ZT INTERROGATION: SAVAGE RETURN, BUT HAVE THEY STILL GOT THE EDGE?
With a new double album just out, Savage linchpin Chris Bradley reflects on the band’s halcyon NWOBHM days in the ’80s and tells ZT’s Paul Castles why the current lineup is still very much Loose ‘n’ Lethal.
Zero Tolerance: It’s great to have Savage back with us after a lengthy absence. What differences have you noticed to the metal scene in general since you’ve been away?
Chris Bradley: Well we’ve been back a while now. We released an album back in 2012, Sons of Malice, but in answer to your question, the one thing I have noticed developing over the years is the fragmentation of the genre into so many different sub-genres. Back in the day when we first started out we didn’t even have the term ‘heavy metal’, the genre was just ‘heavy rock’, and that covered the likes of Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin to Queen. I think this fragmentation means that fans tend to prefer one or two particular genres and don’t support, or in a lot of cases do not even listen to, the others which – I think is bad for the whole scene. Good music is good music no matter which sub-genre you subscribe to. Let’s put it another way, if we didn’t have the sub-genres then Metallica, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Iron Maiden would all be heavy rock bands and it would be OK to like any or all of them without prejudice!
ZT: Was the reunion something you were all keen on or were there any doubters?
CB: Well the true reunion was back in the mid-’90s but was basically only myself and my partner-in-crime Andy Dawson (lead guitar player). The truth is the band was basically the two of us; I was lead singer and bass player and Andy was lead guitar player, between us we wrote 95% of the songs together. Yes we were both keen to do it though perhaps the mid-’90s during the heyday of grunge was not the best time to resurrect a heavy metal band!
ZT: Take us through the lineup now, there’s a father and son playing together?
CB: Well the whole thing is something of a family affair now. I was married to Andy’s sister, so not only is Kristian (second guitar player) my son, Andy is also his uncle, and drummer Mark was a good friend and colleague of Andy’s, so together we make up the modern lineup of Savage – it is without doubt the best ever lineup. Both Kristian and Mark bring their own style to the band which complements both mine and Andy’s tastes, bearing in mind Kristian was brought up listening to his Dad and uncle, so I suppose it was inevitable that he followed us into the musical arena. He also has a wide taste in heavy metal music from old school to nu-metal to thrash, Mark is also from a different point in time and his tastes range from hair metal to grunge to old school.
ZT: Has the interest in your comeback exceeded expectations?
CB: It’s been great to see the interest in the band, especially the appreciation from younger fans that frankly could not have been born when we did our first album, but they all seem to know the stuff. There certainly seems to be an underground interest in the NWOBHM movement, though I do feel that tag can sometimes be an albatross around our necks.
ZT: What kind of split, in terms of old and new fans, have you experienced so far?
CB: I would say judging from the shows we have done over the last 4-5 years that there seems to be a good split between old and new fans, which I guess must mean we are doing something right?
ZT: Do you see the return of Savage as a long-term project now?
CB: In a word for me YES, it was never my choice for the band to breakup back in the ’80s, I still felt we had a lot to offer and could have only gone on to greater things. However, there was a lot of bad feeling in the band mostly stirred up by the drummer at the time, and Andy just to the point where he couldn’t deal with it any more. What we should have done is replaced the drummer and second guitar player and carried on!
ZT: Was it difficult to get the support of family members to bring the guys back together? Presumably some weren’t around in the band’s early days?
CB: As I said earlier, me and Andy had already put the band back together again in the mid-’90s with a couple of stand-in guys for live and studio work. We did three albums after reforming, Holy Wars, Babylon and Xtreme Machine, the plan was to then record the fourth album around the new millennium; however life just got in the way, births, deaths, marriages and divorces. We just didn’t seem to be able to escape from the problems, none of which were about the band. Then in 2008 it was Mark who pulled us all together and back on it! Then fate got in the way again and Mark had to deal with some painful personal stuff of his own, so it was 2010 when we started writing again for what became Sons Of Malice.
ZT: How quickly did things come together once the band started working again in the studio?
CB: It always seems to happen quickly but for both Sons Of Malice and 7 it was around two years from starting to write to actually releasing the albums, which was about a third of the time spent writing. We then demo what we have before starting the full recording process which we fit in around work and life commitments so we are not always in the studio together, except during the writing and demo process. Once the album is finished recording then Mark spends around six months mixing and editing (he is a bit of a perfectionist) before release.
ZT: Have any band members been active musically with other projects during the intervening years?
CB: Both Andy and myself had other projects in between the Savage years, in fact Andy still has a side project that he reverts back to when we have any downtime, he just likes to get out and play. Since we reformed I only ever put my efforts in to Savage.
ZT: How was your hometown return gig in Mansfield – some friendly and familiar faces?
CB: Yeah it was great to be playing back in our hometown where it all began and was fitting that we chose that as the place to do the live album. There were a lot of familiar faces but also a lot of young new faces who had never seen us before – only heard the stories.
ZT: Are there certain parallels here between Savage and Satan? Two original NWOBHM bands now playing together again after a lengthy vacation.
CB: I don’t really know the guys in Satan so I can’t make comparisons, but there are a few NWOBHM bands out there re-forming and recording albums. But some of the key members are missing and they don’t even have the remotest connection to what once was. Luckily for us, both myself and Andy as the two mainstays are still there with the new guys add icing to the cake!
ZT: You must be excited with the new album. Why is it called 7?
CB: We all love the new album, in fact I would say it’s our best album since Loose ‘n’ Lethal, but I don’t like to compare them against each other as they were the result of a different set of circumstances and points in time, though both kick serious ass! Because Andy had the idea to release the live album as part of a double album package that we were obviously going to call Live ‘n’ Lethal (what else could we have called it?) I thought it was better to give the new studio album a simple title so as not to confuse everything, and as it was the seventh studio album it just seemed like the obvious title.
ZT: It’s a double album and includes a live recording of your 1983 classic Loose n Lethal. How do you think those songs have stood the test of time since the original release.
CB: For me they just seem as powerful as they did back in the day, we always prided ourselves on the fact we could write a catchy song but still be as heavy as fuck at the same time. Production aside, which is the one thing about that album that we always felt was weak (it’s the main thing for everyone else), the songs fit together with the newer stuff so well, which the live album shows. We are still the same band with the same agenda but with seven different albums now to pull material from, come and see us live and you will get it!
ZT: When Lars of Metallica famously cited your early work as an influence was that a curse or a blessing?
CB: Well it certainly gets asked as a question at every interview over the last 20 years! It’s nice to know that someone as successful as he has become would acknowledge a less successful band, although I think he has spent more time talking about the Diamond Head influence. It would have been even better if they had recorded it on Garage Inc., perhaps I could have paid my mortgage off with that one like Brian Tatler.
ZT: What plans are there for 2016, back on the road?
CB: Yes we are currently organising shows for 2016, we already have a festival in Finland and two shows in France lined up for March and are working towards others. We are also in the planning stages of a video for the new album once we can all agree on which song we are going to do!