After the following interview it is more than obvious that it doesn’t matter what you ask but it is the artist that answers that makes an interview interesting or crap. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank Desolation Angels for being so talkative and make this interview one of the best ones I had all these years.
This is probably your first interview in a Greek webzine so please give us a small bio for Desolation Angels.
Rob Brancher : Desolation Angels=Classic CHORUS driven Heavy Rock, Heavy Metal! The sound that creates their brand of Heavy Metal Thunder, is derived from a duo of extremely powerful twin guitarists.The rhythm section is of ‘Classic Rock’, and leans towards the intensity of such epics as Screaming For Vengeance and Painkiller, but still retains the grind, thump and grandeur of the classic Kashmir. This huge sound is totally accentuated and driven home by a colossal vocal, tuneful, but hard hitting as it delivers home each chorus line.
In short, Desolation Angels are ‘Classic Rock’ but with a modern and contemporary twist!
Your name is inspired by the beatnik novel written by Kerouac or from the Bad Company album?
Rob Brancher : First off, let’s be putting the record straight here hopefully once and for all on this matter? Our mighty name Desolation Angels have absolutely nothing to do what so ever with it being associated with a book of the same name! Or indeed Desolation Angels never took their name from a Bad Company release either. Although the band are massive fans of the before mentioned Bad Co output.
The origins of the name started to formulate with Keith and myself being inspired by such album covers as Black Sabbaths’ self-titled debut album, and also such creations as Sad Wings Of Destiny too. So as we immersed ourselves in such thought-provoking music and art, the search for a new name intensified and inspiration came in many ways, either from films, our more gothic album covers or from our readings. Thus we hit on such writings and images about Lucifer, and Lucifer being cast out from the heavens.
As young Metalheads and avid bikers too, the pair of us liked to indulge ourselves in what you might call the darker side of things. Witchcraft, paganism and the occult in general. So in an attempt to find out more about all things DARKER, the occult and Mr Lucifer, we made a trip to the local library and discovered (Much to our satisfaction) names like The Angels Of Death, The Cast Out Angels, and probably the best of the discoveries being The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse – and there alongside the descriptive text of the Four, some very interesting images too.
I hope you the reader is starting to see where we are heading with all of this? “Insert demonic laughter!”
So regrouping at Keith’s house, guitars in hand, and with riffs buzzing in our heads, and of course topping up on inspirational goodies, we set-about divulging into all of this newly found killer information and finalizing our name.
By chance, we discovered a totally motivating artist called Chris Achilleos. It was from one of his pieces of art that we decided on our logo. Then from within all of this spookily new writings we came across a piece of text describing the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse in more detail, especially a small piece in particular that related to one of the Four Horsemen being known as the ‘Cast Out Angel’, (Lucifer) and therefore all of The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse together jointly known as the Desolation Angels.
So there you have it. Our band now had the name, the logo and the righteous Heavy Metal sound to go with it!
Before Desolation Angels were you involved in any other well-known bands?
Paul Taylor : Keith and Robin have been in Desolation Angels since the band was formed. Before joining DA I was in Elixir for around 28 years, right up until 2012 when their boots were hung up. I am also in Midnight Messiah which is mainly a recording band who no longer play live, but my main focus is solidly with Desolation Angels and working on the follow up to the King album.
What do you remember from the late 70s – early 80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal era, as a young fan and as a young musician?
Paul Taylor : The late 70s and early 80s were a great time for bands. There were a lot of venues to play, especially in London’s East End where Keith, Rob and I all lived at the time. You had the Ruskin Arms and the Three Rabbits in Manor Park, the Royal Standard in Walthamstow, The Marquee in Wardour Street, Dingwalls, The Round House, The Tram Shed….the list goes on and on. I remember going to see DA many a time with the Elixir boys and singing along with Valhalla with the rest of the crowd. Little did I know that I would be singing it with them on stage later in life! Times were good. You could go to Hammersmith Odeon and by tickets for Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Lizzy, Priest, Quo or Whitesnake for £2 or £3!!!
Tell us more about the new album? Why you named it King? Is there any special reason or a concept behind the title?
Rob Brancher: It’s a group decision at the end of the day as to what art gets on to our covers, but I am in fact the architect and creator of this cover. I came up with the concept and also did the artwork too.
