Interview with Keith and Danny of The Heavy Metal Kids (May 2009)

Hi Keith/Danny, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us at Glitzine.

As I mentioned Keith I've personally been a fan of The Heavy Metal Kids since the late 70s early 80's when I picked up a copy of Fluff Freeman's By Invitation Only LP at my local record emporium (Jim's Records to be exact). The thing that gragged me about the band was the sheer energy of the track Rock N Roll Man, and the awesome lungpower of one Mr Gary Holton. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, so

Johnny H. What are you guys up to right now?

Keith: At the moment while waiting on the overdubs and mixing on our new album to be done I'm keeping busy by doing some gigs with Gary Lammin from Cock Sparrer in a trio called the Bermondsey Joyriders.

Johnny H. So there's a new album imminent, (Uncontrollable) isn't this the HMK's first album to be released with the same guitarist on consecutive records (Marco Barusso having played on Hit the Right Button as well)

Keith: That's right. Marco is doing a great job, not only of playing, but also as the producer and engineer as well.

Johnny H. And is the new album a continuation of the sound you had on Hit the Right Button? You know "Hit The Right Buttons was certainly a surprise for me, I didn't know what to expect from a Holton less band, but Danny you did a great job.

Keith: Yeah Danny did a fantastic job on the vocals on Hit The Right Button. To me at the moment the new album sounds somewhat like Hit The Right Button but I'd say it's more diverse than that and even a little experimental in places while still rockin' really hard.

Johnny H. And how does it feel fronting the band live? The tour wellies been handed to you yet?

Danny : Hahahaha ! I'm working my way up to the wellies, but I did get the official brolly handed to me in a recent ceremony involving a ouija board.
Fronting the band live is the best job I've ever had…IF you could say I've had a job that is, which is still debatable. It's seriously fun. The adrenalin is terrific, the musicianship is tops, the humour is there of course, and even more to the point, it's just great to be up there with my mates, who are more like my bruvvers.

Johnny H. Obviously returning after something like twenty five years out of the spotlight the legacy of the band hangs over the name Heavy Metal Kids, how do you feel the band of 2009 stacks up against the 70's version?

Keith: Well it's obviously a different band without Gary but Danny is a great singer and our two guitarists are really fine players plus we have the keyboards as well so if anything I'd say we have a bigger fuller sound now than back then.

Johnny H. So back then were you New York Dolls trying to out drink the Faces or Alex Harvey for cockney geezers?

Keith: We've always liked a drink but no-one could out-drink the Faces in their day! I did a few gigs with those guys and they put everyone else to shame, and under the table I might add!

Johnny H. Talking of which you certainly looked like geezers on the back of the debut album, that photo shoot fell straight out of Oliver or something, who came up with that look?

Keith: Well Gary had been the Artful Dodger in one of the stage productions of Oliver and back then we used to get a lot of our clothes second hand from the stalls in Brick Lane market as we didn't have a lot of money so it wasn't a planned look but more of an accident waiting to happen!

Danny: That's right! And then it became fashionable to dress all oxfamy like we used to out of necessity!!!

Johnny H. And what do you think set you guys apart from say The Hollywood Brats then and got you the big chances with Atlantic and then RAK?

Keith: I think we did have some good luck in the beginning but we worked really hard back then so it wasn't all luck. We used to play at a club called the Speakeasy in the beginning and it was a really hard audience to impress as it was mainly made up of well known musicians and people in the music business. I think that made us work that much harder and it toughened us up and when we started to play to the general public more a little later it became easier for us to capture the crowd and really go for it.

Johnny H. The bands sound was always hard to pigeonhole playing bruising rock n roll, reggae and heart breaking ballads, What was that like creatively for you guys?

Keith: We'd all played different types of music prior to coming together as a band. For instance Ronnie Thomas had played with Reggae/Blue-Beat artists like Jimmy Cliff and Millie Small and a lot of soul guys like the Temptations and the Fantastics as well as playing rock with bands like Leaf Hound and the Artwoods with Ronnie Wood's brother, so that's where he was coming from. Then Mickey Waller our guitarist had his own band the Mickey Finn back in the 60's, (who at one point Jimmy Page also played with) and they were playing a weird mixture of styles from Garage-Rock to Blue-Beat and Soul and so on so I guess all of these influences rubbed off on us.

