Triarchy

Triarchy: Logo

Triarchy was, or better - is, one of these NWoBHM heroes that had to wait more than a decade to publish first ever full lenght album, and back then, in the early 80s were available only on the (already cult now) 7" format... I had the pleasure to talk with Mark Newbold, drummer of the cult heroes of the British Heavy Metal underground: Triarchy!

Hello Mark, how are you doing? Some time ago I heard the news about possible Triarchy reunion... How does it look now?

Hi Bart, I’m doing great, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring you up-to-date on the band with news of our forthcoming release, "Live to Fight Again" on High Roller Records, and the prospects of a Triarchy reunion. Brian Galibardy (guitar), Mike Wheeler (bass, keyboards, vocals) and I (drums) have kept in touch now for over 20 years, as we all lived in the same area and shared many of the same friends, and also for the past two years I have been meeting up with Graham Legg (guitar). The possibility of a reunion is often mentioned, but currently it would be rather difficult to arrange, due to work and family commitments and geographical locations. (Mike lives in Scotland, about 500 miles north of Brian, myself and Graham.) However, if there were enough feedback and interest generated from our fans and the media, regarding our new record, we might seriously think about reforming to arrange a couple of gigs, possibly next summer, which could then be recorded and released as a live album or, alternatively, arrange some studio time to re-record some of the earlier tracks we made as simple four-track demos. To be honest, I don’t think any of us at the time of recording either "Save the Khan" or "Metal Messiah" in the early 1980s thought that there would be any interest in the band or recordings over 20 years after the last line-up split up, and the idea that there are fans as far apart as Russia and the USA listening to our songs over two decades later is sort of "mind blowing". All of this has come about as a result of the Internet making communication between fans around the world possible and the advent of a new generation of teenagers interested in the NWoBHM who weren’t even born when our singles were recorded. "Save the Khan" is now a very much sought after record from the NWoBHM period, along with our second vinyl record "Metal Messiah" and our CD "Before Your Very Ears", and the new generation of NWoBHM devotees are eager to find copies to hear for themselves. Unfortunately, even with the help of the ever expanding Internet, we still haven’t found the remaining members from the other prominent Triarchy line-ups, who were Eddie Webb (guitar), Pete Moore (guitar), and Mark Annal (drums) who took over from me when I left the band. But with Mike, Graham, Brian and myself all very excited about the new interest in the band, with regards to a reunion, we should "never say never!"

Are you going to re-release some old stuff, or you would prefer to a record brand new release?

As I mentioned earlier, we are about to release a new vinyl album through High Roller records, which contains all the tracks but one ("Marionette") from the band’s 1995 CD "Before Your Very Ears" and, in addition, includes two unreleased recordings – "Wheel of Samsara" and "Rockchild". These songs are arguably two of the best tracks Mike wrote and we recorded. For various reasons, however, they were never released at the time. ("Rockchild" has a very interesting story behind it, which I’ll explain later.)

Did you know, that your perfect "Save The Khan" 7" single, is now one of the most valuable NWoBHM releases?

Yes, and we’re still amazed at what’s happened over the amount of time since we recorded it. We went from being a band who rehearsed in the front room of a band member’s parents house, to having our first single considered a collectors item almost 25 years later and which now sells for up to £100, and is sought after by heavy metal fans around the world. The idea behind the track was a book that I’d read and which really caught my imagination. Mike and I had been saving up to buy a transit van (essential for a band at the time) but decided to blow the lot on recording a 7" single. I wrote the lyrics and Mike came up with the music. The combination of Graham’s "buzzsaw" guitar and the originality of the Wasp synthesizer gave the track its very unique sound, and placed us far apart from all the entirely guitar orientated bands who were playing around at that time. The recording and pressing cost £600 for 1,000, copies, and Mike’s dad silk-screened a picture sleeve, which is now extremely rare and very hard to find. The track was given the seal of approval by one of the country’s leading Heavy Metal writers, Geoff Barton, when he chose it for his weekly playlist in the now defunct Sounds music paper in 1980. After that "Save the Khan" was assured its place in NWoBHM history.

