Richard Taylor – British Lion

Written by Paul Monkhouse


Richard Taylor of British Lion

There is a huge buzz around my home town as, for the second time in just over a year, Steve Harris brought his ‘other’ band British Lion to a small venue in East Anglia. I have seen Iron Maiden play many times in Norwich, firstly at the University (my very first rock gig in 1981) and then again under various pseudonyms at The Oval, a now sadly defunct rock pub on the outskirts of the city centre. Having been offered the chance to interview British Lion singer Richard Taylor and knowing what a powerhouse band they are, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

When I first stroll into The Waterfront venue with my thirteen year old son I find Richard relaxing on a sofa pre-sound check as he pours through the latest edition of Classic Rock magazine. Very charismatic, but seemingly utterly ego-free the quietly and thoughtfully spoken Richard proves to be a genuine pleasure to talk to and very easy, good company. With a friendship that stretches back many years, being the frontman in a band whose bass player is a genuine rock legend doesn’t seem to faze him at all but that shows that British Lion are truly a collaborative band and not just a vanity side project. When Steve strolls over later on you can sense a very real camaraderie between the two that speaks volumes.

Prior to the interview proper we discussed Live Aid, the pleasures of living in East Anglia, mutual friends who were in the superb The Catherine Wheel, which rock magazines are best, cycling, and our joint love of Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ album. As with the rest of the band, here was a man very happy in what he’s doing and enjoying touring immensely. With the sound of drums being sound checked in the background I hit the ‘record’ button…

What does rock music mean to you?
Music in general, any genre, from a youngster, it was my life, it was all I ever cared about. I had kind of an unusual upbringing and music just got me through anything that was troubling my life. So yeah, in a kind of way and not to get too deep, it saved my life as a youngster.

Was there a band or an artist who first made an impression on you?
Yeah, T.Rex, Marc Bolan

Any particular reason for that?
I would have been nine, ten years old and it was melody. That was the first thing, and from that there was so much in the 70s that came along, unbelievable songs and I just latched onto all of that. As a child seeing him on television, it was just “wow!” and I used to have a tennis racquet that I ‘used’ as a guitar as I’m sure a lot of us did. [Laughs]

Is there a particular song or album that still means a lot to you?
BBruce Springsteen Born to Run album coverorn to Run by Springsteen definitely. Again, that was another part of my life, that album, hearing that made me want to become a musician. That entire album, and the album after that as well, both mean so much to me. As he’s American a lot of my friends don’t get it, but even if you take the Americanism of the lyrics away, I find you can still relate to it. And also, although it sounds a complicated album with respect to production, the songs are three chords or four chords on guitar which I can play back to back, all of them, and that was also attractive to me. After listening to bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple that were so complicated, as an acoustic guitarist you can play great songs like ‘Born to Run’, ‘Thunder Road’ or ‘Jungleland’ on the acoustic, whereas playing ‘Smoke on the Water’ on an acoustic is not so easy.

We were talking earlier about various musicians, so what do you say to a (quote/unquote) ‘rock star’ when you meet them?
I haven’t met too many rock stars but I would most probably just say “I admire your work” if it was somebody… actually, I have met a few but I’m not too overwhelmed by that stardom thing.

What’s been your best experience meeting an artist as a music fan yourself?
I don’t know, you don’t really get to know the person if you get to meet them other than saying “Hi” and “I admire your music”. I met Brian May actually and just said to him “Hi Brian, nice to meet you”. I guess it must be the same for them, they must get bored to tears by people coming up and saying “You’ve changed my life …”

And what’s been the best response to you from fans?
Well, it’s kind of been overwhelming really, the last three tours that British Lion have done, two European tours and this British tour. When we released the debut album it was kind of controversial because a lot of people weren’t expecting it to be like that with Steve involved and that was quite hard to take. I think a lot of people didn’t ‘get’ it or quite understand what it was all about, and I think that’s still the case. But when you see it live, from the word go, especially after three tours now, it speaks for itself. It’s powerful and we mean what we’re doing and every night we give it everything we’ve got and the reaction everywhere we’ve played has been absolutely fantastic. Some places the audiences have been a little reluctant to go with it initially but by the end of the evening that has totally changed. That’s been brilliant for me and the rest of the guys as well.

So, what makes a gig special to you?
It’s two things really. Well, more than that! Firstly, I like to feel it. There’s a lot of lyrical content in these songs, especially some of the new material, and I don’t just want to stand there and go through the motions and clichés. I like to be spontaneous and just let that happen, and if that can happen then, of course, you get the audience with you as well, getting elements of the two. The last four or five dates we’ve played have been unbelievable, the crowds have been almost louder than the band and we’re still a new, young band so not too many people know of us yet. Obviously they’re coming to see Steve, we know that and are under no illusion, but like last night, when they leave they speak to you and compliment British Lion, which is what we’re trying to do.

Has there been a notable gig you’ve done that you’ll always hold high and cherish the memory of?

Richard Taylor and Steve Harris - British Lion

Richard, Steve and Paul’s son Sam looking forward to show time

There’s been a few to be honest. I always like to play quite locally if I can because I’ve got family and friends who have supported me for years and have known these songs. ‘Eyes of the Young’ particularly is twenty four, twenty five years old and when they come and see that it’s special to me, getting to sing it to them. There have been a few but I can’t really say one in particular. We have been quite overwhelmed wherever we go by the response to British Lion.

Has there been a gig you’ve attended as an audience member that really blew you away at the time and you still hold in high regard?
Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising tour at Wembley Arena. That album was written after 9/11 and I’d seen him quite a few times before but this time it wasn’t that type of show where he talks to the audience telling them stories and having fun, it was a really serious show, keeping his head down, hard rocking, and he really meant it. You got the shivers all over watching that and for what he was standing for that night. That one in particular, but I have seen lots, I’ve seen many bands. I saw Dylan but that wasn’t when he was touring an album, he just decided he wanted to go to play a few clubs and we saw him at Brixton Academy. He had the most amazing band and played every classic song you could ever imagine and that was quite overwhelming to be honest.

So, sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll: a jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
[Laughing …] Big question! So, you want me to answer that? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I’m not into any of that … never have been. You’ve only got to look at me; I’m not that type of person.

I know we were talking about your love of cycling earlier on and I know that Steve really takes his health seriously too …
Oh yeah, he’s a great football player and he’s very conscientious about health. I do a lot of cycling and live on the coast and do a lot of running. I do a lot of walking, which is where I get a lot of my ideas from quite often, and those Suffolk skies and along by Walberswick and Southwold … in the summer some of those sunsets are quite outrageous.

So, rock music: music for all or is it quite tribal?
I think it’s a shame. I think rock music should be for everybody but I think unfortunately some people pigeonhole music in categories and if you say it has to be rock or metal it has to be a certain type of rock and I think that’s really sad. But, I think that’s maybe a younger approach and as you grow and get older … Like, I play in a rock band with Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, a band who I love and they’re incredible and I like lots of bands like that who are metal bands, but I love other stuff as well. I love classical music, I love folk music and I think it’s a shame that music does get pigeonholed. I also think that in the UK, maybe more so than any other country, we’re so fashion orientated. If you like one genre of music it has to be fashionable as well. Take Oasis, that was the fashion in the 90s and you wouldn’t let anything else in. It’s the same with certain types or rock and metal and that affects what people listen to. But again, I think it’s an age thing and if you really love music, even if you won’t admit to it … I’ve seen some Maiden fans really loving the quieter side of our music,and that’s great! Certainly the Maiden fans that I’ve met JUST love music and they like all types and that’s brilliant.

I think you’re absolutely right, not only with British Lion but with Maiden too the key thing is the song writing. Not only is there fantastic performances but you’ve got to have the songs haven’t you?
British Lion album coverDefinitely, and I think that’s what British Lion stands for more than anything. When the album was first released I got a lot of comments saying that I can’t sing – “the singer’s rubbish” – but it’s not just the fact that I was singing for British Lion, but I was also a key part of the song writing and to be honest that element is more important to me than being a vocalist. It’s most probably taken some of those comments for me to realise that by the time we record again it will be the first time I stand up and say “hold on, I have to focus a bit more on how I sing,” because some of those vocals had no more than one or two takes. With British Lion, it’s fundamentally about song writing and it’s how Steve and I first got together: we both love great songs and we write really well together, kind of differently to how he’s written before and how he’s written with collaborators before and that’s a really attractive thing. It’s taken it somewhere differently.

How do you think your music is labelled?
I think at the moment it’s just labelled classic rock but by the time we get to our second album I don’t know if it can be titled as that. With the first album you have tracks like ‘The Eyes of the Young’ and ‘The Chosen Ones’ and yeah, that is classic rock, but those songs were written twenty-five years ago. David Hawkins is a big part of the song writing and he’s much younger than me. He listens to bands like Muse and Linkin Park and he’s an absolute whizz in the studio. With Dave and Steve and myself, we all come from different angles. I hate titles…why does something have to be called something specific? I guess it just makes life easier.

I can absolutely see what you mean and as the three of you are coming in with your own influences you give the band very much its own identity rather than a cookie cutter impression of something already in existence. It makes it fresh and interesting, not only for you guys but also for the people who listen to the tracks and come along to the gigs. There IS that variety.
Yes, the people who didn’t get it the first time will hopefully get it by the time we do the second album. Certainly live people are beginning to understand it. You take other bands who have melodic singers and they put on a show but if you see what we do live we’re pretty on the edge and we really get out there and work our arses off. We’re not a safe band, we’re pretty spontaneous and people will get a shock. The album is what it is but live it goes to another level. I’m pleased about that and I think people who’ve seen us have grasped and latched onto that.

Is there a particular piece of music you’ve been involved in, thus far, that you’d like to be remembered for?
Certainly some of the new stuff is pretty special, but on the first album ‘This is My God’, that’s a pretty special song: the lyrical content, the riff. Again, that’s an old song but we’re playing a new song in the set that’s only come out this year called ‘Bible Black’ and that’s quite a special song that means a lot to me.

I recently read a live review of this tour and they picked out that song for a particular mention, which is confirmation of just that …
That’s great! [Smiling widely and nodding]

What would you say to the people who say the rock era is dead?
I think you just need to go and watch bands. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about. Just go and watch Iron Maiden next year and you can certainly see it’s not dead. They’ll sell out arenas all around the world and that’s just one band. It’s not dead, it’s more alive than ever!

What’s next for you?
We’re going to go back and listen to a lot of the live recordings from the last three tours and may at some point put something live out. We’ll also go back and carry on with material for the second album – we’ve  actually got plenty, enough for three or four albums. We never stop writing. I personally write all the time … And back to running on the beach!

Later that evening British Lion proved once more what a superb band they are, taking the packed Norwich venue by storm. With a massive Iron Maiden world tour looming, quite how long it’ll be before the next album is released is unclear. But judging by the magnificent new material played tonight, it’ll be well worth the wait.


Related posts: Relics 3: Finding My Marbles and Drawn by Quest for ’Arry

About Words and Music


Back to the Words and Music Q&A Series index page


Fireworks, Rocktopia and Uber Rock

Regular readers may have noticed the relative paucity of new interviews and articles on this site recently, for which I apologise. This is partly due to general busy-ness (work and play) but mainly due to the increase in time I’ve devoted to reviews and interviews for other publications, most notably Fireworks Magazine and Über Röck.

