Interview with TRAITORS GATE
The Band: Traitors Gate
Answers by: Andy D’Urso (guitars)
Traitors Gate is one of those bands that every fan of the NWOBHM wished it would be back. Well, that wish is now accomplished, the guys are back with their new album “Fallen”, a great homage to their past. And no better narrator for all the new and the old things than Mr. Andy D’Urso, the guy would make for a great teacher for sure. Enjoy his comments!
Hello Andy and congratulations for your new and first full-length album. How do you feel releasing your very first LP after so many years?
Hi Alberto, thanks for the review also. It’s crazy to think that we reformed to do a single one-off reunion show at Brofest 2017, and now we’re here! Obviously, we are really excited to have the opportunity to release a full length album, thanks to the guys at No Remorse of course, and we are really proud of the work. We are definitely here to stay.
Traitors Gate was formed in 1982, what original members remain active?
Actually, in terms of anyone associated with the band in the early days, only Steve, Paul and I are playing at this level. I think Hugh still plays, doing covers in local bars, which I think he’s completely happy doing, and our old and good friend Andy Turner lives in the US, but I don’t think he’s actively playing live.
What do you remember of the 80s? How was the scene compared to the current one?
Great question. The easy answer is we remember a lot! You have to think that the whole rock scene in ‘79/80 was still heavily influenced by bands like Led Zep, Deep Purple, etc.
We had also had the punk explosion from ’77, which I think kind of paved the way for what was to become NWOBHM. If you listen back to early NWOBHM, there was no fuss, just riffing and straight ahead drum beats, but now we were getting to hear guitar solos again.
It was a very vibrant scene, plenty of festivals, gigs, to go to, and no shortage of bands breaking through. Learning to play guitar in the late ‘70s, you had no shortage of inspiration.
As for the current scene, I’m sure the younger fans today feel the same as we did back then, because metal has always been a movement more than a genre, and it’s so evident that today is no different. It’s a testament to the passion every generation has shown to rock in general.
Traitors Gate’s first ep Devil Takes the High Road was originally released in 1985 and is now considered as a collector’s item. Maybe it would be the right time now to remaster or re-record it, wouldn’t it?
Well, there are a few different versions of that EP that have been produced by people over the years, and we still meet people who ask us about tracks that weren’t on the original version. So, to answer your question, with the amount of different versions out there, we do run the risk of not being able to please everyone. Of course, if the demand was there for something like that, we would consider it. The problem though, is that you have to wonder if re-recording the original EP tracks would take something away from the original. Do people love it for the tracks alone or the fact it was a genuine recording from 1985, and maybe seen as more of a collector’s piece?
A hard question truly. If I’m not wrong, you decided to resume your project in 2016 after many years of silence. What was the motivation and what are your expectations in this new stage?
Correct, we talked about it around mid-2016, and finally decided to do it around October 2016. The motivation was purely down to being asked to do a one off reunion show at Brofest early 2017. Before that we had all raised families, and pretty much got to where we were in our jobs. Time just has a way to consign memories to the past, where they just become things to talk revisit over a few beers every once in a while. The one thing that never leaves you though is the feeling you get picking up a guitar and revisiting all the music that excited you as a teenager. Put that in the hands of a bunch of guys with an opportunity to get back onstage and crank up once again, and you basically have the ingredients of renewed obsession. Simply put, we did the one off show as planned, realised we really missed being on stage, and literally decided the next day that we would dive right back in head first. As for our expectations, we’re not naive enough to think there’s a fortune to be made, there are far more established bands that will benefit from that I’m sure. For us, playing a decent number of festival type events each year, maybe getting a support tour at some point, and continuing to write and record new material, are all things we want to push for going forward. One of my personal ambitions is to secure a decent time slot on the Wacken main stage (well I can dream can’t I?). Essentially, playing live and producing new material is our thing I guess.
It would be great to see you playing on Wacken main stage and with new album I think that dream is nearer than before. Your new album “Fallen” includes several songs from your ep Only the Strong from last year. When did you start composing new songs? Are all of them new brand? How was the composition after so many years?
Yes, we decided to include the 2017 EP tracks purely because they were written in 2017, and the EP is still a fairly recent release. Adding them to Fallen seemed a good way to make sure they reached a wider audience. We actually remixed those tracks for Fallen, to match the other tracks on the album, which have a more aggressive guitar sound.
All of the current set includes material that was written from late 2016 to yesterday (literally). Including the tracks on Fallen, we have around 26 new tracks to choose from at the moment, but for live shows in 2018, we will be concentrating primarily on the Fallen material (plus a couple of classics of course).
Composing after so long was a little strange. I decided to shut myself away in my home studio and just play anything and everything for a few weeks to see what would come out. I also made a conscious effort not to listen to anything else while I was writing.
Surprisingly, the process worked really well, and we managed to get a set of fairly good tracks in around a month. It was really a time of trying to realise what our natural style would be after 30yrs away, so not all of those tracks have survived, but it did allow us to get started. Second album anyone?
