Thunderstick are back. After more than 30 years in the wilderness, the face of NWOBHM has returned and is hitting us hard with a new band and a new release, the brilliant ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ (‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’CD: TSCD001)
The former Iron Maiden and Samson drummer has been promising this release over the years. To say that it has been worth the wait is an understatement. The world of heavy metal needs this release, a release that was 30 years in the making.
I was fortunate to chat with the man behind the Thunderstick mask, Barry Graham Purkis, this is what he had to say.
PD. I’ve heard you describe how drummers are the invisible band members, can you tell me more about this?
BGP. Yeah, back in the day… pre social media and anything and everything we know now, there was just posters. You would have music publications that were the main thing and then you would have fanzine magazines etc and I always saw the guitarist, he’d be down the front giving it all, sort of thing and there’d be the vocalist giving it the same, and at the back you’d see the top of somebody’s head with a row of cymbals and hardware etc and that was the drummer. Now, most of the time, they would be faceless. Of course we have the exceptions to the rule, you have Moonie (Keith Moon), John Bonham and people like that, but on the most part when you spoke to fans of music, of rock music, because we didn’t have all the categories in those days, did we really? I mean all of the classification of are you this, are you that, it just didn’t exist then. So the fans only saw the guys out front. Anyway, so I thought, well most drummers are faceless, so that’s exactly what I did. I thought I’ll create a faceless drummer and in doing so I couldn’t call it Barry Graham Purkis, so I came up with the name Thunderstick and that was it, ‘cos it was somewhat descriptive of how I play, I’m not sort of a lightweight around the kit, I really lay into it. And that was it, so I created the faceless drummer.
so I thought, well most drummers are faceless, so that’s exactly what I did. I thought I’ll create a faceless drummer and in doing so I couldn’t call it Barry Graham Purkis, so I came up with the name Thunderstick
PD. Right, so what did the band think of this, how did they react?
BGP. At the time we were a three piece, there was Paul (Samson), Chris (Aylmer) and myself and anything to get any kind of press and attention etc etc. Even when I was with (Iron) Maiden I used to paint my face up gold, all these kind of weird and wonderful things probably because at the very beginning of Kiss, I sort of latched onto them very early in their career and I just loved that anonymity thing and so I thought I would do that.
Paul and Chris, they were alright with it. Chris more so than Paul because Paul was more of a…. he would wear a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans, but Chris was more the poseur. So once I got Chris on my side and Chris was going “come on Paul, we should do this, this is all good for the band.” So that’s how that came about.
PD. I’ve heard you say that you played more off Paul than off Chris?
BGP. Yeah, Yeah I did.
PD. Is there a particular track that can give us an example of that?
BGP. Well, most of the ‘Head On’ album. If you listen to it, I mean, Chris was always a nice anchor man, much like John Entwistle and because my relationship with Paul was much the same as Pete Townshend and Keith Moon’s . I mean they spun off each other all the time. If Moonie did something, Townshend was always trying to fit in with it and vice versa……good name for a track that lol
PD. Perhaps you should record it?
BGP. Ha ha, yes. And it was exactly the same with Paul, it wasn’t engineered as such, it’s just one of those things that happened and I used to love it because there was that unpredictability about it. We would go on stage and although we would have set numbers we weren’t as kind of institutional as say Iron Maiden go on stage these days and they know exactly what the arrangements are going to be. The only thing that may change would possibly be the solos, whereas when I was with Samson, it was that unpredictability. In fact Bruce (Dickinson) even said that, that when he left Samson and he was talking about what it was like in that line up of Samson, he said yeah it was not knowing what was going to go off on stage that night
In fact Bruce (Dickinson) even said that, that when he left Samson and he was talking about what it was like in that line up of Samson, he said yeah it was not knowing what was going to go off on stage that night
PD. Good for the fans too?
BGP. Yeah, yeah definitely, because they could see that we are enjoying it and that makes their enjoyment of it even more so.
PD. Imagine the bootlegs.
BGP. (Laughs), but I always loved bands like that Grand Funk, Mountain, I mean Leslie West, Corky Laing and Felix Pappalardi, what a three piece they were, you know?
PD Oh yes, they could play. They could play for hours and it was all so good.
BGP. Oh man, they could. The other thing is Leslie West would just plug his guitar in and he wouldn’t have to go through 36 different Pro-sessions to get his sound. He would just in the guitar in the amp and there it was …Leslie West’s sounds. I mean you lose a lot of that these days. Too many kids these days have got too many toys to make them sound “I wanna sound like this, I wanna sound like that” and they don’t have to do anything about it, they just plug it in to something and it makes them sound like that.
PD. So, for this album you used Pledge Music to help fund it. How do you feel about reaching over 160% of your target?