The idea behind the cover is all to do with the kind of persons that are akin to the occult world, or to do with the fascination of those that desire to delve into supernatural or paranormal behaviour. The end product is that these people often end up carrying out a solemn ceremony or ritual, with hypnotic chanting from the gathered w, and with the head honcho walking slowly, ceremonially, dressed in his finest Black Magic regalia head bowed down onward towards the sacrificial altar, mumbling quietly to himself, (‘or herself’ – as is the right of Stan/Loretta from the Life Of Brian) . . . then once at the altar a series of actions take place and the chanting becomes intolerably louder and louder to the point of overwhelming hysteria, the mythical sacrificial dagger is raised, sweat is dripping from walls, cascading sounds of horror are bouncing inaudibly and traumatically in all directions as the encroaching blackness surrounds and consumes, scent ladened smoke fills the air with an abominable stench swirling ever thicker and thicker – all and everything starts to blur around and around as the heat rises and the insanity prevails . . . and so it is at this point that the summoning forth will commence. A call for the supreme spirit of evil; Satan, The Evil One, The Dark Spirit; a demon? . . . it is this name they give to their master that interested me? As there are some that might refer to this supreme being as the KING?
Your acceptance or not as to whether you believe something exists or is true is for your own debating and within your own realms of belief?
Rob Brancher: All I am saying is that there we are, depicted with the supreme beast on the cover with our name above his outstretched arms, almost as if we have been called upon by the KING.
Tell us more about the writing procedure.
Rob Brancher: For KING Keith and myself had riffs already in our heads and ready to go. Riffs that between us work themselves up into songs. Riffs that are ready to travel on through our fingers and burst into Heavy Metal energy and life on to the fretboard of our guitars. Songs so full of agonising pain of love gone astray, that your heart will burst with emotion! (Slight grin on my face!) Dynamite songs charged with full throttle balls to the wall pent up anger and aggression with (say) a working class man’s life? Or of times spent drifting through space and futuristic themes, cosmic scenes mann. I may make it sound quite simple or easy to do? But honestly the pair of us really do have an abundance of music and musical ideas to give.They are continually thrashing around inside our simple heads! We have a huge gift and passion for Rock n Roll music – WE F***IN WELL LOVE IT! (‘And that’s our curse too!’)
We even have all the songs ready for the next chapter after KING, and then there is still more waiting in the wings after that too! We write, and we are good competition for each other too! Not everything that we write gets through, but we fit, we fit as a strong song writing partnership. Fights do breakout between us, as is true with any partnership. Weeks may go by without either of us talking to each other. But we are a natural working partnership, and whatever bad feeling there might be between us, is soon blown away when it comes down to unleashing our brand of Desolation Angels Heavy Metal Thunder. The music driving all internal squabbling aside.
Plus with the manufacturing of the songs on the KING album, you have to understand that we were still very much fired up from the Sweeter The Meat EP sessions. Which was also a great experience! So with all that power and drive behind us, it really was quite a natural progression to come up with the new material for KING. We were ready. Ready with the formula, and with the feel and vibe of the album too. We knew where we wanted to go with this one. It’s what the pair of us are continually discussing.
Continually discussing Heavy Metal/Heavy Rock – We can’t really put it down. Ever!
Which is your favorite track from the album?
Paul Taylor: There are so many great tracks on King it’s nearly impossible to choose but, if I were pushed I would say “My Demon Inside”. From the first moment Rob played the riff to me I knew it was something really special and I think the power and production of the final mix just knocks your socks off!
How did you achieve on sounding so fresh but capturing the old school feeling as well at the same time?
Paul Taylor: This just shows what DA are all about ! We write great songs, not just riffs with some words over them but actual proper songs and that combined with the fantastic production by Chris Tsangerides makes the album really stand out. King is there to show the world what DA can do, and have always done but this is just the start of the next chapter in the life of Desolation Angels. There are plenty more great songs already in the pipeline being worked on for more great albums to follow.
What do you expect from the new album? Is it a good excuse to go on tour or a second chance maybe?
Rob Brancher:Obviously we expect to be inducted into The Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame for this one! LOL, just kidding yah.