Uber Rock logoWith regards to Über Röck, it’s a pleasure writing for a magazine which prides itself on devoting column inches to bands who fly below the radar, as it were, bringing great new music to your attention without pandering to PR companies and major record labels. Better still is working with a group of writers who do it purely and simply for the love of the music. If you want to know more, joint-founder of Über Röck, Gaz, tells it like it is here:

Those interested can read my Über Röck reviews here:

Recent reviews include (among others) albums by Yes, Vertica, Dead Shed Jokers, Neal Morse Band, Agent Philby and the Funtans, Jouis, Amberjacks, Lande and Holter, Beardfish, Corvus Stone, Pain of Salvation and Martin Barre. You can also check out interviews with the likes of Neal Morse, Adrian Belew, Graham Bonnet, Robbie Cavanagh and Michael Schenker.

Fireworks Magazine CoverFireworks Magazine is published every other month and is available in the UK in all high street branches of W.H.Smiths. it is also now available in the United States and Canada. Most Fireworks reviews and interviews are subsequently made available on the Rocktopia website. You  can access the site here:

My recent contributions include reviews of albums by Von Hertzen Brothers, Anathema, Curved Air, Voyager, Perfect Beings, The Answer, Starset, Blitzkrieg, Meat Loaf, Arcane, Man and Melissa Etheridge (to name a few), and interviews with Cormac Neeson of The Answer and Brian Ross of Blitkzkrieg.

Prog fans might also have noticed Michael Anthony’s Prog Magazine article on Twelfth Night’s excellent ‘Fact and Fiction’ album (in ‘The Albums That Saved Prog’ series) a while back. More information about that is available on the Twelfth Night official website.

Look out too for Michael Anthony’s occasional appearances on BBC Radio Wales on The Alan Thompson Show. Recent chat and music has included features on AC/DC, Deep Purple, Def Leppard, Prog Rock, Bob Dylan and Jon Lord.

Rock ‘n ‘Roll!

Prog Magazine Cover July 2013

Read Über Röck’s review of Words and Music

Read Fireworks/Rocktopia’s review of Words and Music

Read Prog Magazine’s review of Words and Music

Deep ?urp!e

Deep Purple - Now What?! chart action

Unlike, say, Black Sabbath (who have faced different sorts of challenges), since their 1980’s reformation Deep Purple have kept going as a creative force, keeping their core line-up pretty much intact, or, at least, allowing it to evolve in a way that has ensured stability and continuity.

I made my peace a long time ago with the Steve Morse and, more recently, Morse/Airey line-ups. Indeed, for me, the Purpendicular album (1996) was an extraordinary creative rebirth which has had me on tenterhooks in anticipation of each new release since.

Deep Purple - Now What?! album coverWhile there’s not been a bad album with Steve Morse in the band, 2013’s Now What?! is probably the strongest since the aforementioned Purpendicular. It is undoubtedly their most experimental and progressive album for quite some time – certainly since Purpendicular and probably since Fireball (1971). It has a looser, fresher feel, as producer Bob Ezrin encouraged the band to jam, have fun and just play. Sometimes in the past, the band seems to have felt constrained by what they take to be popular notions of what ‘Deep Purple’ stand for and what they should sound like. In contrast, most fans I know (admittedly a very small subset) would agree that what made Deep Purple great was their desire to be exciting, to follow their instincts, to experiment, and to push at musical boundaries. For those of us who feel like that, Now What?! is a very, very pleasing album.

So, what of the songs? The quiet and beautifully sung opening to  ‘A Simple Song’ doesn’t so much lull you into a false sense of security as set the tone for the unpredictable nature of what follows. I hear hints of ‘Black and White’ (from the House of Blue Light album) in the melody – possibly and playfully deliberate given Gillan’s use of the phrase in the lyrics.

The next two tracks pick up the baton and drive us deeply into the album. ‘Weirdistan’ has an understated eastern-flavoured riff and features a wonderful spacey keyboard solo from Don Airey. (“Oh yes, it’s beautiful”!) ‘Out of Hand’ has an atmospheric opening, with Airey’s prodding keys yielding to a trademark big riff, more eastern stylings and a stand out Morse solo.

First single ‘Hell to Pay’ initially appears to be standard fare until we’re treated to some sublime guitar/keyboard soloing and interplay that has always been a feature of Deep Purple (whether we’re talking Blackmore and Lord, Lord and Morse, or Morse and Airey) and that no one, but no one,  has ever done better. Of course, it’s all wonderfully underpinned by Glover and Paice. This is some band!

‘Bodyline’ has a funky opening and rolls along nicely. But surely I’m not the only listener disappointed that lyrically it turns out to be a vehicle for an oversexed Ian Gillan to indulge his whims again. I was hoping for a song about cricket and past Ashes intrigue!

Deep Purple - Above and Beyond coverAs good as it’s been up to this point, the heart of the album is the run of three tracks spanning the ever so proggy ‘Above and Beyond’, the cool and sometimes laid back ‘Blood from a Stone’, and ‘Uncommon Man’. The latter features a wonderful extended guitar-led prelude with orchestral arrangements (a fanfare?) before Paice’s drums usher the band effortlessly into the verse. Again, there aren’t many bands who could, who would, write something like this. (The Enid, perhaps?)

‘Après Vous’ is a more standard rocker, which picks up the pace before settling into a nice bass groove and featuring yet more cool Morse/Airey interplay. “C’mon man. Fill your boots,” sings Gillan, with thoughts of “another life, another world.” His ‘Woman from Tokyo’, and other women from other places, clearly still make him sing.

‘All the Time in the World’ is a gentle and touching ballad – the kind this incarnation of Purple do so well (think ‘Clearly Quite Absurd’ from the Rapture of the Deep album). Morse’s solo is sublime. He can shred with the best of them, but when he wants to go for the heart he just reaches right in there and grabs you. Gillan recycles and adapts a lyric from Purpendicular‘s ‘Soon Forgotten’: “Sometimes, on a good day, I sit and think. Sometimes I just sit.”