How do you remember the first days of the band...? Were you one of the forming members?

My brother and I, knew Mike well, as not only did we attend the same primary school from age five, but our family homes were only about 150 metres apart. We were all into music from an early age and my brother and I sang in the local church choir and, whilst listening to Nazareth’s "Razamanaz", Bowie’s "Aladdin Sane" and Black Sabbath’s "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", usually over and over again, decided for fun to experiment with Mike’s Bontempi organ, some crude percussion and our father’s reel-to-reel tape recorder. The more we experimented, the more fun we had, and it just snowballed from there really, as Mike was given a semi-acoustic electric guitar for his 12th birthday in November 1972, and then a small 10 watt amplifier at Christmas. Mike would practice daily, teaching himself chords and simple musical structures in his parents’ front room, which directly overlooked our small town’s High Street. At this age we were mainly listening to so called progressive bands, including Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Black Sabbath, Rush and Kiss amongst others, rather than the pop bands of the day, who concentrated mainly on having hit singles. With our basic musical set-up, we became reasonably proficient, mainly due to practicing for hours on end in the evenings in the small room, with the occasional passer-by stopping and listening to our efforts. The first loose line-up was Martyn on our crude drums, me playing various keyboards and percussion and Mike playing guitar and doing some vocals. (Even with our vocal training in the choir, my brother and I weren’t particularly keen to sing.) Around the same time, there were a few other local bands who had formed at schools. They were musically more advanced than us, but, unlike us, they simply churned out cover versions of songs like Hawkwind's "Master of the Universe". We concentrated on writing original material. After a while Martyn lost interest, so I took over drums and we recruited various friends on piano and guitar and vocals, whilst trying our hand at various musical styles, usually to suit the latest new member. In truth we neither had the vast array of equipment nor the musical aptitude to write songs written in a progressive vein, but our composing and song writing conundrum was soon rectified by the explosive introduction of Punk and New Wave, which quickly made a huge impact on our lives in 1976. The leaders of this musical revolution told us (in no uncertain terms) that we didn’t need any lavish musical equipment or formal training to be musicians, and Mike started writing guitar orientated pop songs, often with a smattering of keyboards. The first real long-lived Triarchy line-up was Mike Wheeler (vocals/bass/keyboards), Derek Lomas (guitar), who we’d sort of poached from another local band, and myself on drums. We made a five or six track demo tape and played a few local gigs, including a Christmas party in the middle of July - we thought it would be a laugh.

How would you compare the recording session for the "Save The Khan" single, and its follow up, the "Metal Messiah" single?

Both recordings were very enjoyable, although hard work, but had different feels, given that they featured two different line-ups and musical styles. Firstly, "Save the Khan" was recorded with Mike, Graham and myself in Airport studios at the Elephant & Castle in London, and if I remember rightly went fairly smoothly, apart from a technical hitch in recording the Wasp synth solo, which Mike had played note perfect first time, but which had to be subsequently dropped in later as it hadn’t been recorded for some unknown reason. "Metal Messiah", "Sweet Alcohol" and "Hellhound on my Trail" were recorded at The Lodge studio in Hertfordshire, run by the musicians of The Enid, a prog-rock group of the era. Brian Galibardy had replaced Graham Legg on guitar and we went in with the intention of recording just "Metal Messiah" and "Sweet Alcohol" as a double-A side single. Before mixing down late in the afternoon, we had a spare hour, and it crossed our minds to literally throw down a track in the short time left. In just one take and with just one bum note, "Hellhound on my Trail" was recorded, to end the day with a bang, and an impressive tally of three tracks recorded, produced and mixed, in about 13hrs! Try getting some of the bands playing around today to try it! Incidentally, one amusing story concerns Mike who between the recording and mix down sessions in the evening, went out for a stroll amongst the countryside surrounding the studio to clear his mind. Unfortunately he stepped in some cow dung and proceeded to stink the studio out at the end of the day, whilst we mixed the master tapes down to their final versions.

Why did it take 2 years to record the next single? What were you guys doing during these 2 years?

