They Still Stand Loud ‘n’ Proud

The NWOBHM scene knows a lot of bands, that don’t need no further introduction. SAXON, GIRLSCHOOL, DIAMOND HEAD, IRON MAIDEN, TYGERS OF PAN TANG, ANGELWITCH and DEF LEPPARD are some examples of those, that rocked the house all over the world. They became an influence to many of us and more. There are a few bands though, that didn’t always get the credit, that they deserved so much. Many bands became the so-called cult heroes. Bands, that were loved by a group of dedicated insiders and die hard NWOBHM fans. SPARTAN WARRIOR is such a band. They made two great albums called “Steel ‘N’ Chains” and “Spartan Warrior”, and only recently they released a comeback album, called “Behind Closed Eyes”, which marks their reunion. Many people don’t know the whole story of SPARTAN WARRIOR. I hope, that the following interview will answer all of your questions and give you a good overview of what SPARTAN WARRIOR has hidden behind closed eyes all these years….. Our thanks go out to guitarist Neil Wilkinson, who did a wonderful job here and also supplied those great pictures from the WARRIOR’s past and future....

Hi Neil, how are you doing and thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. Were you surprised at all to do an interview with people from Holland, after such a long absence?
Neil: “I’m great thanks and very happy to be doing this interview! No, I wasn’t surprised. I know that there is good support for our style of music in Holland, especially as we are an old Roadrunner band and were actually signed by a Dutchman. I love it over there. I only visited for the first time in August last year with some American friends even though I only live one hour away. I’ve got a feeling, I’ll be back soon though!”

Let’s first talk about the past, and then slowly move towards the present and the near future, if we may. When did SPARTAN WARRIOR get together as a band and how did you guys actually meet up?
Neil: “SPARTAN WARRIOR formed over a period of time. The band had began life as DECEIVER with Gordon, Tom Patti Smith, Gordon Craig and a singer, called Vince. When Vince left, Gordon approached Dave, as they had played in another local band CLOUD together and shortly after, Gordon Craig also left. That’s when I was asked to join. I also had stood in for Patti, who had broken his arm once before. That line up stayed together for a while, but as we were writing new songs Patti was finding it difficult, so I asked my friend John Stormont to join. At that point me and John had known each other for a couple of years and had met by chance at a local park (remember, we were just kids) and got talking about guitars and stuff, because he had recognized me from watching my first ever gig at Bede School in Sunderland with EASY PREY. So for a while SPARTAN WARRIOR had three guitarists and that’s when Gordon decided to change the bands name to SPARTAN WARRIOR! I don’t think Patti was very comfortable with this, so he left. It was just after we had recorded “Steel n Chains” and “Easy Prey” for Pure Overkill, that John said he was joining THE JESS COX BAND, so we started looking for a replacement. Initially, we recruited STRANGLERS guitarist Baz Warne, but this was pretty short lived and eventually found Paul Swaddle through a local rock radio show and that was the line up, that stayed together for the two albums.”

Did any of the band members play in other bands, before SPARTAN WARRIOR (if yes, did they record anything with these bands) or was this your very first professional band to play in?
Neil: “We all played in other bands, but at the time me and John were still at school, so it was nothing serious. Gordon had played in various local bands, as did Tom, but at that time Tom was more into the punk scene and I think he did some recording with that. Dave had played in our first band together EASY PREY and then CLOUD, before joining DECEIVER and Paul was only just learning to play, when he joined us! I suppose SPARTAN WARRIOR was all of our first ‘real’ band.”

Who came up with the band name?
Neil: “Thatwas Gordon’s idea. I’m not sure how or why !”

Who were the musical influences of SPARTAN WARRIOR back in those days?
Neil: “We had loads of influences, mainly because everyone in the band liked different stuff. Me and Dave were really into UFO, JUDAS PRIEST and THIN LIZZY. Gordon stuff like LED ZEPPELIN and ALEX HARVEY; Tom was really keen on BE BOP DELUXE, IRON MAIDEN and MICK RONSON; John and Paul liked everything from IRON MAIDEN to TANK and VARDIS between them, so there were lots of different factors influencing what we were doing. Also I would say that one of the biggest influences for everyone was THE SWEET, but when I say that, I don’t mean the commercial stuff I mean the stuff like “Burn On The Flame”.”