Hopefully so. “Fallen” is a very varied album, we find old school British heavy metal but some songs with a more modern approach
I’m very comfortable with that description. Considering where we came from, I think the fact that there is a traditional British Heavy Metal feel to some of the material, proves that we have a way of writing that brings out our natural influences. I think that offers listeners some degree of honesty, especially when you consider there was no intention to write in any particular style. The more modern approach you hear is probably a result of listening to a few fairly current bands, but I also think it results from wanting to bring an aggressive edge to some of the writing. Not forgetting of course that Sy’s vocal talents open up the freedom to just go with the flow and see what comes out.
Any favorite songs in the albums, Andy?
Yes, all of them! Well, if I had to pick a few, Retribution, Fall from Grace, Solar Plains, and Homeland are stand outs for totally different reasons. Now I’ve said that, I feel the need to add Edge of Destruction, Fallen, Deceiver, Sign of the Cross, and Only the Strong (he he). I really do like them all and all for different reasons.
Hahaha a good selection! Sy Davies is the new voice of the band and he defends his position with authority and credibility. Where or how did you find the guy?
Sy was an amazing find. When we needed to find a new singer, I remembered how difficult it was to find good singers in the past. I literally put a brief advert on a website called something like www.joinmyband.com. I briefly mentioned we were an original band from the NWOBHM era, and that we were looking to play shows in and out of the UK.
Well, that must have done the trick because I got a call from Sy only a few days after placing the advert. A few weeks later, we were in rehearsals and listening to this guy that could literally sing anything, loved all the same stuff we did, and had the same outlook on what he wanted to achieve in the current scene. It couldn’t have worked out any better.
Sy’s arrival has allowed us to write without restrictions, knowing that he will do justice to anything he’s given. He really is a true singer, and just a little crazy, which definitely helps.
And a good publicity for that website. The cover artwork has all the feeling of the 80s
The credit for that lies with the team at No Remorse. Their artist produced something really special. The guys at No Remorse know their market, and what sells in the current scene, better than we do, and their vision was to produce something the evoked the original imagery from the Devil Takes the High Road EP, but bring it full circle. I think that was a good decision, and they captured it perfectly.
You performed many live shows from 1984 to 1989 and it seems people are still eager to see you live. What gigs from the past you remember with more affection?
We did some quite memorable shows with bands like Marillion, Angelwitch, and Saxon, which I’m sure we remembered more than they did! To be honest we played a lot of our own gigs, using local support for a lot of the shows. There were a lot of venues back then, so getting gigs was fairly easy. I seem to remember most gigs were ‘memorable’ to us. If not for the show, then always for the enjoyment of travelling together and having fun. Back then, we were young and so we took every opportunity to go a bit crazy.
The right time, the right place to be. Any tour dates for the promotion of your new album?
Well, we kind of miss timed our plans for 2018, and we’ve learnt the hard way that events book bands way before the event. We were lucky to be included for Up The Hammers this year, and we’re really looking forward to that one. We’ve supported Saracen and Anvil already this year, and we’ve played a few of our own shows also. We have support slots with Eden’s Curse and Powerquest coming up this year, and we are booked for the Mearfest, Grimm Up North, and Seven Sins events here in the UK. We definitely need to get organised for 2019. There are so many festival type events to appear at, so maybe we need to get some management?
The NWOBHM was with no doubt one the most brilliant moments of heavy metal ever. Even there are some movements that try to take momentum or inspiration on that, as the New Wave Of Swedish Heavy Metal
I’m all for any metal movement that exists to create honest and pure quality metal. It’s very easy to just focus on the NWOBHM era as somehow being the ‘true’ birth of metal as we know it, but there were a lot of European bands that turned out to be just as influential. Bands like Krokus, Picture, The Scorpions, Europe, etc, all played their part at the same time, with bands like Accept and Helloween, providing momentum. Today, you can see how bands from Germany and the Scandinavian countries in particular, are still very true to the traditional metal styles.
If you could travel back in time would you change something in your history?
I would definitely start playing earlier. I started at 15yrs old, so even starting a year earlier would have got me ready to take more advantage of the NWOBHM era. The other thing I would definitely change is for the internet to have been invented in the ‘70s. It’s easy to see how the web has given the power back to bands. We never had anything like that to allow us to get noticed, or to get our music out. So, in some ways, it was definitely an exciting time, but in reality, bands had no real say in their futures back then. At least now, you can reach anyone, anywhere in the world. Back then it really was about having to be in the right place at the right time if you wanted to be noticed.
Andy, what are your plans for the future?
Lots more festival type gigs in and outside of the UK.
Support tour with a known band.
Try and attract decent management.
Keep enjoying what we do.
It’s enough for two years or three, at the least. Andy, thank you very much for the cool speech and history review and congratulations for your new album, if you wish to add something…
Thank you Alberto, we hope others will like the album as much as you seemed to, and we look forward to many more live shows in 2018 and beyond.
As always, we are grateful to everyone who has shown their support for the band since we reformed and, as always, we are humbled by the dedication and passion shown by all those working every day to keep the movement alive, and allowing it to grow.