Hell : Interview with Tony Speakman Part 1

CackBlabbath have had a great time catching up with Hell to find out about what they’ve been up to and what they make of their current success. we caught up with Bassist Tony Speakman to get his story and his thoughts on what the band have achieved so far.

So, here’s part one…

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So, the question i’ve been asking all you original guys… What have you been up to for the past 25 years?

When Hell split I joined a bunch of friends and we put a band together called XYZ. It was just basically a drink a lot play a lot band having fun, nothing serious. We did a single Rock’n’Roll Children and Heavy Rider, just one of those things, self financed and just bunged it round a few friends. After that I gave up playing for a short while, did a bit of session work then got involved with the tribute thing that was coming up, there’s a lot of money in doing other people’s stuff. I found myself in, of all things, a Status Quo tribute band and then spent several years playing all the Butlins and Haven holiday camps, and all the rock cafes down south and things like that. After that I got back into the rock scene and joined the Rainbow tribute band Rainbow Rising. We did a lot of work all over the UK, a lot of big festivals and things like that. After a while the tribute bands just sort of ceased really.

I did a TV commercial in-between too, a lot of people probably remember that, the shepherds pie oxo commercial which was great fun.

After that I just sort of gave up playing cos there was nothing more in it. I didn’t want to go back into the original music scene. I mean I missed Hell, I missed those sort of times and with doing the tribute thing I’d lost a lot of touch with new music so I packed in playing, got a proper job and saw how the other half lived. But now I’ve got back in it again in quite a big way.

So, do you reckon that’s why human remains sounds so fresh. You guys have all not been in the music scene, not been keeping up with the latest in heavy metal so It’s not tainted by the other stuff that’s about ?

Definitely. When we started talking about playing live I hadn’t heard of half of the bands because I’d just not looked, I’ve still been listening to my old record collection, my old CDs and stuff. I had to spend ages on the computer looking round and checking out these new bands and what the new music scene is all about. Obviously we’re not influenced by anyone else, and we’ve certainly not tried to sound like anyone else, not that we’d want to anyhow. We are ourselves and I suppose that is why it’s fresh. Effectively it’s exactly as it was back in the 80s but it’s all new technology and lots of new toys to play with. New recording technology, new instrumentation technology and certainly new stage technology and everything so we’ve got that with us which is new but the rest of it is old, all the movements and the little touches, everything else is still the same.

How did you get involved with the reunion, did Kev phone you, how did it all come about?

Well I’ve still been in touch with Tim and Andy. We were at a big birthday party together for my 21st plus a bit and we spoke about working with some old demos then but nobody knew where Kev was and obviously we couldn’t get in touch with Dave so it went quiet for a while. The first time I met Kev he came to see me with Rainbow Rising, we went back to his house and spent the whole night there catching up and had a great time and the next thing I know there was talk about doing something. The original plan with this was to put something together with the old demos for friends and family, then it was for Hell fans only. At first I think we all dreamed there might be something in it but never really thought there would be, but obviously it’s just rocketed on from there. I wake up in the morning and have to think to myself “have I woken up or am I still dreaming”.

The reception to the album has been overwhelmingly positive, you have to be happy with the way it’s gone?

The press comments and everything, it’s just astounding. I can’t think of anybody else, any other band that’s been in this kind of position, well not at our age.

People have knocked the image but in all honesty what do they expect a bunch of guys of our age to look like ? If we’d have just put jeans and t-shirts on and made no effort we’d have got slated. The album is called Human Remains and effectively the look reflects that. That’s my perception of it and that’s where the image came from. We wanted to be theatrical, we certainly didn’t want to look like anybody else. We didn’t want to look too metal, too modern so in my opinion the image works great.

Some people have called it grandpa metal and I suppose it’s true, but it’s great grandpa metal.


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The whole thing works because it’s good music, the image on it’s own wouldn’t work if the music was crap, must be good to have those tunes to kick things off with?

Well I always have thought the music was killer. Back in the day it was just so different to everyone else and it’s fun to play and it’s fun to be part of something that is so different. At the end of the day if you dare to be different you’re there to be hated but I don’t think the hated thing has really happened.

I first saw the band on the on earth video, with Mr Bower taking centre stage. How big a part of what’s happening is down to him?

Well what can I say about Dave. Because he’s an actor and he knew Dave Halliday he’s got into character. When we were doing the photo sessions the fist half an hour wasn’t working and I said “pull one of those manic faces like Dave Halliday would pull” and he turned round and it was like he was possessed by Dave Halliday. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and everybody turned round and went “wow”. And his character is very like Dave’s. He’s so funny, full of little laughs and jokes and one liners. A kind of unpredictable character but he’s also a really nice guy and a brilliant front man.

So you were surprised to find out just how good David Bower was as a frontman ?

Well, I’ve known him for years and I did not know he could sing like that. It’s just unbelievable and his vocals on the album are incredible. I suppose really he’s been the thing that… Well without him the band wouldn’t sound like it does now, before he arrived it sort of sounded dead, flat, whatever you want to call it but when he came along it just lifted it, just gave it something. He was a killer addition to the band.

The whole theatrical show works brilliantly, David in the pulpit is scary and intense and brilliant, got to bode well as you guys get more shows under your belts ?

Can you imagine what he’ll will be like after 60 gigs, with a bigger stage and the budget to go with it. I would like to go and see that.

To be continued…..