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My Rock 'n' Roll History

As you may be aware, I’ve been involved in making and performing Music most of my life. Recently I found a Youtube Video of a song by my old metal band, Tarrasque (Sword Of His Fate). Apart from making me smile it prompted a rush of nostalgia. I will be uploading all the Tarrasque music that I was involved with in due course, but I thought it might be quite fun to do a History of me and my Rock ‘n’ Roll endeavours. This is a huge, self indulgent blog post but hey, it’s my blog. Here we go…

1985 – 1988, The Early Years.

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In the toilet of The Salutation after Tygon’s last gig. (L-R) Paul Barham, Paul Ware, Me, Andy Cooper and Ray Veck.

So after a few years of taping songs played on just a few cheap Binatone keyboards we took the decision to form a band and take over the world. Ok, so in hindsight we were never gonna crack the US market, but you need attitude when you start a band. We went through a few name changes (the best un-used one being "The Hydrogen Penguins") and finally settled on "Tygon", the offspring of a Tiger and a Lion - ooooh, scary. My brother, Paul was gonna be the lead axeman with best mate Ray Veck holding down the rhythm guitar. Ray's mate from school, Paul Barham offered his services as bass player leaving me to fill the role of drummer and singer. Now you must understand at this point, none of us had ever played any instruments, but this seemed secondary in our thinking - we knew that Sony and EMI were bound to be lining up with pens in hand.

So we scraped together enough money to buy some gear and wrote some early tunes. We always wrote our own stuff, something that was rather brave at the time - but looking back, we did alright. We had a kind of Status Quo meets God knows what type of sound and penned such classics as "She's Got What It Takes", "Young Warrior", "Messed Up Girl", "Rainbow Warrior" and "The Bitch", oh yeah - we were angry, we had issues... we needed gigs.

We pulled together some demos (with a rented drum machine (Roland TR7 I think) and Ray's Akai Reel to Reel tape system) and set about getting some local gigs. We played at a couple of Church Halls and met a guy called Steve Evans, hereafter known as Steve the Manager. He was keen and wanted to take us under his wing. He fitted well into the scheme of things because, to be honest, he didn't have a clue either. He fancied himself as a bit of a lyricist and offered up some ideas which we took on board (we had to really - the best we could do at the time was "Young Warrior, don't go out tonight, you'll meet your match in the subway tonight..." - yeah, go figure).

At this time our gigging increased and we got the chance to go into a proper studio to do our first official Demo. It was a tiny 8-track studio in a shed in Denmead (Nr. Portsmouth). We recorded a five song demo and were really very pleased with the result. Now, the decision was taken to make the demo without Paul Barham on bass, and to this day I feel really bad about it. There was a lack of confidence in his abilities (pot...kettle...black) so Ray played the bass in the studio.

It was at this time that we considered getting a new bass player, which rather nicely coincided with meeting Andy Cooper (through a mutual friend of Steve). Andy came along to a practice as he was looking to join a band. We were looking for a singer - and he was excellent, when we found out that he played bass as well (he tried so hard to be Sting), that was kind of it really. Paul agreed to leave and Andy stepped in. We gigged more and more and started reworking older tracks and writing new ones. We were all rather heavily into Yes at this time and our direction changed quite drastically. We got...er weird... yeah - weird, that's the word. The songs got longer with extended middle eights and people no-longer had any idea what was going on, or what was coming next. In the Summer of 1987, we went back to the studio (the same studio) and recorded our second demo. Tygon '87 had some great tracks on it, we were well pleased and entered Portsmouth's Battle Of The Bands competition with the winning post already in our sites (we actually qualified with the original demo). We didn't actually get out of our heat, but we did get a bloody hysterical video out of it...