Actually "Save the Khan" was recorded at the end of 1979 and the three track Metal Messiah EP recorded on 3 August 1980, after Graham Legg had left and Brian Galibardy rejoined the band. So the two singles were recorded less than a year apart. Bullet records, an independent, mail order record company, had offered ourselves and two other bands a single deal each but, after the other two bands jumped ship and signed for major labels, we were left on our own, and the deal was that if we paid for the recording time, they would pay for the pressing of the records, which we agreed to.

The NWoBHM movement was quite a good chance for classic metal / hard rock bands like Triarchy... What went wrong and why didn’t you guys make a full length album in the 80s?

With hindsight and, a little less naivety on our part, we should have had at least an album deal and the chance to tour and support some of the bigger named bands from the NWoBHM. However, with no manager to hawk around our single for a permanent deal, and living first hand the punk/new wave ethos of doing it yourself, we sort of assumed that the record companies would seek us out. However, even without a manager, "Save the Khan" made Geoff Barton’s Playlist in the Sounds music paper, was used as clue in the same paper’s crossword (so there must have been an expectation that people would know it!) and was being requested in Heavy Metal disco’s up and down the country without us ever playing further north than Milton Keynes. I have no doubt that a full-time manager would have seen the interest and potential of the band at this stage, and gone straight to the majors, which could have radically tipped the scales in our favour for proper commercial success. It is very easy to look back now after 25 years and see where we went wrong, or at least, how we could have engineered a longer and more successful musical career but, back in 1980, we were just happy to try and do it all ourselves. It would have been nice to have had a manager to book the rehearsal studios, hawk around demo tapes to the large recording companies, and get us a lengthy list of gigs covering all of the UK and Europe with proper promotion and publicity, but at the time we were happy to take control of our own destiny.

With no doubt you had very original style, your sound was much different than all the other NWoBHM bands. Who do you think, what was so special in Triarchy?

Basically, the musical tastes of Mike, Graham and myself were very varied, with Mike and I having been steeped in progressive music before 1976, and punk and new wave afterwards, whilst Graham was listening to Marc Bolan, Slade, Led Zep, XTC and the punk classics. Whilst we were very much a heavy rock band, our interest in punk and new wave influenced the structure, sounds and ideas for songs that would appear during our rehearsals and recordings. The synthesizers stemmed from our very early interest in Emerson Lake & Palmer and later, Ultravox. Also, another major contributory factor that kept us apart from our contemporaries, was in our song writing, as we steered well clear of the usual subjects of heavy metal bands, i.e. motorbikes, leather, the occult, sex, drugs (we made beer an exception - "Sweet Alcohol"!!) and all things leather. It wasn’t a predetermined idea to be different, it was just that we spent a lot of our time in between our own rehearsing and gigs going to watch numerous punk and new wave bands, which would have influenced us in our subject matter, the clothes we wore, our choice of musical sound and instruments, and attitude for the band.

You had a serious accident during your very first live show with Triarchy... What actually happened?

I always felt that as a live band you had to put on a visual, as well as musical show. Pyrotechnics were successfully used by bands such as Kiss, Queen and Rush, and I just felt that with a song like "Hiroshima", it would be our chance to create a real show-stopper. From the back cover of our CD "Before Your Very Ears", you can see one of the pyrotechnics that we used in all its powerful, visual splendour. Unfortunately, I had been kneeling over a similar device after I had already connected the wires up to a switch under my drum stool, and had forgotten that I’d turned it on earlier! All I can remember afterwards, was that I thought I’d been blinded, and that it had been an incredibly fast dash in Mike’s uncle’s van to hospital, where the nurse cut my tight jeans off, in order to give me a tetanus jab. The burns I received, weren’t too bad, and it wasn’t long before we were using pyrotechnics again - albeit with a lot more care when wiring them up! Incidentally, the band completed the gig using the support band’s drummer – the show must go on!

At the beginning you had a female vocalist in the band. Who was she, did you record anything together?

