Shortly after the release of their latest album, ‘Sons of Malice’, MetalMouth decided there were some long overdue questions to throw at NWOBHM pioneers, Savage.
Formed in the UK back in 1979, releasing classic debut album ‘Loose And Lethal’ which became the best selling metal import album in America in 1983. It was described as “Probably one of the finest British Metal albums ever released” by Garry Sharpe-Young in his 2002 ‘Rock Detector A-Z of Thrash Metal’ book, ‘Loose And Lethal’ received rave reviews. In 1985 the band’s second album, ‘Hyperactive’, was duly awarded a full house of KKKKK in heavy metal bible Kerrang!
Below, Savage touch upon the bands history, it’s connection to Metallica, the new album and why they had a love/hate relationship with Kerrang. After years of twists and turns the band is now back with a revived hunger, and they mean business.
MM –Thanks for taking the time out to discuss things Savage related for the MetalMouth readers.
CB – It’s a pleasure
AD – Yeah love it
KB – Cool
MM – For the people out there just discovering Savage as a result of this interview how did the band come to form?
CB – I placed an add in a local paper for musos interested in forming a band, I already had one guitar player when Simon (Andy’s elder brother) a drummer rang and said him and his younger brother where interested, so we arranged to meet up one night in Mansfield town centre (actually outside the old library where we recorded Sons of Malice) Simon duly turned up with this skinny teen in glasses (Andy laughs).
We arranged to have a rehearsal together, Andy was really young and not that great a guitar player but I agreed for him to be in the band because decent drummers were hard to find in our neck of the woods (still are! In fact we had them all in Savage at one time or another), Anyway we rehearsed covers for a while and the other guitar player left but in the space of 6 months. Andy had gone from a novice to this little wiz kid on the guitar, he still is but he ain’t no teenager anymore, laughs!
AD – I was just a kid when my big brother, said “Hey, we’re joining a band!” We started out doing covers of Thin Lizzy, UFO. It wasn’t long before we started writing our own stuff. This is late 70’s early 80’s.
“The original Metallica version is pretty bad to be honest!?”
MM – What bands/artists have influenced the band?
CB – Well I am definitely Old School. I grew up through the early seventies listening to the chart band of the time like Sweet, Slade, Mud, T Rex and very early Queen and Thin Lizzy then as I got into my teens I was introduced by school friends to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and UFO, then in the late eighties came Van Halen like a shot out of the blue and they changed everything for us, certainly from a production sound (no one used that much reverb before, it sounded so live!) and of course guitar playing style, what an innovator! I guess I have always liked those bands that had great songs, heavy! with memorable riffs and hook lines.
AD – Lizzy, Priest, UFO, Purple for me oh and Van Halen and Pat Travers!
MM – You had the songs “Let it Loose” and “Dirty Money” featured on the “Scene of the Crime” compilation album in 1981 alongside tracks from Sparta, Tyrant, Manitou, and Panza Division. How did you become involved with that particular project?
CB – We heard about it all by accident, we where friends with the guys in Sparta and it was their manager that was putting it together, so we rang him and basically gave him a bollocking that we had not been invited because the majority of the bands where Mansfield based, anyways we got on it and the rest is history, Mark Brown who ended up as our drummer in the early eighties was in Tyrant at that time.
AD – We heard about it and were not happy that we hadn’t been invited initially. We all had to pay for it to be produced but it was worth it as Lars Ulrich picked up a copy!
MM – It has often been said that album cover used for the album was “one of the strongest visual links between the NWOBHM movement and the punk scene” as it existed back then. How close were the two scenes at the time?
CB – There was absolutely no link between the two at the time, in fact there was a certain amount of hatred between the two camps of supporters as NWOBHM sort of overshadowed Punk which was ‘76’ when it came along in ‘78’. But I can see the similarities between the two now, especially the raw energy!
AD – The scenes were very separate but secretly some of us liked punk too, not much of it but some. You were either in to metal or punk, not both.