Desolation Angels has always been very much an independent setup. Not that we want it to be, or wanted it to be back in the day either. It’s just that for one unknown reason or another, that’s the way it has turned out for Desolation Angels? Believe me, we would welcomely take all the help we could get to promote and fire our band into the public eye. Gosh of course we would!
So with Dissonance Productions on board, that’s what we hope to achieve?
Rob Brancher : The deal we have with DP won’t propel Desolation Angels into the so-called ‘Big Time’. But what we have with DP is a worldwide distribution deal. Sowith this help and the extra publicity generated through Dissonance Productions, we hope to advance ourselves a little, and also capitalize on this opportunity to gain more awareness, and more of a foothold worldwide for Desolation Angels. And then from there, hopefully move on to bigger and even greater things?
Well that’s the plan as it stands right now. World domination would be cool, but the bloke with the passport to world domination hasn’t actually stopped by the Desolation Angels office yet. Oh well, we live in hope!
You are into metal for almost 35 years. Which are the N.W.O.B.H.M. bands that deserved a better evolution in their career?
Paul Taylor : There were so many great bands around that deserved more recognition and overall investment by the mainstream record labels. I know from experience that Elixir were considered by 2 majors but one didn’t want to commit because they would be head to head with Maiden at EMI and didn’t want the battle of the bands, as it were, and the other thought we were a 5 album band which, whilst great for us, didn’t give the company a quick buck cash return and so wouldn’t invest. The press then lorded anything American and bands like DA, Elixir, Tokyo Blade, Blind Fury, Chariot, Deep Machine and many, many more just didn’t get a look in. It is testament that lots of those bands just kept plugging away doing what they knew best, just writing and playing but whose knows what material could have been produced if they could have spent the time and been paid for doing it!
In 2008 you released a mega box set featuring 54 songs! A great package indeed, so where the hell was all this material and why no one ever released it earlier?
Rob Brancher: Our Feels Like Thunder box set came about through twisting the are of one Richard Walker. (Guitarist with Solstice, NWOBHM aficionado, indie record label entrepreneur and long time Desolation Angels fan.) Richard originally contacted me to find out wether we would be interested in re-recording our debut album. After some thought on this, Keith and myself felt that rather than put something out that a lot of people already knew about, or already owned. We thought it would be better to give the heavy metal public something new from Desolation Angels.
Over the years we had collected a lot of different recordings, from cassette recorded off of mixing desks at our gigs from early tours around the UK, to demos recored all over the place in the UK, to live sets of songs recorded in a studio environment in and around Los Angels, all the way to a fully blown album recording that never saw the light of day at the time? This album being our second out-put While The Flame Still Burns.
While The Flame Still Burns was in fact recorded in Burbank CA. At Silvercloud Studios. The producers being Sean Kinesie and Joe Floyd. The latter being the guitarist for the 1980’s heavy metal band Warrior. There has been talk of a re-release of WTFSB in it’s own right, but for one reason or another it always seems to get shelved? It’ll happen one day though. The cover was quite cool too. It was a massive learning curve recording WTFSB and a great experience too. We did the bulk of the recording at Silvercloud, but we visited other studios in LA to do overdubs and the mastering.
At the time Richard got in touch with us (back in 2006 I think?) Desolation Angels hadn’t regrouped, and it certainly didn’t look it would any time soon either. So we kinda saw the Feels Like Thunder box set as a last thing that pair of us would ever release. So the idea was to put everything out in one big lump, as we might never get the chance to do such a thing again. Better that, rather than all those unheard tunes collecting dust locked away in a cupboard somewhere for ever!
Richard was happy to go with the idea as long as he could re-releace our debut album at a later date? To which we agreed. But as we got into the project we began to realised the difference in costs for producing a full on box set compared to that of releasing just a a single CD package. The costs are quite staggering, and eventually Cyclone Empire helped out and finished off the production and we had our box set!
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?
R Brancher : In some ways you could say it was a lot easier? Back then in the UK you literally had hundreds of rock venues to play at situated all over the country. So if you were dedicated enough, and had the right enthusiasm as we did, you could travel up and down the county building a fan base, and that’s exactly what we did. It’s probably all part of why I sitting here typing this for you guys? Somewhere, somehow along the line the ‘Struggle’ as you say managed to make a good enough impression for people to remember Desolation Angels, and for those people (Thankfully) from the earlier days of our history to pass on that goodwill and Desolation Angels vibe to a younger generation of Meatheads.