The first proper Triarchy line-up as I mentioned earlier was Mike (bass, vocals and keyboards), Derek Lomas (guitar) and myself on drums. We were playing a sort of up-tempo pop/rock and used to practice in Mike’s parents’ front room, where there would be any number of people watching, all squeezed in during the evening, sitting on the sideboard, window ledge, or any other available space (I think the record was 14). Mike and I had discussed the possibility of having a female lead vocalist, as it would suit the songs and, with the immediate impact a female vocalist would make (like Blondie), we decided to advertise and audition. Debbie, who I believe had come along and watched the band rehearse earlier, amongst those mentioned above, fancied a go, and so after a short audition, we gave her the job. She was younger than us, enthusiastic and good looking, but had had no vocal or musical training, and needed a lot more practice and rehearsing before we played the one and only gig with her at Mike’s secondary school, our set sandwiched between their Christmas disco. From the view I had situated at the back of the stage behind her, it was obvious what a draw she was, as all eyes in the audience were literally focussed on her. However, after more rehearsing, Mike and I felt that we needed someone with a stronger voice to really do the songs justice, and it was left to me to explain (as gently as possibly) that her services were no longer required. Shortly after this Derek left the band too, and Mike and I decided to embark on a heavy metal course rather than pop - and our journey towards being part of the NWoBHM was set in motion.

I know you played together with the great "Swedish NWoBHM band" named EF Band... How do you remember playing with them?

By the time Triarchy supported the EF Band at The Electric Ballroom in Essex in 1982, I had left the band and quit drumming, although I was still helping out whenever Triarchy gigged. The band now consisted of Mike (bass/vocals/keyboards), Eddie Webb (guitar), Pete "Tabby" Moore (guitar) and Mark Annal (drums), I assisted in arranging the lighting and as a general roadie etc. That particular evening the band played a great set of hard rock, including all the stage favourites like "Save the Khan" and "Metal Messiah", accompanied by a spectacular in-house light show, and two explosive pyrotechnics (the very same that I’d blown myself up with at the first official Triarchy gig!). After a rousing send-off with "Hiroshima", the band left the stage, only to quickly return to encore with AC/DC’s "Whole Lotta Rosie", which was always a big crowd pleaser. After a great ovation, the band left the stage again, and I helped pack up and remove the gear, ready for the EF Band to come on about half hour later. However, once the Swedish band got into their stride, and after their opening songs only produced a lukewarm response from the crowd, their lead singer announced to the audience – in a rather bad tempered and sulky way – that they didn't need pyrotechnics or to play AC/DC covers to get a good reaction. They were clearly upset at the fact that Triarchy had gone down better than them.

And did you hear their latest double CD and live album?

No I haven’t Bart, although I have looked over their website. Strangely, at the time that Triarchy were gigging and recording, we never really went to see many other NWoBHM bands play. I think Mike and/or I saw only Angelwitch, Iron Maiden, Praying Mantis, Diamond Head, and Vardis (who we supported) during this time. Together, we generally went and watched a lot of punk/new wave bands like The Clash, Stranglers and Radio Stars at venues like The Marquee and The Roundhouse in London, when we weren’t gigging ourselves.

Why did you leave the band? Did you play somewhere after Triarchy?

There came a point where I thought we had taken the band as far as it was going to go (doing all the organising ourselves) and, having spent many an evening in the back of a van, being driven around to gigs, along with Mike, Eddie and Pete, the fun and magic of playing in a band was starting to wear off. We knew of a really good local drummer (Mark Annal) who had been playing in a young band who covered Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy numbers, and I thought he would fit in well, and that we could have an almost seamless takeover as I left the band and he joined - which we did. As I mentioned earlier, I stayed in touch with Mike, and helped the band with their gigs, which was fun, as there was no personal disappointment if the musical set, or venue, let the band down. After I quit drumming, I took up photography as another creative outlet, and took the photo used on the back of Triarchy’s CD "Before Your Very Ears", showing Mike on stage at the Red Lion in Gravesend, just at the precise moment that one of the pyrotechnics went off during "Hiroshima". My father was a keen amateur and semi-professional photographer, so he taught me the art of printing in black & white and, how to visualise and capture landscapes, people and action etc. Later in 1983, I moved to Los Angeles after marrying my Californian penfriend in Hawaii, and studied Commercial and Architectural Photography at Pasadena City College. 10 of the images I made during the mid 1980s and early 1990s were used as downloads for the Sony PSP handheld games console and, rather pleasingly, these images which are 15 or more years old, have been downloaded over 13,000 times during 2006 by PSP users worldwide, to use as background or wallpaper for their portable Sony Playstations. Since then I have taken up writing and wrote most of the text for the band’s website.