MM – Keeping to that album, I believe “Let it Loose” was actually covered by Metallica during the Mustaine era demos of the band and features on the elusive “Hit The Lights” demo. Was this something you were aware of at the time?
CB – We were not aware of them until Xavier Russell told us about them during our first ever Kerrang interview, we then met the guys at Aardschock in 84 and got quite friendly with them for a while, they did ask us to support them at the big London showcase they did back in 84-85 but their management were understandably not having any of it because we where getting just as good press at that time. But we haven’t spoken to them since, Neat Records got us on the Guest list at Sheffield Arena during the Load tour and got backstage but they wouldn’t come out to talk to us, so guess they prefer to avoid us now?
AD – We found out much later via a Kerrang interview with Xavier Russell. To be honest, at that point I’d never heard of them.
MM – How do you think the Metallica version of the song compares to the Savage version?
CB – Not great but it’s not that easy a riff to play, although it is a very simple form and chord structure its all to do with the plectrum strokes (told you Andy is a wiz!)
AD – The original Metallica version is pretty bad to be honest! I’m sure if they played it now it would kick ass! The riff is pretty tricky, it’s all about the right hand; few play it right!
KB – It’s not great is it? Especially when you consider Hit the Lights is a very similar riff, which was recorded and released not so long after.
“…we needed a serious kick up the arse!”
MM – Around 1983 you released the “We got the Edge” EP and started experimenting with a more thrash based sound. What prompted the decision to move from NWOBHM to thrash?
CB – Thrash? You know what I have never understood what is and what isn’t thrash. Is “We got the Edge” thrash? I’ve no idea, bottom line is most of the songs on “Hyperactive” where around and part of the live set when we where touring with “Loose ‘n’ Lethal” there was a deliberate attempt to deliver a much better produced album (more along that Van Halen tons of reverb production) unfortunately the studio we used was not up to the job and we ended up having to do some really drastic EQ’ing at the mastering stage which completely dropped the guitars out boosted the snare drum and harmony vocals, still I like the songs on there, we still have the 24 track masters and I have often said to Andy we should remix the damn thing back to what it was originally meant to sound like.
AD – I felt we went the other way, too melodic by far!
MM – In the mid 80’s you decided to call it a day. What were the reasons behind this decision and is it something you now regret doing?
CB – It was the biggest mistake we ever made! We were getting a lot of backlash in the English press (well Kerrang to be honest) they seemed to have this thing about first building you up and then knocking you down again later, most of it was directed at me. This then created tension in the band, remember that me and Andy were the band, the other two were never anymore [sic] than hired hands (and not that useful ones at that!) but somehow the other managed to drive a wedge between me and Andy and together they all went off to form a new band “Rebel”.
I pretty much gave up for a while and lost interest in the whole scene . A couple of years later an old school friend Richard Kirk (who would later drum for Savage) suggested we get a band together. Which is what we did, calling ourselves XL. We did OK for a while, got a Friday Night Rock Show session for Tommy Vance (Andy played on that, laughs), and John Kalodner showed an interest in the band based on a demo we sent to Geffen, but nothing came of it and just as the band started to fold the whole Savage thing came back to life. Five of the songs on “Holy Wars” were from that band, to answer the original question me and Andy should have sacked the other two and carried on as Savage!
AD – We were stagnating in my opinion, not writing much, no real direction and no support. I think it was pretty hard on Chris but he went on to form another great band XL and asked me to help out on guitar so we never really spent much time apart. I regret it but we needed a serious kick up the arse!
“We aint that easy to pigeon hole!”
MM – You decided to reform around 1995. How did this come about?
CB – It all sort of came about the right time for me, XL had run its course, there was a lot of interest in the press in a sort of ‘where are they now’ situation and Garry Sharpe (who did our album covers) said that Neat Records wanted us to do a comeback album so we put together some stuff from XL, some stuff from Andy’s bands, a couple of songs form around the “Hyperactive” era and a couple me and Andy had wrote in the interim years and ‘“Holy Wars” was born, of course this was right at the height of Grunge, but hey this is Savage. We like to go against the grain (laughs).
