Welcome To The Metal City.. John Gallagher Speaks Out.

Greetings metal heads, welcome to the Metal City, the mighty Raven return with their stunning new album 'Metal City', which was released in September 2020 through SPV. This is without doubt their best work for some time, a powerful album that really does pack a punch.

I recent had a chat with front man John Gallagher to talk about the past, the new album and the future for the band. This band are one of the pioneer bands that pretty much influenced the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and many more band that look up to bands like Raven. Here is what John had to say to the following question, so sit back crank up the album and read on... It's going be one hell of a ride.

OK John I’d like to start by asking you the following question, out of the 1st 3 albums Raven ever recorded which are all cult classic, which is you’re favourite and why? Also what memories do you have of the recording for those albums?

“That’s a tough question, you are asking me to choose which is my favourite child. I would have to say the new album (laughing). Let’s just go with the 1st one for now, because it was our 1st album and it is a big mild stone for the band and we had learnt from doing the single in the studio and the recording was stretched over almost a year.

We came in for the odd session here and there and do a song or 2 but if you knew the order that the songs were recorded you can hear the band changing from song to song. That was very interesting, so you will hear the 1st songs that were recorded 1st and then songs like ‘Nobodies Hero’ and maybe ‘Hard Ride’ or ‘Hell Patrol’.

Then you hear the last 2 songs, which were the ‘Hell Raiser’ action melody. You can also hear robs playing is a lot looser and going a little crazier and by then I am playing 8 string on those 2 songs and I can hear the difference.”

How successful was the tours for the 1st 3 albums?

“They were very successful for us as we didn’t do much before the albums were released touring wise. The album ‘Rock until you Drop’ was the 1st independent Heavy Metal album. Neat had done a few singles before we recorded our 1st album and I believe Tygers of Pan Tang & Fist were before us and I think ours was number 6 release.

There were 3 pop releases before our album came out and I think we beat a lot of bands, so between that and the 1st single it got us to do a lot of touring and got us to play outside the country for the 1st time. We played in Italy, Holland quite a lot and we were headling those shows.

We had just released ‘We Don’t Need You’re Money’ as a single and John Peel played the single on Radio 1. John only played new music, he rarely played anything old and Ozzy heard the single and said he wanted us to support him on the 1st 4 shows for the ‘Blizzard of Oz’ tour.

When our 1st album came out we filled in for Gary Moore because his band broke up so we got the support slot on the Whitesnake tour for 2 shows which I think where Sheffield and Leicester I think.”

OK John let’s move on, I noticed that you did some session work on the latest Annihilator album, did you play bass and some vocals?

“Well I was talking to Jeff and he told me to stop by at the studio as he was recording the new album. I said you could use me for some crazy bass solos and vocals on the new record. He said he wanted some backing vocals on the record, which I agreed to do.

So a girl called Cat & myself did some vocals, she has more of a rougher voice, so we did backing vocals on the whole album which was a hell of a lot of fun. We did the vocals in 1 day, I did a couple of crazy screams for Jeff.

I also did some bass work for Jacky Lee Man new single, Saxon’s soundman and it was a really fun song to record. I am doing some work for a guy who is doing a Budgie tribute record, I am trying to re-arrange it and turn it inside out which is kind of a strange 70’s Prog Rock with heavy keyboards and that was fun to record.”

Well the last interview we did John was at ‘Headbangers Open Air’ in 2018, I guess that was for the ‘Extermination’ tour? How well did that tour go for you as Mike had only just joined the band .

“Yes we just got Mike on board and we where doing a bunch of festivals and some gigs in-between and that was a frantic 6 months of touring between June & December we did something like 150 dates. Headbangers Open air is a lot of fun to play, it’s definitely a hardcore old school crowd that’s for sure.

How successful was the 2018 European/ Scandinavian and UK for you? I had a lot of good memories from that tour and I can’t thank you enough John for taking me on that tour.

“It was a great tour, a lot of good memories sharing the stage with Saxon was awesome. We sold a lot of merchandise too.”

OK John, let’s now talk about the new album ‘Metal City’ I guess the title comes from Newcastle, could I be right in saying so? Was that the only title you had for this album?