Who was the captain on the ship? In other words, who set out the musical direction for SPARTAN WARRIOR?
Neil: “Initially I would say, that it was Gordon, but as the band developed I would say that it’s me who pushes things along with regard to that. Not that we have an intentional direction, I just write stuff and see how it turns out.”

How would you call the music of SPARTAN WARRIOR yourself, if NWOBHM would be a too general description?
Neil: “Mmmmm - tricky! We are really proud to be part of NWOBHM, but to me it’s all rock music and to be honest we didn’t even know we were NWOBHM, until after it had happened. We were just playing music we liked to play and if it’s NWOBHM, then that’s fine.”

Did you consider yourself being part of the NWOBHM scene in those days?
Neil: “No, not really. We didn’t take much notice of who was doing what and what it was called. We just did our thing and hoped people liked it. Having said that, you are always influenced by the bands that you listen to and the style that we ended up playing happened to fit into NWOBHM, but to us we were just playing rock music.”

Who wrote the lyrics for SPARTAN WARRIOR and what are they about?
Neil: “Dave writes all the lyrics. In the early days I would say they were fairly typical of similar bands of the time, mostly about women war or witchcraft .The new CD is a bit different in terms of subject matter. I would say it’s a little autobiographical in parts with songs like “As Good As It Gets” and “Flesh And Blood” being about getting older and having to put up with the shit things in life . Then there’s “Behind Closed Eyes”, which is about sleep paralysis. Having said that, there’s still some witchcraft war and women thrown in, too - ha ha, so maybe we’re not as grown up as I’m trying to make out! It’s probably a question best answered by Dave.”

Even before you released an album, you landed on the “Pure Overkill” on the Guardian label. How did you get in touch with the label, and who chose the songs that were added to this compilation (“Steel ‘N Chains” and “Comes As No Surprise”)?
Neil: “I had heard from a friend, that Guardian were looking for bands to put on a compilation. The studio wasn’t far from where we live, so we got their number and contacted them to see if they would be interested in hearing some of our songs. So we recorded a practice on a cassette and took it along. Terry picked “Steel ‘N Chains” and “Easy Prey”.”

Why did you actually rename “Comes As No Surprise” to “Easy Prey”, when you recorded this song for the debut album “Steel ‘N Chains”?
Neil: “This was a big surprise for me… It was a surprise to us, too!!! The song was always called “Easy Prey” and the title on Pure Overkill was a mistake. I don’t think Terry either liked the title or forgot it, so he just used whatever line in the song that jumped out at him.”

What’s your favorite SPARTAN WARRIOR song on the two albums, that you released in the eighties?
Neil: “Can I pick one from each album? “Stormer” and “Sentenced To Die”. If I have to choose …. “Stormer”.”

Have you got any ideas how many copies were sold of “Steel ‘N Chains” and “Spartan Warrior”?
Neil: “As far as “Steel ‘N Chains” goes, we have no idea. We never received sales figures or royalties on those sales. With ‘Assassin”, the sales are still ongoing since Metal Mind re- released it, so we still have no idea of the total. Then there’s all the bootleg stuff, that we have no figures on at all.”

You switched from Guardian to Roadrunner for the release of the second album. How did you get in touch with Roadrunner, and how did you get signed by them?
Neil: “Yes, the Roadrunner deal came about just after we had finished recording “Steel ‘N Chains”. I think, Roadrunner had contacted Terry to see, if he had any bands that they might be interested in and he put us forward and they signed us on the strength of ‘Steel ‘N Chains”. As I remember we met up with Cees Wessels, who was the main man at Roadrunner at a hotel in Newcastle to go over the contract and we signed it on the spot.”