AD – We were offered a deal via an old friend Garry Sharpe, he spoke to Neat and that was it, game on. That album was a mix of un-released stuff and tracks from both our other projects
MM – You have recently released a new album “Sons of Malice”. Can you tell the MetalMouth readers a little about the album?
CB – It’s big, it’s loud and it’s the first time the sound of the band has been captured as we actually sound.
AD – It’s all about big riffs and hooks, heavy as hell and that’s it!!
MM –What are your favourite songs from it?
CB – All of them! But especially The Rage Within, Now, Waking the Dead, Sons of Malice and The Hangin Tree.
AD – The Hanging Tree, Sons of Malice, Monkey on my Back, Blow.
KB – The Hanging Tree is my favourite. My boy loves it. Love the hook on Black n Blue too.
MM – How do you think the album compares to your earlier releases such as “Loose ‘n’ Lethal”, “Hyperactive”, “Holy Wars”, “Xtreme Machine” etc?
CB – I’ve always felt that we have our own distinct sound but we don’t produce the same album every time if that makes any sense, I love all the albums we have done, because as I said earlier its all about keeping it heavy with memorable riffs and hooks and I think we have achieved that in different ways on every album.
AD – I think it’s the best album since we started out. The albums after “Loose ’n’ Lethal” were all compromised at some point due to production, finance, and trying to follow. This time we led from the start
MM – You released a video to accompany the album titled “Sons of Malice”. How did the video come together?
CB – The videographer and the guy that runs the warehouse are both associates of Andy’s, the Bikers are through a friend of mine who is a member of the club. We just wanted to do something that was a little old school in style and the simple performance format and the bikes leant itself to that, bottom line its difficult to be overly creative with a tiny budget and limited resources. We are currently talking about doing a follow up video that could be “The Rage Within”.
AD – The guy who shot it is a friend and he was keen as a film maker to do it. Got the warehouse from a mate too, it was fun to do and well over due.
MM – Besides the album release what do you have planned for the rest of 2012?
CB – Well we are concentrating on promoting the album and hoping to get some shows organised, both myself and Andy have been discussing writing new material for the next album. It’s the 30th anniversary of “Loose ‘n’ Lethal” next year so you may tie something together with that. We are pretty much open to all ideas and offers at the moment. I think we are also scheduled to play at [Ed – We’re not telling you!] which will be great, but that’s still to be confirmed.
AD – Push the album, write some more and get on the road, probably late 12 and into 2013
MM – If you had to pick one song to sum up Savage right now what would it be?
CB – All of them! We aint that easy to pigeon hole!
AD – Sons of Malice and Let it Loose
KB – Choose Revolution
MM – Are there any up and coming bands out there you would recommend keeping an eye on right now?
CB – If you like your NWOBHM then I guess it would be the German band Roxxcalibur they’re making a name for themselves covering the NWOBHM stuff from the late 70’s early 80’s and if thrash is your thing then junior’s band Metal Cross kick ass! That acorn didn’t fall far from the tree! (Laughs)
AD – (Laughter) nope! (KB “cheers Uncle Andy”)
KB – Metal Cross!!!
MM – Are there any messages that you would like to pass on to your fans?
CB – Buy the album, instead of free downloads! (Laughs) give the records a listen, come and see a show and say hi, we don’t bite, well not too much (laughs)
AD – Buy the new album, don’t just be trapped in the past, be open to new shit, but mostly I’d like to thank everyone who ever bought a Savage album, or even if you nicked it!!
KB – See you in Strasbourg
Thanks Savage, for your time!
Chris Bradley – Vocals/Bass;
Andy Dawson – Guitars;
Mark Nelson – Drums;
Kristian Bradley – Guitar;
For more information on Savage please check out http://www.myspace.com/savageuk