HOLD HIGH THE FLAME: ELIXIR Q&A

It was recently revealed that NWOBHM heroes Elixir have decided to break up, 10 years after reforming, and will play their final farewell shows later this year. ZT caught up with guitarist Phil Denton to discuss the circumstances behind calling it a day, the band’s legacy, and his new project…

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ZT: You all seem to be on good terms and enjoying each other’s company, so why have you guys decided to call it quits?

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PD: It was just down to our personal situations. We were not rehearsing together very often because of the distances between where we live. When we did try to arrange rehearsals to work on new material, others had domestic commitments and couldn’t make it, and it just seemed that progressing as a band wasn’t everyone’s priority anymore.

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ZT: Was there an expiration date on the reformation – did you foresee yourself breaking up a decade after you reformed?

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PD: When we re-formed, we agreed that we would just continue while we enjoyed it and was able, and that we would only play as Elixir if we had the same five members. We had tried a line-up change the first time around and it didn’t really work for us. At first we expected to maybe re-form for a year or two and maybe make another album, so we are grateful to have had ten fantastic years and made three new albums and played in many great places that we didn’t even imagine we would see.

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ZT: What’s behind playing at The Bridge House in London on October 13th and at De Verlichte Geest in Roselare, Belgium on the 20th? Are those locations/dates significant for Elixir?

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PD: We had confirmed those two gigs and were in the process of adding more live dates when one of us decided to say that they are finding it hard to do now and wanted to wrap things up before we arranged many more gigs and started recording a new album. If we were going to stop, now made sense, and so the two shows we had already confirmed were announced as our final ones. It’s appropriate that our final UK show will be in East London because we originated from there. It’s also nice to play one more show in Europe, as we have had some great times playing across Europe.

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ZT: What have you got in store for us at these farewell shows, what can we expect? How do you think you will feel playing them, and once they’re over?

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PD: We will play a set of our favourite songs from over the years and hope that the audience enjoys hearing them as much as we will enjoy playing them. We will be a bit limited for time, 90 minutes I think for London, and 1 hour for Belgium, so if we don’t play someone’s favourite Elixir song on the night, I apologise! I know we will enjoy playing live on stage, as we always do, but I think there will be a feeling of emptiness in all of us afterwards when we realise that we are no longer a band.

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ZT: Why did you originally break up, and what prompted your 2002 reformation? What were you doing before the reformation?

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PD: It was a similar situation to this time really, again the domestic situation of one of us not being able to continue caused the break up. The Greek label, Cult Metal Classics, contacted me to ask if they could re-release ‘The Son of Odin’ album in CD format, and that was the catalyst for us re-forming. We were sceptical at first, but they pressed 1000 copies which they sold in one month, so they asked us if we would get back together to headline The Metal Assault Festival in Athens. At the time I had a blues-rock project called Cold Town, and Paul had helped me out by singing on a couple of tracks, so we had stayed in touch. Norms was playing in covers bands and Nigel had played in covers bands. Kev had put his bass away and not touched it for 15 years. We had all met at Norman’s birthday party shortly before we were contacted by Cult Metal Classics, and had an enjoyable night, so we all jumped at the chance to get back together and play again. Our domestic situations were good, and the time was right to get out there and play again.

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ZT: What have been the high points since reforming? Any low points?

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PD: There have been a lot of high points, such as playing at Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany, and Hard Rock Hell and Hammerfest here in the UK. Also recording our last album ‘All Hallows Eve’ ourselves, and being so pleased with it, was also a high point. Having ‘The Son of Odin’ album voted one of the “Top 20 Power Metal Albums of All Time” by a UK mag, and it being the “Classic Album of the Month” in Sweden Rock Magazine, was a high point too. As for low points, I cannot think of one except the moment when we decided the band has run it’s course and we will finish. It left me feeling empty inside, as the band takes up a lot of my life.

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ZT: Tell us about Phil and Paul’s upcoming project – it came about through material that was originally intended for a new Elixir album didn’t it? What was the reason behind stepping away from this potential Elixir album? And how did the material come to be Phil and Paul’s new project? Will this become a full-time band for them?

