Once again an interview with an unsung heroe of N.W.O.B.H.M., a man that is responsible for one of the most brilliant 7″ singles of the legendary genre. Le’s meet Mr. Paul Britton…
This is probably your first interview in a Greek webzine so please give us a small bio for Scarab. Before Scarab were you involved in any other well-known bands? Is it true that you were a rather difficult man to deal with?
Scarab were/are a metal band from the scummy streets of Birmingham. We were around for a few years but i never saw us as anything other than a D list Metal band. I put it together in the early 80’s as I had pretty much exhausted my options in Birmingham with other bands. I was a right pain, a hyper active metal head, hair down to my arse, a piss head who could play guitar a bit. I wasn’t “difficult” just hyperactive. Trouble was I loved other things to much, like beer, girls, motorbikes….still do, although not so much the beer now, and my wife would have a lot of things to say about the “girls”. At the time, Birmingham had a plague of up and coming hair metal bands (Briar/Shy/Trouble/Steel, all AOR type bands. I didn’t want to get involved in all that shit. Its hard for me to think of a single “Real Metal” band that was worthy of NWOBHM in 81/82 that was doing the clubs. Lots of Hair, lots of rock, but zero metal…… Birmingham never had a NWOBHM mega band, like Saxon, Leps and Maiden, and lets face Birmingham invented metal 4 years before with Priest with “Sad wings of destiny” …..Jameson Raid were Birminghams only hope, but as soon as Ian Smith and John Ace left in May 1980, well…….that was that.
You are into metal for almost 40 years. Which are the NWOBHM bands that deserved a better evolution in their career?
There are loads. Many bands from the NWOBHM era, quietly continue to write and record….Spartan Warrior, Tyson Dog, Tytan, to name but three. Venom Inc, look what they’ve done. They are almost constantly on the road. Remember, these aren’t young men, most of us are Granddads, you have to be hungry as fuck to keep wanting to do this at 60. Where are all the young bands? Yes there are a few, but the true metal scene is all old farts like me! We’ll all be dead in ten year or so, where the youngsters…?
You are a partner with Dave Parrish for 40 years. Have you ever discussed what did get wrong and Scarab never make it big?
Scarab were never going to anything other than what we’ve become, a name included in a huge list of metal bands associated with one Genre, the NWOBHM.. Dave couldn’t give a shit, like me, who cares. We’ve done OK……both Solvent, I’ll be living in Spain in 2 years when the wife retires. Just because your not famous doesn’t mean you haven’t had a great life…
What do you recall from the time when you asked Blaze Bailey to join Scarab. How different would the history for you be written?
Scarabs history would always have been the same. We asked Blaze when it was clear the labels didn’t want my voice and why should they, it was pretty fucking odd lol. Bayley was at Scarabs first ever gig and came to loads after that. This is pre Wolfsbane. He didnt join as he was well into the Wolfsbane thing. Wolfsbane should have been bigger, but what happened? You cant blame it on Blaze joining Maiden, because it was already over for them. Jase Edwards the guitar player is a massive talent, talk about a gifted! He’s now a long distance lorry driver with a family and a stunning wife, he’s happy as fuck. He’s not moping around worrying about “where it all went wrong” you don’t do that. Yeah, Wolfsbane should have need huge, but that’s the Biz for you isn’t it.
In 1986 unfortunately you split up but Zebra Records offered you 3 years later a contract. Do you think that you made a mistake by turning down their offer?
I turned it down as I didn’t have a band at that point! And the offer was for an EP with a view to recording an album if it went well. I was tempted away from Music for 3 years and got into earning a lot of money. It was hard to walk away from a regular income at the point. The last incarnation of scarab was a three piece, we had written a complete set and done a few shows. One show, was filmed and recorded. It was late 85, and the show was madness really. Dave actually caught fire with the pyro’s going off to close. Great fun, you couldn’t do it now. I reminded Tony Bray recently about the Birmingham show Venom did when the fire brigade tried to stop the gig, well we had the same is a few clubs. Anyway, I made 2 copy’s of the vhs tape and recording and sent one to Zebra and I kept the other. Zebra had showed interest when we sent them the DEMO 85 tape, but they signed Bernie Torme I think. Then we split and I had a call from them in mid 88 but there was no band. I’m off to San Fran in 4 weeks, I should pop in and see if they still want us hahaha.
Long time before the 2007 reunion you released an album with Shadowlands and one with Hostile, right? Tell us more about these 2 releases.
Shadowlands was a band I managed in 85/86. One of them went on to form Marshall Law. We released one single then it fell apart. Hostile was a band I was in on and off for 10 years. A great band, and we all played together last year at the drummers (Shane) wedding, still best mates we are. The last release was 2004, after which I sold up in Shropshire where I was living and bought a small holding in Wales. Brian Meacham,the guitar player, moved to Crete. Check him out if you want to hear the biggest injustice in this business, he is….well, the best guitar player I have ever fucking seen, bar none. He has done some solo work on the “Battle of Britton” stuff….I was with Brian in Trappazat as well. We recorded one album in 89, also out on High Roller. I was also in Jameson Raid for the Download show in 2012. But I couldn’t work with Terry Dark and after I left, Ian and Phil lasted 2 shows and left also. I was also the guitarist in Cloven Hoof for a week, then Lee Payne dropped Russ North from the line up and so I left him to it. I have also been in a band called Betheny’s Sin, we are all still mates 40 years on and working on a vinyl EP now. May take a while though as we’re all pretty busy at the moment. I was also talking to Terry from Pagan Alter with a view to coming in as 2nd guitar. He sent me the cd’s and a set list to learn and we spoke a few times over the phone each Sunday night for a while. Not even sure if the other band members knew? I wasn’t 100% into the idea but Terry was a really special bloke. To be still that into it all at his time of life. He was a real one off. Then out the blue he’d gone, dead. I never met him in person, but we had some laughs during those phone calls. I was really sad when he died.
