We're All Living On Borrowed Time... Brian Tatler Speak Out.
Like so many bands from the early 80's of the N.W.O.B.H.M. such as Tygers of Pan Tang, Samson, Grim Reaper, Angel Witch, and Diamond Head also played a very important part of the scene just like the big guns that are still around today or most of them. Diamond Head are certainly influenced a lot of bands, mainly the U.S. thrash scene such as Metallica with their versions of 'Helpless' and 'Am I Evil' and also Megadeth with Dave contributing to a song on one on the later Diamond Head albums.
Formed back in 76 in Stourbridge (UK) in the west midlands the band set out to play their own songs, not to cover other peoples songs and soon discovered how to create their own music. It wasn't long before the band released their debut album after formation titled 'Lighting to the Nation' in 1980. This was just the beginning of what was to come in later years. Albums like 'Borrowed Time' the bands masterpiece soon followed by 'Canterbury' and many more. I managed to chat with founder member Brain Tatler to find out more about the band and their current new album. Here is what he had to say.
As this is the 1st interview I have done with you, I'd like to start from the beginning please, at what age did you learn to play guitar and was there any members of you're family who also played instruments?
"Well it all started out from trying to play the drums, it was really cardboard boxes at the start. I started to play the guitar when I was about 11, my old brother was a guitar player and he bought his 2nd guitar and the 1st one was just lying around the house so I started to try and play it at a young age. Once I heard Richie Blackmore doing 'Highway Star' I knew then that I had to learn how to play the guitar. I was self taught how to play the guitar, and my brother got me going. I have never met Richie, I would like to."
What was you're 1st guitar you had then?
"It was a cheap £14 guitar with a homemade body and neck that came from somewhere else, it had no name but it did the job. The 1st real guitar I bought was a Granson Les Paul copy for £39 and I had that for about a year. I later on bought a Fender Strat from my 1st job as an apprentice."
Was Diamond Head the 1st band you were in after leaving school?
"Yes it was, I formed the band with the drummer Duncan Scott in my bedroom and that was it. I never played in covers bands and we started to write our own songs & we use to record our sessions."
How many demos did the band record before the debut album?
"We did lots and lots of them, I think we had about 100 songs before the debut album came out and we learnt how to record and play the songs better."
How did the idea to release the debut album as a self released album?
"It was a company that we made up called 'Happy Face' records and the album was called 'Lightning to the Nation' in 80, and we sent it to the publishers and we use a friends studio for a dodgy publishing deal and we had 1000 copies we sold at gigs and mail order through Sounds Magazine. After this we wanted to get signed and in 81we signed to MCA for the 2nd album 'Borrowed Time' which came out in 82."
How did the deal with 'Borrowed Time' come about? Did 'The Friday Rock Show' have anything to do with the deal with MCA?
"Well Tommy Vance was a supporter and we went on the show and we did sessions, Tony Wilson produced our 1st single 'Call Me' and I think he did 'Waiting Too Long' as well. That might of been a good foot in the door, We had some great press which really helped us, people from Sound Magazine and they really raved about the band, so certainly helped us get the deal with MCA.
I think our problem was that we didn't have proper management and we came unstuck and I think we may of got signed quicker if we had somebody like Rod Smallwood."
I remember listening too the 'Friday Rock Show' and recording all the live sessions, and hearing you're Reading set, which I still have on tape. What do you remember of that show?
"Well when we heard it on the show we were blown away by how good it sounded. It was recorded in 82 and we could of been out of tune but we were not and I am glad it has been released on CD now."
Looking back at 'Borrowed Time' which songs stand out for you and why?
"Well I have to say that my all time favourite has to be 'Am I Evil', it is hard to write a song like that which is 7.40 minutes long which has some great riffs, lyrics and a great all around song. We got it write with that one."
Back in the day you used artist Rodney Matthews who worked with Magnum to do the art work, how do you see that cover now?
"Well he did a fantastic job, we were so happy with the end results. (Ed: Would you use him now?) I think it all boils down to cost these days."
After the release of that album you had some line up changes, firstly Colin Kimberley did most of the album but left the band and was replaced by Mervyn Goldworthy (FM), what happened?
"I think Colin left the band because it wasn't any more fun for him, we had to sack our drummer Duncan Scott as he wasn't getting the job done and was taking his time and it wasn't a nice time for the band. The album 'Canterbury' cost a lot more and it didn't sell as well as 'Borrow Time' did. After that album was released we got dropped by MCA in 84."
What did you do after the break up of the band?
