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Quartz Interview

Image result for quartz bandQuartz were formed in 1974, in Birmingham, UK, they were considered part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and have had a profound impact on a good two generations of metal and rock bands that have emerged since their forming. Their latest album ‘Fear No Evil’ was released in 2016, and I was lucky enough to sit down with drummer Malcolm Cope to talk about the album and much more.

 

  1. What Inspired the Name, and what were your influences?

 

“Originally we were called Bandy Legs, but when we were with Jet Records, they didn’t quite think that was a name that would really get us much traction, so they suggested a name change. Ronnie Fowler who had helped Queen break through when he was with EMI, was flipping through a book on rocks when he landed on Quartz, he recommended the name, and we discussed it and agreed, and that’s how we changed our name. As for our influences, well growing up in Birmingham during the sixties, there was a really vibrant music scene, The Beatles, and the whole Rock ‘n’ Roll thing was something that really inspired us as kids growing up.”

 

  1. Compared to when you first started out recording, what do you think has changed in your thought process and recording mannerisms?

 

“When we started out everything was recorded on tape, and there was a limit to how much you could actually put onto it, consequently, as time went by we learned how to manipulate things, something that we learned from The Beatles and bands like that. The longer we were around, the more things expanded and changed, eight track, sixteen track, thirty-two and sixty-four tracks came about, then digital came around.  And it was really a case of just getting used to the different types of recording. When we reformed, we learned it all over again.”

 

  1. How has the loss of Geoff Nichols changed the band?

 

“He was one of the main writers to the band, and obviously he can never be replaced, but I think that with his passing, there will be a chance for the focus to move to other people, and allow them to adapt and grow as writers now. And obviously as a band we will now need to think about what direction we want to go in.”

 

  1. What plans do you have for the future?

 

“We’re currently recording a new album, some of which is stuff Geoff recorded before he passed away. We’re planning on finishing it as a tribute to him and our time together. We all write stuff and collaborate on songs, so it should be a fun time.”

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The World Needs A Hero

I was never that into comic books as a kid, I knew they existed, I knew what they were, but I never really read any of them, nor did I quite get why they were so popular. I knew about Batman and Superman-who doesn’t- but I never quite got why they were so popular or why they had such a devoted fan base.  Even when Marvel started releasing their movies, I never quite understood the whole hoopla, I mean got that the movies were good and the actors were fantastic, but there was nothing more to it for me.

A friend shared the Injustice video game movie with me,  and for those who aren’t aware of what it is, it’s a scenario where Superman loses the love of his life Lois Lane and goes about trying to make the world a better place through force as a consequence, and the fall out from all of that. I watched part of it and couldn’t get into it, I didn’t understand why the female characters had such big breasts, I didn’t understand why the male characters were all muscled to fuck. I really didn’t get it. Needless to say, when I stated this, my friend wasn’t impressed. But he left it alone.

Then, a few months later this same friend recommended that I watch the television show, The Flash, saying he thought I’d enjoy it. I wasn’t quite sure, I resisted for a while, but then my curiosity got the better of me and I watched it.  Man, that was the best decision I could have made at that point in time. Before I knew it, it was twelve in the morning and I’d watched half of the first season. I was hooked, over the next two or three weeks, I watched all of Season One and then all of Season Two. There was something about the show that really appealed to me. It was a mix of hope, joy, growth and love that I think at that point in time was something I really needed. I went out searching for something more and found Arrow. Another show that I got hooked on. Then there was Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, and man, watching those shows, I found something I thought I’d lost.

You see, and this sounds really cheesy, but when I discovered The Flash, things were a bit tough for me, I’d gone from being a very happy dude, with a lot of friends, to someone who was not sure he liked who he was, and was struggling with work and with finding a way to connect with the people around him.  I felt as though I was adrift in a sea of faces and there was no hope, there was no chance at joy again. Watching The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and Legends, but especially The Flash, I found hope again. As cheesy as it sounds, seeing Barry Allen discover his powers, seeing him save the day, and seeing him fall in love and work with a team, man that was something that made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me feel again. It showed that there was hope out there, and that was something I really needed.