BGP. Unbelievable….just unbelievable. The reason I did it was because Bernie Torme was doing it, Well I’ve known Bernie since 1979 I think it was and he’s now on his third album of Pledging and, alright, he’s probably a step higher than me on the ‘rock n roll ladder of fame, having played with (Ian) Gillan and Ozzy and people like that. So he commands a lot of attention anyway. But I just thought about it and said “yeah, maybe we should just give this a try.” ‘Cos although I was already self-financing it, you can always do with any help that you can get. So I tried it and sure enough I couldn’t believe it. When we got to that kind of percentage, it was unbelievable. and er….I mean it’s…it’s just very humbling. The whole experience is very humbling because for me especially, not to have released anything in over 33 years. I mean new material I’m talking about. I’m not talking about there was an album I put out in 2011 that was all remasters …old stuff. But this time it’s all new and I hadn’t got a clue what sort of a fan-base I’d got. And sure enough, suddenly there it is and people are putting their money where their mouth is. Which is quite incredible, it really is, very humbling.
I hadn’t got a clue what sort of a fan-base I’d got. And sure enough, suddenly there it is and people are putting their money where their mouth is. Which is quite incredible, it really is, very humbling
PD. Has the album got a release date yet?
BGP. I’m looking at the end of this month (July 2017) It’s in full production at the moment, however there have been a few hiccups with bits and pieces on it, I’m probably looking at more realistically the first week of August.
PD. Oh, my birthday is in that week.
BGP. Oh is it, well there you go. I timed it specially (laughs)
PD. There are some quite familiar tracks on the new record, Don’t Touch (I’ll Scream), Thunder, Thunder to name just 2 . How true are these to the original versions that were written back in ’86?
BGP. Everything has been re-arranged, because obviously , I haven’t got Jodee (Valentine) singing them. When I first wrote this material it was done with Jodie in mind for the vocal lines etc. So, I’ve re-arranged everything, made it a bit more contemporary, especially with Thunder Thunder. Thunder Thunder used to be a real barnstormer as it were, with the bass going kerchung katung katung you know? With this version, I’m actually happier with this version, it’s the best version I’ve ever done of it and it is very, very different and I have got the arpeggio middle bit and all that sort of thing, which has never seen the light of day before. So that’s about it really, it is a re-working of all those songs from that time.
PD. Where did the name for the album come from?
BGP. I know that it’s been used before, I believe that The Enid, used it before amongst others.. It became a sort of tagline. When I put the promo video together of me with all the pledge boards and stuff like that, it was a tagline ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ So I put that to the storyboard or the video that I’d done and it just stuck. Simple as that. It was originally going to be as in the ’80s ‘Don’t Touch (I’ll Scream)’ So I thought, you know what? That’s a great title and there we have it.
PD. How did you decide on the band members to play on the album?
BGP. It was a conscious decision to go after these musicians, it came about in a weird way. First of all I phoned up Dave Kilford who was in my band in 1987 I believe it was. He was the guitarist in that line up. He had been used to playing Thunderstick material, good old boy that he is, he had never actually recorded any of it. I mean we rehearsed and we did some live stuff and some showcases and all that kind of thing, but he had never actually recorded it. So, for me to be able to say to him “Dave, do you want to be on an album?” It was really gratifying, because he was like “Oh my God! At last,” you know? “at long last I’m gonna get heard on an album.” So, we picked him.
“Dave, do you want to be on an album?” It was really gratifying, because he was like “Oh my God! At last,” you know? “at long last I’m gonna get heard on an album.”
I auditioned female vocalists with the strong directive that I didn’t want anybody that sounded like Jodee because it was a little bit too raw at the time..I mean finding out about her death really shocked me a lot and I didn’t want to go down that route with the female vocalist, so I thought something different and that’s where Lucie (V) came along. She’s got that very smokey, blues type of voice, whereas Jodee had a kind of very crisp, clean type of voice. Jodee had done a lot of
Musical Theatre in the States before she came over. So, then, for her to go into rock and roll was great and she was able to mould her vocal style. Whereas Lucie has already come pigeon-holed because of her voice and it’s very different to what I wanted out of Jodee, so that was great.
As for the bass player we met at….well we didn’t actually meet. We were both at a Steve Harris British Lion gig and he sent a friend request in the following day and said “Oh hi, I was standing behind you in the queue last night” and one thing and another, and I saw that on his page had the main photograph had him holding a bass. And originally we were going to get John McCoy and I’d been talking with John, I’d sent him the material and all the rest of it but due to one thing and another he couldn’t actually commit to it at that given time. So I thought okay and then I started talking to Rex and I asked him what he was on Facebook as and he replied Rex Thunderbolt. I said, “You’ve got the job mate!!” How on Earth? I mean, what are the chances?
And then Martin came from a contact at the studio we were using in Wales and we started talking and I sent him the material and he sent back some stuff that he was doing to it and I loved it. Not only that, but the sound of the 2 of them together, both the guitarists, they blend really well, they complement each other’s styles. So I was really happy with that.
