DARK NIGHT-BLACK LIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH NWOBHM LEGENDS THUNDERSTICK
DARK NIGHT – BLACK LIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH NWOBHM LEGENDS THUNDERSTICK
Barry "Thunderstick" Purkis is a living legend and a pivotal figure in the mythic movement that was and is the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. He helped shape and define the genre and was there from the very start. For one thing, he handled drums on the awesome "Survivors", "Head On", and "Shock Tactics" albums by Samson. He was also a member of Iron Maiden for short while in 1977. As to his own band, the one named Thunderstick, they released a couple of great albeit underrated things, namely the "Feel Like Rock ‘N’ Roll" EP (1983) and full-length assault entitled "Beauty and the Beasts" (1984), before the band eventually folded in 1988. Thankfully, Thunderstick are back with a fiery and spirited new album filled with wicked hooks, great riffs, and utterly well-written tunes. Entitled "Something Wicked This Way comes", it is a mighty roar from the deepest pit of the NWOBHM cavern and it certainly embodies everything that makes pure heavy metal so goddamn brilliant. Eternal Terror Live simply had to have a chat with the man himself, the legendary Thunderstick, about the new album, meeting fans on the road, his work with Samson, and the source of his inspiration. Once you are done reading this piece, head on over to the Thunderstick Bandcamp profile and check the aforementioned 2017 record of theirs out.
E.T.L.: Greetings Barry, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions of mine. Much appreciated. First of all, how are you doing?
Thunderstick: I am doing fine thank you very much – it has been a busy year and looking forward to a break at Christmas.
E.T.L.: What is the atmosphere within the Thunderstick camp like these days now that your excellent new album is out? I can imagine that there is a lot of excitement within the band but that your schedule is quite hectic as well with promoting the record, conducting interviews, and so on and so forth. Are you currently writing new material or rehearsing for future live activities?
Thunderstick: Thank you and wow that is a lot of questions in one question! Yeah, you are right, it has been pretty hectic but now the album is finally out, I can turn my attention to getting us out there for live work in 2018. There is a lot to be sorted out before we gig.
Regarding the new material, we have five new songs already for the follow-up to "Something Wicked this Way Comes".
E.T.L.: When composing and writing songs, are you quite spontaneous and intuitive, or the other way around? What about when working and recording in the studio, do you like to experiment a lot while there or is everything more or less set in stone before you start recording?
Thunderstick: I think a little of both. Yes, there is a predetermined arrangement with song ideas and format, but by no means ‘set in stone’. A recording studio has always been for me a wondrous place and has the ability to be able to turn small musical improbabilities whilst recording into wonderful arrangements, so I always keep an open mind for those little bits of magic to happen.
E.T.L.: Given that your discography is quite impressive in the sense that it encompasses both Thunderstick and Samson, I can imagine that it must be quite challenging to compile a set list whenever you are about to play gigs. There is a lot of stuff to choose from. Do the other members of Thunderstick come up with suggestions when it comes to putting the set list together?
Thunderstick: It is difficult to say with this new line-up, as we have not undertaken any live work yet. I initially will put together the set list but I will always be open to suggestions and discussion with the band. After all, it is all of us that have to play the songs each night.
E.T.L.: Could you briefly tell us where you met Lucie Vowles (vocals), Rex Thunderbolt (bas), and Martin Shellard (guitars)?
Thunderstick: Lucie was auditioned and recommended by the guy who owned the studio that we recorded at and an audition DVD was sent to me. Martin was known throughout the business for his work with other bands and tab writing arrangements for guitar. Rex was standing behind me at a Steve Harris British Lion gig that we both attended and messaged me the following day – perfect timing as I still had not decided on a bass player!
E.T.L.: What does the title "Something Wicked This Way" Comes connote or refer to? Obviously, one can read many different things into it, but I was just wondering if it had a specific meaning to it in relation to the songs and lyrics on the album.
Thunderstick: Originally, it was a tag line title for a promo DVD that had been filmed to initiate crowdfunding ideas. It was used so much that it soon became an obvious title for the album. A prophetic title indeed!