The album was recorded at Guardian though, wasn’t it?
Neil: “Yes , I think that why Guardian put us forward , if they got us the deal and we recorded at Guardian it was business for the studio. “

On “Spartan Warrior” the music became a bit more melodic. Did the record company aim towards a more accessible sound or was this your own decision?
Neil: “Neither reason. Some of the songs are a bit more melodic, but it wasn’t intentional. In fact because we got the Roadrunner deal so soon after recording “Steel ‘N Chains”, we found ourselves in the position where we had an album to record, but we had already used what we considered to be our best material on “Steel ‘N Chains”. In fact, some of the songs on “Spartan Warrior’ were older than the songs on “Steel ‘N Chains”. I think you could say that all of our albums have a melodic side to them, but like I said its not something we plan. We write songs and pick the ones we like most, while trying to put some variety in there to make an album interesting to listen to. “

The second album contains some wonderful artwork. Who’s responsible for it?
Neil: “Thanks, I’m pleased you like it. It does get commented on a lot. I think a guy called Tom Holm did it.”

I read that this artwork actually costed a lot of money. Have you got any idea how much and what makes this artwork so special that you wanted to use it for the album sleeve of “Spartan Warrior”?
Neil: “I think my answer is going to surprise you! Firstly, I have no idea how much it cost to get done and also even though it’s a good painting, it is not what we wanted as the cover to what we thought was going to be our second album “Assassin’. I think Roadrunner chose it and the first we saw it was, when Terry showed us a copy once it had already been done. For a long time we had a down on the cover, because it’s not what we had in mind. Having said that, we do appreciate that it’s a great piece of work. I actually have my copy framed and hung on the wall in my home studio these days.”

Let’s take a closer look at the live shows of SPARTAN WARRIOR here as well, if we may. With which bands did you share the stage in the eighties?
Neil: “Depends what you mean by share! We didn’t do any supports , we tended to do gigs on our own, although the places we played also had bands like the TYGERS OF PAN TANG and SON OF A BITCH, who later became SAXON. Also WHITE SPIRIT with Janick Gers played at those places, too.When I think back there were so many bands around at the time, fuck ! I wish I was back there now. It was great having so much going on right on your doorstep at local bars.”

Did you play many live gigs and did you also play outside England by any chance?
Neil: “We did gig a lot, but it was always up in the North East of England and just as we were going to go abroad, we split so we didn’t get the chance.”

Did you play any covers during the live shows or did you stick to the own penned material alone. If yes, which covers did you play live actually?
Neil: “We used to do loads of covers, when I first joined the band. Some of them were “Jailbreak” (THIN LIZZY), “Lights Out” (UFO) , “The Butcher And Fast Eddie” (ROSE TATTOO). I think we did a SAMSON cover, too - “Riding With The Angels”. God, there was loads, too many to mention. By the time we came to recording the set was made up of all original material, except for “Lights Out” ! We just kept doing that one, because we enjoyed playing it so much.”

What was your biggest gig back in those days?
Neil: “I think our biggest gig was at Sunderland Mayfair the night, before we went in the studio to record “Spartan Warrior”.”

Did you use any pyro effects or other show elements during your live shows?
Neil: “Yes, we used to used flash bombs. Great stuff! People tend not to use those now. I don’t know why.We used to set a couple off at the beginning of “Stormer”. We used to open the set with that and in fact still do !”

What could people expect, when they came to a SPARTAN WARRIOR show?
Neil: “Back then people would see five lads totally into what they were doing giving 100% regardless of how big or small the gig was. We would always try to put a show on in terms of lights and pyros and stuff budget permitting. Also back then, we were very well rehearsed. I think we were a very powerful sounding band. Something that wasn’t really captured on the first two albums. I think, you get glimpses on tracks like “Stormer”, as to what we were like live. Hopefully, people will have enjoyed it. I know that after Mark had joined the band, he was talking to someone where he lives (Mark lives quite a way from the rest of us) and he mentioned that he had joined SPARTAN WARRIOR. It turned out, that this person had travelled to the North East to see us in 1983 at Sunderland Mayfair and said that he’d really enjoyed it. Twenty-five years on, the same guy is coming to watch us play our first gig since then at Hard Rock Hell IV, so I suppose we must have done something right.”

