Welcome back to my chat with Demon‘s Dave Hill. You’ll remember we’re chatting because the band have a splendid new album out, entitled Cemetery Junction, but there’s an awful lot of other stuff to talk about to… back to the chat!
So, you were telling us what it was like to be a rock star around the time of The Unexpected Guest in 1982… “Somebody asked me in an interview ‘what’s it like to be a Rock Star? so I got my UB 40 out and showed them. Do you have UB 40s in Australia? It’s nothing to do with the group, when you’re unemployed you have a card called the UB 40… So, we were doing a lot of promotional tours for The Unexpected Guest, lots of interviews for Carrere which was our label at the time (also home to fellow NWoBHM giants Saxon at that point – Ed.), but we had no money. I said to Mal Spooner ‘there’s something wrong here’… so we went and signed on again and around the corner from the exchange was a library. We went in and I said to Mal ‘this feels like the bloody plague’… rock stars one day, signing on the next, anyway we looked in a book about the plague and found a mention of Samuel Pepys, who said ‘thousands are dying… there seems to be a plague on the other side of the Thames’… basically after that what we did was go home, picked up the daily paper and picked up on what was going on in the Lebanon, being mad, being pissed off with what was going on and then we basically wrote The Plague in three days! We took rough mixes to Carrere who turned it down – they were probably right – and said ‘we don’t want you going down that road’. It gets called a classic now! So we went back to (legendary Clay Records Boss) Mike Stone and said ‘they’ve turned us down’. Mike recorded our first single but couldn’t afford to release us so which was why we’d signed to Carrere. He was doing well by then after signing Discharge and GBH, and he said he’d pay for the recording. I said ‘do you want to hear it?’ and he said no! There’s faith for you! And I don’t think that EMI or anyone like that would have taken it as they’d have wanted another …Unexpected Guest. So we went up to Scotland and recorded it with Julian Mendelssohn, who worked with Kate Bush. I was over the moon with the result – like your reviewer said, we’d mastered two different genres”.
In the end that becomes the career defining album doesn’t it? Because it facilitates the move away from the NWoBHM and basically allows you to become a band that can do whatever it wants with each release and not, as you say, a band that releases thirteen different versions of The Unexpected Guest. “Yes. Which wouldn’t have been bad -if The Unexpected Guest had taken the world by storm we might all be sitting in castles smoking Cuban cigars. But musically it forced us to get that talent out from inside us to make something that wasn’t The Unexpected Guest. I’m grateful for …Guest – we still play Don’t Break the Circle, Night of the Demon and Sign of a Madman live but it was the right time to do something like The Plague. The NWoBHM had long gone, the big boys had moved on and by us doing so we gained respect, especially in Europe. In Europe they accept each of our albums on its own merits; one of our most popular records is Taking the World by Storm which is quite a progressive album, but so are Night of the Demon, The Unexpected Guest and The Plague. We ended up on Atlantic Records with The Plague in the US – that has pride of place on my wall because to me Atlantic is probably the greatest record label ever, along with Island – and it did OK, but the guy who signed us left the label, so we joined at the wrong time. People often ask me why is Demon this great cult, underground band that never made the big time and I always say that time and again circumstances along the way weren’t quite right. I’m not knocking anyone. And we’ve been very lucky with Mike Stone staying with us; even though he sold Clay Records he didn’t sell the Demon catalogue, and he’s stayed with us as a manager and engineer. We’re always a good bet to put an album out for the company, because we don’t lose money. I think the best we can do with each album is to try to offer a good standard”.
I could talk about this for a good deal longer, but we are really here to talk about the new album, so just one more question before we part ways – will you be doing much road work in support of Cemetery Junction? Is Demon able to tour as much as you’d like? “For the last few years we’ve tended to do more of the European festivals. We did Sweden Rock a few months ago… Sweden is a very popular place for us, we’ve had some success there over the years, we did a festival in Munich a few weeks back… It’s been talked about to do a series of back-to-back dates playing The Unexpected Guest or The Plague but no promoter has come forward. We’ve got an open book – we’ve just got a few German dates next year but I think we’re going to be quite busy next year. It’s been a few years since we did a thirteen or fourteen date tour but we never say never… everyone’s fit and healthy, so yes – the door’s always open and we always there to play!”
That’s fantastic news. Promoters – get on the case! And get the band down to Australia while you’re about it!