Sunday, September 10, 2017

Axe Crazy

Bart Gabriel
Producer, Manager, Label Owner and NWOBHM Enthusiast

Photo Credit: Bart Gabriel

Muthas, I had the great fortune to ask Bart Gabriel - CEO of Skol Records and Gabriel Management - about my favorite genre of metal, NWOBHM! Bart is huge NWOBHM fan and has lots of interesting choices for his favorites and offers a massive NWOBHM playlist to get you started on your own NWOBHM journey. Cheers! 

MBOM: Bart, firstly, thanks for doing this interview! You just may be the busiest man in metal right now. What's going on with you and Skol Records?

BART: It's good to be busy, isn't it? There was not much going on in the Skol Records camp for the last few months, but it will change now. First of all we're about to release brand new mini LP from SAVAGE MASTER - it might be interesting for your readers as well, as except four brand new songs, there is a cover version of the HOLOCAUST classic, "Death Or Glory", on it as well. Except that we will be continuing our series of the CD replicas of the original NWOBHM singles, with a lot of Neat Records titles. First in line are the JAGUAR and CRUCIFIXION singles, then we will do BLITZKRIEG and WHITE SPIRIT singles, and so on. Actually, it might be good opportunity the announce my next project, no one (except involved bands) heard about yet... I'm working on a compilation album titled "Granbretan Invasion", which is a tribute album, where young Heavy Metal bands play cover versions of obscure and rare NWOBHM tracks. Some of the confirmed acts are: ENFORCER, CAULDRON, AMULET, TWISTED TOWER DIRE, CRYSTAL VIPER, HELVETETS PORT and SUBSTRATUM. And yes, the title of the compilation is a tribute to the best writer that ever walked the earth, Michael Moorcock. In other news I'm also quite busy with GABRIEL MANAGEMENT, as all our bands either just released new albums, or will release them in the nearest future.

MBOM: I know that you are a huge NWOBHM fan and you've reissued a ton of great NWOBHM singles/albums. What NWOBHM reissues does Skol have coming out in the future?

BART: As I mentioned, we will be continuing our series of the CD replicas of the original NWOBHM singles. I'm very happy that we will be reissuing singles from the Neat Records back catalog, I know that I wasn't the only one guy waiting for them. I also signed deals with few other NWOBHM bands, but hard to say when exactly we will release something from them, as they are looking for the master tapes, we are trying to figure out the legal situation and so on.

MBOM: Are you planning on producing or releasing any new albums from NWOBHM bands in the future?

BART: Currently not, but there are two albums of one of my favorite NWOBHM acts in my schedule, which I will be remastering. I think I'm not yet allowed to reveal the news (I'm doing this for another label, not for Skol Records). What I can tell you, is that both albums will be packed with some killer bonus tracks no one ever knew they exist.

MBOM: What song/comp/album started you on your journey of listening to and collecting NWOBHM?

BART: I won't be very original here, but I need to say it all started with IRON MAIDEN. I'm not exactly sure right now, but I think that the very first MAIDEN album I heard was the self-titled debut. I know it sounds weird, but while I think that Somewhere In Time is one of three best sounding and best produced albums in the history of Heavy Metal, my favorite MAIDEN album is the mentioned self-titled debut. The next ones were RAVEN and their All For One LP, and then a lot of more usual stuff, such as SAXON, ANGEL WITCH and DIAMOND HEAD. At the beginning I wasn't aware they are part of any wave or group of bands, but when I was reading about them, I was seeing that mysterious NWOBHM term from time to time. I became curious what that's all about, and then I discovered the goldmine known as New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I would lie if I would say I was only NWOBHM oriented, or that I became a collector of all things NWOBHM - I became a die hard fan of Heavy Metal in general, and I didn't care much about origin of the bands. I either liked something or not, but in fact, many of my favorite bands were British.

MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM single?

BART: I have no idea! There are so many absolutely great singles, that it's impossible to choose only one, especially when you like so many bands... If I could list few, then for sure I would list singles from: MYTHRA, TRIDENT, VIRTUE, LAUTREC, LEGEND (from Kent - this one from Jersey is awesome as well, but if we are talking about singles, then I vote for this one from Kent), QUARTZ, JJ'S POWERHOUSE, HELL, AVENGER, RAVEN, SPARTA, TRIARCHY, ANGEL WITCH, BLEAK HOUSE, JAGUAR, HOLOCAUST, BLITZKRIEG, BLACK AXE and WOLF, AXIS, NO QUARTER, A II Z... And of course IRON MAIDEN and their The Soundhouse Tapes.

MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM LP?

BART: Oh wow, that's probably even harder than with singles... I think there is no one LP which I could list as my favorite one when it comes to NWOBHM, as there were too many great albums being released. But I can list my favorite live album here, and that would be Live At The Inferno from RAVEN. I remember I was blown away by the rough energy that was captured on that double LP. Sorry MAIDEN, I love Live After Death, but I'm choosing Live At The Inferno (laugh).

MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM compilation released back in the 80s?

BART: Okay, this one will be easier, it's Metal For Muthas, as it was the first NWOBHM compilation I heard, when I already knew what NWOBHM actually means and what it's all about. Not only it had 2 great IRON MAIDEN tracks, and great songs from PRAYING MANTIS (maybe their best one?) and ANGEL WITCH, but also allowed me to discover bands I didn't know before: ETHEL THE FROG, SLEDGEHAMMER and E.F. BAND (yeah, the NWOBHM band from Sweden (laugh)). I remember I didn't like very much the SAMSON and TOAD THE WET SPROCKET songs that were included there... Need to listen to that LP again, let's see if I still don't like them!

MBOM: What's your favorite retrospective NWOBHM compilation released in 90s to today?

BART: Definitely New Wave Of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited, which Lars Ulrich and Geoff Barton did in 1990. I basically think this is the best NWOBHM compilation ever made. It's funny because when I started my Heavy Metal adventure, I wasn't big fan of METALLICA. But they were praising NWOBHM in the interviews, they were recording and playing live songs of bands such as DIAMOND HEAD and BLITZKRIEG, and then Lars did that compilation. So yeah, we can say I became METALLICA fan because of NWOBHM - they are a Thrash Metal band, but I hear a lot of British riffs in their music, and it's clear they are die hard fans of the genre. And let's be honest, they promoted the genre as probably no one else.

MBOM: Which band had the better debut album - Iron Maiden or Angel Witch?

BART: That's a difficult question. While both albums are absolutely perfect, and there is no bad or even average song on any of them, I think I would choose Iron Maiden. Don't ask me why, I don't know (laugh).

MBOM: Which Brian Ross band do you like more - Satan, Blitzkrieg or Avenger?

BART: AVENGER, because I recently became their manager! I'm kidding, I wouldn't list AVENGER here, as they never did an album with Brian, only the demo, split EP and single, so while I love and admire Mr. Ross, I would list Swifty as their "classic" vocalist. So, SATAN or BLITZKRIEG? I think I would choose SATAN - I love the early works of both bands equally, but when it comes to the more recent albums, then I think I prefer these ones by SATAN.

MBOM: Was Motorhead a NWOBHM band or are they a precursor like Judas Priest?

BART: MOTORHEAD and PRIEST are not NWOBHM bands to me, and here's why. First of all, both bands started and had first recordings before the world heard about NWOBHM. Second thing: it's hard to label first MOTORHEAD and JUDAS PRIEST recordings as Heavy Metal. And third thing - many NWOBHM bands used to either list these two acts as their influences, or even played their covers, so yeah, they are definitelly pre-NWOBHM acts in my opinion.

MBOM: Who's your greasiest favorite - Tank, Venom or Warfare?

BART: VENOM's At War With Satan was the first LP from these 3 bands which I heard, so I will probably go with them. Isn't it always like that, that the albums you heard first from particular bands, remain your personal favorites? I also love TANK and their Filth Hounds Of Hades - while they had few really cool albums back in the day (let me ignore the ridiculous current period, where 5 guys that didn't play on the classic first two albums keep on recording and releasing music as TANK), Filth Hounds is the absolute classic of the genre, perfect from the first to the last second. WARFARE were awesome as well, I was actually listening to their album earlier today.

MBOM: Please recommend a good playlist for a NWOBHM newcomer.

BART: How about this one: IRON MAIDEN "Prowler", MYTHRA "Killer", RAVEN "Fire Power", A II Z "No Fun After Midnight", AVENGER "Too Wild To Tame", JJ'S POWERHOUSE "Running For The Line", BLITZKRIEG "Blitzkrieg", INCUBUS "Life Beyond The Grave", LIMELIGHT "Metal Man", TYRANT "Hold Back The Lightning", JAGUAR "Prisoner", ELIXIR "Treachery (Ride Like The Wind)", ANGEL WITCH "Gorgon", SMOKIN' ROADIE "Midnight", DIAMOND HEAD "Lightning To The Nations", SARACEN "Meet Me At Midnight", WITCHFINDER GENERAL "Free Country", DEMON "Night Of The Demon", FIST "Name, Rank And Serial Number", TOKYO BLADE "Night Of The Blade", QUARTZ "Silver Wheels", SAXON "Princess Of The Night", SAVAGE "Let It Loose", PARALEX "Travelling Man", TANK "Shellshock", TYGERS OF PAN TANG "Slave To Freedom", WITCHFYNDER "Give 'Em Hell", TRESSPASS "Bright Lights", CLOVEN HOOF "Reach For The Sky", AFTER DARK "Evil Woman", HOLOCAUST "Heavy Metal Mania", OVERDRIVE "On The Run", BLEAK HOUSE "Rainbow Warrior", DRAGON FLY "Silent Nights", DRAGON SLAYER "Warrior", SATANIC RITES "Hit & Run", SWEET SAVAGE "Killing Time", BLACK AXE "Highway Rider", VENOM "Manitou", GRIM REAPER "Rock You To Hell"... Need few more? (laugh).