I bet, there must've been some funny moments during your shows or while being on the road. Maybe you can share some of these hilarious moments with our readers here?
Neil: “Well, there were the Spandex pants for a start ! I wish I still had those. In fact my favourite story is connected with those pants. I remember playing Sunderland Mayfair. I was standing at the side of the stage waiting to go on, intro tape blasting feeling truly like a rock star in my red spandex pants. Just as I pick up my guitar, a bouncer who was standing next to me looks me up and down and says “What you playing tonight fucking Swan Lake ?!”. I’ll not even mention the time, Tom tried to set off the pyros we had for the gig by wiring them to a plug and ramming it into a mains socket with his foot to set them off. They went off ok, but so did the rest of Sunderland.“

Which other bands came from your area and were there any particular bands from the NWOBHM scene, that became your pals in those days?
Neil: “There were loads of bands from our area. If you look at Tyne and Wear, which both Sunderland and Newcastle are in that area produced a lot of bands. MYTHRA ,TYSONDOG, VENOM, BATTLEAXE,TYGERS OF PAN TANG, AVENGER, BLITZKRIEG, RAVEN - there are loads ! We didn’t become friends with any of them, because we just kept ourselves to ourselves and just concentrated on what we were doing and you didn’t really meet other bands when you were playing yourself. I have spoken to some of the lads from those bands more recently though. And obviuosly I’m still very good friends with John Stormont. In fact, he would come round, when I was recording “Behind Closed Eyes” as a second pair of ears.”

Why did you never play on the continent?
Neil: “That never happened, because Dave left the band before we got the chance. We were keen to play out there but things started to fall apart, so it didn’t happen.”

When did SPARTAN WARRIOR call it quits and why did you actually split up?
Neil: “The band splitting up happened in a similar way, it was formed . It sort of split in stages with Dave going first, then Paul Swaddle. We had various other musicians coming in and out of the band, but nothing seemed to work and for a long time it was just me, Tom and Gordon practicing and writing songs, before we eventually decided to call it a day in about 1991, I think. Dave going was the catalyst, I think . He went not because of Roadrunner or arguments within the band as some people have suggested. His reason was, that Guardian were always on the phone to him about this band or that band, who were being difficult and they were going to fuck things up for everyone signed to Roadrunner. How? It beats me! Dave had just had enough of the early morning bullshit and walked. Paul went, because Roadrunner didn’t take up the option for another album, as they didn’t like Dave’s replacement and also Roadrunner had said, that they wanted us to change our style to ‘Devil music’.”

Inbetween now and then, did you do anything at all musically or did you back off from the musical scene totally?
Neil: “Yes, I kept playing mostly in covers bands, as did everyone exept Dave, who gave up totally. I actually did rock covers doing the North East club circuit for ten years with my mate Col Pickering, who was the bass player in CLOUD all those years ago. In 2007, I joined WAYSTED for a while and started work on their new album before their previous guitarist rejoined, so I managed to contribute on that. Actually, it was on the back of the WAYSTED thing, that I decided to go all out to reform SPARTAN WARRIOR.”

When did you get the idea to reform again?
Neil: “I first started to think about reforming SPARTAN WARRIOR in 2006. I was on the internet one day and just did a search to see, if there was anything about us. I couldn’t believe how much info there was on us and also that people were still playing our stuff . When I looked into it a bit more, I found that our albums were being bootlegged and sold on Ebay and that’s when I thought, that we had to get the band going again. I had a small multi tracker, that I had been using to record new ideas, so I had new material as well as a lot of old stuff, so I knew we could get enough songs for an album easily. Unfortunatly at that time only Dave was interested in doing it, so when Tom came to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying out for WAYSTED, I thought why not? Like I said I got the job with WAYSTED, but when their previous guitarist wanted back in, I knew I had to reform SPARTAN WARRIOR. So I approached all the lads again and once I’d managed to get everyone round to my place to listen to ideas, the others came on board. I think a load of drink might have helped persuade them, too !”

