Being one of the most criminally underrated British Heavy Metal bands during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, Sparta’s Tony foster speaks to Metal Invader about everything around the band, in the first ever interview taken so far for a Greek webzine.
Most young readers may not even have heard your name despite the fact you were in the early days on N.W.O.B.H.M. movement. How do you feel that you have to re-introduce yourself to metal community back from the start?
Those young readers were not around in the early 1980’s. We do not mind if people are not aware of our name but we would like them to get into our music via the new album and previous releases. We still feel we have a part to play in the current rock scene.
Please tell us a small bio of Sparta. How did you end up with this name? Any connection with Greece or did you planned on putting any epic elements back in the early days?
I was originally the only songwriter in the band and I enjoyed sword and sorcery and myths and legends. You can tell this from listening to the words of “ Angel of Death “ and “ Lords of Time “ which were written in 1980 and 1981.It was Karl the singer who came up with the name. It fitted in perfectly well with our style of music and songwriting . The Sparta link had been carried on through our last 2 albums “ Welcome to Hell “ and “ No Retreat No Surrender “. Karl left first in 1982 and I left in 1984/5. We all carried with various music projects and got together again in 2000 for some reunion gigs. After the offer from High Roller to release our back catalogue we reformed on a permanent basis.
How easy was to struggle with so many bands in early 80’s? How easy or difficult was back then comparing it to nowadays for a band in order to spread its music to the masses?
Apart from radio and the music press , namely “Kerang” and “ Sounds “ at the time it was very difficult to get your music out there. Is was a question of playing as many live shows as possible and selling your records to the audience. We were fortunate to be played on Radio One and featured in Kerang. We also sold records by taking out ads in the above magazines.
Even though you could write great tunes and extraordinaire songs like ‘Wild Touch’ or ‘Lord of Time’ still you couldn’t record a full length despite the fact that many bands that couldn’t reach your quality did it! Why this happened?
We had more than enough material for at least 2 full length albums. Being based in Nottinghamshire was a disadvantage since most of the NWOBHM scene was in London and the North East i.e. Newcastle. We sent many demos but never got a deal before we spilt up.
How important was for that, the fact that you picked Suspect Records instead of Rondelet Records?
We didn’t pick Suspect but it was necessary at the time. We were contracted to release a full album on Rondelet Records in Mansfield who did the original Witchfynde album. Unfortunately Rondelet closed due to financial difficulties. We then realised that our best option was to release material on our own label which was Suspect Records. We released “ Fast lane / Fighting to be Free“ and then “Angel of Death / Tonight “ as 2 EP’s. We also released “ Lords of Time “ on the “ Scene of the Crime “ compilation
Tell us more about the revival of Sparta. How did you end up releasing Welcome to Hell via High Roller? Why you haven’t released ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’ through High Roller?
High Roller contacted us around 2010 to ask if we were the original Sparta from the 1980’s . They wanted to know if we had any recorded material that they could release. Consequently “ Use Your Weapons Well “ was produced which was a double CD and double vinyl with bonus EP. After this album we realized that there was still an interest in Sparta and we asked High Roller if they would consider doing a further release containing original and up to date songs. They agreed and “ Welcome to Hell “ was released . His album contained mainly new songs and was a critical and commercial success. We then considered releasing a further album. High Roller agreed but wanted their engineer to remix the final tracks and they wanted to design all the artwork. For the first time in Sparta’s career we agreed that we would like total control over the recording process. Consequently we did all the mixing and production ourselves. The whole thing was self- financed by the band which takes us full circle to Suspect Records which was also financed by the band.
Tell us more about the writing procedure. How easy it was to compose a full length after all these years of absence from music industry?
Once we got back in the groove we found it quite easy to write a full length album. We had previous ideas for songs that had never been used . From my point of view the songs written by me on “ Welcome to Hell “ and “ No Retreat No Surrender “ were all brand new songs . However the thing that binds the recordings together is the essence of Sparta. People who know our work will recognize what we call the Sparta Sound “. This is important in any new songs that we record. Many reviewers have commented on our typical Sparta sound.
Is there any song or songs that you set apart and feel that deserve more attention from the metal fans?
I think Angel of Death and particularly Lords of Time were ground breaking for 1980/81. No other band was putting out tracks that were 5 and 6 minutes long. Lords of Time was so long that it took up both of our slots on the “ Scene of the Crime “album. All of the other bands had 2 tracks but even then we liked to be different and we had to settle for one track. Reviewers have picked up on many tracks and we have such a large amount of titles that it is difficult to choose classics. I believe there are so many. My favourite track on the new album is Flight of the Storm King
Was the choice of putting color on the new album’s front cover a statement that the new age of Sparta is starting? (your previous releases were all black & white…)
We decided to use color since this had not been available before. Since we financed the album we wanted the best possible look that we could get. We started off with the same cover in black and white but the artist Chris did a colour version and we decided straight away that this was the way to go. The pictures of the individual band members look much better in color and the overall feel of the artwork is great.
What do you expect from the new album?
The whole purpose of the album is to present our music in the style it deserves to be presented. To be fait the reviews we have received have been better that the ones for “ Welcome to Hell “.We would like anybody who enjoys good British heavy Metal to buy a copy and to enjoy listening to it.
‘Victory’, ‘Land Of Mystery’ and ‘Flight Of The Storm King’ have a more true heavy metal approaching with an epic aura that distinguishes them from the N.W.O.B.H.M. feeling of the album. Are you into History stuff, books, movies etc.? Have you ever though on exploring into different metal sub genres?
The songs were all written by different band members and each member has their own influences. We have not thought of exploring any different metal sub genres since we are happy with our “ Sparta “ sound. I am into sword and sorcery and myths and legends but we all have different influences. We play music we like and we are all fans of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Why change something that you are good at?
Why did you choose or re-recording ‘Lord of Time’?
We decided that like “ Angel of Death “ on “ Welcome to Hell “ that we would like to update the original version of the song and perhaps show it more in the style that it was intended . There is a continuity between old and new tracks . For example ”Kingdom of the Sky” which was a track on “ Welcome to Hell “ follows on from “ Angel of Death”. The words “ Go now to die in the Kingdom of the Sky” are words in the original song and mark a continuity of several themes from our 1980’s work.
Is there any song or songs that you set apart from the album? That you believe that are outstanding and deserve more attention from metal fans?
As a band we like all of the tracks on the new album. We only record tracks we like and are confident in. My personal favourites are “ Flight of the Storm King “ and “ No Retreat No surrender “but I like all of the tracks. I know Snake likes “ Victory “ and Karl likes “Land of Mystery.
Tell us more about your near future plans. Is there any Greek date in your schedule?
Future plans include a new distribution deal for the new CD and a couple of festival slots that I cannot yet name. We have no plans to play in Greece at the moment but would consider doing do if there was a demand for Sparta.
Have you written any more material or is it too soon?
It is too soon yet but I can see us doing at least one more new CD.
The closing is yours.
Thanks to all our supporters in Greece and all over the world . Without you there would be no Sparta. If you look at our facebook page “ sparta uk “ there are many reviews, interviews, videos and up to date information about Sparta. Please also like the page to receive the latest news.