:: Dark side of Hanley ::
Interview with Dave Hill
First Hearing, 1985
by Lyndon Noon
DEMON leader Dave Hill talks to First Hearing - are they the new PINK FLOYD? Lyndon Noon investigates.
Life has not been kind to Demon of late. After a couple of moderately successful H.M. albums in the early 1980's, and a hell (no pun intended) of a lot of exposure in the rock press, the band have since lurched from one crisis to another. After the break up with Carrere Records in 1982 (due to label's shortsightedness) the band returned to Hanley based Clay Records to deliver their finest platter to date - "The Plague".
Whilst recording their latest opus "British Standard Approved", founder member and guitarist Mal Spooner contracted a very rare medical disorder, causing a blood cloth which had fatal consequences. It was yet another savage chapter in the band's history, and one from which they've only just recovered.
However the band whose current lineup consists of: Dave Hill - vocals, John Wright - drums, Steve Watts - keyboard and John Waterhouse - guitar, must be gratified with the critical and commercial response of their latest work; with healthy sales in Germany and Sweden (where they're hailed as the new Pink Floyd), success seems to be knocking on the door at last.
How did "British Standard Approved" come together, Dave?
It was actually written during the autumn of 1983, but with the tragedy of Mal occuring and the other contractual hassles, there's been quite a delay in getting it out to the shops. We were trying to move on from "The Plague", but still looking at images and pictures of Britain.
I've been greatly impressed by keyboardist Steve Watts. Has he altered your writing at all?
I wouldn't say he's altered it. But what we decided after "The Plague", was that we needed a synth man to enable us to progress substantially - as opposed to a keyboard player of the "old school", who'd play a synth as if it were a "Hammond" organ. Steve being so young has never been through that, so he's given us a fesh pair of ears in that sense. He knew exactly what fills were required for "BSA", but on a modern level - he's made a big impact on us.
How will Mal Spooner's replacement John Waterhouse fit in? Will his blues roots be in evidence on future Demon releases?
I doubt it. John's very excited about playing in the band because he'll be able to incorporate so many different styles. If he wants to try something he'll be given licence to do that, especially as we're getting musicaly more complex these days.
Why did you choose John?
We've known John for years, in fact he's almost been like a member because he used to jam with Mal and myself regularly. We didn't want a million notes a minute "flash harry", who didn't know anything about chords - you can find them on any street corner. It's important on our music that you get a good chord player. Some of the sequences on say "Sane Man" take an awful lot of fathoming, because Mal used his own inversions. John is very much the same as Mal with his chord direction, because they both were influenced by the blues.
Do you think by keeping the name Demon, you're doing yourself any favours?
Well I always look back at Pink Floyd. In 1969 when psychadelia died on its feet, you could have said the same thing. Seventeen years later they're still the greatest band in the world. I think you choose a name and stick with it.
I was thinking of "The Plague's" failure in the States particularly. Don't you think that the religious nutcases might have had something to do with it?
No! I think the problem was Atlantic. They promised an awful lot when we signed, and we were all geared up for a lot of promotional work, touring, etc. Then the album was released without a gatefold sleeve, which was criminal for a record of that type, and virtually no promotion whatsoever. Mike Stone (Clay Records mainman) said he saw more copies on sale in New York on import, than were actually available on general release. We were very disappointed.
Who was responsible for the change in direction that came with that album?
Mal and myself. It came after a frustrating period with Carrere.
In what way?
It was ridiculous. We'd just gone straight in the album charts with "The Unexpected Guest", done two sell out nights at The Marquee, and all we needed was on final push to crack it wide open - We'd done as much as we could but the company weren't prepared to invest.
In retrospect "The Plague" has become a very prophetic album, hasn't it?
It's incredible how that's come about. It was originally written just after we done those sell out dates at The Marquee, two days after I found myself in the ludicrous position of signing on. "The Plague's" idea came from Mal, who at the time had a book on the subject out of the library. In it was a reference to Samuel Pepy's diary of the same year (a year when seventy thousand people died), where there was only a brief mention of this human catastophe, along the lines of; "someone tells me that there's a great fever raging on the other side of the Thames." It reminded us of the situation now, where we have this North/South divide.
Have you had any thoughts on a follow-up to "BSA" yet?
Yeah, we're about three-quarters of the way through writing it. The working title is "Heart Of Our Time", which again is looking at our environment, both politically and otherwise.
Are you a political animal then, Dave?
Not really. I just feel that I have a chance to report on everyday happenings, through the record medium. We've always observed the world at large even on our early albums. "Sign Of A Madman" was about the guy who shot Lennon for instance. However, I don't hold any hard or fast views on politics, I just interpret events as I see them.
Despite the problems you've encountered in recent years you seem reasonably optimistic. How do you see the future now?
I think it's a question of whether you want to make a fast "buck", or be recognised for making some sort of musical contribution. As far as I'm concerned, I'm very happy with the way we're gradually building a loyal following - I could never return to the record company rat race in London again. The great thing is that people are talking about us again, especially in Europe where we're being called the new Floyd - we seem to be getting mentioned a lot in that vein.