I watched the Injustice movie again after getting baptised into the CW’s Arrowverse, and I understood. I got it. I got why these characters meant so much to people and I understood the fascination with these different scenarios. Hell, I’ve got a few dozen of them in my head right now. I told the very same friend who introduced me to all of this about this, and he recommended watching Smallville. Now for those of you who don’t know, Smallville is the show we have to thank for the Arrowverse. It was the show that showed how awesome it was to explore these heroes who have so much history behind. Smallville detailed the childhood and early years of Clark Kent/Superman, from his time growing up on a small farm in Kansas, to his first few years at the Daily Planet and his steps into becoming the legendary symbol of hope that everyone knows. Throughout there is love, there is heartbreak, there is joy and there is plenty to make you laugh and smile.

Again, I was a bit hesitant, but I gave it a shot,  and man was it worth it. There’s something about watching Superman, go through the struggles of being a kid and coming out on top that really, I guess makes things better. This dude is essentially a God, and yet he does all he can to fit in, he struggles, he falls in love, he makes friends, he loses friends, and he saves the day. That’s pretty fucking awesome and also somewhat relatable, apart from the saving the day part, haha. Smallville is a show that has so much depth to it, so much hope to it and so much I guess potential of great things inside it, that it’s impossible not to love it. I watched ten seasons of Smallville over a year and a half, as Clark Kent grew, so did I. I graduated university, I started being an adult-somewhat, can’t go full adult yet!- and I watched Clark Kent go from being this nervous kid, who was just trying to fit in, to being a man grown, with his whole life before him. We see him put on the iconic blue and red toward the end, and when he did, I was crying, it was something that I think needed to happen. It felt like this was a huge moment, as stupid as that sounds.

Smallville was the thing that when things got dark in my head when it seemed like there was too much shit that was just too fucked up to make sense, made me realise that maybe everything ain’t so bad. That there was still hope, there was still light out there. That might seem dramatic, fuck, writing this it seems dramatic now, but at the time, when I was stuck inside my own head, it made sense, it was what I needed. And I think it’s what the world needs now.

There is so much darkness out there, there’s so much hate, so much anger and rage, I think we have forgotten what it means to love, to listen, to care. I think we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a person, to be human. I think we could all do with a bit more hope in our lives. I think we could do with being a bit more like Clark Kent, a bit more like Barry Allen. If more people wanted to do the little things that make the world a better place, be it saying hello to a friend, to picking up litter and putting it in the bin, to talking to someone and making new friends, maybe there would be a little less darkness in the world. Maybe that sounds naive, maybe that’s too fanciful, but I do truly believe that if we were more willing to listen and talk, instead of shouting at one another, we could actually try and do what the heroes countless generations of kids have read about, do. There might not be a Clark Kent or a Barry Allen in real life, that doesn’t mean we as people can’t try and stand for what they stand for, or strive for what they strive for.

Finally, I owe so much to these shows, to Barry Allen and Clark Kent, for teaching me that it’s alright to be angry, it’s alright to be sad, but it’s also possible to strive to make the world better. To remember that no matter how dark shit gets out there, there is always light present. There is always hope. I can never say thank you enough to them, to those shows, nor to my friend who introduced me to these characters, to this universe. Thank you for reminding me that there’s still good out there.

 

 

 

 

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Brexit, What Is The British Government Doing?

It has been a year since the vote on the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU happened, a year since the country woke to news that it was leaving the EU. In that time it seems as though there are two very different narratives developing over how negotiations are being handled.  Soon after the referendum result came in, leaders of the other twenty-seven European nations met to discuss what their views and goals were for the upcoming negotiations, once that was decided they quickly appointed Michael Barnier as the chief negotiator for the EU in regards to Brexit. The UK government on the other hand dithered. David Cameron resigned, there was a ‘leadership’ election and Theresa May after winning by default, duly rejigged the cabinet and created several new departments filled with those who were pro-Brexit, but also with those who were of a more cautious bent. Whilst the EU came to the table with proposals, the UK did not seem to have anything concrete other than empty platitudes meant to pacify the Eurosceptic press and the UKIP voters who May and the Conservatives wanted to poach. The slogans: ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘Red, White and Blue Brexit’ were echoed constantly by government officials, but there was no serious plan put forward as to how they wanted to achieve that.