Tell us more about the revival of the band. How did you end up releasing Sweeter The Meat via Blood and Iron? Why you haven’t released ‘Desolation Angels’ through Blood and Iron as it was firstly planned?
Rob Brancher: As I answer these questions, and to help me get through all of them, and to also find the right inspiration to answer them all in an interesting and creative way. I have my guitar set up just to hand – and am constantly adjourning to practice new songs for our up and coming gigs for 2018. (Sorry Bart, as thats probably why its taken me so long to get this interview back to you! Insert slight laughter.) One of those songs being Set Your Spirit Free from the STM EP . . . I really liked what we did together with Blood & Iron Records for the vinyl cover of STM. Much better than the CD cover, that didn’t come out as planned.
Desolation Angels (As always!) self financed and self released Sweeter The Meat as a CD. Blood & Iron contacted us to see if we would be interested in doing a vinyl run of the EP? Obviously we weren’t going to refuse!
At some point somewhere along the line a proposal between Paul (Road Manager Chatfield for DA) and Francisco (Blood & Iron Records boss) must have been considered to put out our debut album for the first time on CD? But for one reason or another it didn’t come off? I’m not sure why? But I do know that we did try on many occasion to contact B&I, but without any success? So eventually it was re-released by Desolation Angels.
The revival of the band started to come about just after Richard Walker contacted us. By 2012 we were fully operational again. Keith and I obviously missed playing and writing together. Even though the pair of us had been doing other stuff outside of Desolation Angels. I guess really all along it was inevitable!
Why do you think that N.W.O.B.H.M. is once again popular among younger audiences?
Paul Taylor : When all said and done, NWOBHM was just a title glued on to bands by the record industry. All they were, were good old fashioned rock bands following on from the likes of Priest, Rainbow, Lizzy, Heep and the like, and that is why new generations of people discover it. When you’ve heard one bloke growl his larynx to shreds over some ultra-fast down tuned power riffs, you’ve kind of heard them all! Not really something a crowd can be whistling or humming on the way home from the gig! Songs with good melodies will always come to the fore, eventually. If only the big guns would invest in decent bands rather than all this rap (with a capital C!) we would all be better off. Music is the key to the universe but only the enlightened can see that……NWOBHM fans are truly the enlightened ones.
Have you ever discussed what did get wrong and you never make it big?
Rob Brancher: Of course, and many times too! Trends come and go, and yes, maybe we missed the boat here and there with trends? Becauseas we have found out so many times along the way on this Rock n Roll journey that we can be the flavour of the month one minute, only to be out of favour the very next? Such is the tricky commercial world of the music business. I’m not sure I really know how to answer this question? Because we cary on regardless of trends, fame, and even fortune! It’s more a love and belief in what we do. A ‘Devil Sent’ lightning bolt and hells thunder to keep delivering and playing our brand of Heavy Metal music. I sometimes refer to this obsession as a CURSE!
Which was your biggest mistake? Signing with Bullet Records or Thameside or the relocation to U.S.?
Rob Brancher: Oh man, I wouldn’t call any of them mistakes. Signing with Bullet was a great thing. It wasn’t like we could look into a orbuculum and go, “Oh look guys Bullet are about to go bust!” If they hadn’t of gone bust, I feel sure that that would of be a major breakthrough for us on a professional level.
Thameside Records. Well to be honest, they really did try to help us out, and John Tilly and his guys there at Thameside where cool. But the reality was that both parties were in the dark. Hence all that controversy over the recordings technics with our debut album. But then again these days some would call that album a NWOBHM masterpiece?!
Believe me the memories from relocating toLos Angels will never fade. Never! It was ***kin BRILLIANT!
Personally, I can’t to relocate there again – Bring it on!
Will ‘Valhalla’ find its way to be printed again someday? Same question for “While The Flame Still Burns” and “Fury” the two bootleg picture disc vinyl.
Rob Brancher: We are are into so much more at the moment. That the timing is all wrong to re-release that kind of back catalog right now. Even though I’m sure at some point the titles you speak of will find there way back out there.
