Perhaps know most for his work in quintessential Aussie metal act Dungeon and with US power/thrash titans Death Dealer, guitarist Stu Marshall is returning to action in 2017 with an exciting new outfit which goes by the very metal name of Night Legion. When the band announced it would be playing a show in Canbera, Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams got his dancing pants on and headed out for a chat with the man himself…
You’re well known for many bands and projects now – some might say you’re Australia’s most well known heavy metal guitarist in terms of presence… So where does Night Legion fit in in your grand scheme? “The first thing to say is it’s very kind of you to say those words; I don’t feel that, I’m really just part of a community that continues on with Australian heavy metal. And Night Legion, for me, is a return to Australian heavy metal. It’s the first thing I’ve done here in five years, and I’ve been really lucky over the last ten years to do a range of overseas touring with Death Dealer and Blasted to Static. Night Legion in some way represents what I was doing with Dungeon back in the day, and it was also something… I just wanted to get live again. So tonight is really exciting to have my first show in five years. Working from Glenn (Williams, bass)again from Dungeon, working with Vo Simpson from Darker Half, who is like the rising Australian singer; He’s an incredible singer but more importantly a great guy. As you and I know it’s important as you get older to work with people that are cool, and I’ve been able to build a team of guys that I really like, I trust and that I’m looking forward to writing more music with”.
There isn’t a lot of music out there from Night Legion at the moment, and you mention that you see this as a return to your Dungeon days in some ways – is that what we should expect? Where does it sit, musically? “It sits with me, musically. I wrote all the songs on the album. In the later days of Dungeon I became much more prolific as a writer. The One Step Beyond album which was kind of that band’s flagship album was half written by me. I wrote Tarranno Del Mar, The Power Within, I wrote The Art of War… I had a strong writing capablilty that I didn’t know was within me and luckily Lord Tim helped me bring that out. He was a great mentor at that time. But it’s been ten years since I was in Dungeon, and this new material is powerful, it’s aggressive, it’s melodic. It’s not spectator heavy metal. The thing I loved about the latter days of Dungeon was that it was a very aggressive power metal band, and that’s what this thing is. But I’ve also learned a lot over the last ten years, and I’ve been able to draw on experiences of touring globally with Death Dealer, and working with Ross the Boss and guys like that; so it’s also more about where I’m at today. We’re all super excited. Nothing on this album is filler!”
Does Vo Simpson play guitar on the album? “Vo is playing no guitar. He’s just screaming his lungs out, and he loves it! When he joined I asked if he’d play guitar and le looked at me and said ‘please don’t do that to me!’. But it’s a great experience for him to put his guitar down and give it his all!”
Now this is Sentinel Daily, and we are all about celebrating the glory days of metal, so I couldn’t really be sat in a hotel room with you and not ask about playing guitar with Ross the Boss. “Sure, of course – he’s my boy! (laughs)”
You love old heavy metal, and by any yardstick Manowar are kings of that genre, so how did you approach things when you first got in a room with him to play? “The whole story is that I formed Death Dealer with singer Sean Peck. And over a whole load of vodka sitting in his studio we said ‘let’s do a band!’. And he asked ‘if you could have any other guitarist In the world in the band who would you dream of playing with? I swear to God this is how it happened – so I said ‘KK Downing of Judas Priest and Ross the Boss’. And he looked at me for a second and said ‘Dude, I know Ross’. I was like (pulls doubtful face) ‘Come on…’ – because I’m a massive Manowar fan, Hail to England is in my top 3 albums of all time. It’s one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever. The first five or six albums with Ross contain some of the greatest metal you’ll ever hear. So he just picks up the phone and rings Ross! And he puts him on speakerphone and says ‘Hey Ross, I’ve got this guy here from Australia, we did this project together… what have you got going on at the moment? Are you interested in joining our band?’ And Ross told us to send him some tracks. I was staying with Sean at the time so that night we sent him some tracks. And Ross said he loved the material! Anyway, one thing leads to another, I went back to the States for the first Death Dealer shows in America. And I had the opportunity to pick Ross up from the airport. To meet Ross, and to subsequently become his friend – he and I talk weekly – we kind of got past the fanboy stuff, we room together on the road and I learn a from him as a guitar player and he’s super complimentary on social media about some of the stuff I’m doing. But it’s like a dream come true for me and something which I certainly don’t take for granted. Every time me meet and hang and play it’s a dream. And he is one of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet. If your readers like Manowar – the old stuff – believe me Ross is the genuine article. You won’t find a better guy in the industry”.
I saw some live footage of him playing Hail and Kill on the tour he’s out on at the moment. Real goosebump time! “He’s the man! He meant it then and he means it now! In a band you don’t want somebody half-arseing it and Ross never half-arses anything”
It’s comforting to know, because ‘never meet your idols’ has quite a bit of substance to it… “I don’t know, maybe I’ve been super lucky. I got to meet Zakk Wylde and worked as his guitar tech for a couple of weeks and he was really cool”.
He’s a nice man. Very humble. “This is true. I got to hang with Rob Halford for a long time, Dave Mustaine when Dungeon toured with Megadeth, like I say I’ve been lucky”.
We should get back to Night Legion. Is a deal on the table? “We have terms agreed with a really great European label”
And the album is recorded? “It’s ninety eight per cent finished. Clay our drummer just has to finish off some drum tracks but we’re super close. We’re only days away from an announcement!”
And that will include a release date? “Obviously it depends on the label, but we’re really hoping it will be out by August, September at the latest”.
And touring afterwards? “Absolutely. We’ll be in Brisbane in May, we’ve got to get to Adelaide and Melbourne, Japan is looking more and more likely, probably November or December. Then probably the States in January or February. I’m in touch with some promoters there. I’d like the album to be released in Europe first before making any statements about where we’ll be playing there”.
But from what I’ve heard it’s certainly going to go down well in Europe. It’s very European sounding despite you wanting to make an Australian record “Yes and no. I don’t think Australian metal has an identity”.
Certainly not power metal. “Exactly – you make a good point. Power metal is either American or European. You’ve got bands like Vicious Rumors – I love the aggression and the ‘thrash’ in their music. And Night Legion is not really ‘happy’ metal music. It’s using standard tunings but our Music is darker, more aggressive. The riffs lean more towards darker, Sabbathy tones. But it’s super hard to describe your own music! I have to let you do that! I write from the heart, never to a formula; I never say ‘it’s got to be European or American or Australian’ I just let out what’s in my head, hopefully channelled through the influences of Priest and Maiden and all that good stuff that we love, you know, Bay Area thrash”.
So when you’re writing, was Night Legion the culmination of a process where you were writing riffs that didn’t really fit with your other projects? “Not really. There’s a couple of ideas there from Empires of Eden. With Death Dealer I write with Sean and Ross so that has its own universe happening, Blasted to Static has more of a late nineties shred feel; Night Legion is far more heads down power metal – Primal Fear, Accept, Priest for me it comes pretty simply, But I think, I hope, that all my bands sound unique enough”.