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PD: Paul and I have been writing new songs for what we planned to be the next Elixir album. We had been in a rich vein of form, and one’s ideas had inspired the other one. We have played some of them through as demos with Nigel and Kev and they were sounding great, so Paul and I were looking forward to recording them properly with the band. We were getting a bit frustrated though, because when we wanted to rehearse and work on the new songs, Kev and Nigel tended to be tied up with domestic things going on, and Norman now lives back in his home town of Belfast, so cannot make frequent rehearsals in London. So when one member finally came out and said that they were struggling to commit to the band, the indications had already been there. It made sense to stop now, before we got deep into the making of an album and before we booked more gigs.
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Paul and I weren’t really ready to “retire” just yet, and we have a lot of faith in the new songs and felt that they were good enough to be seen through to completion. Getting in replacements and continuing as Elixir with another line-up wasn’t an option for us as it is us five members that make Elixir what it is, and the band is just completely different with other members, we had learnt that from experience the first time around. So the solution is to form a spin-off band, like Rainbow or Whitesnake was to Deep Purple, or King Diamond was to Mercyful Fate, I suppose. We hope to be similar to Elixir, the songwriters are the same, and we hope to play some Elixir favourites in our live set, but we will have three new musicians with us. Yes, it will be full-time, and I will put my heart and soul into it as much as I have done with Elixir, and we need to find three new members with the same enthusiasm and the time to commit. We have an idea for a name, and will announce it once we have played the final Elixir shows. In the meantime, we need to find a great drummer, bass player and lead guitarist, who is semi-pro standard and willing to rehearse, record and play gigs. If anyone has any recommendations, please email me at phil.denton@coldtown.com
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ZT: And what will the rest of the band be doing? Will they pursue any musical ventures or is it time to settle down?
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PD: Norman already has a covers band going back in Belfast and they are doing quite well, I believe. Nigel and his new wife are hoping to start a family, so he may be doing the “nappy thing” soon, and Kev is happy playing locally in his covers band.

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ZT: How do you see your last album, 2010’s ‘All Hallows Eve’, ‘maturing’ in your repertoire as the years go by? Do you think it will age well? How satisfied are you in terms of that album leaving the final mark for Elixir’s legacy?

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PD: I am confident that ‘All Hallows Eve’ will be as respected as much as ‘The Son of Odin’ in time. It takes time for our material to be recognised, as we do not have a massive marketing budget or the means to make an instant impact, but I think as time goes by, people will recognise that it is a great album and appreciate it. Personally I feel very satisfied to finish our recording career with ‘All Hallows Eve’.
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ZT: What are you most proud of after all these years?
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PD: The following we have built up around the World over the years. It is great when we get a CD sale from Australia or Brazil, or a fan email from the USA, and I feel honoured to think that a musical idea that started in our heads is appreciated by someone on the other side of the World.
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ZT: Is this truly the end of Elixir, do you rule out a second reformation?
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PD: I wouldn’t rule it out, but it may be years before the others are in a good situation that enables them to play again. When we made the decision to call it a day, we sent each other emails saying what a great pleasure it had been to share a stage together, and none of us could recall playing a bad gig since we re-formed. If it was as simple as just getting on a stage together, we would continue for sure, but unfortunately our lifestyles and domestic situations prevent us from doing so right now. I would love it if that changed, as I would rather carry on with this band than try to form another, but I have to accept that the band isn’t the priority in everyone’s lives.
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ZT: Since a sense of humour is important to you, can you leave us with any funny stories from Elixir’s history?
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PD: Hmm, one that springs to mind took place at a gig in February 1987. Kev, our bass player had a new radio transmitter which meant that he could run around the stage with no lead to tangle up with our guitar and microphone leads. It had a very good range on it, and during this particular gig, (I don’t know if he had had too much beer!), Kev decided that he needed to take a p*ss. We were playing ‘Treachery’ and sometimes Nigel, our drummer, would play a solo in the middle of the song, and when he finished we would all come back in. As Kev was bursting, he shouted out to play an extended drum solo and disappeared through a side door at the side of the stage to go to the loo. Nigel drummed away for what seemed like ages, but there was no sign of Kev returning. Eventually, Nigel played a drum roll to bring us all in, and we all started playing again, including an “invisible” bass player!! What we didn’t realise was that the side door had a lock on it and had locked Kev out on the other side of the door. He had been banging on it to be let back in, but none of us could hear him over Nigel’s thundering drum solo! When we finished the song and the cheering died down, we could hear the banging on the door and we let a sheepish looking Kev back in to renewed cheering from the crowd! I think he raised his arm in triumph, rather like Derek Smalls in the Spinal Tap film when he got released from the cocoon!!

Well hello there!

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