Johnny H. Anvil Chorus saw you shorten the name to The Kids? Why?

Keith: Well as I remember Atlantic in the States got cold feet with our name as it supposedly had some negative connotations according to them. So they changed the name on the cover to The Kids but as far as we were concerned we were still the Heavy Metal Kids.

Johnny H. And then of course as part of the RAK days you got to record with the Simon Cowell of his day Mickie Most. What was that like? Having a character like Gary to deal with in that environment must have been "interesting".

Keith: Mickie and Gary did have a few barneys back then. They were both very head strong so were bound to clash. I personally got on well with Mickie although I didn't agree with all of his ideas. I must say though that he really believed in the band and and really wanted it to happen and I think if Gary had kept it together we would have stayed with Most for some time and gone on to bigger and better things. In fact we were working on a 4th album with Most when it all went wrong with Gary. It's a shame we never really spoke about things like that then and never tried to get any help for Gary. It's like I heard Nick Mason from the Floyd say recently about their problem with Syd Barrett. He said something like, 'Our way of dealing with it was not dealing with it'. I think we were the same and could have done something to help in hindsight.

Danny: sorry to butt in here, specially since those were non-Danny days, but I can't help thinking the comparison with Simon Cowell a little unkind to Mickie's memory, no offense! I mean…this is the man who produced "House of the Rising Sun"!

Johnny H. Around this time Danny you had left the band to join UFO? Surely that was out of the frying pan into a fucking furnace…(I'm hoping you are laughing at this point as well)

Danny : yeah, well…I much preferred the frying pan, quite frankly…I wouldn't have even thought about anyone else, if it hadn't been for politics in the band at that moment. Unfortunately, that's what happens when blokes (and blokettes, I imagine, though I've never been in a group with girls) work and play together for extended periods of time, under pressure of all kinds. I just watched this ultimate CREAM story dvd…need I say more? Compared to most, we got on like angels.

Johnny H . And Keith at the time of Kitsch what pressures (if any) were on you guys to get involved with the punk rock scene? I have to tell you that during a recent interview I did with Todd Youth (who is an icon on the US Hardcore punk scene) he was blown away when I mentioned I had you guys up next to interview, so you definitely made an impression on those guys, even if it wasn't intentional.

Keith: I don't know if we felt a pressure to get involved with the punk thing as we were kind of punks and we definitely influenced a lot of those guys like the Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, the Adverts and more. All those guys used to come to our gigs and it's well documented that they admired us.
Fact is Mick Jones from the Clash and Tony James from Generation X met for the first time at one of our gigs and formed their first band the London S.S. after seeing us.
I guess we were one of the few bands they could relate to at that time, around 74-76, when it was all flares, beards and lots of boring bands like ELP, Genesis and Yes.

Danny: Yeah, not to mention the more traditional hard rock dinosaurs such as Purple, Sabbath, etc.…I believe they blocked the way for us becoming massive, as we so obviously deserved. The eventual punk explosion that we seem to have motivated, finally blew up in their collective face, but was too late to help us.

Keith: The thing about the Kitsch album though was that it was recorded more than a year before it was released. I think we recorded it in early 76, but because of Gary being out of the band the album was put back and back. We planned to replace Gary's vocals with a new singer's vocals but it wasn't to be and when Gary eventually rejoined the band we finally put the album out. By that point the punk thing was happening big time and things had moved on and the album did seem a little out of place with what was happening right then.

Johnny H. Anyway, back on track what finally caused the HMK to split?

Keith: Really it was down to Gary. He'd become really hard to work with what with all his mood swings and substance abuse. As you know we sacked him at one point because of this. We then tried for months to find another singer but it was impossible to find someone to fit the bill as he was such a character. I mean there's only a few front men out there like that.
So after months and months of auditioning hundreds of singers Gary came back cap in hand and all humble like so we took him back. All was then OK for a while but before long he slipped back into his old ways and it all started to go down hill again. When it got too much I left the band as I couldn't handle it anymore.
Shortly after my leaving Ronnie Thomas our bass player quit and that was the end of the band at that point.

