Formed in the early 80's out of love for classic chorus-driven Heavy Rock music, they shockwaved the NWOBHM underground scene and embarked on a music exploration journey that led them across the Atlantic. However, doing business in the music world takes more than blood, sweat and tears, something the band had to learn the hard way. With mr. Paul Taylor (ELIXIR) behind the mic and a couple of new faces on the drums and bass, DESOLATION ANGELS are still alive and kicking. "King" marked the band's 3rd album and mr. Rob Brancher surely doesn't hold back when it comes to speak his mind...
Hello Gents! Let’s get straight to business: last summer you self-released “King” that also got a 2nd pressing via Dissonance Productions earlier this year. How are things going so far?
Well, this all depends on what you want out of a band?
Things for DESOLATION ANGELS are going well and looking very good for DESOLATION ANGELS from the outside looking in so to speak. But to me personally, from the inside looking out – LOL! I find things not so good – as it’s forever the uphill struggle and fight for recognition and payment for our creativity. [Payment] is bloody well none existent! We as a band, are great. We are all mates and get on with each other just fine. But in the real world [the music business world] behind the scenes is totally different. Let me give you just one small example.
With regard to our “King” output, you have to realise that this whole project was instigated and funded by DESOLATION ANGELS. We [the band] paid for that release to come into existence. To the tune of nine thousand pounds of our own money to be exact! And then we independently released “King” (blue cover version)… However, before we independently released “King”, we spent many months looking for a label to release it for us. But the contract deals just weren’t satisfactory enough. So we ended up putting it out there ourselves, only to have a few weeks go by before we were contacted by DP [Dissonance Production]. Thus we met with DP and decided to let them re-release “King” (red cover version) through their Back On Black label, and that decision to let DP re-release “King” came about chiefly because of their distribution network.
We wanted as much exposure as possible, and felt that a proper distribution network would help? Plus the deal that DP offered back then was leaps and bounds ahead of the competition! Believe me, it truly was!
What I’m getting at here, is that even with an organisation like Dissonance Production on our side, we [The band] will never see any of that nine grand back, ever! It’s a huge subject and conversation piece as to what’s fair for a band? I for one am glad as to what we have managed to achieve so far. But it’s all done off our own backs! – TBC! LOL!
Your previous full-length album was done in the 90’s, nearly thirty years ago and you released some demos/EPs in the meanwhile. How did you felt entering the studio for a new album after all these years?
“Whilst The Flame Still Burns” was recorded in Burbank Los Angeles California, around 1992/1993, and appears on the first CD of the “Feels Like Thunder” box-set. Dissonance Productions will probably give this album an official release at some point? In a remastered form, on all formats, and with its original cover (DESOLATION ANGELS’ discography).
Because we were recording with Chris [Tsangarides] the whole initial experience of re-entering a recording studio again after so many years was a very exciting one, but also a calm and professional one too. Chris knows how to handle his clients, and DESOLATION ANGELS are accustomed to working hard and making sure we are well rehearsed before entering the studio. Everybody knows what they are going to do, and that spreads confidence.
Chris Tsangarides was involved in the making of the album. How did you end up working with him and how was the overall experience? The man has left his mark for centuries to come, so there should have been some interesting/funny moments while working together, right?
We ended up working with Chris because John Wiggins of TOKYO BLADE introduced us to him. The overall experience was one of immense satisfaction. And yes, there were many a story told whilst we were recording with Chris. All sorts of stories and names, from JUDAS PRIEST, METALLICA, SLAYER, UFO, GARY MOORE, PHIL LYNOTT to name but a few. Believe me, Chris could tell a great story, and we did have a laugh, but Chris was also a very concerning man too, placid, spiritual if you like? And for me, he was a great inspiration!
Are you satisfied with the result? Would you change anything if given the chance?
Change things? WOW, no way! “King” is exactly how it was meant to be. Chris read our thoughts, and took on board our comments and thus expertly transmitted those instructions through his expertise to produce what you hear today. The man was nothing short of a genius! A legend, so much so, that we were in talks to go back and do the next album with him. But alas that wasn’t to be. RIP my friend.
Why was the Dissonance Productions version of the album cover printed in red? Is there a special meaning behind it or it’s just for marketing reasons (eg. a way to distinguish between the versions)?
The dead straight and upfront reason for this is that the owner of said record company didn’t like the blue version! So his art department took my original art and made it red. To be honest, it would have been red to start with, the only thing with that was that we had done a lot of covers and advertising before the independent release of “King” all in red, so I thought it might make a change to do something in a different colour. The blue cover carries a more cold, hard as steel detail, and comes across in a trippy way as if the visions are appearing via another source. The red cover comes across in a way that is more demonic, darker and devilish, as that colour bends towards being the more satanic of colourings!
How did you come up with the songs in the album? Was everything written from “scratch” or was there older material which was reworked? Who is/are responsible for the music and lyrics in “King”.