”Yes you could say that, but you could take it 2 ways if you think about it. It’s like when metal heads get together it becomes a community, so we make our own little metal city and we alluded that with a fake city on the back on the album cover with different buildings from all over the world. So when we play metal together we have our own community and our own little world right there.

Talking about the songs, we talk about Newcastle its Metal City because we come from there (laughing). When we did the video for ‘Metal City’ we mentioned The Animals, The Shadows, and there’s Sting and may more mentioned, even The Pet Shop Boys and prefab sprout.

I think there’s something in the water here that has a lot of music coming out of the North East area. It was fun to do a song about it and shoot a video around here for that song. As for the any other titles for the album we knew that ‘Metal City’ was going to be a song title for the album, and we were certainly messing around with the artwork for the album at that time. When we got an artist involved we went through artists like tissue paper until we could find a guy who would listen and knew what we wanted.

In the end we had 2 guys who did the artwork for the album, and they did an awesome job, I only knew one of them his name is Alan Robertson, the other guy I can’t remember his name.”

Have you seen any of Alan’s previous work in order to work with him?

“I think Mike had seen something and decided to try him. He asked him if he would be interested in working with Raven and so he did a few sketches and they turned out really good, so we decided to go with him.

When we came up for the Thank you list on the album we decided to do it like a page from a Marvel/ DC Comic and I actually did a lot of sketches on that like the x ray specs guy and the drum and headset and broken guitar and things like that I did.”

When we toured back in 2018 you played me some songs from the album, I am guessing they were rough mixes. So when was that album actually recorded?

“Well we started it in 2017 when Mike did his drum tracks. We did the actual recordings for the bass and guitars and vocals in about April/ May of 2018 and we did some board mixes, which you heard on tour. We later on did a mix which we didn’t like with a bunch of other people which we auditioned and we finally got a guy we liked called Zeuss who had worked with Sanctuary, Queensryche and he did an awesome job.

The production has that old school feel to it and a 21st century production and I will put it up against anything. It was something that the album needed, it was all in there and he was the guy who just brought it out on the table sort of speak.

We produced the album ourselves with the engineering done by Michael Wagner for the guitar, bass and vocals and Zuess did the mix. We technically produced it ourselves and we haven’t used a producer in 34 yrs, last producer we used was Eddie Kramer on the ‘Pack is Back’ album in 86. At this point we know what we want and as long as we work with the right people we can get it to where it’s suppose to be. This album is so much better all around.”

Will you be working with Zuess and Mike again for the next album?

“Who knows? There is a fine art to this type of work and Zuess provided the perfect mix, very little work was sent back and forth and there is a fine art in this type of work, it is an art form. You will get will mix and put the levels up and you can’t do that, it has to breath like if you want to hear a guitar solo or a drum fill or bass fill they need to be heard.

If everybody is playing complicated parts it then becomes difficult and it’s louder than anything else and it’s a real art form not to get carried away with what you are doing.”

Are the songs written as a team effort?

“Yes it is a team effort, I wrote a lot of the songs for this album and Mark did too. We had all of the songs wrote even before Mike joined the band and we wrote 1 song with Mike which is the extra track on the Japanese version called ‘Rock this Town’. Mike technically didn’t write the songs but his input with some of the arrangements and just his performance really did change things and elevated it again to another level.

He would do things and we would change things to match what he was doing and his input really did point us in the right direction to where we wanted to go and it made all the difference.”

What are the songs about in you’re mind?

“Well the song ‘The Power’ is about the music business with backstabbing and stuff like that. It’s me also taking the piss out of ‘Game of Thrones’, were people are backstabbing and killing each other to be the top dog. So next came ‘Top of the Mountain’, is a song that I have had for a while and I couldn’t get it done until a while ago when I found the chorus that worked with the song. It’s about grafting, hard work.

Next is the song ‘Human Race’ which is about the race to the bottom with our planet at the moment. Use everything up and destroy it and the guitar riffs are vicious and it’s probably the most aggressive song we have done. Mark 1st came up with the guitar riffs and I was like ‘How the Hell can I follow that?’ I figured it out slowly and I played something similar that had counter points and then I tried to figure out how he was playing it somewhere else. (Laughing) That is what is good about us two, we challenger each other.