You have been a member of a legendary and truly awesome band, Solstice. Is this part of your life over?
The Solstice thing was a big mistake really. I got involved because Rich Walker asked me and he’d put out the Scarab EP “Soul For A soul” on Miskatonic. Rich Walker is a massively talented song writer, a honer, a perfectionist, but of course we clashed. I don’t do the racist thing and that was becoming a problem for me being around him. I never understood where all the hate came from. He’s pretty much fell out with everyone he’s ever worked with. He has said some harsh things about me but I couldn’t give a fuck, nothing he could say would impact on my future life. It’s just a bit sad really, playground stuff. He is an internet Warrior that hides behind multiple alias’s around the metal forums. The bloke is a bitter and twisted post middle aged man with a huge chip on his shoulder. Live and let I say, but he’s so worried about what everyone else is doing. In all my years of being in music, I have never know anyone hated by so many people, yet we all still love his music. It’s a real shame really. I didn’t deserve the things he’s put up on the net about me. Not that I care to be honest. He did the same to Terry from Pagan Alter, still does, and the poor blokes is in his grave. I just never saw the need for all that hate. Saying all that, Solstice as it is now sounds great, and if they conquer the world, great.
How important are the festivals like Keep It True or Brofest for Heavy Metal and NWOBHM?
I think for Scarab to play Keep it true would be an unexpected pinnacle. What a festival that is. Oliver is a really nice bloke as well and his single mindedness about keeping the standard high at KIT is what makes that Festival sell out before the bands are even announced. We’d love to play KIT, he could set us up on next to the burger van for all we care. Brofest started out as a great festival, it’s got a bit “hipster” in parts now, a couple of joke bands, nothing to do with the Genre creeping on the bill here and there. I’m an old fart, what do I know.
You released a great collection via High Roller (Rolling Like Thunder) that is already sold out. Plus, your legendary 7” Poltergeist and the 2009 EP A Soul For A Soul are both sold out! Do you plan on re-releasing any of these again?
Nope, its all done. Who would want more? And why? Remember what I said? D list, that’s all we are. The only way I’d do more is if we record new stuff. We still have the entire “3 piece” set from late 85 that was never recorded properly. I’d love to record those songs, real Venomish stuff that is.
Will ‘The Brofest Tapes’ find their way to be printed someday?
No, that was a one off CD for the Brofest show. It was fun to do though, live in my studio and pissed up, great weekend that was. The last time we all recorded together.
In your solo project you have a concept album about WW II. Are the lyrics anti-nazi or are they anti-war based on true stories?
II had a deal on the table for the project, but I’ve burnt that bridge after many deadline fuck ups. So it’ll be released on my own label. It will be a Trilogy of vinyl 12” gate fold mini albums, 30-40 minutes on each one, going out under the name “BATTLE OF BRITTON” the first will be called “Blood” then “Flesh” and then “Bone” will follow 12 months later. Stories about both wars, many came from my Father. None are “blood and guts” stories, none are “anti German”. It’s all about the ordinary man, from both sides, leaving their homes, family’s and going to war, like my Dad did and his pals that he grew up with, many of which never came home. Some are stories many will know, like “Normandy” for example, but songs like “64 men of war” about the 64 men and boys who all came from the same small town in Middle England, sent to France on D Day, all were killed, no one will know that sad story. The song “Enemy Mine” (which will be on the first Vinyl) Is about a Hurricane and messerschmitt that collided, crashing entangled to the ground on the south coast of the UK following a dog fight. Both pilots had saved each other from the flames and swooped tags before dying in each others arms. It’s all about how ordinary men that paid the price for us all, me, you and your children. “Till winds of change, blow just once more, men will come home, having paid with their blood and their bone” There are 2 rough Demo’s on you tube. “The Gathering and I” and “Funeral of mankind” if anyone wants a listen.
Why do you think that NWOBHM is once again popular among younger audiences?
It’s just an honest Genre. Pure music, real music. Look at the bands that are still going! Maiden, one of the biggest bands in the world, all the way down to the likes of us D List bands. If you into rock music, you cant help but love NWOBHM. Whatever band your into now, you’ll hear bands from the late 70’s to mid 80’s in their music.
Please tell us the Scarab future plans. Is it touring or a new album?
Dave wants to play live, but not record as Scarab. Rick and Nigel would be up for it, and I have “Poltergeist 3 (Into The Light)” written and ready to go, it would make a great EP,. Dave and me have never had a single cross word in 40 years, I think we’d like to keep it like that. He’s the closest thing I have to a brother really, him and my legendary Roadie, Carl. I could do the recording without him, but then it wouldn’t be Scarab in my eyes, and integrity is everything in this game. We still have all original 80’s members, even Nigel Shaw is back on bass for the 2 shows we’ve booked this winter. Not that Scarab had any line up changes, just the usual drummers really. Perhaps we’ll asked to come to Greece!
Before the ending please tell us your comment about the English Elections.
Music and politics should never meet. I’ll say this though, this country made the biggest mistake of its recent history coming out of Europe. I consider myself European, not English.
The epilogue is yours.
Music is life. Live the dream!