a little bit.
JH - Is there an actual pattern to the way you write the albums then? Did you do much writing then?
DS - No I think I just did "Open Your Heart". One track. I think might have helped write some early bits on a couple of others to.
JH - Yeah there are 3 or 4 tracks credited to Praying Mantis.
DS - Yes we all took a part in writing them.
JH - Were they all written in the studio at the time?
DS - No most of them were written before hand. But the good thing about that album was because we were locked out in the studio 24hrs a day we were able to rehearse and record at the same time. It didn't matter because we had paid for the studio as a lock out. We therefore didn't have to go to a rehearsal studio had we had the stuff permanently set up for recoding.
JH - So you could catch any moment’s spontaneity as you practiced?
DS - Yes.
JH - So that's why Tino is at the front of one of the songs is it?
DS - No that was put on afterwards in Germany as a muck about. It was just an after thought.
JH - Do you end up with any spare songs when you write albums?
DS - Yes we normally have about 12 songs but only put 10 on the album. But the two that are left off aren't normally complete. They are normally about 3/4's done. When we are that far through a song if we decide it isn't as strong as the 10 we want on the album we just stop and concentrate on the other 10. So it is really just personal taste between us all.
JH - How did the album cover for "A cry for the new world" come about?
DS - Tino and I were talking on the phone and I think the idea was the world was exploding because people were abusing it. And it had got to be looked at through a child's eye. The idea was we wanted a Blue Eyed Blonde girl with a tear coming out of her eye. And my daughter Laura had Blue eyes and Blonde hair and so that is why we used her. And that was also the idea of the "Only The Child Cry" disc. She had then grown up a little and was looking into the TV screen and the world is on the telly instead of in her eye. It's all part of Time i.e. Forever In Time and the Planet.
JH - So why did you go away from a Rodney Mathews Cover?
DS - Because Rodney Mathews went very religious and apparently he told Tino on the phone before he designed another album sleeve he needed to read every lyric that is on the album. If there was any lyrical content that he didn't standby he didn't want to put his name to an album cover with Lyrics he didn't agree with spiritually. We just had to look for something else really because were weren't prepared to change any lyrics just so we could have a Rodney Mathews Cover.
JH - How do you feel about when Colin left?
DS - The annoying thing was it was a long drawn out process. We knew he was involved in the acting and we knew he was involved in this musical "Hair". But he didn't actually have a part. He was just an understudy. He kept us in the picture, but what annoyed us most was it was a long drawn out thing. We didn't know where we stood because of it for a long time one minute he was in it the next he wasn't. Then when in the end he did pick the show and he quit the band we had lost a lot of time in which we could have been looking for someone else. It annoyed me at first. But then good luck to him he had to make the decision and he did. But I don't think he realised the trouble it caused for us. When we went to Japan after that they didn't want to do the tour because Colin had left. We had to spend a lot of time getting across that the band still existed and it didn't revolve around just one person. I don't think even Colin realised how serious it got with the Record Company. And as I say there was no bad feeling it was just a long drawn out thing and it would have been better for us if it had happened quickly so we could have got on with things. I don't think any of us knew the turmoil it would cause when we went over there. Anyway what's done is done. He did good vocals on the album.
JH - Did you enjoy recording that album?
DS - Yes very much so
JH - Better than Predator?
DS - Yes. I think a Cry For The New World was the best album we did until Forever In Time. Forever In Time took us back to the roots of A Cry For The New World.
JH - So that was why the original Cry For The New World Tour was cancelled in August and then rearranged for November?
DS - Yes. Because then we came home and recorded Only The Children Cry as a four Track EP. This was Masa Ito's idea to give the fans something to listen too while we weren't touring and were getting another singer. That was the idea of it, basically a stopgap to keep the fans interest alive while we sorted out the problems.
