Interview with Salem
By: Amir Kourosh - 2014-12-25
British Heavy metallers SALEM are one of those nowadays-not-widely-known legends from the 80s, which have been part of one of the most burgeoning scenes Metal music ever had: the NWOBHM. These legends performed in the UAE for the first time ever on November 2014, so thanks to the mediation Metal Asylum's Rodi Hennawi, we didn't want to miss the chance of having a talk with them. They told us about their early years, their reunion, the scene they are part of and the risk-perception of European bands towards the Middle East, as well as many other issues.
If you are into Traditional Metal and Hard Rock, you shouldn't miss this interview!
1. For those who haven't heard about SALEM before, what could you say about your band?
We are a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band that formed in Hull, England in 1979. The band was formed by two guys from ETHEL THE FROG who had featured on the influential “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM) album called "Metal For Muthas" - alongside the likes of IRON MAIDEN, PRAYING MANTIS and SAMSON. There were some line-up changes with the departure of the former ETHEL THE FROG guys - and SALEM is still the same line-up as in 1982.
We gigged around the North East of England and built a strong following. We also recorded three demos and a single - “Reach to Eternity” / “Cold As Steel”. We played our last gig in 1983 before going different ways on new projects. In 2009, we were invited to release our 1980s music. It was great to meet up after all the years to talk about this. We were all very pleased to have our recording compiled on our “In The Beginning …” album (2010) - released by High Roller Records (vinyl) and Pure Steel Records (CD). With the great interest generated by the album, we got back together to play our first gig in 27 years.
Since then, things have snowballed. We are now playing many gigs and festivals across UK and Europe - and even Dubai! How cool is that? … and we have even more bookings for 2015. Last year, we released a second album - “Forgotten Dreams” - hailed by some as the best Rock album of 2013 and we currently working on the next album.
2. In your opinion, what makes NWOBHM bands different from the rest of Heavy Metal groups?
All musical phases and movements build on what has gone before, and for me, NWOBHM bands took the excellent music and brilliant musicianship of their heroes of the earlier 1970s - bands like DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, THIN LIZZY, and so on - along with an edgy, “home made”/“anyone can have a go” fun attitude that the Punk movement had brought in. However, there was wide range of music that came out of that time - for example, JAGUAR took the Punky/Speed/Thrash approach, TYGERS OF PAN TANG were more based on a Bluesy sound, and PRAYING MANTIS was less Heavy with more emphasis on melody.
So, “What makes NWOBHM bands different”? I think that some people feel that there is (or should be) a specific NWOBHM sound - but as I've said, there is a wide variety of NWOBHM music. For me, the difference is in the fun approach and attitude. The other thing is, of course, that we are now older so have (a bit) more maturity based on many years of real experiences (both happy and otherwise) and probably a greater sense of what life is all about.
3. You have recently performed in Italy, Netherlands, Germany... and you have announced shows in France and Greece (apart from the UAE). Did you think that it was possible to play in so many places when you decided to come back after such a long hiatus?
Things are so different to thirty years ago - the world seems a much smaller place - communication and travel especially are so much easier. I suppose that I was largely inspired when meeting up with Gary Pepperd of JAGUAR - now good mates. They reformed in a similar way to us, only ten years earlier, and have been playing all over Europe. He encouraged me to get contacting promoters and venues, and it wasn’t long before we really got going.
4. What would you say to those European bands that think it is risky to play on the Middle East?
I would say, “Do it!”. There are huge cultural differences and a sort-of “fear of the unknown” that may lead to a perception of risk and uncertainty. Dubai though, in particular, is a popular tourist destination and I know that Europeans are very respected and welcome there. And the concept of Metal in the desert really appeals to my imagination!
5. Despite the fact that there's a thriving Metal scene in the Middle East, this fact is little known outside the region. Before being announced for your upcoming Dubai show, where you familiar with this?
Yes. I have spent some time in the UAE so was aware of this. I saw several great bands whilst I was there.
6. Thanks for catching up with us. If you want to add anything, go ahead!
We are really looking forward this gig. We do hope that many people will come to meet and talk with us. Please have a listen to our music and watch our videos on www.salemband.uk
Check us out and “like” us on www.facebook.com/SalemBand and Twitter @SalemBandUK. And you can read a bit more of our history on www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_(UK_band)