[updated interview with Ian Toomey]
Bitches Sin has always been my fave NWOBHM band. When I heard, that guitar players Ian and Pete Toomey were thinking of reforming Flashpoint, I though it wouldn’t be a bad idea to tell our readers a little bit more about these bands. I can imagine that many of you don’t know much about Bitches Sin or Flashpoint, simply because the press didn’t pay much attention to them. Time to change things around here, don’t you think so? Together with Ian Toomey, I took a trip down to memory lane and we talked about the past, present and the (near) future of Bitches Sin and Flashpoint. I strongly believe, that these high-skilled musicians are worth every little piece of attention !!!
When did Bitches Sin get together as a band and who was in this first line up?
Ian Toomey: "We started out in 1981. The first line up consisted of Ian, Pete, Billy Knowles, Perry Hodder, Alan 'Cocky' Cockburn. The first demo “Twelve Pounds And No Kinks” was recorded a few months later."
You released two albums with the band, namely "Predator" and "Invader". Have you got any idea how many copies were sold of these two items and what's your favorite song of each album?
Ian: "No idea how many albums were sold, because we haven't received royalty statements for approximately 20 years. “Aardshok” on “Predator” and “Ain't Life A Bitch” on “Invaders”."
The ultrafast guitarsolos in the songs became a sort of trademark of the band. Who taugth you both to play guitar so fast, and who can we see as the biggest influences of the band, and of you in particular as a guitarplayer?
Ian: "First of all, thank you very much for the compliment. Many of our fans have told us how much they like our guitarwork. They say it’s fast, exciting and original are normal comments. We taught ourselves to play fast. Probably the biggest influences were Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, UFO, The Scorpions. As a guitar player I was very much influenced by Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and Michael Schenker (UFO)."
Who wrote the songs and the lyrics for the band, and what are they about?
Ian: "Pete, Frank and I wrote most of the music and lyrics for the songs. Mostly the lyrics were about life experiences. You know, just the usual things, life, death, sex and porn. Some were a bit more psychadelic like “Ice Angels” and they provided the contrast."
Many NWOBHM fans always say that Bitches Sin had great demo tapes, but their lp's were more or less disappointing at some point. Can you please react on this statement, and have you got any explanation for it maybe?
Ian: "The bands music always has a lot of energy. The demo's seemed to capture this better. Sometimes the albums lost the vitality along the way because at the time it appeared a more antisceptic way to perform and didn't always suit Bitches Sin. This is something we feel the new digitally remastered CD's seem to have recaptured, and the new material will build on this."
I liked "Predator"a lot. Not only because it contained some Dutch related songs like "Haneka", named after Dutch radio hostess Hanneke Kappen, and "Aardshock" named after the metal magazine with the same name. Why did you have such a strong bound with Holand, and did you also visit our country in those days maybe? How come you never played here live?
Ian: "We had many fan letters at the time. We were voted number 1 in the metal charts, and when we visited your country we were made very welcome. It had been our intention to play live in Holland in 1982 at the Aardschok day, but sadly, and to my great regret, this did not happen, because of difficulties within the band. I always enjoyed visiting Holland because of their love of Metal. Sadly, I have lost contact with Metal Mike and Hanneke, but I wish them well."
Who is the beautiful lady on the "Always Ready"/"Sign Of The Times" seven inch, and how did you get in touch with her?
Ian: "Her name is Carol. Her modelling name was Sharalee, and she became the model for the single because of our relationship with a local photographic studio. Carol was very good, and was keen to help us at the time, and remains very proud of that work."
What was the reason that Bitches Sin split up after a while?
Ian: "With the rise of the American metal scene, with the poodle haircuts, etc. etc., our metal was not about this and we felt we were not fashionable. I guess all good things come to an end which was a shame because a third album was being planned at the time."
You started Flashpoint after that. Can we see this band as your solo project, and how would you describe the music of this band?
Ian: "Good question Toine. And I suppose many would see it as a solo project. On reflection you have made an accurate statement. I wanted to get back to more basic rock, and Flashpoint allowed me to do this. The music would probably be considered a power rock/HM fusion. There are two classic HM tracks on the album, namely, Blackjack, and Grand Prix."
The career of Flashpoint only lasted for one album. What happened that caused the split of Flashpoint?
Ian: "I wanted to continue developing our unique sound, but a couple of the guys wanted to go in another direction, and this split the band. Same old story of 'musical differences' I suppose, but the second Flashpoint album will be available soon to buy on our website and contains the tracks we recorded at the time that weren't released because of the split."
What did you actually do, after Flashpoint decided to call it quits? Did you record anything else, or did you play in other bands? And what about your brother Pete?