PD. So, for touring are you going to use the same band, or will you look for other people to take this on the road? Does it depend on timing?
BGP. It’s about timing and finances really, unfortunately more than anything else. As you can appreciate, it’s not cheap to take a band out on the road. It’s alright to do the 1, 2 gigs here and there and everywhere, but I don’t think for my kind of band that I want to do the ‘Fog and Whistle’, I don’t want to go down that route and it’s not being big headed about it or anything, I just can’t actually see 5 musicians doing what we do on a tiny stage. It just wouldn’t happen. I notice that these days a lot of drummers are cutting their kits right down, they’ve got a bass drum, one tom a snare, one floor tom and a cymbal sitting over here. Whereas I’m still playing the big kit that I’ve always used. So it is all about finances, I would love to see how this album does and what would be ideal for us is to do a support tour with somebody, but, as we all know buy-ons exist and it all depended what the buy-on would be.
PD. What about these Hard Rock Hell NWOBHM weekenders, would something like that be any good for the band?
BGP. Yeah, perfect. I’ve already spoken with them and I think it’s around September that they start looking at booking for 2018 and that, you’re right there, would be perfect for us, that sort of thing.
PD. We are off to this years in Sheffield in December, that’s going to be a good weekend.
BGP. Yeah? I couldn’t get onto it. I’ve spoken to the organiser and they’d already booked everything on it. I just touched base with them, just to tell them that we are active again as a band and they said they’re gonna look at doing the same thing in 2018.
PD. Will we be seeing anything come from the famous diary that you have kept? Are there any plans to have it published?
BGP. I would love to, I mean, I’ve been threatening it for ages.
PD. What era does it cover?
BGP. It covers all the way through the NWOBHM years. The guy that has worked with the ex Iron Maiden roadie Loopy (Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse – Loopyworld- The Iron Maiden Years). This guy from the States approached him and said, ” have you ever thought of doing a book?” Loopy had kept a diary and he brought it out and it has done quite well. So the same guy has been in contact with me and he just puts the finance up to back it and what have you. But he won’t take on a project while he has another project that’s ‘live’ at the same time. So, that’s the next move. When the time is ready, he’s looking at coming to me to start a book and I would love to do that. I mean, even the trials and tribulations that we’ve had making this CD would be a perfect little book.
When the time is ready, he’s looking at coming to me to start a book and I would love to do that.
PD. It could be a guide for Upcoming bands?
BGP. (Laughs) Yeah, how not to (laughs) The Idiots Guide on How Not to Record an Album.
PD. You could call it ‘Don’t Touch (I’ll Scream)’
BGP. (laughs) yeah…. yeah, that’s a good idea.
PD. Career wise what has been your proudest moment?
BGP. Probably Wacken, walking on stage with Nicky Moore. It was 2 styles of Samson within the same band, Obviously there was the Bruce/Thunderstick line up and then there was the Nicky Moore/Pete Jupp line up and to have both of those styles merge into one to create what we did, well I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even when we did the Astoria in 2000 it was the same thing the same sort of buzz. Because I was playing material that I’d never played on before and Nicky was doing material that he’d never sung on before, so it was really good. I look back on that as being very special because unbeknownst to us at the time, that was when Paul was really ill. We knew Chris was really suffering quite badly with cancer, but we didn’t know about Paul. So I look on that as…well it was a special time for us, ‘cos it turned out to be the last major gig that we played in that line up.
It was 2 styles of Samson within the same band, Obviously there was the Bruce/Thunderstick line up and then there was the Nicky Moore/Pete Jupp line up and to have both of those styles merge into one to create what we did, well I thoroughly enjoyed it.
PD. Amazingly sad, yet proud times. If you can choose one track, to convince someone just how good a drummer you are, what would it be?
BGP. I don’t know really, there’s different things I like for different reasons…I suppose it would have to probably be…’Vice Versa’ There’s a lot of the cymbal stuff and the snare stuff and all that other thing so yeah, I think it’s the track that most people know us for. I mean, if we ever had such a thing, a hit. (laughs) it was Samson’s hit.
PD. Okay, finally, is there anything you’d like to add?
BGP. I’d just like to thank you to all the pledgers and thank you very much to all the people that actually believed that I could come up with an album from after 33 years of being inactive regarding the band and I really hope to see most of you out there somewhere on the road, which will be great
PD. Great, and is the tour going to be this year?
BGP We are endeavoring to do live work in 2018, I think it’s way too late for this year and I’ve got to give the album a little time to you know, get it out there basically
I’d just like to thank you to all the pledgers and thank you very much to all the people that actually believed that I could come up with an album from after 33 years of being inactive regarding the band
PD. Okay that’s great. Thank for taking the time to chat.
BGP. Alright Pete, nice one. Thank you
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