Interview Raven, March 29 2019
In the context of the NWOBHM Top 50, 130dB interviews a number of bands that have meant something to this movement. Now it’s time for Raven!
The band that’s responsible for the speed metal. 130dB spoke with John Gallagher, the bassist and vocalist of the band.
To which live concerts have you been in the 70s? And was there a live concert, after seeing it you knew that you once also would be standing on a stage?
We went to a LOT of concerts in the 70’s… Status Quo, Budgie, Wishbone Ash, Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult etc etc etc… but the fist show we saw was in 1973… Slade.. with The Sensational Alex Harvey band opening! That literally blew our tiny minds & we knew it was what we wanted to do!
What were your personal favorite albums in the seventies. And which bands / albums have influenced the sound of your band?
There’s so many… the bands I mentioned above.. all the glam rock we saw on tv like T.Rex..Sweet… Mud…and of course Purple, Sabbath, Zeppelin.. along with Free, Bad Company, Uriah Heep, Pat Travers, Rory Gallagher, ELP, Yes, Genesis … one way or another we were influenced by it all.
At what age did you start playing a musical instrument?
We went to Spain on holiday in either 1971 or 1972… Mark got a classical guitar and we took turns messing with it.. so that would make around 12 years old!
Do you still know which song you could play first entirely?
Probably for Mark something like “ Caroline” by Status Quo… for me I dunno….maybe “ all right now” by Free.
Which band was the reason that you wanted to start Raven?
Oh it was Slade & Status Quo! They were both so great live..such great entertainers! We were head banging & playing air guitar.. we just added the guitars!
START OF THE BAND
How did Raven started? Whose idea was it to start Raven? And how did you met each other? Your brother Mark for instance ?…
Well I met Mark when we were very young lol…. one day in 1974 Mark and our friend from down the street Paul Bowden came up & said “ we wanna form a band and you can play the bass!” And we started from there!
What is the first song that Raven has ever written? Is there some kind of a story about that song?
I guess it was a song called “ hitting the road” we actually nicked a bit from it and put it into our “hellraiser/action”Sweet cover on the 1st album!
Raven started to play for an audience halfway the 70s. You played in the beginning mainly cover songs but also some own songs. Can you mention some cover songs you played and which songs of your own did you play? Did some of these early songs reach your debut album in ’81?
Our first show was in December 1975 at our school.. we did 4 or 5 originals of which I barely remember…but none made it to the 80’s….. “hitting the road” … “ turn it down” were two of them. We did covers of Queens “now I’m here”… Purples “highway star” and Uriah Jeep’s “stealin”.
Is there a song from Raven where you immediately thought after writing it that it was a super song and might stood up above the others?
All of them lol! But especially “ don’t need your money” it was for us very commercial & hook laden but in a good way.
In the beginning you played local pubs and the working mens clubs. Tough crowd, I read somewhere. You even played for a bunch of Hells Angels. Any funny story about those gigs?
1976.. our drummer at the time Mike Kenworthy was mates with a few of those guys.. we ended up playing a party for them out in a field in the middle of nowhere… It started raining & after being forced to play “ born to be wild” 4 times Mark faked an electric shock so we could escape!
Do you have a favorite song from Raven? Which song is that and why?
No… too many come to mind to be honest!
Did you listen to a lot of other NWOBHM bands at that time? Most importantly, which albums belong to your favorites? In addition, do you also have an absolute favorite?
To be honest I really only skimmed over what was out.. although I liked a lot of what I heard I tried to stay insular and not be affected by what was out there… in order to stay original.
Do you have many NWOBHM albums and singles in your collection? And do you have a (collectors) item that you love the most?
I really don’t…. I had an early copy of the Def Lep EP…. maybe one of the Fist albums…
THE FIRST YEARS
With which bands did you have regular contact in the early 80’s and / or belonged to your close friends?
Let’s see…. The Tygers… Fist… Venom… we’d have contact with most of the Neat bands one way or another… it’s a lot more friendly now as it was more competitive then.
Which concert in the early 80s of your band, do you consider as the best and why?
They were all important… but getting to headline at the Newcastle Mayfair was a big step for us .. it was such a big deal at the time.
And which concert of a colleague NWOBHM band had impressed you?
We played with Maiden in London & liked their almost punk meets prog blend….
Raven released there first single “Don’t need your money” back in 1980 with Neat Records. After that, you opened for some big names like Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Motorhead and Iron Maiden. How did you manage these concerts with just one single out?
Because it was bloody good and they liked it! Ozzy heard it on the John Peel radio show and said “ I want those guys on the bill” after that our name was out and we filled in for Gary Moore opening for Whitesnake.. then did the Motörhead shows…
The general impression is that the NWOBHM was influenced by the punk. In particular, the energy is called. Do you also see that the energy of punk has influenced your sound? Or are there other or more things that have contributed to your sound?
Most of punk was crap but it had attitude & energy so that part was appealing….
Metal and punk were quite the opposite. Punk was hot, Metal not for example. What did you think of the punk and did you listen to it?