The closing track on the standard version, ‘Vincent Price’, is loads of fun, featuring a church organ, a crash of thunder, an operatic intro, a mock-horror riff, multi-tracked vocal effects and a lyrical run-through of every horror film cliché Gillan can summon. “It feels so good to be afraid,” he sings, “Vincent Price is back again.” The video is a lot of fun too – haunted castles, wax-work dummies, roaming monsters and a pole-dancing nun! Really! Don’t take it too seriously but check it out:

Vincent Price promo shot

As you can see from the picture at the top of this piece, the album charted all over Europe, reaching number 1 in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway, and entering the top 10 or top 20 in numerous other countries. (I don’t wish to pitch Black Sabbath and Deep Purple against each other, but there was a feeling in some quarters that while Sabbath worked hard to rediscover their mojo – turning in a decent album, 13,  which incredibly achieved number 1 chart success in the UK and the USA – Purple were, with Ezrin’s help, able to give free expression to theirs, raising the creative bar a notch or two in the process.)

It must be very gratifying for the band, and, indeed, for long-term fans and supporters, that the album has been so well received. The music deserves it, but it’s also been better promoted than previous albums. It even got the band an interview appearance on Jools Holland’s BBC television show (Tuesday 14 May 2013). At their age as well. Who do they think they are?!

The success of the album was tinged with sadness, of course, given the passing of former keyboard player Jon Lord. While the whole album is dedicated to Jon, the track ‘Above and Beyond’, is a poignant and more direct tribute. It includes the following beautiful lyric …

Souls, having touched, are forever entwined

Now What?! is a fitting tribute both to the memory of Jon Lord and to the musical legacy that he and his Deep Purple bandmates have bequeathed to us. Highly recommended!

Deep Purple promo poster

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Black Sabbath 13

An Interview with Simon Robinson (Deep Purple Appreciation Society)

About Words and Music


Fifteen Songs That Rocked My World in 2013

2. Evie and the Essence of Rock and RollAt this time of year everyone and his dog is publishing a list of something.  It’s dreamtime for those who like to catalogue, rank and review.

I had a lot of fun pulling out and revisiting the 2013 releases in my collection (and trying to remember the gigs I’d been to) for the  Über Röck website and Fireworks magazine end of term exercises.

Those interested can check out collective and individual lists in the January/February 2014 edition of Fireworks (Issue 61) and the Albums of the Year and Gigs of the Year features on the Über Röck website.

Rather than simply reproduce those exercises here, I thought I’d do something different. It’s true that in the introduction to Words and Music, I note that rock fans generally buck the modern trend for downloading single tracks and prefer to experience music through bands and albums. However, in thinking about my favourite albums of 2013 for the aforementioned exercises, I was troubled by the huge amount of good music I’d had to omit. It’s also true that you can cast some light on bands and albums by drawing attention to particular songs. I thought, therefore, that I’d compile a list of fifteen tracks that made a particular impression on me last year – an entirely arbitrary number, of course, but I guess you have to stop somewhere!

So, in no particular order, here are some tracks that rocked my world in 2013. Some are from my top twenty albums of the year, and some aren’t. Where I can I’ve added links to the music. Obviously (it almost goes without saying) I don’t own the copyright to any of the material, but I direct you to it in the hope that you’ll find something you’ll enjoy and will want to add it to your own collection. Here goes …

1. Deep Purple – ‘Above and Beyond’ (from Now What?!)
As a long-term fan of the Steve Morse-era, I was absolutely delighted that Purple came up trumps with what most commentators agree is their best album since 1996’s excellent Purpendicular. The quality and success of the album was tinged with sadness, though, as the band paid tribute to friend and former bandmate, the great Jon Lord. The album as a whole was dedicated to Jon, though ‘Above and Beyond’ is a very poignant and more direct tribute.

Rest on your sadness
And tomorrow we’ll find
That souls, having touched, are forever entwined

You Tube link:

Deep Purple Now What?! cover

2. Von Hertzen Brothers – ‘Flowers and Rust’ (from Nine Lives)
Here’s a great band who really should be as big all over the world as they are in their native Finland. The flip side of their crawl to international recognition is that it’s still possible to see them ‘up close and personal’ in small venues in the UK.  ‘Flowers and Rust’ is one of the stand out tracks from their magnificient 2013 album Nine Lives and earned them the ‘Anthem of the Year’ accolade at the 2013 Prog Awards. Check it out people. Hopefully 2014 will be their year!

You Tube link to official video:

VHB -Nine Lives cover

3. Riverside – ‘We Got Used to Us’ (from Shrine of New Generation Slaves)
Gutsy, modern prog rock from Poland. Riverside are a band I already loved, and they didn’t disappoint with 2013’s Shrine of New Generation Slaves. In amongst the now customary psycho-drama and the intense and compelling musical passages, Mariusz Duda sure knows how to pen a great melody and strong lyrical hooks. I’ve gone here with ‘We Got Used to Us’ (with an honorary mention to ‘The Depth of Self-Delusion’) but could really have picked any of the album’s eight tracks to illustrate the quality of the band and the pull of the album.

Hear it on You Tube:

Riverside - Shrine of New Generation Slaves cover

4. Steven Wilson – ‘Drive Home’ (from The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories)
Considered by many to be the master of modern progressive rock, Steven Wilson was on fire in 2013. He released the astonishing The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), having assembled an all-star band who proved as effective live as they were in the studio. He followed up the album and tour with the Drive Home video EP, which came complete with live and previously unreleased bonus tracks.  ‘Drive Home’, the track, was a compelling tear jerker and benefitted from a quite superb animated video, directed by Jess Cope. (Honorary mentions too, to ‘The Raven …’ itself – another stunning video – and the acerbic and punchy ‘The Holy Drinker’.)