When they were not repeating endless slogans, government ministers were stating that the British public had voted for a hard Brexit, and that anything that did not deliver on that was a sham. May played hard ball throughout early negotiations blaming EU officials and European leaders for not understanding what she wanted, and for rejecting the will of the British people. Anyone who did not get on board was a traitor, and not a true patriot. And yet, there was nothing solid put forward by the British side. Merely audacious statements from cabinet members, stating they would not pay any divorce bill, and they would want what was best for Britain at any cost. Still there was nothing presented before the EU negotiating team, there was nothing presented to the public. Then Britain’s top official to the EU resigned, and warned his colleagues to not get bogged down with empty rhetoric and to actually advise the government as they were meant to.

What followed were several more months of pointless posturing by the British government, including the call for a general election by Theresa May, to give a real and true mandate for a hard Brexit. The election did not give the Conservatives a thumping majority, instead it took it away, and left them needing to form a government in partnership with the DUP. Since then the posturing has gone. Theresa May is no longer the strong leader she was previously seen as. The cabinet, who previously had appeared as little more than obedient dogs had suddenly found its voice and there was constant infighting, between the pro Brexit David Davis and Liam Fox, and the more cautious and business friendly chancellor Philip Hammond. The divisions have left the EU and the world wondering, what exactly is the British government doing. A proposal for trade deal talks has been ignored by the EU until the divorce bill is settled.

A half-hearted proposal on a customs union with the EU customs union has been mentioned by the government recently, but that too is receiving criticism from EU officials as being too fairy tale like and light on actual detail. Something that would be bad news for businesses within Britain who hope to keep access to the single market or even the custom union for their benefit and for the benefit of the economy. The lightness of this proposal shows that the government is not completely united behind what their Brexit strategy should be and despite fears in some corners of the EU that this chaos and confusion is all just a ploy, it really does seem as though the government is scrambling to find something that suits them before March, 2019 which would be when Britain really leaves the EU.

What this shows is that this government does not appear to have a real clue as to what it wants, nor what is really happening around them. Talks of trade deals have been cut down, businesses are continuously expressing their concerns of what would happen without a proper deal for exiting the EU. The days of pointless slogans might be gone, but the chaos and confusion remains. The current government looks like a child lost within the maze of reality, and it is not a pretty picture. They need to figure out what they want, stop their infighting and come together for the good of the country, and quickly.

 

 

 

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Donald Trump: The Great Hyperbole

 

“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” This is a quote from Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America.  It seems like a strange thing for the President of a powerful country to say, especially when it concerns an ally located just south of the American border. But, as has quickly become apparent, Donald Trump is not above making odd, controversial and downright weird statements. His fondness for Twitter tirades is well known, his fondness for tirades in general is well known often those who are not part of the inner circle or even part of the cult of ‘The Donald’ are left wondering why he does this. Indeed, it seems to have become a par for course for many on both the left and right to discuss what exactly the President means when he goes off on one.

There does not seem to be a clear explanation for this, but there do seem to be various theories circling around. Some such as Jaimeson, believe that Trump’s language is a hang up from his days as a businessman: ‘‘He’s telling you that the Trump brand is a good brand, that everyone likes the Trump brand.’’  Given that Trump has not yet made a clear break from his actual business affiliations, this is perhaps not that strange, after all, there is a common saying that when in unusual situations, we stick to what we know, and after a lifetime in business, what would Trump know better than business? Others such as Baugh believe that his speech patterns and the harsh and abrasive language he uses, are a sign of his upbringing. ‘‘There is a style of speaking that’s associated with tough New Yorkers, the stereotype of men in New York and we typically associate this with working-class men. They’re not only plain-spoken but they’re tough guys.’’ Considering Trump’s upbringing in New York in the  50s and 60s, when there generally was a trend toward certain hyperbolic tendencies, this might not come as too much of a surprise either.

Trump has been called unique by many political commentators, for often making a lot of statements and seemingly important political decisions over the social media platform Twitter. When he announced the ban on Transgender persons serving in the military, he did so over Twitter.  When he announces big statements such as a reduction in immigration figures, he does so over Twitter, when he launches scathing attacks on members of his own party, he does so over Twitter. This could suggest that he wants to get his message across directly to his core support base, without the potential for dilution or addition that could come from other sources within the media. Given his fondness for labelling anyone who does not support him ‘Fake News’ this does not surprise. It instead suggests that Trump either incredibly smart, or incredibly foolish. A tweet can be deleted, but once it is out there in an unpolished form, everyone can see it, unless they are blocked from viewing your account. A tweet cannot be edited or shaped and crafted in such a manner as to appear professional, given the limited characters available. Thus, Trump is either trying to bypass the mainstream media, and communicate in this unfiltered manner, so as to seem more genuine, or he is an impulsive man, given to his most destructive impulses. His attacks on Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republicans in the Senate, and on the Republicans in general, are quite harmful, and could do more harm than good for both Trump and the Republicans in the long term, but that does not seem to be a major thought for Trump.

