Friday, November 14, 2008

Raven's Return - U.K. Oct. , 2008

I have worked side by side with the Gallagher brothers for 20 odd years as Raven's drummer and resident skin bashing lunatic! In all those years we have played England only a hand full of times for one off gigs other than the short British leg of the Kreator tour way back in 1989. Being that John and Mark are Geordie lads from the far north country in the city of Newcastle, we thought it high time to come over to their beloved homeland from America and give England back a little metal insanity that is much needed and hard to come by these days!

"I say Guv'na, you're looking very pompous!"

We found the perfect band to tour with in Lost In Vegas! These young guys were talented, optimistic and well received by our audience and they let us use their entire back line for two weeks as we traveled together all over glorious England playing every size club and pub that would have us! The whole point was to get the music to the people like an air drop of vital Heavy Metal to whatever town or municipality could handle the seismic dose! These gigs were all intimate and Raven's performances were crushingly heavy and played with the same fury that we would've laid on an arena size crowd! We had been talking about doing this for years but couldn't find promoters willing to stick their neck out to make it happen! 2008 turned out to be our lucky year and everything sort of came together on both ends of the pond!

John & Mark Gallagher have been known to wreck a train or two especially on this night at "The Asylum" in Birmingham!

Our first show was in the little town of Kettering and although the club was half filled the audience went nuts for us and demanded 3 encores! A nice welcome back to the U.K. indeed!

We noticed right away that metal had become popular again and people were coming from all over the countryside to little towns like Kettering, Blackburn and Nuneaton to politely get their heads removed by our mega-decibels! There was a great feeling in the air that I personally haven't felt in years! The audience was actually giving back! The harder we jack hammered the more energized they became!! That's what a real metal concert is supposed to be like for the band and the audience! That was repeated night after night whether there were 25 people their or 400!

The state of touring in the U.K. still isn't the greatest but I was assured by many fans and business people that it's much better today than a few years ago and that with our arrival that it can only get better! I've always known through history that bands have their glory years in the arenas but the business will suddenly change and it's back to the clubs! I've seen several cycles of this while I've been in Raven! I've always looked at my times in the smaller venues as a rare chance to reconnect with my core audience! Sometimes it's a good thing to come down from Mount Olympus and meet your fans!

Joe Hasselvander posing with fans from "all over the world" who had come to see Raven at "The Underworld"!

Half way through the tour I came down with the mother of all chest colds after the band's radio interview in Birmingham! I thought I was going to croak as I couldn't breath! Luckily we had some time off for a couple of days and so I drank massive amounts of steaming hot tea and was able to partially recover! We also did some classic spooking around in the area near our hotel looking like 3 leather clad psycho tourists!

Top-Mark Gallagher successfully removes the plutonium from headquarters!
Middle-Joe Hasselvander stops by old friends house ,Will Shakespeare!
Bottom-John Gallagher gives the radio audience a good bollocking!

Roy Davis interviewed Raven on Birmingham's radio station perched atop the city's football stadium for 2 hours! Roy is a very knowledgeable hard rock historian and is a pleasure to converse with if you are a vinyl junkie like me! He was also the bassist for British hard rockers, Shy.

After several buckets of phlegm and a diesel van accidentally filled with regular petrol we managed to hire a new van and make a run for it down to London's Camden Town to play the infamous "Underworld"! We got there a bit late but everything went off without a hitch and we blew the walls down! It was really hard for me to pull off my regular antics as I was fighting for breath from being infected with the plague! I still managed to kick it down though! Our good friend Cliff from Tank came down but was thrown out with everybody else at the end of the show by the bouncers before we could speak with him after the gig!

Raven play the Under World in London's Camden Town. Even though I was stricken with a horrible chest cold I managed to pull large pieces of furniture out of my ass for this crowd of dedicated fans!

We made it back to the hotel just in time to celebrate John's 50th birthday complete with a little candle on top of a cake that his sister Elaine made for him and a bottle of Newcastle Brown from the guys at Classic Rock Magazine!

John Gallagher's Heavy Metal 50th

After our successful show at London's "The Underworld" we headed north to the Gallagher's home town and my second home, Newcastle! What a surprise to see a totally revamped city come in to the space age with architecturally impossible buildings clad with mirrored windows and numerous sky walks leading between these massive futuristic structures and the ancient Roman Wall's End!