JH - Lets come to that in a minute. While you were out in Japan defending Colin's leaving you did an Acoustic set on Mutoma's World where you played A Moment In Time and Dream On. Was that the first time you had done acoustic sets? And how do you feel about them
DS - I think from what I can remember it was the first acoustic set and I love them. The reason we done an acoustic set, it's only two or three songs but we have done one every time we have gone out there for a promotional tour since, is because they are in a small environment and you just need a little PA. Two acoustic guitars and three voices sounds really nice. It's just a way of putting a song across acoustically, which we are going to perform electrically on the main tour.
JH - So were you doing shop promotions at this time as well?
DS - Yes we were doing it everywhere. Shops, Masa's TV show, Radio shows we would just set up the gear and loads of fans would come and it was good fun.
JH - So would it have just been those two songs or would there have been some others?
DS - No just the two songs. I took Colin's part as the lead vocal on "A Moment In Life" and it was a three-part thing on "Dream On".
JH - And then you went back out there with Mark Thompson Smith. How did he come about?
DS - I can't remember. Some one had a photo of him and he looked a million dollars. Someone we know, I can't recall who, had been out to America and done a demo album and whoever it was introduced him to us. We told him our situation that Colin had left and we needed someone quickly or we would lose the tour and he came in and made it really hard work. We wanted him to join the band but he always kept his distance from us. He did the EP "Only The Children Cry". Then we started rehearsing for the tour and it became hard work because he wouldn't commit himself to the band. Because we were already committed to the tour, we knew we would in be in trouble we came back. We knew he probably wouldn't stay with the band. But also we didn't want to let the tour go so he had us a bit over a barrel really.
JH - How did the songs come about for that because a couple of them are old aren't they?
DS - Yeah
JH - You did Turn The Tables and A Moment In Life. Why did you do that again?
DS - I don't know. I can't remember.
JH - Would it be just to introduce him?
DS - Maybe but he probably chose it because he wanted to sing it. Only The Children I wrote the Chorus and the first part of it and we got together in the Hotel Room Chris Tino and I. And we put that song together while we were in Japan.
JH - So you never considered something like Captured City for the Turn The Tables Track?
DS - No I can't remember who picked it. I think it was just we had to have four tracks on the EP. We had two new songs, I guess Mark said he would like to sing A Moment In Life. That left one more track and it might well be that Tino suggested doing Turn The Tables because it hadn't been released or something like that.
JH - And there is an extra verse in this new version. You won't know why that is will you?
DS - No.
JH - Where was the Only The Children Cry video filmed?
DS - Right by the City Airport in the East End of London. It's right by the Thames.
JH - So they came over here and did it again?
DS - No we did it. Ben Challis and his TV Company did it. From then on we made the videos ourselves instead of having to bring a Japanese crew over to do it.
JH - That one is a very basic video.
DS - Yeah. Well it started off showing all the destruction in the world again. Some of the stuff that Ben shot didn't get used. We decided to go to where there was this big run down old mill which had been derelict for years and show different sorts of clips of things like my daughter and son's school. They’re in it with lots of different faces and nationalities. It was just having the band in this derelict place and having these children's faces superimposed over the top of different nationalities to show that it is throughout the world that destruction is going on with pollution and everything else.
JH - So Mark left. How did Gary Come back again?
DS - It was Bruce that still kept in contact with him. Tino and Chris had a chat with him and they decided to give him another go. They got him over to the Studio and let him sing on a couple of tracks as a try out.
JH - Did you have any problem with the record company about making another album?
DS - No.
JH - They were happy by then? They didn't mind Mark leaving?
DS - No they said they would have another album like they have done every time. When Gary got in the Studio at the start I was quite impressed. I thought he sounded really good. His voice was holding up. Then after the album was finished that is when all the reoccurring problems started. We got out to Japan and it went wrong again.
JH - The interviews out there were sounding very positive that this was going to be a permanent line up from now on.
DS - Yeah but then with the live work we did that was when he started having voice trouble and we realised he just couldn't cut it as a live singer.
JH - What happened to the songs on To The Power Of Ten? To me you started sounding like other bands and that is most unusual for Praying Mantis.
