Urban- I find it quite amazing that you've managed to unite "The Son Of Odin" line-up again to record "Mindcreeper". Any major ego clashes or difficulties while recording the album?
Phil Denton: It wasn’t difficult to unite all the guys, it was fate really. We all met for the first time in thirteen years at Norman’s birthday party. He was having a big party in a pub with live bands. We all got up and played ‘Treachery’ together and the years just seemed to roll back. We enjoyed the evening, we were always very close in the old days, almost like brothers, and it was great to catch up with the guys and to play something together again. That would have been the end of the story, but Manos Koufakis from the Cult Metal Classics label contacted me a few weeks later asking if they could re-release ‘The Son of Odin’ album. They pressed 1000 copies and it sold out in a month, so they asked us to go over and headline the Heavy Metal Assault Festival in Athens. I asked the rest of the boys, and after feeling the spotlight on their faces again at Norms’ party, they were all keen to get back together and start rocking again!. We all said the same thing, that we would only get back together if it was the original five of us, and so that was it. We played a warm-up gig in a pub in London, then went to Athens.
We then recorded all the songs that we had written but had never had the opportunity to release back in the 80’s for an album (The Idol). We were then invited to play a festival in Germany, and since then we have played in Holland, Germany again, Sweden and recently, New York. We felt that it wouldn’t be a proper reunion though, until we had written and recorded an album of brand new songs. Last year we recorded that album, ‘Mindcreeper’, and it was released on our new label Majestic Rock in June this year. There were no difficulties recording the album, it was probably the easiest album we have made, because we all know what we are doing these days. We have been back together since 2001 now, we are all the best of friends, and a pretty down-to-earth bunch, so there are no ego clashes or anything like that. We are just enjoying everything that we do second time around.
U- What kind of compromise(s) were you prepared to make in the studio?
Phil: Only the usual budget restrictions! We had to pay for the recording of the album ourselves, as we had no label behind us then. We wanted to produce the album ourselves, and found a great studio that was prepared to let us pay for the recording bit by bit as we went along. I am really pleased with the way it has turned out. Everyone’s playing was back to top form, we had the time to add our usual production pieces, such as the subtle keyboard layers, and I think that ‘Mindcreeper’ is the best sounding album that we have made so far. Of course, it doesn’t sound as polished as a top album with a big budget, it sounds raw, and more importantly, it sounds like us.
U- Do you believe old Elixir fans will still find something familiar about Mindcreeper? Any real difference in style and material since the 80's?
Phil: The first comments from our old fans has been very favourable. We discussed things long and hard, and decided to write and record the songs just as if we were back in the 80’s. I remember talking to the audience after our first comeback gig in the pub in London, and they said that we are an 80’s band, that’s what we do, and that’s what the new songs should sound like. I was mindful that the reviewers would say that we haven’t moved on musically from the 80’s, and we have tried to freshen things up a bit, but on the whole, this album is for the people who loved ‘The Son of Odin’, and we have changed very little of the formula that made that record so successful. The harmonies are still there, the great vocals, the thunderous rhythm section and the blistering lead guitar solos. It has “80’s British Metal Band” written all over it, and our old fans will love it, maybe the critics won’t!!
U- Why shouldn't we trust the preacher? (opening track on Mindcreeper: Don't Trust The Preacher). Any personal bad experiences with the man in black? or merely just a historical point of view?
Phil: Ha Ha! Don’t get me started on religion! That song came about when we re-arranged several of Norm’s guitar riffs and I came up with the hook line of ‘Don’t Trust The Preacher’. It got my imagination going, and I wrote a set of lyrics about a sleepy English Country village, and how they were all into worshipping ‘false gods’ and sacrificing people. A bit like the setting for ‘The Wicker Man’, the classic film, (except that was on a remote Scottish Isle). In my lyrics, although the village church seemed normal at first, it was being used for evil deeds. As it turned out, Paul had taken my preacher line and written his own lyrics too. So we ended up with two sets of lyrics, he preferred his, and as he is the singer, I figured he would sing his own with more conviction, and so I graciously withdrew mine! So we used his on the album, but I would quite like to record the song with my lyrics as an alternative version one day! Like Guns ‘N’ Roses did with ‘Don’t You Cry’.
U- Then what the heck is "Athenian Glory" all about really? You all got very drunk on a dodgy tourist trip to Athens/Greece? ;-)
Phil: Something like that! When we went to Athens it was our first festival performance and the crowd was amazing. They love their metal out there, and they were all down the front, fists in the air, singing the words to every song. We had a few days to see the sights, get drunk and generally have a great time and take in the atmosphere, the sense of history and the culture. We affectionately wrote that song for all the great Metal Heads of Greece, who, rightly so, are very proud of their country and their history. I hope we get the opportunity to go back to Greece, and if we do, I would like to open the show with that song!
U- Are you overall satisfied with the new CD and your record label?
Phil: Yes, I am very happy with the new album, and the new label has great distribution throughout the World, so it now means our albums, the new one and the back catalogue, should be a lot easier to find. They are also available through Play.com and Amazon, as well as through our online shop at our website www.coldtown.com/elixir We were also looking for a label that could help us to promote the band, as it is one thing getting the album out, and another letting the people know about it. We are also hoping that they will have the clout to get us a decent support slot or two. It’s early days, and Majestic are unproven in that area at the moment, but I hope they will help us on the promotional side of things for the good of us, and through album sales, themselves, in the long term.
U- Did you all know of Geoff Gillespie since his NWOBHM days in London?
Phil: I’m afraid I didn’t. We just looked at Majestic Rock as a prospective suitable label for us, and we approached them for a deal. It wasn’t until later that I found out about Geoff’s past.
U- What happened in all those years when Elixir was on the back-burner?