This is a cool question as it happens! Because the opening track on “King”, “Doomsday”, was written by Keith and myself before DESOLATION ANGELS had even come into existence. The pair of us had a band before DESOLATION ANGELS called BLACKWATER FEVER, and it was towards the end of this band’s life that we conceived the song. It wasn’t long before our next band, DESOLATION ANGELS came about, and “Doomsday” became the opening song for many of our live sets from then on. So that song is ****in OLD! But it does tickle me as to how well it stands up in today’s world of HEAVINESS and as to what people perceive as old and new! The other tracks came about pretty rapidly after we finished the “Sweeter The Meat” EP. Keith and I were pretty fired up after that session and wanted to get on with recording more songs as quickly as possible.
Chiefly, Keith and I are responsible for the writings of all of our recent material It does, however, go through a process of fine tuning if you like, when we present our ideas to the rest of the band. But on the whole, Keith and I are pretty much set as to what will be on a recording. So that is, we will arrive at a recording session with all the songs ready to go. This way of doing things works for us, ie, being prepared, so as we don’t waste time in the studio. That way everybody knows what’s coming.
In this album, you got Mr. Paul Taylor behind the mic. How did you end up working with him? Did you share the stage with ELIXIR back in the day?
I don’t think we did share the same stage with Paul back in the day? But yes, we knew of each other’s bands. I think the competition was pretty strong back then, and both bands played at the Ruskin Arms and a lot of other London venues too, so we kinda just got on with our own bands. It was only years later that Paul expressed an interest in joining DESOLATION ANGELS if the chance materialised? Luckily enough the chance DID come along, and we have all benefited from this!
Could you please introduce the band in its current form? There’re a couple of new faces among you.
Chris Takka – Drums. Interests: Metronomes, tattoos, and beard growth!
Clive Pearson – Bass Guitar. Interests: Females, bulging biceps, and forgetfulness!
Paul Taylor – Voice. Interests: Can drink a pint, MANY of them – Be warned! And snoring!
Keith Sharp – Guitars. Interests: Motorbikes of the classic kind, and life back in 1985!
Robin Brancher – Guitars. Interests: Digital art, technology, and is also very good at being DEAF!
You’ve been part of the NWOBHM scene during its prime time. Were things as good as they are remembered today, or do you think nostalgia plays a role in people glorifying the past?
It was a whole different scene back then. You have to factor in that mobile phones/cell phones, tablets, and speaking watches were things that you only saw in science fiction programs such as Lost In Space, Star Trek or Thunderbirds and their like. Also, back then, in the UK, you only had three music papers. Sounds, Melody Maker and New Musical Express, and on the radio you had Tommy Vance, and on the TV you had Whispering Bob Harris and the fantastic “Old Grey Whistle Test”. This was it, that’s all you had! But music fans back then knew exactly what was going on the length and breadth of the UK.
Today, however, and sadly, even with all this new technology, I don’t think on the whole the general rock music fan knows who’s playing where, and what bands are doing what? It’s become all very pigeonholed, fragmented and splintered. It would appear that there is too much of everything, but really nothing of anything.
For a band like DESOLATION ANGELS to really have some impact on the world stage today, and for the general public to become truly aware of DESOLATION ANGELS, it would need massive mainstream radio airplay worldwide, and that just ain’t gonna happen. All the big radio/tv conglomerates are all pay-to-play. So for bands like us, it becomes totally impossible and unaffordable, we are basically just shut out. Again its just control from these big industry types telling you what they want you to buy – There is no freedom of choice!
To be truthful we actually missed the NWOBHM tag. It was more bands like IRON MAIDEN, SAXON and SAMSON to name but a few that were there, we came along after that. Which takes us into this nostalgia territory… I like to think that my music is current, and has a purpose in the rock n roll world. I like to think that we add variety and that you the listener has a choice!
Any memorable moments/incidents from back in the day while playing gigs, recording etc in the UK? People were much more into Heavy Metal back then…
I don’t think there were more people into Heavy Metal back then, it’s like I said earlier, it’s just become more fragmented and underground, and I don’t think people realise just what’s on offer? Because (for the reasons I have already given) the general rock/metal music fan doesn’t get to hear bands like DESOLATION ANGELS, or anything from the new up and coming Heavy-Metalers! But I wouldn’t say there are more people into Heavy Metal back then than there are now,
Meeting and talking with Paul Samson will always be a highlight for me. Same with Bruce Dickinson, chatting with him back in the days before he joined IRON MAIDEN… Helping Lance Ulrich out of the Rainbow Bar & Grill one night when he had had too much to drink! – Er, yes that was in LA. Quite a lot happened in LA!
I believe you’re one of the few NWOBHM bands that decided to move and pursue a career overseas. What led you in making such a decision and move to LA?