You guys had bunch of great demo recordings after you left. What do you think about these songs?

We produced a demo-tape comprising approximately five songs, on a four-track studio in Balham with Derek Lomas around 1978, which were mainly pop/rock based songs, although it does include an early version of "Hiroshima". At least one copy of this demo still survives – Mike has it. The performances on this demo are very punk in feel. As well as recording and releasing "Save the Khan" and "Juliet’s Tomb" with Graham Legg, we also produced an earlier demo tape comprising "Play to Win" and "Wheel of Samsara". The latter track showed a tremendous amount of creativity and pushed Mike’s songwriting, both musically and lyrically, to a level far higher than had previously been reached by earlier Triarchy line-ups. Fortunately, this previously un-released track will be available on our new release. In 1980 Graham had some friends who ran a pirate radio station called Radio Free London which they broadcast, using a portable transmitter and mast, from a forest in South East London. These guys played the Play to Win/Samsara demo on air. In between Brian Galibardy finally leaving the band and before Pete "Tabby" Moore and Eddie Webb had joined, Mike and I had found an excellent guitarist named Justin (we can’t remember his surname now, I’m afraid) who joined and played with us, albeit for a brief period of time. Around this time we were approached by a local entrepreneur (for want of a better term). He had produced a compilation called Kent Rocks which included one song each from about 10 local bands and had been distributed throughout the UK. When he approached us he was putting together Kent Rocks 2. The idea of a sort of showcase album appealed immensely, since with no record deal or offers on the horizon and the interest in Metal Messiah on the wane, we decided that with a new guitarist and great tune, "Rockchild", (a high octane burst of hard rock) would kick-start the band’s fortunes. Unfortunately, instead of a kick-start, we were given more like a kick up the arse, with Justin disappearing shortly after recording the track on 16 June 1981, and the so called entrepreneur legging it out of the country, with all the contributing bands’ master tapes. This double set back was compounded by not only being left with just cassette copies of this great track, but also having the ordeal and hassle of finding and recruiting another guitarist, although by this time, and with possibly "Rockchild" in mind, we decided to take on two members to fill the guitar void. In 2001, from the cassette copy I had of the song, which was suffering from age, being practically 25 years old, I got a recording studio to overdub a live audience to hide some of the wow and flutter that was noticeable. However, after all the misfortune the track has endured, as luck would have it, Mike’s copy of "Rockchild" was good enough to be included on our new record, and poor Justin will never get the recognition he deserves for some ace rhythm and solo work, as basically, we didn’t know who he was then or where he is now.

You had a limited CD album "Before Your Very Ears" on Vinyl Tap Records. When exactly it was published, and how did it all happen?

After the band had split up in 1982 and Pete, Eddie and Mark Annal had gone their separate ways, Mike started playing with Paul Gunn (drums, ex-Squeeze) and Mark Dawson (guitar), Mark, who had played with the NWoBHM band Legend, fortunately owned and ran a recording studio (Golddust, which is still going). Mike, Paul and Mark worked tirelessly on a small number of tracks, including "Ghost of an Emotion", "Before your very Eyes" and "Marionette". 12 years later, after Mike had been in 2 other bands (The Verse and Night at the Opera), had attended university, and had embarked on his present academic career, Mark Dawson was doing some work with a company called Vinyl Tap records. At the time Vinyl Tap was branching out from selling (among other things) NWoBHM classics to releasing material by NWoBHM bands. They asked how many recordings there were available from the Triarchy vaults. In addition to the five tracks taken from the singles, and the three Dawson-Gunn-Wheeler tracks mentioned above that now came under the Triarchy umbrella, it was suggested that the band record one new song to bring the total up to nine. Mike was still in contact with me (I’d moved back from LA in 1988) and Brian Galibardy, so we got together and chose to record the old stage favourite "Hiroshima". We entered Mark Dawson’s studio to record the song in 1995 and the CD was released the same year, with my cover design and photographs. Now, over 10 years later, the initial Vinyl Tap run of "Before Your Very Ears" has sold out, although copies can occasionally be found in the various specialist record shops or over the Internet, on sites such as www.gemm.com and www.eBay.co.uk. Over the last 10 years I have discovered copies being sold by fans from as far apart as Russia and the United States, which I and the other band members found truly awesome.

