Demon first rose to prominence with their debut album 'Night of the Demon' and have proceeded to release a string of high quality melodic hard rock meets metal albums including 'The Plague' and this year's rather excellent 'Better The Devil You Know'. I caught up with vocalist and sole remaining founder member Dave Hill (and answered a question I've been longing to know the answer to?yes he is a Stoke City supporter!)?
Thanks to Phil Berisford, fellow Demon fan for some great questions.
The excellent new album 'Better The Devil You Know' was recently release. Have you been pleased with the feedback so far?
Yes it's been very encouraging so far. We planned it as a back to basics album and we have been pleased with the reviews so far.
Earlier this year you played a gig in Leek where some former members came along like Chris Ellis. What was that like?
It was great. I bump into Chris quite regularly. I keep in touch with most people. We had a great gig.
Have you any plans to tour the album? You played the Bang Your Head festival in the summer.
We did Bang Your Head and some other dates. Some dates are pencilled in next year for a couple of weeks with Bob Catley (Magnum vocalist). We meet him the year before when Magnum were on. We have been working on some dates, club dates in Europe and possibly Sweden (Rocks) again. The album got delayed and delayed so its come at a strange time.
Given a lot of bands like Dio for example are touring their classic albums have you ever been tempted to tour playing the whole of 'The Plague' album or even record a follow-up?
When we started recording 'Spaced Out Monkey' the track 'Let Me Out Of here' was the opening track of 'Plague 2'. I based it around that and the central character was called Human and we started to base the album around this. Then we changed it.
I thought of just touring 'The Plague'. We did most of the album a few years back at Sweden and we did 'Fever In The City' which we had never played live before.
We'd be up for anything. With the classic rock tag fans expect these things. The bands are getting older and they are not going to see them forever. We had to resurrect the grave and the horns for Sweden, we hadn't done it for twenty odd years. We are always open to that.
It must be frustrating at times especially when you have new material you are trying to promote.
I've got no problem. We always get tagged with this New Wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) but I always say to people we carried on after this period. You get a lot of, which is sad in some ways, bands from that era who did a couple of albums reforming and they aren't as good live as they used to be. We did continue to put an album out every one or two years. To pick on any period is no problem for me. The satisfaction of turning out new material and seeing it accepted by the fans is great.
Did you ever contemplate after the first two albums changing the band's name especially as 'The Plague' was so different to these albums?
We did change direction and I always quote Pink Floyd as there is no stranger name than that as their early albums are nothing like 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'Wish You Were Here'. Demon is a bit more ferocious but it was more of a problem in Britain. For us we had to carry on our shoulders and if you had never heard of the band you'd think 'Oh no it has to be devil worship'. The amount of times abroad that I have been told the cover of 'Night of the Demon' is responsible for black metal.
We didn't what to make albums that sounded the same. A lot of bands have done that and been very successful.
Bar the current line-up is there any you consider to be a 'classic' line-up of the band?
Because we have not had the success of Iron maiden there is bound to be changes. We have always worked on a budget and it is always very difficult to keep the same personnel together. The bass player has been with us the past fifteen years. The first line-up was probably a bit of a classic line-up and the first three albums.
Someone came up to us after the recent gigs and said this has to be the best line-up of the band.
Someone will want to get the original line-up together which is not impossible bar Mal Spooner who passed away. I am surprised abroad someone hasn't come along to try this. Former band members have guested with us from time to time. Can we do something better the next time album wise? That's what is always burning in my head each time.
I saw some old film of European dates from 'Taking the World By Storm' and the band then were really rocking.
You mentioned Mal Spooner. What is your fondest memory of him?
We go back to our school days. I remember sitting down with him and writing 'Night of the Demon' in the back of a shop locally. We would knack a song out and then go in the studio and record the song. I didn't expect 25 years later people would still be talking about that album. We had the reunion at Leek, we had Mal's children, who are the same age as mine and Mal's wife and it was absolutely terrific.
One of the fond tales was in Leek where I live we went up to the Roches and it was a sunny day writing a track from 'British Standard', 'Wonderland', just sat there with an acoustic.
We were basically the old school of singer/songwriters. I'd worked with him before. I met him whilst taking songs down to Tin Pan Alley in London. We met there and eventually teamed up.
'The Unexpected Guest' had charted in couple of countries and it was with Carrere, who had other bands like Saxon and Rose Tattoo. We did two sold out nights at the Marquee in London and a big party. The next day I came back to Stoke with Mal and we had to sign on at the dole office. The same day we started to write 'The Plague'. If someone had told me as a boy we had charted in Germany and Sweden I would have thought it was success for life. But in reality it was 'What do we live on?' Next to the dole office was Hanley museum and we looked up Samuel Pepys and the plague that was raging in London in the 1600's. We bought a daily newspaper and saw things going on in Lebanon and we just wrote the album in the order it appears. It's the only album I've ever done that way. It was all done because we were angry and 'The Plague' just happened because of that. It was a kickback at the music industry. We did laugh at it many a time after that.
We had all the press and a huge tour lined up with Gillan, a hundred dates or so but the record label wouldn't back it. They had spent their money on other bands like Rage and Rose Tattoo, who got the Rainbow tour and stuff like that. They spent no money on us and the album's success took them by surprise. If they backed the tour we could have had a lot more success.
We did the album in a week. A lot of people said we jumped six albums musically and perhaps we should have done another one like 'Unexpected Guest' but we always believed in moving forward with each album. Fond memories of Mal at that time.
DEMON 2005 l to r: Ray Walmsley (g), Andy Dale (b), Karl Finney (g)
Dave Hill (v), Paul 'Fazza' Farrington (k), Neil Ogden (d)
Fast forwarding to 1994 and you did a solo album. Was this originally planned as a new Demon album?
It was a strange set-up. It was time for a break and I was just knocking some tracks around when a company in Germany, Zemaphore suggested a Dave Hill album which I found a really strange concept.
I would like to remix it at some stage as there are some good tracks on there. Funny thing was we had to rock it up as it was quite acoustic and the label wanted more guitars. In the end it sounded more like Demon. I quite regretted as it never ended up as I wanted it. To be quite homes tot wasn't planned as well as doing a Demon album.
It's never been released in the UK has it?
No but funnily enough we got some great reviews on it in the UK. Zemaphore went bust and we own the whole catalogue now.
You're quite lucky like that as many bands have had to re-record their songs to get any money from them like Uriah Heep.
Oh yeah the tales you hear from other bands sat in hotel bars and festivals, the tales they tell are horrendous. To quote Stevie Wonder get your money on your advance 'cause you might never get anything else.
Any plans to do a Demon box set?
Yeah, we are working on a 'Epics and Ballads' album which is not unreleased stuff but our ballads and epics like 'Remembrance Day'. It would make an interesting collection instead of a 'Best Of Volume 2'. There's lots of stuff around and now we control our own destiny.
Are you planning a DVD as Demon have never done one yet.
No we haven't actually but there is a video that everybody I have ever met has got from the early 80's and the Unexpected Guest tour. Next year we will try and do another live album as the one we did in Germany in the 80's is always popular. We will do another live album plus we have lots of footage from past tours and we could do a history of the band with Mal and everybody else. This would go well and put the record straight on these fronts.
Message for your fans?
Thanks for staying with us and all the people who come onto the site and to the gigs. Thanks for buying the stuff and staying with us and from the bottom of my heart thank you. We will keep going and s[preading the Demon message.
Interview © 2005 Jason Ritchie
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