Phil: We were all doing our own things. I was bringing up two young sons, and playing pub gigs in the evenings with a covers band just for fun. Paul had two young kids too, and keeping his hand in with his music. Norm’s was playing in a professional party band touring all around the World. Nigel was playing drums with, amongst others, a T-Rex tribute band and a female-fronted pop band with a record deal, and Kev put away his bass and didn’t play for years.
U- "The Son Of Odin" has been voted one of the top-20 NWOBHM albums. I must however disappoint you with saying that "Sovereign Remedy" is my fave album. Would that be a perfect example of bad taste? Are you at all pleased with the album?
Phil: Everyone has different tastes, and if you prefer that one, then that’s great. I have heard a lot of people saying that ‘The Idol’ is the best album that we have made, so one thing I have learned is, you never can quite tell what people are going to prefer! I am pleased with ‘Sovereign Remedy’ now that it is available as it should be. I hated the awful ‘Lethal Potion’ release, but ‘Sovereign Remedy’ is much better now that it is back to it’s full glory! It was a bit of an experimental album for us. After ‘The Son of Odin’ we wanted to try some different things. Songs like ‘She’s Got It’ was something we had never done before.
U- Looking back, how could you agree to a label releasing "Sovereign Remedy" as "Lethal Potion", with merely ten of the tracks and half of the instrumentation missing?
Phil: Ahh, that was the problem, I didn’t agree. I left in 1989, a year after trying to get a record deal for ‘Sovereign Remedy’. When no labels appeared interested, I quit, as my first son was about to be born, and I felt that, without a label to release our second album, there was nowhere else for us to go as a band. A year after I left, Paul said that a label called Sonic was interested in releasing the album. I naturally expected it to be the same as how we had mastered it. When he brought me a finished copy, I was surprised to find that they had changed the title to ‘Lethal Potion’, I didn’t like the cover artwork, and was disappointed to see that our proper logo wasn’t used on the front. I then realised that some of the tracks were missing, and when I heard it, I was really disappointed that they had remixed it and left off half of the instrumentation. The track running order had been switched around too, and I was really disappointed with the whole package. It goes to show how much of a mess a label can make if you are not there to keep an eye on them! We never received a penny from them either for that release, so I just look at it as a bad bootleg release.
U- So... how come you decided to name your first album "The Son Of Odin"? You're not Swedish, Scandinavians, or especially Viking-ish??? Or?
Phil: No we are not Vikings, but if we had written a song about what we do for a living, it would have been boring!! The title track is one song that is on an album that tells a collection of stories. ‘The Star of Beshaan’ is about a cursed diamond and the greed of mankind, ‘Pandora’s Box’ is about the old fable of how mankind’s curiosity opened the box that released all the evils in the World. ‘Treachery’ tells the story of betrayal in Middle Ages Britain, and ‘Son of Odin’ is just a tale of the Norse God. All the songs tell a story, but we just decided that we liked ‘The Son of Odin’ as the title for the album. Paul and a friend of his, put the cover artwork together, and it captures the whole feeling of the song and the line from it, “When the eagle leaves the nest, that’s the sign that he is on his way”.
U- Does it ever feel like the whole NWOBHM scene is something of a cliché, with so many different types of bands hanging their hat on the movement.
Phil: I don’t really pay much attention to all the genres and labels that attempt to categorise bands. We consider ourselves a British rock band, but are always described as a NWOBHM band. There’s not much we can do about it, so we are philosophical. As long as they like the music, they can describe us as anything they like!
U- Would you say the London NWOBHM scene had a significant and distinctive sound comparing to Newcastle, Leeds?
Phil: No,I wouldn’t personally, but maybe others would disagree. We played gigs in London with bands from all over the country, the Midlands, Newcastle etc. and we all did our thing in our own way.
U- You all started out during the early 80's. however, "The Son Of Odin" wasn't released until 1986. The NWOBHM movement was already kind of dead by then, no?
Phil: Maybe. I met Kev and Nigel in 1983, Paul and Norms joined in 1984, we played our first gig in January 1985, released our first single in 1985, and as you say, our first album “The Son of Odin” in 1986. What the NWOBHM movement was doing back then, I have no idea. All I recall of the so-called NWOBHM bands, was catching them supporting the bands that I went to see. I saw Iron Maiden supporting Judas Priest, Saxon supporting Motorhead and Def Leppard supporting AC/DC.
U- Would it be harsh to say that "The Idol" is a compilation of songs, not quite good enough to end up on a proper Elixir album? They are all from the early days? prior to the first album (1986)?
Phil: Yes, I would say that that would be a harsh judgement. As I said earlier, some people tell me that ‘The Idol’ is their favourite Elixir album. Back in the 80’s we were rehearsing and writing about sixteen hours per week, and turning out a lot of material. By the time we recorded ‘The Son of Odin’ we probably had around 20 songs, but could only put 9 on a vinyl album. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the money to put out a double album as we decided to release the album ourselves. As is usually the case with Elixir, our latest songs are our favourites, so I would say that the nine songs that made it on to the first album were the latest nine songs that we had written. It wasn’t until we got back together and I listened to an old live tape of ours that I realised we had ten good songs that were never chosen to go on an album.
U- Thanks for everything, if there's anything you'd like to say, add, or promote, please do:
Phil: Thanks to the fans for their support over the years, and thanks to websites such as RockUnited for giving us a voice. We are taking a gamble in putting on The British Steel Festival in England with Demon, Elixir, The Handsome Beasts, Hammerhead and Overdrive on October 14th, and we really need fans of British Metal to show their support and come to the show. More details can be found at: www.britishsteelfestival.com Please come along and make this first festival a success so that we can continue putting on more bands. See you there! Phil Denton /Elixir
Interview by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
2006 promo photos by Louise Rolley