SPARTAN WARRIOR seems to be back in the saddle again. Can you point at some of the differences between the sound of SPARTAN WARRIOR in 1983 and SPARTAN WARRIOR in 2010?
Neil: “Hopefully, there won’t be too many. When we decided to do this album, the whole point was that we wanted to pick up from where we left off. That’s why we chose to do some of the older songs on the CD. Also we wanted to keep the sound as authentic as possible. However things have moved on hugely in terms of technology since then, so I suppose it was recorded using old techniques onto new technology. I would like to think that our basic sound is the same, but that the actual recording is better with a more up to date vibe about it. Also hopefully we will have captured a bit more of the power I thought was lacking on the first two albums. Also people don’t realise that “Behind Closed Eyes” was recorded with gear that I had bought in my house and with that came huge compromises, the biggest being that fact that because the album wasn’t done in a studio, Gordon had to play an electronic kit. A very good one, mind you, but still a compromise, but one we had to make to be able to do this album. I know that the drum sound has received some criticism, but I liked the sound and the chances are in a studio we would probably treat the drums to try and get them to sound that way anyway. There was no mic-ing up marshall stacks, all guitars were DI-ed using my line 6 POD, but the sounds were using the simulations of my old boss ds 1 for distortion, etc. , but like I said we had to do this album ourselves as we didn’t have a deal at that point and also we wanted to give it a go ourselves, because of issues we have with the first two albums. Also it was my first go at production. Not an easy task to write, engineer and produce yourself, believe me! Anyway, just to sum my ranting up, I think we still sound the same, but a bit fresher and I think that the songs and the style of playing is what makes the album what it is.”

Paul Swaddle is not a part of SPARTAN WARRIOR anymore. Why is that and do you know if he’s still active in the music scene?
Neil: “The Paul situation is very sad . I like Paul a lot and love playing guitar with him. We did meet up and he was up for doing it again, but also didn’t know how long he could commit for or even if he was going to stay in the UK and after a while, we lost touch again. I don’t know if he’s playing at the moment. I wish him well in whatever he’s doing.”

What do you actually think about the music / metal scene nowadays?
Neil: “There have been so many changes: the coming of internet, My Space, downloading music, etc. Isn’t it difficult to change your way of thinking from demos to MP3s and from a biography on paper to a professional website? I think, it’s very difficult for a band to survive with the music business being in the state it is in these days. I can’t get my head round the fact that a lot of people begrudge paying for music. Having said that it’s technology that has helped us to get another album out and contact old and new fans and it has made this interview possible. I mean, back in 1983 there’s no way we would have been able to record an album ourselves on the budget we had! But technology has made that possible. It hasn’t been too difficult. Like everything else in life, you just have to adapt and on the whole I would say it’s a good thing. But it has changed the way people make music for certain. I was watching a thing on You Tube about how one major metal band record their drums and their drummer will do loads of drum takes and then cut and paste the best bits of all those takes together to make the perfect take! We didn’t do any of that. We just treated it as a normal recording session and played the songs from beginning to finish and recorded the take. I suppose, the down side of technology is that it can sound a little sterile. That’s why, when we took it to Fred to get it mastered, he used really good analogue gear to warm the recording up a bit. Mind you, one of the best things about technology is, that it gave us unlimited recording time. There’s no way we would have been able to afford the time we spent recording “Behind Closed Eyes” in a studio and it was great not recording against the clock, as we have in the past. As far as the metal scene goes, things look pretty good. There’s plenty of interest in our type of music and with lots of the older bands reforming, it sort of feels a bit like the old days.“

Do you think that there is still a market for a band like SPARTAN WARRIOR and in which category of the hundreds of subcategories do you think that your music will fit in best?
Neil: “I hope, we’ll fit right back into NWOBHM, but to be honest we’re not too bothered about categories. We just want anyone who listens to our music to like it, regardless of the type of music they prefer. I think, that music tends to get put into categories too much. Mind you, I think younger people are much more open minded about that. My daughter listens to all sorts of rock, but she never talks about what particular style of rock it is. She just listens to it for what it is, same with my nephew and their friends. Do I think there’s a market for us? Definitely. I don’t think that well ever be massive, but I know that we have an audience on some level. Without sounding corny, even if one person likes what we do, it’s job done as far as were concerned.”

Your new album is called “Behind Closed Eyes”. Is there any particular reason why you choose this title for your comeback album?
Neil: “We chose “Behind Closed Eyes” as the album title after we had written the track. We had looked at various ideas “Last Man Standing” being one of them, but as we started looking around for art for the cover and we came across the picture we used we decided to go with ‘Behind Closed Eyes”. Also the subject of the song is close to a few of the lads in the band. The song itself is about a common condition called sleep paralysis. What happens is, that you seem to wake from your sleep, but are unable to move or speak but are completely aware of your surroundings. It usually comes on during a nightmare and can be accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations. There are various theories about it, one being that it is demons trying to abduct a persons soul and has different names within different cultures. A very common hallucination is that a person will see a shadow or an old woman standing over them ,that’s why some people call it ‘Old Hag Syndrome’. The Japanese call it ‘Kanishibari’. It was when we looked into it as a subject, that we found it fascinating and Dave wrote the lyrics about it. It was nice to have subject matter for a song that was a bit different, too. At least, I can’t think of anyone else who’s written a song on the subject. In fact, at the moment I’m talking to a production company called Soul Smack Live, who made a documentary about sleep paralysis about them using “Behind Closed Eyes”, if they re-edit. So I suppose the reason we chose it as a title for the album are because of our own experiences and the fact we loved the photo.”