Here’s a link to the official video:

You can hear Jess speaking about the video here:

You can read my own Über Röck review of the Drive Home video EP here:

Steven Wilson - Drive Home cover

5. Spaceport Union – ‘Minnow’ (from Flirting With The Queen)
‘Minnow’ is a superb piece from the debut album of a Canadian band who will be unknown to most in the UK.  One of the pleasures and privileges of writing for Über Röck is that you do sometimes come across rare gems from talented emerging artists . In my review I said:

“Checking in at a cool 14 minutes and eight seconds, ‘Minnow’ is a modern prog classic in the making. Ethereal and dreamy, edgy and experimental, and “recorded live off the floor,” its emotional weight is carried by Spence’s haunting vocal. “Do not go gentle into that dark night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” says the Dylan Thomas quote in the album credits. ‘Minnow’ is not always gentle and does not always rage, but it does induce a sense of melancholy and quiet torment throughout. It’s beautifully sad. It’s how things might turn out if Wilson and Åkerfeldt in Storm Corrosion mode ever collaborated with Kate Bush. But there’s still room for the guitar dominated final section to pick up the pace and really drive the track home.”

I stand by those words – and by my overall review of the album. It made my top twenty!

Check out the track and the album here:

And here’s my full Über Röck review:

Spaceport Union cover

6. Blitzkrieg – ‘V’ (from Back From Hell)
I reviewed the new Blitzkrieg album in Fireworks (Issue 61) and regarded it as a qualified success. Why “qualified”? Well, because it largely plays to an old-school NWOBHM audience and in that sense pigeonholes itself. ‘V’, however, has a great blend of power, drama and melody and had me reaching for the repeat play button. (An honourable mention too to ‘Complicated Issues’ – the other stand-out track on the album.) “An idea cannot be killed by bullets.” Great stuff!

Check out ‘V’ here:

Blitzkrieg cover

7. The Lidocaine – ‘Life is Beautiful’ (from The Road To Miero)
Another Finnish band, and probably one of the more obscure artists to make an impression on me last year. The Road to Miero is their second album. It’s not bad at all, and despite some of the album’s relatively grim lyrical themes, opener  ‘Life is Beautiful’ struck me as a reaffirmation of the beauty of life despite hardship and struggle. This track has stayed with me all year.

There’s a ropey recording of ‘Life is Beautiful’ on You Tube that doesn’t really do it justice, so you might be better advised to check them out via their website:

Here’s my Über Röck review of the album:–the-lidocaine-on-the-road-to-miero-inverse-records.html

The Lidocaine Road to Miero cover

8. Gate 6 – ‘God Machines’ (from God Machines)
Top notch stuff from a Dutch band I hadn’t heard of before 2013. Although I was sent God Machines to review in 2013, it was actually released in 2012 – otherwise it would certainly have made my top 20 albums of the year. The title track is one of its stand out moments, and again, has stayed with me since the review. (An honorary mention to ‘Casualties of War’ too.)

Track samples are available on the Gate 6 website:

Über Röck review here:

Gate 6 album cover

9. Tipsy Road – ‘Wraith’ (from Somewhere Alive)
Tipsy Road are a young Swiss band with a less than convincing name but an album full of heavy rocking tracks that just keep comin’ atcha. ‘Wraith’ is one of the tracks that pulled me into their Somewhere Alive album and made me think that these guys have something special.

There’s a very nice four minute album preview on the band’s website:

And here’s my Über Röck review:

Tipsy Road cover

10. Split Sofa – ‘She Really Moved Me’ (from Coloured Dream)
Split Sofa, led by frontman and songwriter Lewie Docksey, are a band with a recording history. (Coloured Dream was, in fact, their sixth album.) They play a slightly anachronistic and very English brand of psychedelic rock, of which ‘She Really Moved Me’, with its early Pink Floyd and Satanic Majesties-era Stones vibe, is a prime example. I fell in love with this track on first play.

You can hear it here:

And here’s my Über Röck review:

Split Sofa cover

11. This Devastated Fan – ‘Contingency Plan’ (from Plot and Debauchery)
TDF are a young band from the North West of England who in 2013 decided to “reboot” their debut album. It’s a good, solid, well thought-out affair that boasts some great tunes and deserves some attention. ‘Contingency Plan’ was one of the catchiest tracks I heard all year. I’ve been walking around singing it for months!

I can’t find a decent, available version online, but please do check out the band’s website:

This is what I wrote about them at the time:

This Devestated Fan cover

12. Primitive Instinct – ‘Solitary Man’ (from One Man’s Refuge)
Primitive Instinct are a somewhat older band, who produced a thoughtful ‘Sort of Rock’ album likely to provide comfort and succour to those of a certain vintage in particular. It didn’t make it to my top twenty list, but there are some very classy tracks here, of which ‘Solitary Man’ has become my favourite.

Check out the band via song samples available on their website:

Here’s my Über Röck review:

Primitive Instinct - cover

13. Dyscordia – ‘Ache of Hearts’ (from Twin Symbiosis)
“And here come the Belgians …” with their loud heavy metal guitars and their growling vocals! Twin Symbiosis was another album I reviewed for Über Röck, and yet another album that was a very pleasant surprise. About ‘Ache of Hearts’ I said: “Stand out track for me is the beautifully sung ‘Ache of Hearts’, the album’s ‘resting point’ and a chance to come up for air after a storming run from the creepy ‘Dreamcatcher Tree’, through ‘The Empty Room’, ‘From Sight to Black’ and “the meanest motherfucker on the album” (it sez ‘ere) ‘Rise to Perception’. In a perfect world, ‘Ache of Hearts’ would win the Eurovision Song Contest every year, and everyone would have progressive metal for breakfast.”

You can hear it here:

Here’s my full Über Röck review:

Dyscordia - Twin Symbiosis cover

14. Inner Odyssey – ‘Light Years Away’ (from Have a Seat)
Have a Seat was the very strong debut album from a young Canadian progressive rock/metal band with bags of talent and seemingly unlimited potential. ‘Light Years Away’ is a 3 part suite that, for fans of the genre, has everything.

When I reviewed this album, I wrote: “The band set out their stall early with the three part epic ‘Light Years Away’. Part I (‘Tides of Fate’) is dominated by the atmospheric keys of Mathiau Chamberland. Part II (‘Shades of Heaven’) showcases Leboeuf-Gadreau’s precision soloing and the smooth vocals of Pier-Luc Garand Dion. The raging riffola and occasional full band thrashes of Part III (‘Distant Illusion’) show the band’s modern metal influences and put drummer Étienne Doyon and bassist Simon Gourdeau in the shop window before reaching a wonderfully melodic conclusion.”