We became quite well known on the Portsmouth music scene and became pretty tight and accomplished on the instruments as well. But things were not set to last. I went to college and met other musicians and started to jam, and Andy was destined to join forces with his brother Brian (the best guitarist I have ever known personally) and top drummer Paul Sinclair. We split some time in late 1988, Andy formed Circle Of Fifths (who really should have made it) and I eventually formed Tarrasque. Paul and Ray continued working with Andy, doing sound, lighting and guitar tech work for Circle. By the end of Tygon we had written some great stuff, some of which continued into Circle Of Fifths music (most notably "Josey-Anna"), and we had done a lot of gigs - it was a good springboard into obscurity for me.

I briefly played in a band called Spiral Architect, doing Deep Purple and Led Zep covers with friends
Steve Dunn (Colourflow, Also Eden, Cosmograf) and Alan Carson. Al was to continue with me into Tarrasque, as was the song "Intransigence", one of a few we wrote together, others were "Northern Lights" and "Slow To Understand".

1988 – 1993, The Metal Years.

Tarrasque Band
Tarrasque early promo. (L-R) Alan Carson, Me, Richard Stevens, Wak, Steve Harsley.

By mid 1988 Tygon, the band that started it all, was fizzling out. We played our last gig at The Salutation in Portsmouth's North End (the bootleg of which is incredibly funny) and bid a sad farewell. By this time I was already jamming with some friends from college days. The Westlake brothers (Richard the elder and 'Wak' the younger) were cranking the guitars, my long time friend and obscenely talented bassist Alan Carson was holding down the back beat with me, and vocals were briefly supplied by a guy called Simon Gray. Under the name of "Scraputz" (something spawned from Alan's penguin-gloved car ice scraper) we never left the practice room. Simon left and was soon followed by Richard (who was later to form the trippy-ozric-gong sounding "Great Imperial Yo-yo" and The Cat Killers) leaving an instrumental three piece. In stepped a strapping lad from Yorkshire, Steve "Stretch" Harsley, so named because of his huge hands and the music moved towards a Metallica influenced thrash thing. We jelled very well and the music was kicking, but we really needed a singer. Then one day a guy from Reading (in Berkshire) walked up to me in the student union bar at the Portsmouth Poly. "I hear you need a singer" he said - and the rest is history. Richard Stevens (always known as "Dick" - something I don't think he liked) joined the band (not only as a great singer but also a bit of a poet) and we took on the name "Tarrasque". Any D&D fan will know that the Tarrasque is a huge, almost unstoppable creature who will undoubtedly destroy everything in its path, this was quite apt for the music we were producing - it was hard edged, driving, unpredictable and bloody loud!

Our first gig was at The Pied Piper, a small night club in Portsmouth. We supported a young Thrash band (who sounded very much like Megadeth) from Yorkshire called Amnesia. Their manager was an old friend of Steve's called Al Rhodes. He eventually would become our manager - but I'll get to that in a while. The gig went well and we got a good review in Kerrang from local Rock Journalist, Paul Miller - A guy we got to know quite well and who will always be sadly missed.

We recorded our first demo soon after at the Horndean School - the best musically equiped school I have ever seen. Not only did we practise there every Sunday afternoon (for 5 hours solid - don't tell me we weren't committed), but it also had a very nice 8-track studio. Friend (and Circle Of Fifths manager) Marty Raan was drafted in to do the engineering/production and Tarrasque Demo 1 was recorded in one weekend. It had four songs, "Intransigence" and "Losing Hand" were older songs, "Beyond Dreams" was a new one and a long instrumental by the name of "Tarrasque" rounded the demo off nicely. We were very proud of our work and the gigs were coming thick and fast. We were knocking out songs incredibly quickly at this time, the feel we were hitting was summed up nicely by Dick when he described it as Techno-Head-Metal. Intricate time changes, offset with incredibly fast solos, hard, menacing riffs and powerful, full-blooded vocals soon got us known as Portsmouth's Premier Thrash Band. We easily had 90 minutes of original material and interspersed this with a few well placed covers, "The Four Horsemen" and "Sanitarium" (both from Metallica), "In My Darkest Hour" (Megadeth) and "Mandatory Suicide" (Slayer) always got the crowd pumping and I can proudly say that every gig we played was packed out with mad-moshing-maniacs. It was going well.