E.T.L.: How do you look back on your time with Iron Maiden and Samson? I have always felt that those early years of Samson were extremely underrated. There were some strong albums and gigs, and many of the songs have stood the test of time. Do you still get a kick out of performing some of them from time to time? When either listening to them or playing them on stage or in rehearsals, do they bring back many fond memories?
Thunderstick: Well obviously with Iron Maiden there are no songs that I perform of theirs. With the Samson material, my preference is far more biased in favour of "Head On" more than "Survivors" or "Shock Tactics". The reason for that is that we, as a band, were at our most flamboyant and most experimental on "Head On". "Survivors" was only a three-piece of material that had been written prior to me joining and "Shock Tactics", for me, was far more regimental in both its concept and execution. I intend to include some Samson tracks when we play live next year, the best way of remembering both Paul and Chris is for me is to do this, as well as the fact (as you have already pointed out) that the material is strong and has stood the test of time.
E.T.L.: I would love it if you released a new live album containing songs from the Samson catalogue as well as "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Beauty and the Beasts". Would you consider releasing a live record with your current line-up at some point?
Thunderstick: As from 2018, I will be concentrating more on live work and by the end of the year this could well have happened. Time will tell.
E.T.L.: Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about meeting fans on the road and at venues and so on?
Thunderstick: Totally agree with meeting fans; these are the people that not only elevate you to a modicum of ‘stardom’ but at the same time help you keep your feet firmly on the ground. There is nothing better that talking to true fans of what you do, both on the road and when out socially. They are a mine of information, some of them know more about me that I know about me!
E.T.L.: You have been involved in one or more or aspects of music for decades now. Is it ever not fun to be a working musician or working within the music industry? Where do you find the inspiration to keep going?
Thunderstick: What a loaded question! This year particularly has been a year of soul-searching for me. Not always pleasant and sometimes placing my thoughts in a dark place, this has been exemplified by other musicians who have taken their own lives for no apparent reason other than the inner demons that we all fight. At times, it is hard to continue, but music has a healing quality about it like nothing else, so onward………………!
E.T.L.: Speaking of inspiration, what inspires you in terms of writing music and lyrics? Life in general and people that you encounter, or perhaps books and movies and so on?
Thunderstick: My love of the written word; to have the ability to be able to create a storyline that comes from any source, whether it be life in general or fantasy is a powerful tool to have, enabling the listener to be pulled into that particular world within seconds of the track playing. Music itself channels the musician from anywhere, even the sound of traffic can convert to a chord pattern or riff in a musician’s head – magic!
E.T.L.: What are some of your thoughts on how the music industry has changed since the turn of the millennium i.e. the way in which people «consume» music these days via digital platforms and so on? Nobody seems to pay any attention to the album format anymore. People pick single tracks and then compile playlists as opposed to listening to an album from beginning to end. What are your thoughts on all of this?
Thunderstick: So that was then… a time of analogue recordings, when musicians had to perform their part in the studio in an entire performance and music editing was done with razor blades and tape. It had, in my opinion, much more of a ‘pulse’ about the creativity process than it has today. With the album running order being an integral part of the way that artists wished their work to be presented to their audience, the whole album being used to expand on the track ‘stories’ presented, giving an overall picture and listening experience. So today, music can be regarded as a commodity rather than an art form, being almost clinical in its conception. Social media, digital recording, downloads etc. – I feel that we have kind of created a two-steps forward, one-step back scenario. I, as a fan, can remember only too well waiting for a particular artist’s release, going to the record shop to buy it, getting it home putting the album on and studiously taking in all the sleeve notes had to offer – over and over again! An experience that music lovers these days sadly may never get to enjoy.
E.T.L.: Are you by any chance planning to tour Scandinavia at some point?
Thunderstick: Would love too! But as you and your readers are only too aware, that awful word ‘money’ comes into the equation. Perhaps I need to get a Scandinavia booking agent – if any of your readers know of one, feel free to send me the information!!!
E.T.L.: Any final words to the faithful readers of Eternal Terror Live?
Thunderstick: As I write these answers, it is early December so can I therefore, individually and on behalf of the band, wish everybody a Rock and Roll Christmas and a Metal New Year.
Luv on ya! B. Thunderstick