You can read my full Über Röck review here:

Expect to hear more from this band in 2014. In the meantime, the band has made the full album available online and I most heartily recommend that you check it out: ( ‘Light Years Away’ is the opening track.)

You might also like to know that Have a Seat made former Fireworks Reviews Editor Paul Jerome-Smith’s 2013 top five albums of the year!

Inner Odyssey - Have A Seat cover

15. Karelia – ‘Bill For The Ride’ (from Golden Decadence)
Karelia’s album Golden Decadence was another surprise. I know you can’t always judge a disc by its cover, but having seen the ‘bling’ and the ‘chicks’ I was expecting an album full of grimy sleaze rock. Having said that, I knew that they had supported the Scorpions and Michael Schenker, so on reflection probably should have expected a band with a bit more class. I was on my way to Wolverhampton to see Marillion when I first played it, and album opener ‘Bill For The Ride’ blew me away. It ‘benefits’, I’d say, from a misheard lyric – something about a “mother-loving Mars Bars”. I call it the ‘Mars Bar song’ now.

Hear the track (and mishear the lyric) here:

Über Röck review here:

Karelia - album cover

So there you are. I’ll still probably agonise about the bands and good music I’ve still not managed to represent on any of my lists … Solstice, Legend, Corvus Stone, Mindwork, Nik Turner, Hammerforce. But hey, you have to draw the line somewhere! It’s a new musical year now and there’s already so much to look forward to.

Onwards and upwards, eh?!


Joe Siegler (Black Sabbath Online)

Joe Siegler and Geezer Butler

At eighteen years young, Black Sabbath Online is one of the best known and most well-established fan sites on the web. But to say that it’s a rich source of information on all matters Sabbath, would, if anything, be an understatement. You want to know dates, venues and support bands from any particular Sabbath tour? Interested in album catalogue numbers? Trying to get your head around all the comings and goings of the sometimes bizarre line-up changes in the 1980s? Want up-to-date information on what’s happening now? Want to be part of a thriving online forum? You’ll find all of that here, and more.

The man behind the site is Joe Siegler, and his work is held in such high esteem by the band themselves, that although Black Sabbath Online is not an official band site, several past and present members of Black Sabbath have asked him to make sites for them too!

As readers of Words and Music will know, my own experiences of Black Sabbath’s music feature prominently there, both in the gig chapter (‘This One Sacred Hour’, you can read an extract here) and in the chapter called ‘God and the Devil’. It was a pleasure and a privilege, then, to be able to catch up with Joe and find out a bit more about his own experiences of running such a popular website and being a Black Sabbath fan.

Henry - Sabbath flying devil

So Joe, how did you get involved with Black Sabbath Online?
Well, it’s something I just ‘started’, the term “get involved” doesn’t really apply. Anyway, back in 1995, we were in the wild west of the World Wide Web, as at that point it was only a year or so old. Granted the web back then was little more than single pages with the occasional picture. It wasn’t the multimedia extravaganza that the web is in 2013. Back then everyone and their mother didn’t have a website. I was getting into website stuff for my former company (in fact, the original incarnation of my site had no domain name, it was just a few pages on my former company’s website as a hidden page. Heh.)

Anyway, I took a look around, and there wasn’t much of anything out there for Black Sabbath.  What was there was pretty banal, and I thought, “Well, I can do better than this”, so I got started on my site.  Even so, it was pretty basic, though I still had more info out there than anyone else at the time, so I just went for it.

In short order, I needed a domain name, and I looked around. was taken (although then it was just owned by another fan – who wasn’t using it).  When he wouldn’t respond to my queries, I looked around, and took inspiration from one of the only two bands I knew of then that had any internet presence, which were Megadeth and Deep Purple.  Then, Deep Purple ran with a URL of – and I thought if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me.  So was born as a domain name.  I’ve held it ever since, despite changing hands a few times since those early days.

I wrote about some of the history of my site when I launched the current incarnation in early 2012.  You can read about that here:

What sort of things do you do, and how much of a time commitment is it?
That really varies. The year of 2011 was taken up mostly with a total overhaul of the site. Mostly it’s spent on maintenance. With the new album out, obviously more is happening. The big advantage here is this is a FAN site, and since I created it, I can 100% dictate what goes on it, and when it happens. Obviously some events (concerts, album releases) are more time based, but ultimately I work on it when the mood strikes and I have time.

Lately I’ve taken to updating with small little things on Twitter a lot.  I’ve built up a nice following on my site’s Twitter feed where I talk to other fans about any number of things Sabbath related.   They’re also a good source to ask questions of too.

Time is a big deal for this, because in the last eight years I’ve been a parent, where as I wasn’t before, and of course that makes for a big change in patterns and behaviours. I squeeze in work where I can, and keep the essentials moving forward, but I don’t have the time I used to have in my “no kids” area. Ultimately though, family will always come first, and the site can go rot if family concerns need to be dealt with.

Black Sabbath Mob Rules album coverWhy Sabbath? Is it possible to say what their music means to you?
Well, I got into them when the Mob Rules album was the then ‘new’ album. Back then it was about the guitar sound of Tony, and the voice of Dio, who was my original introduction to the band. Over the years, I’ve continued to enjoy them, and to be honest, my “onramp” as such was right before the band started on its, well, fiasco of line-up changes through the 8os. Through that all was Tony, so he for me is more Sabbath than anything else. 

What does the music “mean”?  That’s kind of a philosophic question. Ultimately it doesn’t. I enjoy it. I stomp my feet, and I enjoy it, but it is just music. There are more important things in life than music. That’s probably an odd stance from a guy who runs a successful fan website, but in the end, I see music as something disposable. ENJOYABLE of course, but it doesn’t “mean” anything beyond the immediate joy of listening to it.

