For the latest installment on the background to one of the most impressive reunions in recent years, we caught up with Hell drummer Tim Bowler to find out what he’s been up since the band’s first coming was cut tragically short…
So what have you been up to for the past 25 years?
In late 1986, after the band finally split, I moved from Nottingham to London and joined the band Life After, whose members included Kev Healey and John Vaites formerly of Radium. I toured with them until the band broke up in early 1988. At this point I had become somewhat disillusioned with whole music scene and began working full time for a data processing/printing company in the centre of London. I stayed there until 1996, whereupon I returned to Nottingham to take up a similar role. During that period I played on and off with a couple of local London bands, mainly in pubs and small clubs, but suffice to say nothing serious. Since then I have continued to work in the same industry, occasionally changing my employer to further my career. I finally hung up my sticks up in 1998, allowing my drums to gather dust in the loft of my house. In brief, a pretty unremarkable period of my life, but for the exception of my son, James.
Have you ever thought about the band getting back together, or did Kev call you out of the blue?
After the demise of Mr Halliday, I thought that would be damn near impossible. Also with the exception of Tony, I lost contact with Kev for about 20 years and everyone I spoke to had no idea of his whereabouts. So in truth no I didn’t. As for how we got back together, well it just sort of happened. One day I was bored and started to trawl the internet and to my surprise I found that there was quite a lot of stuff written about us. Then I typed in Andy’s details, only to find that he was this big record producer. I emailed him via his website and almost 30 seconds later he replied. That would have been about 2006. Andy found Kev quite by chance after Kev’s son, Tom made contact with him saying to you know my Dad and the rest as they say is history.
One thing that definitely sounds more modern on Human Remains is the drumming. How difficult was it to get fully back up to speed, were you still playing or had you given up?
That was quite a challenge for me. As I mentioned earlier I stopped playing completely in 1998, but when I hooked up with Andy for the first time in years, I met him at his previous studio in Ripley. In the main area there was this monster of a drum kit and Andy said do you want to have go, to which I jumped at the opportunity. I must have lasted for all of a minute. I was breathless aching and somewhat out of practice. Don’t believe it when someone says that you never forget how to ride a bike. That might be true, but how fast, puts it in prospective!
As for getting back up to speed, well if you have two task masters the likes of Kev and Andy, with one being the good cop and the other being the bad cop (they know which is which), then you can’t fail to succeed. Also Andy and I have put many practice hours in together and that has helped so much in my re-education and to which I am totally indebted.
I hear a skating accident on your driveway and a broken arm almost scuppered the recording?
Yes, I broke my left arm and had to have a metal plate put in. Just what you need on the eve of your second coming! It didn’t so much affect the recording, as my parts were completed first and therefore prior to the accident, but notably it has hampered rehearsing.
At which point in the process did you think that maybe there was something a bit special happening?
For me it was when Andy phoned me and told me that he had auditioned this killer vocalist and to me it seemed like all his Christmas’s and Birthday’s had come at once. With David we were now sounding like a unit and the Hell that I remembered. The vocal sound to me is so pivotal and filling Dave Halliday’s shoes was no mean feat.
The other guys have described finding David Bower as a pivotal moment in the reformation of the band, that a fair comment?
I should have read this question before I answered the previous one! In my mind it was absolutely pivotal. We were looking for that something and who would have thought that it was right under our noses. In my mind he helps make us complete and with his acting background he provides that theatrical dimension that was so synonymous with Hell back in the day.
How was the MFN gig for you?
Emotional, Surreal, Cathartic, Scary, Transcendental, Amazing……. Do you want me to go on? There is no one word to describe it. It was like the best drug I never had. The crowd were amazing and there response truly humbling.
Did you expect things to take off the way they have? Europe, then America and Japan? Should be some adventure.
At first I had to pinch myself and I still do. It’s not often that you get a second chance in life, although some might say we never had a first chance. Did I expect things to take off the way they have? I’d like to say yes because I am so proud of what we have done and it would have been a travesty had it not, but above all I am a realist, which means I’m cautious and not prone to being excitable. However, I am truly grateful and everyday is a bonus right now.
As for Europe, America and Japan – excuse while I pinch myself again!
How was sharing a tour bus with two other bands for your recent jaunt into Europe, things ever get a bit fractious?
When you have a Tour Manager the likes of the infamous Nick Barker, fractious just never becomes part of your vocabulary. Bands take one look at the man and nor does the word trouble. To be fair to Wintersun and Thaurorod our traveling companions, you couldn’t have asked for a friendlier bunch of guys. They were brilliant and I made some great new friends, which isn’t bad for a man that in some cases was old enough to Father of one or two of them.
Andy was saying that the plans for the follow up album are pretty much mapped out, so this is a long term thing then?
That’s correct and as for it being a long term thing, then yes, I don’t think any of us have come this far, not to see it roll on for many years to come. It’s taken an age to get here and this time I want to stay here, so we have to embrace it for all its worth.
With hindsight the answer is clearly yes, but before did you think that Hell could work without Dave Halliday. By all accounts he was an amazing person.
Honestly, at the time when this whole project was in its infancy, I didn’t think that Hell could work with any one of its component parts missing, but then when you stand back you realize that just isn’t the case here. The band lives on in all of because when Dave left us he clearly left a little bit of himself in each of us. In Kev, Tony and my case, we are the living remnants of what was the band that he made whole. Furthermore, it’s well documented that Andy was taught Guitar by Dave and so that has left an imprint on him. David back in the day followed the band everywhere and having seen Dave perform knows better than most what was expected, he even co-wrote ‘The Devils Deadly Weapon’ with Kev. So in hindsight your right the answer for me is clearly yes and the album stands as testimony to that.
As for Dave, what can I say?
You’re right in your assumption in that he was an amazing man who I first met when he was guitarist and front man for the outstanding Race Against Time. Everyone liked Dave I don’t recall anyone having a bad word to say about him. I have never met anyone quite like him. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he had a wicked sense of humour and there are so many anecdotes that I can recount about the things he got up to, but I not going to share them here mainly because you just can’t.