DS - No. I think what happened there was an interest in Praying Mantis from Germany. There were a few people came across and said if you could try maybe a slightly different direction. A bit more Rock'N'Roll a bit more rockier, you might stand a better chance of getting a release in Europe and opening another door, doing a couple of tours of Germany and France and things like that. So we went into the studio and did a more Rock’N’Roll album and unfortunately it was the wrong direction. And we all knew that.
JH - Right. When the album first came out there were no writing credits on it and there were just three tracks that sounded like Mantis tracks to me. The rest reminded me more of Kiss or Whitesnake.
Dennis looks at the album.
DS - Yeah Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark was like a Mantis track. Bring On The Night. We wanted to put on a cover Ball Of Confusion was Tino's choice.
JH - The Temptations wasn't it?
DS - Yes. Welcome To My Hollywood was Chris. Another Time, Another Place I can't remember. To The Power Of Ten. Little Angel and Angry Man was him again, the German fella. Tom Jackson.
JH - Tom Jackson?
DS - Yeah the fella that was singer years ago.
JH - Really! I didn't know he had anything to do with the recent band.
DS - Yeah we still keep in contact with him. Only The Children Cry was me and Night And Day was also me. Yeah so Victory was more like a Chris and Tino Mantis track. I don't know perhaps because it was more of a Rock’N’Roll album we sort of lost direction. It was a bit of a mismatch again.
The reason I wrote Night And Day was a guy wanted me to write for a TV series. It was a Customs and Excise show like The Bill (A Popular UK Police Drama). And there were two Coppers in it. One was called "Night" and one called "Day". So they wanted me to write a track called Night And Day and that sort of thing.
I had been looking up the writing credits myself.
JH - Yeah with exception of Only The Children Cry from the EP. The tracks I identified as Mantis sounding were Troy/Troy only tracks. The rest were Troy/Troy and others or not at all. That was the first album released after I had discovered Mantis were going again. So this was a bit of a disappointment
DS - Very much.
JH - But it still had touches of Mantis. So this kind of leads me to this. We as Mantis fans are now by not buying To The Power Of Ten and then loving Forever In Time effectively forcing you to write in a particular Mantis way. How do you feel about that?
DS - What it is I have always wrote songs in that Mantis melodic harmony guitar sort of way. A typical Mantis track, even in the Lionheart days, is the typical way I would write a song. What I did was change the way I wrote when the albums took a change of direction, for instance on "She's Hot". I wrote that because it matched the Predator album. And again with To The Power Of Ten I wrote Night And Day a) for the TV show but also because we were going for more Rock’N’Roll approach, so that is why I wrote it that way. After we had done To The Power Of Ten we had a meeting in Japan with Pony Canyon and they said "Power was a mistake" and we said "We know" and apologised. They said "Go home and write a Mantis album." And we went home and did Forever In Time. That was when we put down between me, Chris, Tino and Tony, all the thoughts we could on what was a Mantis track. So we went right through the albums. For instance we played Lettin' Go from A Cry For The New World and listened to all the stuff that was exciting. Welcome To My Hollywood was another and we said "This is how we are going to write the album". We went back to the roots of Mantis. So it wasn't changing my way of writing. It was just that we had tried different directions and on Forever In Time we were refocusing on what we are good at.
JH - But do you find it like a straight jacket
DS - No
JH - Or do you find it easier?
DS - It's easier. No it's easier because I have always written songs like that even with Lionheart and Remus Down Boulevard. If you listen to "Only For You" a Remus Down Boulevard track, on the Live At Bridge House album, it's harmony guitars. It could be a Mantis Track. And that was even before I played with them. It's always been there and it is a lot easier. And that is why when we come to Best Years on Forever In Time, I am doing so many backing vocals you can hear my fog horn voice going all over everything. I just get so involved in a track. I just push it and get it the biggest I can.
JH - So it is not the case that the additional writers diluted To The Power Of Ten?
DS - No it was just a completely different direction. We were thinking more of Germany and Europe instead of Japan and we were stupid to do so because when we did direct it at Europe we got let down in Europe. So we are back in Japan again. We were silly to believe them.
