Your last album "The Slaughter Never Stops" was out three years ago, but as far as I'm aware it was written around 2007/2008. So, why the delay?
The album ended up getting recorded then re-recorded again for a start, then when we were getting pretty satisfied with it, Ian, our singer ended up leaving the band for a while, so as far as continuity was concerned with that particular recording we decided to archive it. A few years later Ian returned, the door was never really closed on that eventuality due to his legacy with the band, so quite quickly the subject of the album we had recorded became a current thing again. We re-mixed it, released it and by and large that's the reason it took so long.
The sound on that album is up-to-date but the song-writing style is not different to that on your first two releases. Looks like you guys wanted to pick-up where you left off 20+ years earlier?
While writing the material for the album we were very aware that we had to present songs that would give a certain familiarity to people who knew Avenger from old. Ian Swift and myself had been a large part of the song writing nucleus for the original line-up, so I think that had to help. But the current guitarists Liam Thompson and Sean Jefferies also recognised where we needed to be, also Dean, the producer clearly identified what we wanted and when the material we presented him made an obvious connection to our previous albums. It was a great team effort and something that caused us quite a bit of worry so I'm glad you identified that our signature is still intact.
With the songs sounding like they could have been written in the '80s, how much did the new guys contribute to the album?
The new members' contribution was profound especially as Avenger had always intended to be a twin guitar band but never was in the 1980s. So, the guys really done fantastic work bringing two guitar harmonies to the material (including the old stuff too) and also bring some absolutely killer riffs and lead work. The album was pretty much a collective writing project between the members.
You recorded a cover version of "Killers" for the album. Looks like the Di'Anno era Maiden had a big influence on you guys?
I have to admit it's a particular era that's been on our radar since the two DiAnno albums were new. We sometimes play "Purgatory" too live. However, "Killers" had been a song we had jammed for years in rehearsal and while in the studio we thought, "Let's record it just to see." It worked out so well that we really felt it would be nice to include it on the album.
You guys managed to shoot three video-clips for the "Killer Elite" album. How? Even Maiden or Priest didn't have three videos for albums back then, ha-ha!
He-he, yeah, I know, I don't even think Queen managed three videos! We were lucky though. At the time Polygram where showing a big interest in NWoBHM bands and they financed a multiple video shoot for us, Venom, Warfare and Saracen. Got to say I can't underestimate how useful those videos have been over the years.
You guys even managed to get over the pond and play a few dates there, but I think the US tour was cancelled halfway through. What happened?
Doh! Ian had an accident and broke his leg so badly that his plaster wouldn't allow him to continue onstage. He had been drinking beer with ice in it and spat the ice out which in a Spinal Tap moment he later slipped on causing a really nasty break. So, it's spirits with no ice on stage these days... just in case!
I remember reading a funny story about some animal rights people showing up at one of your radio interviews, because of the album title "Blood Sports". Is that a true story?
Yeah! It was at a radio station in our home town. The DJ had mentioned that we were visiting the studio to talk about promoting "Blood Sports". He failed to clarify that it was the title of our new album and not an activity we done recreationally. In the confusion, a large and quite angry crowd gathered at the radio station which had to be dispersed by the police. They wouldn't take our explanation that it was just a metaphoric album title and wanted to fucking lynch us!
A lot of old-school bands are re-uniting these days, playing gigs and releasing albums again but you're one of the first ones who came back, I mean it's been 12 years now. So, what made you want to resurrect Avenger back then?
It would have been a lot sooner if it had been purely down to me, but the logistics of reuniting past members, availability due to other music projects etc. made it difficult. The release of the Sanctuary anthology was the Rosetta stone for us getting back together, though we talked about it in 2004 and secured a tour with Y&T for June 2005 along with several gigs in Europe too. Happily, it's worked out great since then.
Back in the '80s you were a one-guitar act, but since the come-back you've got two axemen in the band. Seems that the one-axe set-up didn't really work for you that well, did it?
No, we always wanted two guitars, but it was difficult at the time finding two that were compatible, so we soldiered on as a four piece. One tour we done in '85 Ginger, who later became well known as the front man of the Wild Hearts filled in as second guitarist and that confirmed to us that if we were ever going to reach our true potential we needed two guitarists.
The NWoBHM scene was spread across the UK, but there are quite a few bands from the Newcastle area that have survived all these years and are still releasing great albums, to mention Raven, Tygers of Pan Tang or Venom. What was so magical about that area that it gave birth to so many awesome bands?
This is true, I can only identify that the music scene at the time (late '70s early '80s) was so healthy in the North East, especially for heavy rock and metal that a lot of people were finding the inspiration to form bands and write original material at the same time. London was almost identical and there you had many great bands appearing simultaneously too.
And now for the most important question of this interview... How's the work on the new album progressing?
Well, curious you should ask! As this is taking up quite a bit of our time just now. Once again as we have already mentioned we are writing with a sharp eye on keeping our roots intact but also presenting an obvious progression. The stuff we have put together up to now is very much akin to "The Slaughter Never Stops" but maybe a little bit more classic rock and a bit less thrashy. I will be very interested to hear what your opinion is once it is finished. I'd say we are looking late 2018 early 2019 for the release.
So, apart from the writing of the new album, what's next for Avenger?
We are currently learning some old material which we have neglected to play live over the years, just to throw a few surprises into the mix and to satisfy regular requests from fans for certain songs. We also have a video shoot coming up and also designing some nice stage props to help keep the live show exciting. Hopefully you will see that first hand later this year.