Formed in 1980 NWOBHMers SPARTAN WARRIOR released two albums, namely ‘Steel ‘n Chains’ (1983) and ‘Spartan Warrior’ (1984), and appeared on the Pure Overkill comp alongside Incubus, Millennium and Tokyo Rose. The band returned in 2009 with their ‘Never Take Me Alive’ single, which was followed by third full-length ‘Behind Closed Eyes’ in 2010. ZT spoke to guitarist Neil Wilkinson to find out more about this reanimated titan.
ZT: How did the reunion come about?
The reunion was in early 2008 I think. It came after I had just done a brief spell with Waysted. When that came to an end I decided to try and reform Spartan Warrior. I had some new ideas and also there were some old songs I wanted to do so I started asking the lads if they would be up for it. At first only Dave said he wanted to do it but later on Tom came on board. We had also approached Paul but he wasn’t able to do it. It was very late on when Gordon said he wanted to do it after hearing how the songs were shaping up. Getting to that point took quite a while and we didn’t start recording Behind Closed Eyes until summer 2008 and it took about a year to do on and off for various reasons. After the album was done and released we decided that we still needed 2 guitars to play live as I had done all the guitars on the album and that’s when we recruited Mark Chapple. Having said that the line up has changed again with Tom and Gordon being replaced by Dan Rochester (Bass) and James Charlton (drums).
NOTE Ed. See brand new band photo above!
ZT: Before breaking up Spartan Warrior released two albums. How were these received back in the day? Did you gig a lot? Were you friends with any of the other NWOBHM bands?
From what I can remember the first 2 albums were quite well received but I think they’re more popular today than they were back then, The 1st album seems really popular at the moment but there’s been no official re release that we know of so all the new copies out there must be bootlegs. I can’t say how well the 2nd album did compared to the first as we never got any sales figures from Guardian but again there was a lot of interest , to the point Metal Mind re released it in 2010 I think on licence from Roadrunner. It’s very flattering to know that people still want them after all these years! As far as friends in other bands go we didn’t really mix with other bands as we just got on with doing our own thing really. Also you didn’t really get to hang about with other bands or go and see them because we were playing our selves. I was and still good mates with John Stormont as we learned to play together and he was in Spartan before he joined the Jess Cox Band and then Battleaxe. I think I’ve more mates in other bands now than back then!
ZT: You have played a handful of shows, how many? What have been your best live experience since the reunion?
Yes and then there’s the gigs. Gigging has been great. So far we’ve not done that many. We did Hard Rock Hell in Dec 2010 followed by Black Sunday in Newcastle. Then after that we did Headbangers Open Air in Hamburg which I have to say was class. We had a great day and went down really well and met some class people too. After that we played Kennyfest in our home town and helped to raise some money for a very worthwhile cause. That one was a bit scary because Tom and Gordon had left with only 5 weeks to find and rehearse replacements to be able to do it. Luckily I had got to know James and he phoned me to offer his services and also got us Dan too! After a couple of rehearsals they asked if they could do Spartan full time so that’s how we got a full new line up. Even though they didn’t have long to learn the songs they did really well and the gig was really good. The most recent gig we did was actually a last minute thing. James was playing in Durham with his other band Risen Prophecy and the 2 other bands that were playing didn’t show so he phoned and asked if we could jump in at short notice, which we did. It ended up being a really good night. At the moment we’ve got 2 gigs coming up one a gig for Terrorizer in Durham and then after were playing in Newcastle so I’m looking forward to that. We’re still working on getting out to mainland Europe to do some more festivals too.
ZT: What are your thoughts on the new album? Where/how was it recorded?
Recording Behind Closed Eyes was well different. When I reformed the band we didn’t have any record company interest so I decided to by a recording set up and have a go at doing it myself. I soon found out that writing recording producing and engineering your own album is not easy. That’s one of the reasons that to took so long to do, I was learning how to use the gear as I went after initially spending about 6 months just messing about with it to find out how things worked. Also as it was recorded in a home studio it came with some huge compromises one being that we couldn’t use an acoustic kit and I bought some Roland V drums the ones with mesh heads so that it still felt like playing drums. For the guitars and bass I had to use my line 6 pod. I would have preferred to go into a studio but at the time no one was offering to finance it and because I wanted to do bother album and people were contacting me wanting a new album it was the only way we could do it at that time. It was that or nothing really. Once it was recorded and mixed we handed it to Fred Purser to master. Even though it was recorded onto PC we still tried to keep things as old school as possible though. There was none of this cutting and pasting, all the songs were live takes played from beginning to end just as we would live. We were happy with how it turned out but I would have preferred to use an acoustic kit. Some people have said it sounds 80s but that’s how it was supposed to sound, when we started recording I said that I wanted it to sound as though we had just picked up from where we left off and not like a band who had reformed after 25 years trying to sound like something they’re not, so I suppose it was job done in that respect.
ZT: What’s next for Spartan Warrior?
Well we will be doing our best to get a lot more gigs and we’ve already started working on new material for the next album. This time though I would like to record it somewhere although ill still be demo-ing on my gear. If not then I’ll definitely be using an acoustic kit and also mixing up for the next album. I bought an Engl Powerball a while ago and it sounds too good not to use for recording. Also the new line up has definitely livened things up somewhat. The 2 new lads are great and the new rhythm section is really driving the songs along. So to sum it up we want ALOT more gigs and another album out. I can’t wait.
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