It pissed us off and just made us dig in and get better… we would go over well with the punks because of our energy but usually metallers & punks just fought each other!
Has a record label or band member ever suggested to change course, for example a little more towards the punk or a bit more commercial, so that more records could be sold?
Constantly. It’s an occupational hazard… everyone thinks they know better.. and they are usually wrong.
Are there things in your musical career, looking back, that you should have done differently with the knowledge from now? And with the wisdom of today, what should you have done differently?
Oh of course., but that’s life! Sometimes you have to make the mistakes in order to grow… and we made lots of mistakes lol.
Your colleague band, Iron Maiden, going up like a rocket. Most NWOBHM bands pale a bit on their success. Do you understand the success of this band? And could your band have been just as successful and what would have been needed for that?
The right band at the right time with great management and a big label…along with hard work… that’s why they did so well.
If Steve Harris had asked you to come and join Iron Maiden in 1981, do you think you accepted that offer at that time, or was the belief in your own band Raven too high?
Lol no… I would have been flattered but would say no… it’s not all about money. Belief in our band is always high…. you can’t do it otherwise!
Dj Neal Kay had set up a kind of Metal “Mecca” in the Bandwagon. A metal disco, eventually 5 evenings a week. Fans and bands came to watch and perform. Have you ever been there to watch or perform?
I think we did one of those shows.. but never met the guy….
Neil Kay kept a list of which tracks were most frequently requested. In the music magazine Sounds, the “chart” was published, did your band ever appear in that chart as far as you know and with which song and at what spot?
I assume we did but I can’t remember…. it was a very “ London” thing and we were far removed from there.N
You were one of the fastest bands in the NWOBHM. Did you think back in the early 80s that the music you made, couldn’t be much faster? Did you thought back then that you had reached the speed limits?
It was not all about speed… but intensity! Yes, it can always be faster…. but is that always better? It was only one ingredient in the songwriting mix.
In America the Thrash Metal appeared. They took over the NWOBHM in terms of speed and aggression. So did you listen to this new movement yourself? What did you think? And did you have favorites in albums / bands, which ones?
Many of the bands were playing music that was very similar to the nwobhm.. just revved up.. so there was great stuff for sure.. the early Metallica.. Anthrax.. Exodus…
Kill ‘Em All For One
In July 1983 Metallica released their album Kill ’em All. The ninth song from that album is called Seek and Destroy. You released your album All for One a month later, in August 1983. The ninth song on your album is also called Seek and Destroy. Were there any more similarities between Raven and Metallica back then at the time?
Oh many similarities.. we all had long hair.. wore denim & leather… played music…. lol. It was a pure coincidence we had a song with the same title!
You were touring with Metallica in the “Kill ‘em all for One” tour. What do you still remember from that tour? And do you have a fun story about that tour?
I remember Metallica were opening for us.. not that we were touring with them! It was guerilla warfare… 17 people..2 trucks and a 6 berth camper versus America.. very crazy times.. great shows in the big cities.. then weird ones in places like Arkansas! There’s too many stories about that tour but we did play a club in Oklahoma that was just like the “ chicken wire” club in the Blues Brothers movie!
Do you still have contact with the guys of Metallica?
Well they have been rather busy! We did get to open for them in Brazil back in 2014 which was awesome.. and got to hang out for a while and reconnect which was very cool.
The metal is now completely fanned out in all kinds of forms. After the NWOBHM, you got the Thrash, Death, Doom and Black Metal. Then we had the Grunge, nu-metal and so on. In other words, is there a metal movement after the NWOBHM period that you have been able to attract? If so, can you name some personal favorite bands / albums?
There’s too much labeling for me… I use two labels…. “ good” & “not for me”!! So a lot of stuff I can’t get into as it’s got the Cookie Monster vocals etc. but I will appreciate the musicianship…. but I liked a lot of what fell under the grunge category…. the nu-metal not so much…
Which album of Raven is the most special to you and why?
It’s always gonna be the next album! It has to be that way… but im really happy with the live album we just put out!
What did being a part of Raven has brought you?
Wow… so much.. we get to live our dreams.. play cool music.. get to jump around onstage and play it all over the world.. meet cool people. And hopefully entertain and inspire them too!
TRUE OR FALSE
In Wikipedia there is the following sentence: “The manager and founder of Megaforce Jon Zazula believed that Raven was major-label material and kept them touring constantly until the big labels noticed. The infamous Live at the Inferno recording, released in 1984, was a product of one of those tours. Atlantic Records signed Raven to a worldwide contract after a minor bidding war (major label contracts would follow for Metallica and Anthrax in the following year). The band moved its permanent base from Newcastle to New York City”.
Is it true or false?
It’s true 100%.
130dB is organizing a NWOBHM Top 50. The best songs from that period. Firstly, can you please give us your top 10 best NWOBHM songs? Secondly, can you tell the readers why you picked each song?
Ouch I’ll try! In no particular order…
Wanna read another interview with a top NWOBHM band? Look here for the interview with the Tygers of Pan Tang.
Would you also like to participate in the top 50 best NWOBHM songs ever? Enter your top 10 here.