The Tank, Skunkworks and Sacktrick alumnus looks back at his early relationship with heavy metal...
Hello Mr Dale – and thanks for kicking off our new season of Metal Q&As – Metal Origins. Straight into the questions – What are your earliest memories of heavy metal – was it love at first sight/hearing? “Yes it kind of was. Music didn’t really grab me as a child. I wasn’t brought up in a very musical household (we didn’t have electricity in one house I grew up in) and hearing the odd pop song here and there on the radio never really grabbed me very often. Then in secondary school people started coming in with a bit of AC/DC or Deep Purple… suddenly I knew that was the “thing” that had been missing from music before”.
What was the first metal album you bought with your own cash? “I think the first that I bought with my cash was Kiss – Creatures of the Night or AC/DC – For Those About to Rock. The first album I owned however was Iron Maiden‘s Number of the Beast. I begged my uncle to get that for me for a Christmas or birthday. That really changed everything as it was the only album I had, I played it back to back over and over. Of course if anyone had told me when I had my one Maiden album on repeat that one day I’d be playing songs off that album with that singer, I’d never have believed them. I thought my neighbours were probably quite happy when I got other albums and so alternated Maiden with Kiss and AC/DC soon after… though I remember them coming around to my door one day and inviting me into their lving room to see what Alive 2 sounded like from their point of view. The volume I was playing it at in my house meant that it also sounded crystal clear in their house. They were so lucky to get to hear my Kiss albums for free!”
I often think that about the people who live near the Sentinel Daily office – all the new music they can handle flooding into their living space for free. Very lucky. Are there any bands you loved as a youngster that cause you to wince now and ask ‘what was I thinking’? “Sort of, I later went through a glammy phase of liking Tigertailz and Poison, but nothing to be ashamed of. They were good rocking bands”.
Who were the first band you saw live? “The first rock gig was Kiss, October 23rd 1983 at Wembley Arena on the Lick It Up tour. It’s funny how I remember the date still. I don’t remember the date I lost my virginity or did my final school exams… except that they were in the same week as each other, which might be one clue as to why the results of either weren’t so good”.
I couldn’t possibly comment on that. But I too remember the date of my first gig… How hard was it growing up to get info on the bands you loved- was there much mainstream media coverage where you lived? “We only had Kerrang once a fortnight and Tommy Vance‘s Friday Rock Show once a week on the radio. Those were our only regular sources of rock news. Then we’d occasionally get a bit on TV, Late Night in Concert or a short clip on Entertainment USA or the Whistle Test. We used to spend ages looking forward to those brief TV glimpses into the outside heavy metal world. Crazy to look back and compare it to how much media saturation we have at our fingertips now. Maybe the fact that it was so hard to get information or recorded music I think made it so much more desirable”.
So that being the case, do you think the internet has taken away the mystique of being in a big band for young people today ? Do we know too much about our heroes in 2016? “Yes, that as well, sort of. I don’t know if it ruins the mystique as much as takes away the excitement and anticipation. There wasn’t a proper record shop in my town (Lampeter in West Wales) when I was growing up so to get the latest release you’d have to wait til Saturday for a day off school and get a bus to the nearest big town, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth or if we really wanted to hit the big time… Swansea!! That anticipation, waiting for Saturday to hear a new album is gone when you can find the whole album online before it’s released, skip through tracks and be bored of it in twenty minutes. I think that finding our heroes on social media, reading their thoughts and sending them a message here and there is just amazing. Gene Simmons once personally told me to “get a life”, after I wrote a particularly stupid article about him online. The fact that he had typed “Dear Chris” into his keyboard just made my day! That kind of thing didn’t happen often before the internet revolution”.
Were you a big festival goer as a junior headbanger? “I’d been to a few hippy type festivals with my Mum as a kid, she took me to Glastonbury in the seventies while I was still in primary school. But the first festival I went to by my own choice was Donington Monsters of Rock 1984. AC/DC, Van Halen with David Lee Roth, Ozzy with Jake E Lee, Gary Moore, Y&T, Accept and Mötley Crüe opening on the Shout At The Devil tour. Looking back it was probably the best festival line up I ever saw”.
Possibly the best festival lineup of all time! How hard or easy was it for you to get to big gigs growing up? Would you have hitched hundreds of miles to see your favourite bands if necessary? “Yep, or cycle. Me and my mate Matthew cycled to Donington from Wales. It took us a few days but it was worth it. Then I started hitching to London for gigs”.
Yep. Hitching to gigs was a way of life in ‘the good old days’… What five albums have stayed with you since your formative metal years? “All those early albums have stayed with me, Kiss, Maiden, AC/DC, Motörhead‘s Iron Fist, Ozzy- Diary of a Madman… I was lucky enough to be getting into metal in its golden age. My musical taste hasn’t really evolved since”.
Good man. Neither has mine. Talking of taste, did you have a metal crush? I had lifesize posters of Lee Aaron and Doro Pesch on my ceiling in 1986… “All the usual, yes, Doro, Lee Aaron and Rock Goddess. Funnily enough, much later I dated Jodie Turner from Rock Goddess for a while. Lovely girl but it was a bit odd, going out with someone that you’d had posters of on your wall… I remember that life size Doro poster though! I was sharing a house with another mate of mine from Wales, Geraint. He had his girlfriend visiting from Swansea. When he went out to meet her at the train station, we put the Doro poster on the ceiling above his bed. They would have been midway through their first pump when she saw it…”
Strange that we seem to have lived a parallel existence… Anything else you’d like to reveal about your metal upbringing? “That was kind of it for me. Those first few albums and gigs got me suckered in. Matthew and a couple of other mates in school, Edwin and Hobbs started playing guitar. I joined in with great enthusiasm but little talent at first, so I played bass. I played all day every day (the neighbours loved that too!), we did local gigs, recorded a demo and like every good metal band, we designed logos for our bands on school book covers. Every spare moment went into metal. When I left school I moved to London to see see the bright lights, go to more gigs and join a band. I’ve not looked back since…”