Johnny H. And then 25 years later you regroup, what was the "calling" that made this happen?

Keith: Danny had moved back to Europe after many years in New York and gave me a call and asked if I fancied playing on a record he was thinking of making. So I went to see him and just the two of us had a jam playing stuff like Booker T's Green Onions and what have you and it felt really good. We then started playing each other a few demos of songs we'd been writing and it became obvious that we were still close musically and that we could make a new Kids album if we wanted.

Danny : yes, it really felt good to play again together…and of course totally natural, like picking up a bicycle after many years…PLUS, of course, we both had gotten better over the years, it would be sad if we hadn't, eh?

Johnny H. So the new album "Uncontrollable" is due imminently, what are the plans to support this live?

Keith: No gigs set as yet but I would like to see us doing some dates in the UK and elsewhere. If any promoters are interested and want to put us on get in touch!

Johnny H. And just to finish off some quick fire questions to test your HMK memory. Did you really get kicked off the Kiss tour for laughing at old Gene's hair catching on fire?

Keith: That was partly the reason. Another was that we were blowing Kiss off the stage most nights. The fact is they were all show but as musicians weren't that hot back then. I think we had a great visual show without all the silly fireworks and we also played better than them which didn't well please them. Even though they resorted to dirty tricks like pulling the plugs on us, sometimes 2 or 3 times a night, we were still going down better than them.
Oh yeah and then there was the time they reckoned we impersonated them! Danny will remember this well. It was a hoot! We turned up at some Squalliday Inn down south, I think it was somewhere in Tennessee, and there were all these kids there with a car parked by the pool with a stereo blazing and loads of booze and stuff. So they invited us for a drink and we thought it was great and how nice of them to invite a little known English band to their party and what have you. It was then after a good while that the coin dropped that they in fact thought we were Kiss out of make-up and platform boots! This is despite the fact there were 5 of us in the band and we were English!
Meanwhile Kiss were at another Hotel but somehow heard about the incident and the next day they accused us of impersonating them and gatecrashing the party! They were serious about it as well and pissed off! I mean come on! Anyone else would see the funny side and laugh about it but not them. No sense of humour at all!

Danny: Hahahaha !!! yeah ! and the funniest part of it being that we hadn't really much heard of them at that point…we had to be told they did all this (attempted) fire-swallowing and other circus-type stuff. I never really seriously thought that those kids thought we were Kiss…just some stupid jealousy thing from those geezers…I later became best mates with Richie Ranno, the guitarist and leader of STARZ. They had the same manager as Kiss, so he knew them well, even playing on Ace's solo album and so on…he totally confirmed to me they never had ANY sense of humour…a humourless lot. How can ANYBODY take themselves seriously in this little joke of a world, eh? Never mind if your job involves dressing up like a cat every night, or a llama or wotever it was they were meant to look like...

Johnny H. Did Gary really turn down AC/DC?

Keith: I know Gary went to try out from them but the way I heard it from a few people was that they felt he was too strong a personality to fit in with them. I can see that. I mean it would be like putting Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury with them wouldn't it? It just wouldn't be AC/DC anymore would it?

Johnny H. What did some Uriah Heep stickers and Gary's eventual sacking have to do with you Keith?

Keith: Yes I'm guilty as charged!

Johnny H. What did you think of Garys Wayne character in Auf Weidersen Pet, was he really just playing himself?

Keith: I think that part was made for him as that's what he was really like. He was a real Jack the Lad.

Johnny H. What do you think of Mike Monroe's version of She's No Angel and Hanoi Rocks version of Delirious?

Keith: I think Mike's version of She's No Angel is really great and Hanoi's Delirious is pretty rockin' as well.

Keith/Danny, many many thanks for taking the time to talk with us, and I wish you all the best with "Uncontrollable" and plans in 2009.

Danny : Cheers, Johnny and all the best to all your readers!

Interviewed by Johnny H.

Visit the Heavy Metal Kids Website and their Myspace Page