Can you please tell us a bit more about the different songs on it?
Neil: “Well, in terms of how the album was put together, there’s the old stuff and the new stuff. When we reformed the band although I had new ideas, we decided to look at some old songs. So the first thing we did was listen through old demos and rehearsal tapes. Out of those we chose “Never Take Me Alive” (1983) , “Tear Out Your Heart” (1985) and “Last Man Standing” (1994). There were others that I wanted to do too, but we also had to look at new material. Some of the new stuff was material, that I had written on a home multi tracker I had, but all of it needed lyrics, so a lot of the new stuff was finished off as we recorded it and we used parts of old riffs, that we liked in the newer songs too, if we felt it worked. In terms of what the songs are about I would say there’s a bit of a divide . The older songs are definately of their time and are about the things Dave was writing about back then, but the new stuff are a bit different. I think I said ealier a bit autobiographical. A few are about getting older and putting up with life’s crap for certain and then there’s “Behind Closed Eyes’, so it’s a bit of a mixture.”

Is it true that “Never Take Me Alive” was originally written for the “Steel ‘N’ Chains” album, but it was removed from that album against your will?
Neil: “Yes, that’s true. We were gutted at the time, because we felt that it had turned out to be the best thing we had recorded for “Steel ‘N’ Chains”. I remember, we had it all done except the vocals. Dave was busy doing them and was half way through his first take and Terry stops the tape and says that he doesn’t think the song was working! We couldn’t believe it. Now at the time we were young and thought we should trust people, who are supposed to know better. But then again we knew what we liked and we liked how it was turning out, but Terry was having none of it. The whole session got dumped. Still at least we got to do it now.”

Who did the artwork for this album?
Neil: “The artwork for the album is a mixture again. The pictures for the inside of the booklet were taken by Tom’s daughter early one morning. That’s how they turned out the way they did. She took a photo but the sun was behind us, but when we looked at it I liked it, so she took a load of them as well as some without the sun at our backs. The front cover is a picture we found on the internet. The guy, who took the photograph is called Craig Mod. He’s an American photographer living in Tokyo and has his own site. We have a link on our My Space, if anyone would like to look at his other work. We found it, when we were deciding what to call the album. Because “Behind Closed Eyes’ was a possibility, we searched for picture about sleep paralysis and the cover was one of the photos that we came across. We contacted Craig and explained what we were doing, what the song was about and asked if he would give us permission to use it. Thankfully, he agreed. We can’t thank him enough, we love it!”

Where did you get the pictures taken, that are on the inside of the CD booklet?
Neil: “It’s a place only a couple of miles from where we live, called Penshaw Monument. It’s an impressive building, you can see it from miles around. It’s funny, but if I’ve been away, I know I’m home, when I see it. There’s quite a bit of history attached to it, too. It was built for John George Lambton, who was Earl of Durham and the first Govenor of the Province of Canada in 1844 and stands at the top of Penshaw Hill. Apparently, it’s a half sized replica of The Temple Of Hephaestus in Athens, so it’s perfect for a band called SPARTAN WARRIOR! There’s also a local tale, called the Lambton Worm about a creature so big that it could wrap itself three times round the hill and would terrorize the local area, until Lambton killed it. There’s even a song about it!”

Did you find in Iron Age a suitable record company to release the album, in your opinion?
Neil: “Yes, Iron Age have been great and very supportive. I don’t think NWOBHM is what they usually do, but they listened to the album and took it on. Also I believe, they genuinely like it. We are very grateful to them for giving us the chance to put something out again.”