Back to the same studio (again with Marti Raan) for another weekend and Demo 2. The use of Drum Triggers gave this recording a huge sound. Five songs, each one heavy, well worked and bold. Each one sounded great - a very strong session indeed. This demo was sold at our gigs - and it sold really very well. And the weird thing is we always had to sign them - autographs - yeah, we had made the big time! This demo found its way into the hands of Vanessa Warick (wife of Rikki and presenter of MTV Europe's Headbangers Ball), via an old friend (and one time bassist for Tygon) Paul Barham. He was working on the show as a lighting technician - something that was to prove quite fortunate. Vannesa liked what she heard and used our demo, our music as background music whenever she was talking. We were even used as intro music to the "Triple Thrash Treat", a section of the program where viewers would choose three metal songs to be played back to back. This exposure got us into local papers and was a successful piece of publicity. But things inside the Tarrasque camp were becoming quite preasured. A few of the lads in the band were unemployed and taking a lot of drugs. Nothing major, a bit of speed and a whole bunch of pot - but I guess the main thing here was that their only prospect of making any money in their life appeared to be Rock and Roll. "We've got to make it man" was often heard during practises, and this lead to taking gigs that were quite far afield and probably - in hindsight not always worth doing. Often times I would get home at around 5:00am after a long trip back from Cardiff or some other place and have to be up for work by 7:00am. Or I would have to duck out of work at lunch time because of the long trip ahead, it was becoming hard for me, and Sue (a full time teacher at the time).

Things carried on all the same and Al Rhodes (you remember him) took us on as our manager. This was to prove a bit of a mess eventually. For starters, he was based in Yorkshire, but more importantly he had two other bands on his books. Amnesia I have already mentioned, but the other band was
Terrorvision. This band you may have heard of - well yes they got a huge contract from EMI and were very successful in the UK. This made Al a great deal of money and took up most of his time. So, even though we stayed at his house during a mini-tour of Northern England, to be honest, he did nothing for us. At this time we too were offered a record deal. It was an American company and although we were all very keen to sign, we took the decision to send the contract to the Musicians Union to be checked out. On return it confirmed our deepest fears - "yeah go ahead, sign it, and be screwed over completely...!"...hmmm....we didn't sign....

Another studio - another demo. In Possesion was recorded in Terra House Studios in Portsmouth. A 16-track setup, the coolest equipment we had ever used. 4 days to record just three songs, and the sound and feel was darker, almost gothic. We did not work with Marti on this one, something I regret to this day - I think he was the right producer for us - but the lads wanted to save some money so it never came off. Three new songs, continued the Techno-Head-Metal theme and worked very well, probably the best material I have ever been involved with. Gigs continued, the biggest of which was a motorbike festival called The Bulldog Bash in August 1992. To play in front of over 1000 bikers with Hells Angel security, an interview for MTV (which did a special on the festival) and footage of us playing aired on Headbangers Ball made for a quite a strange weekend. But it was soon to be the end for Tarrasque as we knew it, following heavy gigging for the rest of the year my last performance was on New Year’s Eve, 1992 at Bogies in Southampton. A great gig, and a cool evening yet unbeknownst to me there were plans afoot.

In mid January 1993 I phoned Dick to discuss the next practice only to be told that I had been sacked and replaced by a young drummer who was in the crowd at that New Year’s gig. Alan was also out, Dick was to take on the bass guitar as well as the singing. Tarrasque went on to record a CD and play the Marquee Club in London. While I was in the band we supported some great bands (Xentrix, Girls School, Skyclad) and played some great venues, all in all quite an experience.

Current Music: Neal Morse – Momentum.
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