“RAVEN” Interview by Andrea Bermúdez
You have been on the road for more than forty years what do you remember of your early days in Newcastle, England?
Well, quite a lot! We grew up & lived in Newcastle…I was 27 when we left for the USA so …as they say, you can take the boy out of Newcastle but you can’t take Newcastle out of the boy! We learned our trade so to speak playing the pubs & working mens clubs of the North East…and from watching countless other bands play shows – learned how to connect with an audience …get their attention & win them over! So that totally formed us into what we are.
Talking about that period in time , why did you decide to wear guards, helmets and plates from various sports such as hockey , baseball and incorporate them into the playing of the instruments in the beginning of the band?
That was actually not at the beginning of the band..but around 1980..we started wearing running shirts as they were bold & comfortable…Rob got the helmet as he was always hitting cymbals with his head – and that can hurt! When we 1st came to the US we visited a ice hockey store & Mark got the knee guards….Rob got a better helmet – it all went from there…basically just to look different I guess!
Why did you decide to move to the USA in the middle of the eighties, was for classic economy reasons?
Yes… Really.. We were living on about 15 pound a week from Neat Records..and nothing was happening on the gig front..we had the offer to play a tour in the US in 1983 and had some unknown band called Metallica open for us (but that’s another story…) so, there was opportunity in the U.S. and we just went for it.
In the very first line-up you featured an additional guitarist, Paul Bowden, but later you proceeded as a trio when and how did you decided to take this direction?
After Paul left, we tried another guy & it was just not working out either musically or personally..so we decided to go as a 3 piece and it was a revelation. There’s no safety net..everyone has to be “on” but..there is a lot of room to play..to improvise..it made us all better players big time by having to fill those responsibilities.
Where do you still find your main inspiration at the time of composing your music?
I still get excited playing & play almost every day..and usually come up with some ideas…sometimes just the odd riff, other times a whole song…when that happens & music is pouring out of you..you just ride with it!!!!
What is the message that you always wanted to transmit through your songs?
I guess that music is fun…positive energy….it always helped (and still does) me to get through the day..forget whatever BS you are going through at work or whatever – and when people tell us that our music has helped or inspired them…then that’s just the greatest compliment.
How you will define the sound of Raven to someone who never listened to the band?
We’re a bulldozer with a Ferrari engine!!! Theres a frenetic energy in our music that’s hard to define..in these days of clicktracks & pro tools we still record our music with the 3 guys in the room…count 1, 2, 3…and we are off! It makes it REAL.
Are you working on new material, can we expect a new Raven´s album soon?
Yes, we are set to start recording in the fall & already have a large number of kick ass songs….can’t wait to get started! “Extermination” was a big album for us and we are more than up to the challenge of matching it..and raising the bar!
You have been living in USA for a while, in terms of music what was the impact for you in this different culture?
Initially it was hard not to get caught up with people forcing ideas & directions on us…it’s tough to stay true to your art when you are struggling financially & you are being offered all manner of “glittering prizes” but we eventually said “enough” and kinda got back to the essence of what the band is all about.
How was being on tour with Metallica in a time when they were almost an unknown band?
It would probably be a lot more comfortable now lol!!!! we were told a young band from San Francisco would be our opening act…I heard the “no life til leather” tape & it sounded like Motorhead at 78 rpm…so we said – cool – let’s do it! I think it was a big learning curve for them & it was crazy….how we all got through it I will never know but it was extraordinary & an indie metal tour like that from coast to coast had not been done..it was instrumental in kickstarting the metal scene in the USA.
In all this years on the road, what was the most strange thing that you saw during a concert?
We did have a venue owner run on stage right after we started a set..he was gesticulating wildly & screaming into my brother’s ear…my brother could barely play for laughing…I came over; shouted…”did he say we were too loud?” he said ” no – he said we were too fast!!!”
Which did you consider were the most important moments of your career?
Almost too many to list….going as a 3 piece….making our 1st album…playing the Aardschock festival in Holland in 1983…coming to the USA….playing Japan for the 1st time..getting to play with Metallica again in 2014…. and there’s more to come!
What do you think about the controversy of sharing music on line?
It’s great..and it sucks…but it’s here & we gotta deal with it. It’s a direct function of the labels being too greedy… now we sell t-shirts & use CD’s as promotional tools, it used to be the other way around!
Can you share with us two albums that you are listening at the present time ?
Jeff Beck “live at B.B. Kings NYC”……and Yes “relayer”
When Mark unfortunately had an accident that injured his legs you decided to be inactive, you did not replace him, a loyalty decision with a so appreciated band´s member. What is your opinion when another band such as AC/DC do the contrary?
It’s a little different in that AC/DC are this monolithic corporation & had an entire tour ready to play…I still think they could have handled the situation with Brian a lot better – he deserves so much better than what happened. However..if it had been Angus that was unable to play..I do not think the tour would have happened. if you have obligations to fill you do your best but in our case replacing Mark is kinda impossible…we did a Athens show a few years ago where Joe could not fly there as the airport was snowed in…and we ended up doing the show with 3 local drummers who learned a few songs each….we made it work but ……ugh!!!
What are Raven´s plans in the near future, could you tell us something about it?
We have a few U.S. dates in May, then a Euro tour in June with Hirax opening up for us..then we get to do a few of the Euro festivals..then a U.S. tour, then start on the new album..we are looking at plans for Australia & South America then will finish the year headlining the NWOBHM Xmas Rocka festival December 2nd in the UK!..and In 2018 we will be on the Monsters Of Rock cruise!
Do you want to add anything to your fans and readers of this publication?
We thank you all for your support – we love you guys & will see ya out on the road!!!!
I wish all the best for Raven!!!
Andrea Bermúdez/MHF Magazine