Instead, it seems Donald Trump prefers to focus on himself. Trump formed his own network under the Fox branch to report ‘real news’ news which mainly focuses on how ‘well’ the US is doing under its current president, and which ignores any criticism of him, be it legitimate or otherwise.  This would be worrying in itself, given that it would add to the already growing cohort who believe Donald Trump can do no wrong, but with recent news that the President only receives positive briefings about what the press reports about him, suggests a man who cannot take criticism, does not want to face anything that is not a pat on the back. This is not a good indication of the man, who sits in the Oval Office. It suggests that he never quite grew up beyond the part of life where a child is rewarded with applause. And with his recent actions in regards to North Korea this merely increases concerns about how suitable he is for his role.

Donald Trump is a man with a great many quirks and habits that make him an interesting person to observe. They do not however, make him a good president, nor one that should be getting the sort of attention that he receives. Consequently, the choice facing all is whether to focus more on him, or to ignore him and risk missing something that could make the petulant child he often comes across as being, making a decision that damages all of the world.

 

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Cloven Hoof: ‘Who Mourns For The Morning Star’ Album review.

 

 

Image result for cloven hoof who mourns for the morning star

 

Cloven Hoof were formed in 1979 in Wolverhampton and are part of the now legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal Movement. Since 1979 they have released six albums, their debut album Cloven Hoof was released in 1984 and instantly became a must have for any metal fan worth their salt. Their next album Dominator was another classic, and their third album A Sultan’s Ransom completed the impression that Cloven Hoof were a band ready and waiting to take charge and lead the way for heavy metal. After a brief break, they reformed in the early 2000s and released two stellar albums in Eye of the Sun and Resist or Serve. Their new album Who Mourns For The Morning Star promises to be an enticing tale of music, with the front cover depicting Lucifer, the Morning Star in all his satanic glory.

The album opens up with an ode to gazing at the stars and humanity’s obsession with life on other planets.  ‘Star Rider’ is a heavy and fast opening with a relentless riff, with lyrics such as ‘Are they gods on chariots, or some alien race?’ really emphasise this and fans of the band’s album Dominator will love this song. The second song on the album is ‘Song of Orpheus’ based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, the song is heavy, with great emphasis on the tragedy of the titular character, the band do an excellent job in conveying the emotion of Orpheus and really this will be a fan favourite if played live. The third song is ‘I Talk To The Dead’ a heavy riff based song with solid drumming, an ode to necromancy and one that is sure to be a favourite if played live.

The next song on the record is ‘Neon Angels’ which opens up with a screamed ‘One more for the highway!’ The song has a nice driving riff, and seems like a rocker influenced by Judas Priest, definitely seems like an ode to living for the moment and enjoying life as much as possible.  Following ‘Neon Angels’ is the brooding title track ‘Morning Star’. The song details the story of Lucifer, the devil, God’s greatest angel, his rise and fall, and his desire for some sort of revenge. A soft opening, a ballad followed by a heavy middle and ending, filled with epic choruses, it is definitely a live song. ‘Time to Burn’ follows, and this time one can really see Cloven Hoof getting into their stride. Raging rocker, solid riffs and lyrics, a song that has to be played live.

‘Mindmaster’ follows starting with an absolute monster of a riff. A real headbanging riff, this song is most definitely a call against propaganda and the blinding trust that people place within such a thing. The lyrics really call out the brainless effect that propaganda can reduce people to. ‘Go Tell The Spartans’ is epic track, detailing the Spartan story and ethic with epic riffs and lyrics, another live track. Track number nine, the final song on the record is titled ‘Bannockburn’ after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The song varies in tempo with a medieval feel as it details the exploits of the Scots under Robert the Bruce, as the song reaches its climax it gets heavier and faster, with some real swagger, a brilliant closer.

Over all, this album is perhaps the best work that Cloven Hoof has done, there is not a bad song on this record, and all of them could make the cut as live tracks and favourites. If you haven’t already go out and buy this record. 10/10.