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BLACKMAYNE - Interview with Phil McDermott
By Wojtek Gabriel, posted 10 Jun 2018
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Blackmayne NWoBHM band
I suppose most of the fans who are into more obscure bands of the NWoBHM era have heard the story about Blackmayne's debut album cover art having been destroyed in fire, which pushed the release date back by a few months and ultimately led to the break-up. But that was well over three decades ago. The Kent-based combo have returned to the scene after this much too long hiatus and are currently working on their second album called "Spat from Hell", to be released later in the year. The upcoming release was one of many topics we discussed with the band's original axeman Phil McDermott.
So, guys, you're back, you have played a few gigs recently and as far as I'm concerned, you're working on a new album. How are the new songs coming along?
They're coming on great! The new album's working title is "Spat from Hell". We played the title track at Sheffield O2 and it was very well received. We are fortunate to have a riff writing genius amongst us, namely Julian "Sack" Sackett. Sack has a natural flair for writing a monster riff, he was exactly the same back in the '80s. Every time he comes out with something new, the rest of us are like "Wow! That's the best one yet!" He keeps upping his game on every song. The rest of us have been writing ideas too, but the majority by far at the moment is Mr Sackett. Ideally, we want to have too many songs to choose from, because then we will have the perfect situation where we can choose the best ones and still have some spares.
Can we expect to hear on the new album any tunes written back in the day?
We're purposely trying to keep that original NWoBHM sound. There are some riffs that we're dragging back from the old days, so maybe a few of them will make it into new songs. It's a strong possibility that we will also include a few "bonus tracks" when we release the new album. For example, we will be recording 2018 versions of the original songs such as "Law of Love", "Hot Blooded Woman" and "Follow the Leader", so it's likely at least one of those will find its way onto the release. The original singer Tim Cooke has also shown an interest in writing some lyrics, so you never know how that might work out too. We're full of ideas, it's like we're 20 years old again!
I assume the core members of the resurrected Blackmayne are you and Julian. Do you have the complete "recording" line-up? Are the guys you play live with the actual band members?
Correct, Julian and I are the core members. We're very happy with the current line-up, but never say never! We're open to lots of ideas and the rest of the band are aware that we might borrow someone to record this song or that song. Maybe bring in a few guests here and there. The current line-up all get on well and we have a lot of laughs, which is really important, so there's no reason to change anything at the moment.
So, why get back together after almost 30 years? Was there a single event that gave you a kick or had you been planning the comeback for some time?
We both stayed in touch and liked the idea, but it never seemed to be anything more than just an idea. And then out of the blue we had three things that happened all in one month. Firstly, we were contacted by a record company who was interested in possibly re-releasing the vinyl, then another record company asked about whether we had ever considered releasing it on CD (it was only on vinyl before), and then the last thing was we were contacted by the promoter of BroFest to see if we would be interested in playing at their festival in Newcastle in Feb 2017. These three things all at the same time resulted in Julian and I walking into a pub to have a chat about whether we could fire the band up again.
So, when is the LP re-issue coming out?
It's coming out on Eat Metal Records (EMR), current date is end of January. But these things can so often slip, so I would say it should be out by February. Really excited to see how that goes. I've seen the original vinyl go for silly money on eBay.
Was it hard to re-learn the Blackmayne songs when you booked the first gig after the come-back?
Re-learning them for Sack and myself was quite straightforward. Our fingers kinda remembered how it all went and just fell back onto the right frets! One big change is Sack and I have switched instruments - I'm now on bass and Sack is on guitar. When in the studio we both regularly swap about too. It was more challenging teaching the new members how it needed to sound, because we were determined to keep that early '80s NWoBHM sound. We didn't want it to sound like new metal, not that we don't like that genre, we love it! But it was important to recognise our roots and stay true to that.
Let's go back down the memory lane. It's 1984. You get a deal, record an album and before the promotion starts you disband. Why? I mean, it must have been a big thing for a starting-out band to get signed?
Yep, it's true. We got signed very quickly based on just two demo songs recorded in Gold Dust Studio in Sidcup, Kent. I had recorded before on Ebony Records so I knew Daryl Johnson and called him up. He said to send the demo on to him, he liked what he heard and we were offered a deal a month later. We were very naive and young though. It's only in hindsight we can now see that we had an open door to kick the band off properly and were in a much more privileged position than most bands were in. But we had no management, there were very few gigs on offer, we couldn't afford to travel too far... All these things together meant we didn't actually do much promotion of the band. And then there was the delay in releasing the album, and it all felt a bit of a downer. So, the impetus the band should have had wasn't there. Then around the same time Tim said he was considering leaving to travel the world a bit, so I copped the hump with the whole thing and stopped scheduling rehearsals and things like that. I was probably the main "organiser" of the band, so with me stopping it just grinded to a halt.
I think every NWoBHM fan has heard the story about your original artwork being destroyed in the fire in transit, causing the debut album's release date delay. But I've never found any info about the actual circumstances. So, was it like the Royal Mail van burst into flames or something?
Yeah, a lot of people think that's a load of bollox, but it's absolutely true. It was a courier van. I've still got the letter at home somewhere apologising about the fire and the consequential delay to the album release date. It was the original artwork to the album on the way to the printers. We never even saw the original picture! Apparently, it was quite similar to the one we eventually used though.
I saw you guys at the HRH NWoBHM festival recently and you clearly enjoyed yourselves...
Sheffield was fookin' brilliant! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, probably a bit too much on the Sunday! Drunk as Lords!
Having been a part of the old-school British metal scene, do you listen to any modern metal bands?
Yes, yes, yes... I go to Download every year and I used to do Sonisphere too. There are so many bands that are just great. I like to get in the tents away from the main stages and see the upcoming bands. I also really like the punk scene. There's a lot of crossover between the two genres, and I love that. The early days of Motörhead touring with The Damned saw the coming together of headbangers and punks, and it worked out just fine. I say bring it back!
So, what's next for Blackmayne apart from the new album and more gigs?
We're applying to be politicians. If we get the job then we'll kick the current lot running the world out, make beer free, and change all school curriculums to include Ozzy, Dio, Maiden... and Blackmayne... in their music classes. All schools will have Marshall stacks in the playground alongside a double bass kit so they can just make a racket. Vote for Blackmayne!
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

Blackmayne on facebook: facebook.com/Blackmayne
Tags: Blackmayne, NWoBHM, British metal, Phil McDermott, Spat from Hell
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© 2007-2018 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved. Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
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© 2007-2018 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.