MetalMouth heard through the grapevine that NWOBHM veterans QUARTZ had recently reformed, so we shot some questions their way about the band’s history, their strong connections to Black Sabbath and what the future holds for them…
For those of you unaware, Quartz was one of the first bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal era. Their albums encompassed the true essence of late 1970’s/early 1980’s metal. The band was formed around 1974 in Birmingham, UK not far from a certain Mr Osbournes stomping ground.
The first line-up consisted of Mike Taylor (vocals), Mick Hopkins (guitar), Malcolm Cope (drums), Geoff Nicholls (guitar) and Derek Arnold (bass). In 1976 the group signed to Jet Records. On a tour with AC/DC, Sabbath’s tour manager Albert Chapman agreed to take them under his wing. Tony Iommi also became a huge fan of Quartz and insisted on producing their debut album. In 1979 Geoff Nicholls left to join Black Sabbath.
And now QUARTZ are back.
MM – Thanks for taking the time out to discuss things Quartz related for the Metal Mouth readers.
MC – Thank you for inviting us, it’s a real pleasure.
MM – For the people out there just discovering Quartz as a result of this interview, how did the band come to form?
MH – We’d played in and around the Birmingham scene in quite a few different bands and also played together in various combinations. Lemon Tree, Copperfield being a couple. Geoff had been in a band called World of Oz in the late 60’s.
MM – Birmingham seemed to create a lot of nwobhm/classic rock bands such as yourself, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, the Handsome Beasts, to name but a few. What was the music scene like there during that era?
DA – These were great times, lots of venues to play, just real exciting days.
MM – What bands/artists have influenced the band?
MH – Obviously Black Sabbath…Deep Purple,Van Halen to name a few
MM – Your debut self titled album “Quartz” was produced by Tony Iommi. How did this come about?
DA – We had been close friends with Sabbath since the sixties.
GN – We had supported them under our former name of Bandylegs before changing our name to Quartz.
MH – I still live a couple of miles from where Tony, Ozzy and the boys lived.
MM – What was it like working with him?
MH – It was great fun,we learned a lot from him
MC – I couldn’t believe it when he added flute to the track ‘Sugar Rain’.
GN – Working with Tony on our first album was an eye opener as he showed us a lot of technical stuff which helped us with future things we did.
MM – I believe you also had Brian May and Ozzy Osbourne making guest appearances on the track “Circles”?
MH – Brian May was close friends with Tony Iommi so Tony invited him to the sessions.
DA – Actually Brian wanted to do some Queen style editing on the track.
MC – We left him in the studio and returned a few hours later from the pub to find piles of recording tape on the studio floor.
DA- So in the end he decided to give up saying it sounded ok as it was.
MH – As I remember I don’t think Tony really wanted Ozzy on the track.
MM – Why did that song not make the final grade on the album?
GN – I think Tony thought the Song was a bit too commercial for the album
MH – We had used ‘Circles’ as a Bside when we were still Bandylegs, so it hadn’t occurred to us to use it on the album.
MM – In 1983 you decided to call it a day. What were the reasons behind this decision and is it something you now regret doing?
MC – The decision was taken as there had been a lot of line-up changes and too much inconsistency had crept in the band.
MH- It’s now a decision that is deeply regretted.
MM – You decided to reform in 2011. What prompted this decision?
MH – Our friend and number one fan Tim Perry who has worked so hard for Quartz over the years, kept pushing the idea after Gary Chapman of NWOBHM band Cryer got his band back together for a reunion gig and suggested we should consider the idea.
DA – Gary actually shouted from the stage “If we can do this, so can you guys!”
DG – I’m so glad he did!
MM – Do you think the music industry has changed much in the time that Quartz was ‘missing in action’?
MH – Sadly yes, a lot less places to play, which is a shame.
MM – Question for Geoff. I believe that you joined Black Sabbath in 1980 and stayed with them until 2004. What was it like being a part of the band during those turbulent times?
GN – I actually joined up with Black Sabbath in July 1979, originally for two weeks but as you know stayed until 2004. Working with Sabbath was a complete joy for 99 percent of the time, we had a lot of fun and worked hard on the music. But as with all bands, there were those odd moments when peoples views differed and members went their separate ways to find new challenges.
MM – (Geoff). I believe that you are also currently doing keyboard duties for Tony Martin right now. How did this come about?
GN – Working with Tony Martin is just another step in the process as myself and Tony contributed a great deal to the Headless Cross and Tyr era of Sabbath.
MM – (Geoff). Are there many differences between working with Tony now compared to when you were both members of Black Sabbath?
GN – Not really. It’s just great to return to the songs we played with Sabbath and it would be a waste not to let people hear them live again.
MM – With a lot of the labels re-releasing older, often out of print albums, are there any plans to re release some of the earlier Quartz albums?
MC – Some companies are showing interest in releasing old and new material and there is a possibility that “Against all odd’s” could finally see a cd release.
MM – What has been your most memorable experience to date?
MH – Playing on tour with Sabbath and playing the Reading festival three times.
MM – If you had to pick one song to sum up Quartz right now what would it be?
DA – “Stand Up And Fight”
MM – What do you have planned for the rest of 2012?
MH – Writing new songs (now with great singer David Garner back in the band for the second time). David joined Quartz originally in 1981 when original singer Mike ‘Taffy’ Taylor left the band. David worked on songs for the ‘Against all odds’ album but left prior to recording.
DA – We will be rehearsing for forthcoming shows that are being planned.
MM – Are there any up and coming bands out there you would recommend keeping an eye on right now?
DG – Two currently unsigned Midlands bands ‘Axis Mundi’ and ‘Spuff’
MH – I don’t know about up and coming…but ‘Within Temptation’ impress me!
MM – Are there any messages that you would like to pass on to your fans?
All – Thanks for supporting us, especially through the punk era and when NWOBHM took hold, and hope that you enjoy the new songs and live gigs in the future.
Quartz members are listed as Initials.