Ian: "Frank and I wrote and recorded “Lazer Love” together. I helped out Frank's band Reach by playing a few gigs with them. Pete went to college, then ultimately to New Zealand."
You always played together in a band with your brother Pete. Do you have such a strong family bound with your brother that you always played in one band with him, or do you just make a good team together? And what do you think of the fact that he is living in New Zealand right now, do you have much contact with him right now?
Ian: "Both a strong bond and a great team especially when we compete in the studio. We have similar musical influences and our styles although somewhat different, compliment each other very well. We do make a good team, although there were many 'lively' discussions along the way, especially in the studio's. I didn't want him to go to New Zealand, but unfortunately in life sometimes you have to face difficult decisions. Yes, we are in contact regularly at the moment about new material for the third Bitches Sin album and updates to the website."
Very recently you started a website for Bitches Sin and Flashpoint. Where can we find your website and I believe that people can order some of your albums on CD there. Please give us some more information about this?
Ian: "We started the website approximately fifteen months ago, at the specific request made by a gentleman called Toine Van Poorten!! Perhaps you have heard of him?? We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your help, support and guidance over the last few months, so that our fans can now benefit. Our website can be found at www.bitchessin.co.uk. The site contains information about the band, it contains some classic Bitches Sin and Flashpoint tracks that are FREE to download, and the opportunity to buy digitally remastered CDs of our albums. The CDs are £9.99 each and include post and packing anywhere in the world. The site has a scrap book of photos, and a guest book. We look forward to hearing from our fans old and new."
Which other releases can we expect in the future from Bitches Sin and Flashpoint?
Ian: "There will be a second Flashpoint album to release soon, plus the early demos of Bitches Sin, all digitally remastered. We are currently in the middle of writing a third Bitches Sin album."
Is it also possible that "Predator" will be released on CD? Or will this become a problem because the original album was released on a bigger label, namely Heavy Metal Records?
Ian: "I am sorry Toine, but I cannot comment on this at the moment."
What's the status of Bitches Sin and Flashpoint at the moment, and if the bands are alive right now, can you please tell us who is in the line up of this band then?
Ian: "The creative nucleus and driving force of both bands is alive and well, namely Frank, Pete & myself. Each band provides a vehicle for different aspects of our music. We are currently in discussions with other ex-band members with a view to recordings."
Will you also be playing live with these bands again? And is there any chance that you will also come over to Holland this time?
Ian: "It's too early to say. If there will be any live work, Holland would be on the list of places we would love to play."
What made you decide to release the Bitches Sin and Flashpoint items, in a remixed version, so many years after their original release on LP?
Ian: "These are not remixes, but have been digitally remastered to improve the dynamics of the original recordings. Requests from yourself, and our fans after the website went live inspired us to re-release the material. We have had many top class reviews including Headache for our remastered CDs."
You told me that you are even doing a visit to Japan to promote this material, and that you might be doing a guest appearance during a gig of the Japanese heavy metal band Gorgon (for a guest solo during "Strangers On The Shore"). Maybe you can tell us a bit more about this all, and how did you actually get in touch with the guys of Gorgon?
Ian: "I contacted Gorgon after Pete discovered they had covered “Ice Angels” on their single back in 1996. After a few emails, it quickly became apparent, I had to go to Japan and meet Shige and our Japanese fans. Yeah, I did make the trip, and played live at the Live Station in Tokyo, Saturday 20th March 2004. It was brilliant. Gorgon are a nice tight band, and it was great to play live for so many of our Japanese fans. They loved “Strangers on the Shore” and the Gorgon performance was also videotaped. So watch this space. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of Frank, Pete and myself, to thank Gorgon and Shige in particular, for the invitation to Japan, and to play live with them, and for their hospitality, but mostly Toine, because if we hadn't started the website, none of this would have happened. You can see more details about this on our Japan page on our website at: http://www.bitchessin.co.uk."
Are there any more promotional activities planned maybe?
Ian: "We are planning to return to Japan later in the year, and possibly, to America to promote the bands music. Holland is also on the list but I am waiting for the right approach."
What are your future plans?
Ian: "To continue to develop the website. Record and release a third Bitches Sin album. Visit more of our fan base around the world. To write some killer riffs and make the music that our fans so obviously love fully available through our website. The third Bitches Sin album is half written, and the trademark vocals and blistering guitar work will be there for our fans, old and new, to enjoy. So keep visiting the site for regular updates."
The last words are for you Ian…..
Ian: "Really?!! I just wanted to say, what a fantastic experience it has been to meet our fans on-line and to realise how popular Bitches Sin and Flashpoint are amongst so many new fans around the world. But most of all to thank Toine van Poorten for his belief and support when we first started this journey. In Metal......Ian Toomey."
Interview by: Toine van Poorten, for Headache magazine NL/2004