How about touring plans, will you also be touring outside of England this time around?
Neil: “Definitely. I’ve always wanted to play outside England at it looks like we will get to do it this time. So far we are booked to play Hard Rock Hell IV in Wales in December 2010 and I think we are to be confirmed for Headbangers Open Air in July 2011. We’re also working very hard on trying to get more, but well just have to wait and see .”

What can people expect from your show at Hard Rock Hell in Wales and are there any more big shows planned so far besides this one?
Neil: “I hope so… Like I said there’s Hard Rock Hell and Headbangers Open Air, but we do want to do more and we are trying but it’s for the people organising festivals to book us. I’ve contacted quite a lot, but were just waiting to see. I know that Keep It True already have their line up for 2011 sorted, so we we’ll just have to keep at it and see what comes in. As for what to expect, I think people will get to see some vintage NWOBHM, minus the spandex pants though! (lol) We’re putting a lot of effort in at practices, so it should be just like we were back in 83. In fact, I think we’re better players than we were then, maybe I’ll get to ask that guy who saw us back then how we compare. The set we’re doing is a mix of the three albums and as I said earlier, we will open with “Stormer”. I’m really looking forward to it !”

Have you set any goal with this reformation of SPARTAN WARRIOR or is this reunion just for old time sake?
Neil: “There’s no goal as such. To be honest, our goal was to get “Behind Closed Eyes’ out, so where we go from there is up to other people. Hopefully, people will support us and buy it. We do want to keep going and put out another CD. I’ve got ideas for it already. Getting the band back together isn’t as a short term reunion thing, I put far too much time, effort and money into it for a one off. I want to keep at it and I would love to do SPARTAN WARRIOR full time, whether that is possible we will just have to wait and see how things go.”

We also read about the latest addition to the band, which is nobody else but former SARACEN string puller Mark Chapple. How did you get in touch with him and what makes him the perfect fit for SPARTAN WARRIOR?
Neil: “I first met Mark in about 1992, I think. At the time I was in a rock covers band doing the North east club circuit and he was a friend of a friend. My friend used to bring him along to gigs, because at that time Mark was just learning to play, remember. He’s quite a bit younger than us and after gigs, we would talk. Because of that we became friends and when he moved away for university, he still kept in touch. When we got SPARTAN WARRIOR going again, he was always asking if we needed another guitarist,which we did, but at that point we had decided that I would do all the guitar work as it would hold things up too much waiting for Mark to learn the songs and also the distance for him to travel to record and we wanted this album done as quickly as possible. After we had finished the album, Mark met up with me, when he was back up visiting family and we got to talking about him doing some stuff. A while later he came back up and we had a rehearsal and got the job. It’s great for us, because hes a mate and he fits right in, we all get on great.”

Do you have any other hobbies or interests besides playing music in a band?
Neil: “Well, I like watching other bands, but to be honest most of my other hobbies got pushed to one side once I started recording, because I had songs to learn, songs to write and I also had to learn how to record with my gear, so it didn’t leave much time for anything else. Now it’s finished Ive got a bit spare time, so I might get back into other stuff again. I love football and I’ve got my season ticket for Sunderland, so I’ll be going to the games. I like playing football too and going to the gym, although I haven’t done that for ages, so it might be time to dust the old boots off! I’m also partial to the odd night out and a few drinks! One of the things I like doing most is getting out for a blast on my motorbike. You don’t have to go far from where I live to get out onto some great roads for a ride. I love it!”

Do you want to add something to this interview? We may have forgotten something to mention here, that is essential for the story of SPARTAN WARRIOR so far?
Neil: “You know, I think you’ve just about covered everything, that I can think of !”

Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
Neil: “Just that I think it’s great that they make it possible for magazines like this to keep going . If they don’t support things like this, then we don’t have an audience, so thank you for that.”

The last words in this interview are for Neil and SPARTAN WARRIOR....
Neil: “Well, first of all thanks for this interview and also thank you to all the people, who are getting behind us at the moment. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do SPARTAN WARRIOR, so their support is appreciated more than they’ll ever know! It means a lot that people like what we do and we will look forward to seeing you, when we get some gigs out there. ‘Til then, take it easy and keep it metal!!!”

Interview by: Toine van Poorten, exclusively for / Autumn 2010.

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