MBOM: Which of the classic "Black And White EPs" is your favorite - Paralex - White Lightning, Mythra - Death And Destiny, or Crucifixion - Green Eyes?

BART: I love all three releases you mentioned, but I would definitely choose MYTHRA over here. They always been one of my absolutely favorite NWOBHM bands. While over the years I became friends with the guys, and learned why they never "made it" back in the day, they always been one of the "big" NWOBHM bands in my book, along with RAVEN and AVENGER.

MBOM: Which NWOBHM band that never released an album do you wish had released a full length? (Five bonus points for picking Trespass.)

BART: Sorry, but A II Z, haha... They were absolutely amazing, both their singles and the live album they did, are pure gold. I know that they continued for a little while as AURORA after they split with Gary Owens, but it wasn't the same. So, if there would be justice in the world, A II Z would do a full album back in the day.

Photo Credit: Bart Gabriel Instagram
MBOM: Bart, judging from your social media posts you have an incredible music collection. What are some of the cool NWOBHM rarities in your collection?

BART: Well, my collection is not that big to be honest, at least I think so, as I know a lot of people that have collections few times bigger than my one. First of all, I'm not typical collector - I'm not trying to gather everything that is rare, out of print and so on, I only keep records that I really like and listen to. I'm not spending nights on Ebay, which is full of overpriced records. Of course when I find something I don't have in a good price, then I buy it and I take it home, but I'm an old school guy, so I prefer to visit small record stores (sadly not many of them left), or browse crates when there are Metal markets on the festivals that I visit - I'm not a big fan of online ordering or bidding. And to answer second part of your question: as I keep on gathering stuff for a Heavy Metal Museum, when it comes to NWOBHM, the crown jewel of my collection is the original RAVEN stage banner that I have. Thank you Mr. Gallagher!

MBOM: Do you have a particular NWOBHM rarity that you'd like to have in your collection?

BART: I would love to add many records to my personal collection, and I hope to have original TRIDENT, VIRTUE, WIKKYD VIKKER, LAUTREC or JJ'S POWERHOUSE singles one day, but as I mentioned, I'm not a big fan of either online ordering nor overpriced stuff, so I guess my chances are down to zero. I would also love to have the original MITHRANDIR single - its cover artwork is so bad, that it's actually good. I will probably get it tattooed one day (laugh).

MBOM: You produced Mythra's new album - Still Burning - and it's excellent. Are there other recent albums from NWOBHM bands that you can recommend?

BART: First of all I need to say it's been a huge honor and pleasure to do this album with MYTHRA. Music is one thing, but I was hanging out with the guys for almost 2 weeks, heard a lot of great stories from back in the day and so on, and this is something you can't buy with money. And I agree with you, I think this album is really excellent, as it sounds like NWOBHM or Classic Metal in general should sound: authentic and natural. Many bands go a bit too far, and they try to improve and change their sound and songs, to be "accepted" by younger fans. Very often when I work with bands, they tell me they want to sound like someone else, and I'm always like "and why don't you want to sound like YOU?". With MYTHRA it was different, they were very relaxed, and they really enjoyed playing these songs and recording them. We had a lot of fun in the studio, we sometimes laughed so hard we had to stop the recording and calm down. And you can hear that natural energy on "Still Burning" - the album sounds authentic and fresh at the same time, you hear that it's played by real human beings, and that nothing was replaced by the samples or alternated by computers or digital toys. When it comes to other recent albums from NWOBHM bands: yes, PAGAN ALTAR. Their new album is coming out these days, but I heard it some time ago, as I was doing its mastering. Usually when I receive the audio material to master, I load it into my gear and I work on the sound in the real time, already during first listening - similar to FOH guys, that try to fix and set right sound when the band is playing first song. When I got the PAGAN ALTAR tracks, I played them for the first time, and I was just staring at my speakers like a rabbit that sees headlights of a car. They are so good!

Photo Credit: Bart Gabriel

MBOM: Thanks for taking the time to talk about NWOBHM! Any last words or anything else to add?

BART: Hey, my pleasure and thank you for your time. Last words? Yeah, everyone, please support the bands you like, buy the official merchandise, buy the original albums instead of downloading them, and go out to see the bands when they play in your town, or move your ass and travel a little bit. It's not that expensive and the real experience is always a million times better. Your favorite bands won't survive without your support!


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Bart Gabriel and it inspires you to check out some killer NWOBHM!


1 comment:

  1. Great interview and very interesting stuff in the pipeline from Bart and SKOL Records. By the way thanks for your vote it means a lot to me and the guys from QUARTZ .... Metal On from BIG TIM