Mentioned CD is currently quite rare. Are you perhaps planning to re-release it?

We haven’t heard from Vinyl Tap records since about 1996 and I believe the company now concentrates on selling rare singles and albums by old bands, rather than producing new CDs themselves. I assume that if they were going to re-release it, they would have been in contact with us by now. However, anyone who would like to listen to our old tracks and cannot find copies of "Save the Khan", "Metal Messiah" or "Before Your Very Ears" over the internet, (often at very high collectible prices), can now hear all the tracks from that CD (less "Marionette") along with "Rockchild" and "Wheel of Samsara" on "Live to Fight Again".

Some time ago you released a CDR single titled "Rockchild (Live)". Where did you record it? Were you using it as a demo, or did you distribute some copies?

As mentioned above, "Rockchild" was recorded with the aforementioned surname-less Justin on guitar, in a small 8-track studio in Orpington on 16 June 1981, with the intention that it would be included on the fateful Kent Rocks 2 compilation album. My copy of "Rockchild" had deteriorated, since it was recorded almost 25 years ago, so in 2001, and as I loved the track, I thought I’d get a studio to copy it on to CD (for longevity) and add a live audience, to mask some of the wow and flutter that the cassette suffered from. This was only given to a handful of close friends, and has never been released publicly in any form... until now.

Are you still into hard rock / metal music? What were the last albums you listened to? What are your current favourites?

My first heavy metal experience was way back in 1976, when I went to see Judas Priest in London, and whilst standing fairly close to the stage, at the end of their encore, managed to finish the evening with a sleeve from Rob Halford's shirt, after he had thrown it into the crowd, and I and three other guys had leapt up, caught it, and ripped it to pieces! I am still very much into hard rock and metal, but more of what you might call the old school i.e. Judas Priest, Van Halen, Kiss, Starz, Journey, Angel, Blackfoot, Rush, Ted Nugent, AC/DC early Ozzy Osbourne and British bands, like Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull as well as Ultravox, Japan, ELP, Terrovision, Buckcherry, Feeder, Muse, Garbage, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and The Killers, to name but a few. I have a ticket to see Journey in March, 2007 and am looking forward to seeing a gig from the Heaven & Hell tour featuring Butler, Ward and Iommi from Black Sabbath and Ronnie James Dio on vocals - which should be brilliant. Lately, I been listening to the Hellacopters, the Killers and Starz. Give me a great, loud, guitar riff to air guitar to, and I’m usually very happy.

What are the next plans for Triarchy?

Our immediate plans are to focus on our new record, which we are all very excited about, and we are looking forward to seeing the reaction that the media give it and the interest it receives. I know that there will be many fans (old and new) interested in hearing the two un-released tracks, "Rockchild" and "Wheel of Samsara" in countries as far apart as the US, Russia, Japan, Poland, Germany and the rest of Europe. For the future, alongside such events as The British Steel Festival organised by Dragonight, my idea of a great All-Dayer would be to hold a huge NWoBHM festival in London at somewhere like The Town & Country Club, with about 10 or so bands from the NWoBHM period, to reform and play a set each. What a show Triarchy, Saxon, Girlschool, Praying Mantis, Tygers of Tang Pang, Vardis, Diamond Head and a few others could put on!

Thank you for a great talk, Mark!

Interview done by Bart Gabriel in 2007.