JH - With all the vocalist changes over the years had the band ever considered knocking it on the head?
DS - No we knew that while there was a record company out there wanting an album, there was a singer somewhere out there. It just meant finding him. And as you can see from Forever In Time going on to this next album the song writing is getting better. The songs are getting better. Where as bands have released albums with 6 or 7 really good songs on them and 3 fillers or throw away tracks, Forever In Time I can't remember there being a throw away track on there. Every song is good. And this next album will be exactly the same because we are more excited now.
JH - Did it ever concern you the long delay between To The Power Of Ten and Forever In Time?
DS - Yeah. It concerned everyone, even the record company, because they thought it wouldn't take long for the fans to lose their interest. You have to keep their interest. But when Tony came along we thought no this is worth waiting for.
JH - What sort of year did he appear? 98 or 97?
DS - Yeah it's got to be hasn't it. End of 1997? Again his name cropped up though someone who knew someone else. He was singing in a duo and someone said we should go and see this singer. So Tino and Chris went over there. They heard him sing in a pub. And Tony came over and said "Oh I have loved Mantis stuff for years". And they had never meet one another. It was a case of instant chemistry.
JH - How do you feel the new album is going?
DS - Really well. When we were recording Forever In Time, because we were using the new Pro Tools Logic stuff that we had never used before, it was a bit nerve wracking. It was equipment we had never used before and we were a bit worried about it. And because Forever In Time came out so well recording this next album seems so much easier. I even said to Tino and Chris last week because we were doing something in the studio. We were putting down some backing vocals for some Choruses and tracking them up. I said "I don't know weather it is me but do you get the impression this is going really easy. It's a lot more relaxed?" And they went "Yeah". And we can't put our finger on why. It just seems so natural. We are going in and putting tracks down. And there doesn't seem to be any pressure. I know time is a pressure because we are trying to get it finished by the middle of December or whatever. But we don't feel the pressure or threatened. We just enjoy it. We sent Tony (who now lives near Birmingham) up some cassettes of stuff we had done during the previous couple of months with me doing guide vocals. We sent it up, wrote the lyrics out, I went in and Chris had done another track. I did a guide vocal for it, Chris and Tino added some backing vocals so that Tony knew were the choruses would come. All rough. We sent them to him and Tony came down for four days a couple weeks ago and he did the lead vocals for four songs in four days. And he is singing really well. So it was because he was already familiar with the songs. He was able to come to the studio already familiar with the songs and let himself go more. And because he was more relaxed and the atmosphere was more relaxed, it's been really going well.
JH - How did you feel about all the side projects. i.e. Tony's Solo Horakane, Demorabilia and the one off reunion and Lionheart Archives release.
DS - Well the Lionheart thing didn't bother me. As I said before I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the stuff but if that is what the record company wanted then they got it. I wasn't too bothered about Demorabilia because I knew the boys had got some old stuff that hadn't been released. What worries me about these reunion things is that after establishing the band after many line up changes I don't want to confuse the Japanese fans by sending over a reunion line-up. Especially when we have just established a settled line up in the band we have now. Hopefully it was a one off thing. I hope they don't draw it out and milk it by having more reunions and more of this and more of that. They should put it to bed leave it now. Let us get on with this album and then get back out there as the settled line up as it has been for the last two albums and let us do what we have been trying to do.
JH - Do you write as much as you like to?
DS - I am writing more now than I did before. Yeah I am enjoying it. Where as before if Chris or Tino got an idea they would try and write it to completion, on this album I have written two songs alone. But also Chris has been writing stuff on Qbase and I have taken it and written the lyrics and the melody and it is like a joint venture. And it seems to be working really well. But I am enjoying everything.
At this point time got the better of us so we stopped. Thanks Dennis.
If you got this far I am very interested to know how hard you find these interviews to read. My approach is very much to report it as spoken so that you get the feel of being in the room with us. Does this approach work or does it make it impossible for you to read? Feel free to let know via E-mail. Also do I ask the right questions?