"Well after the band broke up I signed on the dole, and then started working in a studio and we did local bands and I was the host engineer and I formed a band called 'Radio Moscow' and we did an EP and some gigs but we couldn't get a record deal. In 1990 a contact of ours who had helped the band out before called Pete but me back together with Sean and we got a publishing deal with Warner/ Chapel and we decided to record a new album titled 'Death in Progress' in 93 and we got to support Metallica at Milton Keynes bowl which was kind of like a launch pad but after that we band stopped again which is life."
What do you think of Metallica's versions of 'Helpless' and 'Am I Evil'?
"I think there great and it's kept us alive and kept me going. They wanted to do those songs, so they called me up and asked if they could do them, to which I said yes. The royalties that Metallica have given me has been great, means I didn't have to work for some time."
If Metallica came to you again and asked which songs they could do which ones would you like them to cover?
"I think the song 'Lightning to the Nation' or 'Streets of Gold', 'Or sucking my Love', which are all great riffs."
What made you want to reform the band?
"I just think it was the fact that I am a fan and I kept it alive and tried to protect the name and if there's an opportunity to do it again then I wanted to do it. The songs live on so it is great!!!"
Do you think that the fans in Europe and Japan might of helped you reform?
"Well we have only played Japan the once and we are not that big over there. We are not even that big in Germany either. The reason why we haven't played more than once in Japan is the fact that the promoters don't to pay us the money to fly out there."
How did you hook up with the members for the return album 'All will be Revealed'?
"Well that album also had Karl & Eddie had been in the band since 91, so it was just a case of getting it back together. We only needed a singer so we got Nick Tart, and we did an album with Sean and it just wasn't going anywhere with him."
Out of all the comeback albums which is our favourite and why?
"Well I like the new one, we did 2 with Nick and the new one with Rasmus and I am happy were the band are right now. I think Ras has brought a lot of energy into the bands music and new ideas."
As how do you see the bands music now as a progression?
"I don't think it's as much as a progression, its more just about finding out what was good about the band in the1st place and making the most of that. I do not want to compete with modern metal as it is so far away from when I started and I want to follow my heart. I think our music has progressed but song writing all I can do is start with a guitar riff and I have learnt the craft of song writing over the years and got better with it and I know what is good and not."
Ok moving on.. how did the record deal come about for the new album?
"Well we just made the record and we planned on doing it ourselves and sell them online& at gigs. This label Dissonance got in touch and we liked the deal and so we signed to them. They got into action and we got more press, some fantastic reviews for the record and some of the best reviews of my career and to be doing this now after 40yrs making a record that everybody seems to like is amazing. We tried to make the bets record we could."
How long is the deal for?
"It is for just one record and I think they want us to do another record too."
Where was the new album recorded? Also how long did it take to record?
"Well it was recorded in Walsall at a friends studio and we liked the studio and it was the right price so we recorded it there. We don't even have our own rehearsal studio, we pay £10 a hour. We record all together in a studio organically, but a while we didn't. We did at one point experiment with files over the internet but it really didn't work. It took about 25 days to record the album spread over for months. It took Ras a while to finish off some other jobs he had and to write the lyrics. So we did all the other instruments and had to wait to Ras, so me Abbs and myself did our solos for the record. It came together painlessly."
I am guessing the Ras writes all the lyrics then?
"Yes he does, and it is his 1st album for the band & I think he did a fantastic job. Abs, Eddie and Ras also threw some great ideas in to make this a great record."
So what's you're favourite songs on the new album?
"I like the songs 'Bones', 'All the reason you Live', both great songs with great vocals. I think so of the production could be been better on the album, and it was done fairly cheaply in a small room."
I am guess you have recorded a promo video for the album, which song and what's the concept?
"Yes we have and the song is called 'All the reasons you Live', it is just us in a tunnel what was used to test jet engines. It was recorded not far from Ipswich."
Is the album selling well so far? Who's the distribution for the album?
"Yes it's doing great!! We use Plastic Head in Europe and UK, and Spiritual Beast in Japan."
Do you think the timing is right for you to do a live DVD?
"Well we have talked about doing a documentary but not a live DVD. We did one in 2005 in London. (Ed: I guess there's a few thrash bands that are influenced by you, am I correct?) Yes well Megadeth are fans of ours, Dave did a solo on one of our previous albums."
Moving on how well is the tour going so far for the band?
"It's going good, we started in April 2016 and now it's October. We have played in Malta, Ibiza ,France, Spain, Ireland, Scotland. Some of the U.S. gigs were great but we have never been to South America."
Would you like to do a tour with bands like Tygers of Pan Tang, Anvil... like the new wave stuff?
"I don't mind, I have done with lots of bands like that. I would like to go on tour with Saxon, I think that would be a great tour."
Well Brian, thank you for doing the interview, anything to add before we finish?
"Yes thank to the fans for their support and for buying our records. Nice to meet you Jason."
Thanx to Brian and Mr. T for the interview.