I got my own back on him with the song ‘Cybertron’ which is a very crazy and difficult song to play. He looked at me and said ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I showed him how the riffs went and it turned out great in the end.

Next we have ‘Motorheadin’ which sound a little bit like Motorhead I guess, so we decided to do a tribute and I tried a few lyrical ideas and in the end we did it in spirit and do a biker song. It’s about a guy trying to break speed limits to get to see his girlfriend. Mike had the perfect intro for that song, so it was ‘Over Kill’ and we came in with sparks flying and it was a lot of fun to record.

We then have ‘Not so Easy’ which is on 2 levels, it’s about politics and it’s also about gambling. That song is a real rock & roller tradition back to ‘don’t need you’re money’, some of the songs are dark and this one is defiantly up song.

A very dark song called ‘Break’, and that is a sound track for what is going on in the world at the moment follows this. It’s a song about somebody who has just had enough and just wants to tare it and break it down and start over. Last song is ‘When worlds Collide’ it’s a big epic, I came up with the main riff that sounded like it was in a movie and the more I added to it the more it sounded like it was the end of the world.

I came up with a very strong and melodic chorus, which has a lot going on with the guitar and bass going down and vocals staying up and it is structured all over the place. It’s a more mid tempo song but yet very powerful and heavy. The intro to this song is just me playing with me pedal board and touching the guitar lead making noises and it sounds great…something from outer space.

We wanted 10 songs, we didn’t want it to be a long album where it would bore people to death. We wanted to hit them hard and let them get their arms around it and when it is finished you want to listen too it again.”

The video to the song ‘Metal City’ was recorded in Newcastle? Did Mark and Mike record their parts back home?

“Yeah I think Mark was out on the beach in Florida, and Mike was in his studio playing along and considering we are all over the place I think it linked really well. It was by pure chance that I knew a video guy who just came down to see me and we spent a day shooting around Newcastle and I did some test shots a week or 2 before the video was shot.

A lot of that is background stuff that is laired just around the city and it came out great. We got a killer shot of ‘The Angel of The North’, we also have the bridge. Some of the video was shot where I use to live, and as we were shooting it some guy came out and asked what we were doing. I told him I use to live here and I was making a rock video, it was kind of funny and a lot of fun to do.”

Ok moving on, do you think with the release of the new album and the tour will happen in 2021 you will be making a new live DVD?

“Yes we would like to record a live DVD, I think if we did one it would be done in Japan because we have a lot of control over there with the recording. If we play Japan we know we are headlining and its good venues and we have people who are technical and can take care of that sort of stuff.

You can also do 2-3 shows in the same venue so if you need to change a song or re do it you have the chance to do it correctly at the same venue.

At the moment I’m trying to get the rights to the early albums and hopefully we will put them out properly in a box set form with extra condense. (Ed: Have these albums been released unofficially?) They have been licensed officially but I get sick of see in ‘Rock Until You Drop’ for the 5th time and there is nothing new added to it or different. If we get the rights then we will make the money and we will do it right. We will do it like Metallica did, with the box set and it will be an awesome package for the die hard fans.”

Have you ever thought of doing what Saxon did when they re-recorded the classic songs with today’s technology?

“Well we may do that, but it might not be an official type of thing and it could be done as an additional disc, something like ‘Rock Until you Drop’ box set or something we could sell on a tour.”

Ok John moving on now, let’s talk about tours, where’s the worse placing you have played?

“Well I remember playing about 10 –15 yrs ago in the south of Germany and it looked like a bomb shelter that we just had to laugh but touching wood we don’t run into that sort of venues anymore.”

Well John thanks for the interview, keep safe and I’ll speak to you soon. In the meantime do you have anything to say too the readers?

”Yeah thank you for you’re support we appreciate it and this new album is the best album we have put out so far, we are very happy with the way it turned out and I hope the fans will enjoy it as much as we did recording it.”

Thank's to John & Roland @ Work Hard for the interview and set up.