Ever meet the band?
Yes, several times face-to-face, but a lot more via email and phone calls. I’ve written about the face-to-face meetings on my website in the past, but here are a few tidbits. First time was in 2005 backstage on an Ozzfest date. The first time I met Tony Iommi, I saw him about 2 minutes or so before he was close enough where I could talk to him. In those two minutes, my entire time as a fan flashed before my eyes, and all the things I thought about saying to him if I met him went out of my head, and I was left with “WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO SAY?”   Ha, ha.  In the end, we exchanged some pleasantries, and it went well enough. I got an email back from one of his assistants a week or so later saying he wanted to apologise to me for not having more time to compliment me on my website, which was a heck of an ego stroke.

My favourite story comes from a backstage stint at a Heaven and Hell show in 2007.  I was with Tony and Geezer in Geezer’s room (when Geez invites you into his room to raid his cooler for beer, you take that invite). Anyway, we were talking, and I mentioned something on my website I did earlier in the year – it was an April fool’s joke where I said that Ronnie had quit the Heaven and Hell tour, and been replaced by Ian Gillan – and that they had renamed themselves  “Born Again”. We had a laugh about that, and mentioned the next year and if they were doing anything with Ozzy. Tony said “Well, you haven’t heard what’s happening next year”. I forget the exact words, but it was something about reunion with Ozzy and a new album and all that (this would have been 2008). I apparently fell for it, and went “REALLY?” with an appropriate open mouth look. Tony and Geezer just looked at each other and both of them pointed at me and started laughing, with Geezer saying, “Look at his face”.  When the guys are playing practical jokes on you, you know you’re accepted. That was a great moment for me.

Heaven and Hell 25-41NOTE: The April fool’s Joke post is still online here:

They say it’s often a mistake to meet your heroes. Presumably your experience with Sabbath has been different?
Well, yeah.  That all started back in 1997 when Cozy Powell rang me up on the phone at my day job, and asked me about doing a website for him. Outside of my own fan site, he was the first. That blew me away because honestly, at that point, I hadn’t built up much of anything (my Sabbath site was just two years old then). But I guess he saw something in what I was doing. Sadly, Cozy died before we got much of anywhere with his site, but I’ll never forget that moment.   

With all of them, a trick I found when we get to talk is to say something along these lines: “Look, for a lot of my life, I’ve been a fan.  Can we talk about {insert fan stuff} so we can get that out of the way?” That trick seems to have worked. I also know David Gerrold, the author, and when I first touched base with him, I said the same thing … “Can we talk about Tribbles for a minute?  Otherwise they’ll be in the back of my mind”. Maybe it was the presentation, or the tone or whatever, but that trick of ‘getting that kind of fannish crap’ out of the way early on so we can have a relationship (either personal or professional) has gotten the job done. But you have to have a hook. Gerrold has talked to numerous people about Tribbles over the years, and Iommi has talked to people about his music a shit load of times over the years.  So it’s not just my trick, I suppose.

So, in your experience, what should you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
I don’t think there is a stock answer. What works for me may not work for you, because I don’t know how you are with people, what your body language, tone of voice is like. I guess one thing to suggest would be to assume that anything you can think of they’ve probably heard before. Don’t think you’re the first person to think of something. I wouldn’t spend a ton of time thinking of the most obscure question to ask, either. Just be honest and forthright with what you’re saying.

Black Sabbath Born Again album coverYour first Sabbath gig?
November 5, 1983 at the now demolished Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA. When I first got into Sabbath, they had just been through Philly on the Mob Rules tour, so I had to wait for the Born Again tour. Quiet Riot opened for them. That was when Quiet Riot were literally EXPLODING with their Metal Health album.  

An interesting fact about that Sabbath gig. You remember that show in Cincinnati back in the late 70s by The Who where some kids got trampled to death? Well, that was due to what was then called “open seating” or “festival seating” (meaning no seats on the floor). After that show by The Who, that kind of concert was stopped everywhere in the United States – UNTIL that Black Sabbath concert I went to in Philly. Much was made on local radio about that, and I got there hours before doors opened. I was there early enough to get all the way down the front, and I can see why people were hurt before. It was about an hour and a half until Quiet Riot went on, and I was already being crushed by people pushing forward. I eventually bailed out of there before Quiet Riot came on, and hung out about halfway back on the floor, and enjoyed it a lot more. That was my first gig.

Your best Sabbath gig?
Black Sabbath Cross Purposes album coverI’d say probably the Cross Purposes shows in 1994. The reason is twofold. First, I think they had the most inclusive set of the entire run of the band’s history that tour. Ozzy only does Ozzy era songs.  Dio just did Dio and Ozzy era songs.  Tony Martin did ’em all (although they didn’t play anything from Born Again, he did sing some stuff from Seventh Star on a tour once).  Second, they had some stones and tried to drop ‘Iron Man’ from the set list. Ultimately they failed, and it came back, but I gave ‘em props for trying to move past that.

There’s other moments I liked.  The time I was on the actual stage in Ozzfest 2005 when the band were taking their bows, and the time in 2008 when Ronnie Dio remembered my name from having met me once previously a year ago. Was blown away by that. 

Your top five Sabbath albums?
Ooh, that’s tough. My opinion changes over time on that issue. The other problem with a question like that is that when you list the five, some fan who looks at what I’ve said will go “Well, what the fuck about such and such an album – you’re an idiot”.  Questions like that are polarizing because people translate your answer into “Just these five are good, and the others aren’t,” which is obviously not the case.  Doesn’t mean I like just five Black Sabbath albums. I like ‘em all. Even the lesser Sabbath albums (none are truly bad) have gems on them.  

Having said all that, here’s five – and why.  AND in no particular order …

Black Sabbath Heaven and Hell album coverHeaven and Hell – a brilliant masterpiece of an album that literally brought the band back from the dead.  Honestly, if Ozzy was still vocalist on this album’s final version as he was when it started, does anyone think they’d still be together now? Doubt it.