But as of right now, we would like to record another album just as soon as we can. We have people coming on board that will help introduce us to a wider audience. We have Dissonance working with us too, and we are starting to get a lot of different gig offers come to us from promotors across the globe. I’m finding myself answering more and more of these questionnaires too. So it really does feel like that something new is just around the corner waiting to explode Desolation Angels up another gear. What this explosion will entail though, I’m not quit sure? But things are definitely hotting up for us. I think Desolation Angels are starting to transcend into a period of big change? We are are pushing hard to up our profile, and people of importance are starting to recognise that, and are at last getting behind us and pushing too. Love it!
How do you feel when you see these extra ordinary prices for the old vinyl releases from the 80’s?
Rob Brancher: It’s okay to me, you pay for what you want, and up to what you can afford. So for example, I’ll spend loads of money on guitar equipment all the time. People think I’m mad, but thats my bag and I’ll pay. So if record collectors want to splash out £80.00 or more on an 80’s vinyl pice – then so be it. Go for it, rock on I say.
Please tell us Desolation Angels’ future plans.
Rob Brancher: Desolation Angels are ready now more than they have ever been to go out there and rock the world. So we will be continuing to look for opportunities to advance our playing career just as much as we can, and take on the new challenges that will surly come our way to do just that. Therefore we will become a bigger, better and more professional band.
Like I said, I feel very much like there are exciting times ahead. Call it the last hurrah for us if like? But we are bang on as a band right now and really up for what Rock n Roll madness lies ahead. It’s in our blood and theres no getting away from it, or denying it either.
So please do keep your eye on our website for ever-changing details.
And for those that would like to book the band? Please do contact Paul Chatfield. Our Road manager.
The epilogue is yours.
Rob Brancher: The epilogue for this particular performance goes like this: The’Vibe’ of the band fluctuates each and every new day. It’s quite difficult to stabilise.
I don’t want to come across all doom-laden, but at the same time I also don’t want to make out that this being in a rock n roll band thing is all beer swinging and tarts. Because it ain’t!
To live in a capitalist society, you have to have an income. So sometimes the mood of the band can dramatically swing form utopia through to darned right pessimistic. (I would imagine that’s normal behaviour in any band, and a lot to do with why bands split up? – The continual swing between the highs and the lows of committing yourself to your band can be stressful)
It has cost a small fortune for an independent outfit like ours to produce such an album as KING! An immense amount of tension can come into play when you have to balance unpaid band effort with regular life. So making the commitment, and taking on the responsibilities of being in a full time Rock n Roll band can be very difficult. Weighing up ones own family life with a lifetimes passion for music can lay heavily in your own personal decision making as to how you conduct yourself in front of the other members of the band. So when it comes to suggesting the next direction for Desolation Angels, blimey, who the heck knows?!
Having said all that though. At this moment the ‘Vibe’ is that Desolation Angels are on course to record with again soon. This is what we want to happen! (And by shear commitment and responsibility to the cause – it bloody well will! – God, I’ve gone all angry Ted Nugent style!) But (and calming it down again LOL) as artisans, we will most definitely be looking forward to recording sometime in 2018? Hopefully summertime? For me theres nothing better for your mind, soul and spirit than recording our monstrous Heavy Metal music. Very inspirational. So that’s the plan.
Gigs too for 2018 are shaping up. Plus the official release of the KING album. That will be distributed through Dissonance Productions February 23rd – that should be interesting as well? As we also hope that Desolation Angels can move on to a financial and continuous level of band-ship akin to, . . . lets say Tygers Of Panting for example? To make Desolation Angels our full-time adventure, to tour the world, as do The Tygers Of Panting creating and making it their business in a full-time fashion. For us to earn the monies needed to finance the next album after KING from the endeavours of full-time employment as a band on the road and on the world stage. For us to give it our best shot at making sure that the HEAVY METAL flag is flying in the face of those that try to condemn its rebelliousness. Or try to tame it’s aggression.
For us it’s about speeding on and smashing through mundane triviality (and to quote a tittle from the next patch of songs) to ‘Stand Your Ground’, fists clenched and ROCKING the F*** OUT!
Cheers everyone, Rob