We arrived at "Trillions", our venue and we were told that the gig was going to be mobbed with fans, well wishers, and old friends from the days of the N.W.O.B.H.M! There were already a few older cats there with the usual bag of Raven albums and singles from the back catalog for signing! The lads and I shuffled into Trillion's kitchen area to turn it into a makeshift dressing room.

I could hear the place filling up and the loud metal songs pounding through the house P.A. when all of a sudden some old friends from long ago popped through the swinging doors to say hello! First was Mick Kenworthy, Raven's original drummer before Rob "Wacko" Hunter! It was a treat to finally meet him as he and I started communicating on myspace a year ago! Then Tygers of Pantang guitarist Rob Weir made his way back and we had a few laughs and some photos taken! He seemed really optimistic about the future and looked fit as a fiddle! We were also joined by Ken Johnson from Blitzkrieg and we took more photos!

Ken Johnson, John Gallagher, Rob Weir & Joe Hasselvander

The call to the stage finally came and we plowed through our usual set with a few extras for the enthusiastic audience! The show was a complete success and a great homecoming for the band!
The crowd got their money's worth and they let us know it!

Review in Classic Rock Magazine for the Newcastle show!

The next night was The Asylum in Birmingham. This gig unfortunately had a humble turn out but the people there stayed throughout and the sound and lights were tremendous! This is where we parted company with our opening act Lost In Vegas! They were great lads and were a smashing support band for us! We told them stories from the road every night leaving them in stitches as our escapades over the years just can't be made up! I hope for the them the best!

Raven at "The Asylum" Birmingham, England

Our final show on the tour took us on a long day's ride to Devon to a little seaside village called Ilfracombe. Our plan was to hot foot it out of their after the gig and back to Heathrow Airport against the clock and back to America!

Our Indian guide John Gallagher points the way to Ilfracombe!

The gig went well and we were amazed at the amount of people who came out considering the town's remote location! But the biggest surprise was truly mine when one of my biggest influences on the drums of all time walked through the door of that little venue! It was Ken Pustelnik! He was the original drummer for Britain's heaviest psychedelic band of the early 1970's The Groundhogs! It was great swapping stories with him about everything from Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash to his band mates T.S. McPhee and Pete Cruikshank! For me this moment was truly surreal!

Ken Pustelnik of the Groundhogs and Joe Hasselvander, Illfracombe UK

Closing time came and we were packed and gone! The fog set in so bad we almost couldn't drive back, but we made it to Heathrow by dawn and just in time for our flights!

I met so many great people in England who still love the metal! They were all so supportive of us and made me think about the Classic Rock Magazine article that we had seen in every service area and news stand in the U.K. on the tour! Their was a full page publicity photo of Raven with the words scrolled across the top that said, "SURVIVORS" and that we are! Cheers!

This article in Classic Rock Magazine greeted the band upon our arrival in England at every truck stop, services and news stand in the country! Timing could not have been more perfect! It made us pause for a second and actually made us wonder how we have survived it all. When you constantly work at something like this you don't acknowledge time. Suddenly you wake up when you step outside the box and realize how many years and how much sweat and blood has gone into it all!

Mark Gallagher and Joe Hasselvander love Heavy Metal and Fish and Chips!


Paulie said...

Greatest. Band. Ever.

El rock chingón said...

I hope i can see raven in Mexico before i die. Cant wait for the new album.

Clay said...

Awesome post. Thank you Joe! I cannot wait for the new Raven album! In the meantime, I've been digging your Hounds album. Very heavy, very satisfying! :-)

Symon said...

Hi Joe, nice to see you use the signed pic, the original is hanging in my hall. Awesome 2 shows that we saw in Nuneaton and Birmingham. If you come back to UK Please let us know. Spreading the Raven word.

Woody said...

A Raven/Anvil tour would be the shit!

BillyV said...

Hey Joe,
I found your blog while searching the Internet for stuff about the old Alexandria Roller Rink. I was in a band with you when I was sixteen. Remember "Rush", with Juan, Steve, Joe C. and me? I jammed with your brother a couple of years ago at Tom Ansink's 50th bday. Shoot me an email if you get a chance at billvh at comcast dot net.