How could we turn an offer like that down? We had to go! It’s a very, very long story, and you’d need a week or three to talk through the whole adventure. But at the end of the day, we wanted success, and what we thought was going to be success lay right there in LA, in Hollywood, so we got on the plane! And that my friends is Rock N Roll!
USA had (and still has) a metal scene that sounds completely different compared to the British/EU one. Do you think that moving to the USA affected your sound and identity as a band?
When we arrived in the States, we quickly realised how advanced everybody was in the music world. So we quickly turned from being an amateur, or semi-professional band back in the UK, to a full-on professional outfit in LA. You have to be on your toes out there, be slick, be awake, be aware, be on it, be on top of your game. Everything business wise moves at the speed of light, so if you aren’t on top of your game, you’ll get dumped and totally left behind and forgotten. Without any hesitation!
The way that all of this affected us, was for Keith and myself to become a lot better at what we were trying to do music wise. We had to listen and learn, listen and learn FAST, and lucky enough for us, we were around some great and talented musician and studio professionals to help do just that. So we changed, we progressed. Believe me, without this whole LA, USA adventure taking place KING wouldn’t sound the way it does. We have learned, we have come of age, we are now at this level.
How were things in LA and the States in general? Any regrets for making the transition?
Things there [in LA] were on a whole different and defiant level altogether – I personally do not have any regrets whatsoever. It was a life-changing experience, for the better. We LOVED IT and We RAAAAAAAAWWWKED!
Why did you return back to Europe in the early 90s?
After many years of – almost, but just quite not making it in the States… the tensions and frustrations finally got to us, and the band fell apart. The management called it a day, and our sponsors reeled in the cash flow. The band was exhausted, fed up and in away defeated. Sad to say that really, but there’s the truth. What more could we do? We could only come home . . . well, most of us did.
Being around for more than thirty years, what’s the biggest change you’ve experienced in the music industry?
There’s no change in the music industry. It’s still just as shit now as it was back then! I think I spoke on this earlier?
What would be your advice to younger musicians/bands?
Good God man, I have no idea?!
I think over the years I have come so far through a world of musical politics, (More commonly known to us as SHIT!) of what we should be doing, and what we shouldn’t be doing? Of becoming obsessive over a world that has expenditures coming in, and expenditures mostly going out, that I might have forgotten, or lost track of the original idea for forming a band in the first place?
As a guitarist, there is nothing better than performing your own musical creations, nothing better than making the guitar you are holding work for you, listening to the sounds in your head that demand release and then pulling them out with your fingers from your guitar’s fretboard.To make a crowd roar, to make a crowd head-bash, to make a crowd CHEER with HEAVY METAL FURY at the end of each song and then demand an encore.
These are some of the things that drive me on. With advice to younger bands coming through, it all depends on what you want from it? I’ve laid out my shop, I can only say that your reasons will be much the same and that I wish you every chance at success!
Favorite bands then and today? Are you interested in today’s metal scene?
Too many to mention, but here’s a little cross-section of my musical influences:
Alice In Chains
Mother Love Bone
Fields Of The Nephilim
Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Dallas, and Greg (Deja vu)
Faith No More
Today’s metal scene?
If they sound like IRON MAIDEN, LED ZEPPELIN or METALLICA, then I’m afraid I’m not interested. But anything with a good vibe to it, a groove, a chorus, a pounding HEAVY METAL rhythm, then I’m most definitely in!
After all these years, people still discover unreleased “gems” or demos from the 80s metal scene. As a matter of fact, there are a few labels dedicated to releasing only such material. Why do you think this is happening?
Money is the name of the game, fashion comes and goes, trends aren’t so trendy anymore, people get wise, people are getting wiser (Hopefully), supply and demand, the public must have more, more and more. Rock n Roll isn’t the root of all evil, as some twats once thought, it’s safe, it’s great fun, come on in a buy buy buy! Of which I did just the other day. Being a mega fan of Gilmour I managed to come across x2 vinyl of Pink Floyd live shows from 1973 and 1974!
Which are your plans for the future? Are there any gigs coming up?
We have just finished a heap of gigs for 2018, of which will continue on up until the end of 2018 – Check here for gig details, http://www.desolationangels.co.uk/tour/
We are starting to take booking for 2019 to, so if you would like us to play a venue near you? Then please do nag your local heavy rock venue and promoter!
Should we expect for a new record soon?
You should indeed, plans are afoot as we speak. More on that though as it evolves.
If there is anything you would like to say, even not related to heavy metal, now is the time to do.
Yeah, I’d just like to say BOLLOX! Because there’s a whole world of bollox going on out there. So don’t go getting court up in any old bollox. Be yourself and invent your own bollox!
That’s all on my end. Thank you so much for finding the time to go through and answer all these questions. I’ll leave the closing remark to you! Cheers!
He says with tongue-in-cheek!
Rock the hell out Metalheads!
Cheers and all the best,