Cross Purposes – I’m partial to the Tony Martin era, and this one had Martin, as well as Butler & Iommi on it. Didn’t realize until sometime later how much stronger this album was with Geezer Butler on it. That’s no slight on the other bassists in the fold (and I’m friends with Neil Murray), but Geezer fucking made this album, in my opinion.

Black Sabbath The Eternal Idol album coverThe Eternal Idol – given the absolute clusterfuck its birthing process was (two singers, two producers, two credited drummers, two recording studios, two credited bassists), it was one of the more solid albums put out under the Sabbath name in the 80s from front to back.

Born Again – for any number of reasons, this project was never going to last long, but the album produced had some of the best songs by any incarnation of Black Sabbath.  Really, REALLY loved this.

Black Sabbath album coverBlack Sabbath/Paranoid/Master of Reality – I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but to me, I view the first three Black Sabbath albums as a trilogy of sorts. After the first three, the sound started to change. But in this time, they were as fucking solid as any band could EVER hope to be. These three albums were the foundation not for a single band’s career, but an entire genre of music spanning decades and multiple bands. So yeah, you can’t talk about the best of Black Sabbath without talking about these albums.

Black Sabbath Never Say Die! album coverHonourable mentions to Mob Rules for being my first ever Sabbath album, and to Never Say Die!, which I really love for the musical experimentation. Have told Geezer on many an occasion I’d PAY to see them try ‘Air Dance’ live.

What do you make of the current reunion?
I’m excited for new music by them of course. I don’t think any Sabbath fan wouldn’t be. However, I also work for Bill Ward – and I think I’d prefer not to answer this question because of that. I know people are going to translate that into “Joe thinks it sucks”, but I’ve had conversations with Tony and his manager as well as Geezer and Gloria Butler, as well as Bill Ward and his people (not to mention his wife) about all this. It’s a weird dance I do, running the fan site, as well as the websites for Bill Ward and Geezer Butler. I’m bound to respect their opinions and stances they take – which is their right as I work for them – but all those parties agree with my stance of trying to not take a stance on that, because ultimately most questions about the reunion come back to the “Bill Ward thing” at some point.

So while I’m excited about the music, I, like most people, wish they could have worked it out with Bill Ward. That makes me sad.

Black Sabbath Paranoid album coverSome (not me, obviously) might say running a fan site is an unhealthy obsession. What would you say to that?
I’d say it depends on how you balance the rest of your life around it. If it’s the only thing you do, then yeah, it’s bad, but I see the rest of my life as far more important than the website. The website is fun. Heck, next month (July 2013) I’ll have been doing it for 18 years.  You don’t do something for 18 years if you don’t like it. But I know the proper place in my life it holds. The website doesn’t dominate my life – it’s the other way around.

Of everything you’ve done with Black Sabbath Online, of what are you most proud ?
Black Sabbath Master Of Reality album coverThat’s easy: my site’s timeline page. Nothing else I’ve ever done comes close. In a way, that started the site. Back in the days before I started the site, I used to keep a text file list of the band line-up changes. I hung around the music forums on CompuServe in the late 80s, and used to maintain the text file there. I’ve always cared about GETTING IT RIGHT. When I don’t, I want to know, and I’ll fix it. But the timeline page grew out of that original ancient text file. I’ve done a lot for the site over the years, but the timeline page is all written by me. It chronicles all the changes in line-ups there have been since the earliest days of the band, AND THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT. I’ve gotten a few compliments on it from band members.

One goal I still have is to be able to sit down with Tony Iommi and go over the bloody thing, as I really want it to be RIGHT. I’m fairly confident it is, but there are some obscure bits that could use some fleshing out (the time after Born Again before Seventh Star comes to mind).

Note: Check out Joe’s Sabbath Timeline here:

Are you involved with any other bands or offshoots or in music in any other way?
There is the Cozy Powell website which I mentioned above. When Cozy died, I kept it going as a memorial, and for the longest time it stayed the way it was when Cozy was alive. But after a time that 1997 design really needed to go. It stays online as a tribute of sorts, but with Cozy gone now for 15 years, it’s hard to keep that as a living site. There’s also the Geezer Butler and Bill Ward sites. I was also officially the web guy for the Heaven and Hell website (still am I suppose), but with Ronnie being dead, and that band being inactive, that’s stagnated.

I’ve consulted and helped out on a few other band things. For example, Tony Iommi’s manager and I have worked on a few small things – but I don’t “work” for him.  But that’s pretty much it for me. I’ve turned down a few non-music related website projects, as my life is pretty full as it is.

In your experience, is it ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ that attracts rock fans or is it more about the music?
As I like to tell people, my celibacy in high school was definitely involuntary. The other stuff?  That lifestyle was never me anyway. I cared about the tunes. I can’t address the rest of that from personal experience.

How do you view the role of fan clubs and fan sites in the current era? And do you think they have a future?
I’ve been around long enough where the term ‘fan club’ to me means the kind of thing that you mailed in your money for, you got printed newsletters, a membership type thing, and that’s pretty much it. I’m not sure what the term ‘fan club’ means in 2013 when everything is about Facebook, Twitter, and stuff like that. I used to, for the longest time, run an email newsletter for the band, which I called ‘Pilgrims of Sabbocracy’ – that was a lyric written by Tony Martin lifted from the Cross Purposes album. It was a semi-regular email newsletter that survived for a really long time on email communication, but in the end that was replaced by Twitter/Facebook and the like.

I guess the question is how you define ‘fan club’. Is what I do on my site and my forums and Facebook page considered a fan club? If you view it that way, then yes, there’s a thriving future for it in this age of always connected social media. But if you view it the way I do, then the concept of ‘fan club’ is already dead.

NOTE: A little history about my email newsletter is here:

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
Black Sabbath’s 13 is #1 on the charts in the UK in its first week of release. Suck it Justin Bieber.

Mohammed Osama 13

Artwork courtesy of Mohammed Osama

Black Sabbath 13


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