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Salem UK Discusses New Album, "Win, Lose Or Draw," New Members And Reveals Plans For New Album

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal gave the world so many great bands that it's basically a treasure chest, with so many gems to find. While some bands went on to massive success, others were unfortunately short lived, though would return to the stage later on, sometimes with greater output. One such band, which rose from the ashes of another NWOBHM band Ethel The Frog, was Hull's own, Salem, now known as Salem UK to separate them from the Israeli band of the same name.

Since returning in 2010, Salem UK has put out four full length albums, with their latest, "Win, Lose Or Draw" only hitting the shelves last Friday. The album comes only a year after their previous release, "Attrition" and could well be their best yet, rich in energy and good old fashioned hard rock/heavy metal. I caught up with vocalist Simon Saxby and guitarist Francis Gill to discuss the album, as well as the history of the band, the surprising news that they're already working on their next record and much more! You can watch the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: Your brand new album, "Win, Lose Or Draw" is out now. What would you say makes it different from "Attrition"?

Simon Saxby: Well, the people on it are different for a start! Francis joined up with myself and Adrian (Jenkinson, bassist) who were the main members of the previous band and of course Francis being a completely different style of guitar player has brought a different dimension. I think it's a little bit more modern. It's got that new metal feel to it but then Francis is also steeped in tradition, like good old rock bands such as Deep Purple and that kind of thing. Hopefully it's just got a bit of an eclectic mix of newer stuff and and more traditional stuff, which of course when you're my age, that's what you do!

Oz: I think that's what people want to hear from Salem as well. Fans don't want to hear Salem go full on thrash or black metal. It's only a year ago though that "Attrition" was released so, having that new blood in the band, did that make you very eager to have something out?

Simon: Well yeah, I mean obviously when the previous incarnation of the band split, I'll be honest with you, me and Adrian for a little while didn't think about doing anything. It's hard work and so it was soul destroying when it all fell apart, so we weren't as keen as you might think to put our toe back in the water. So then we did a little bit of writing together and decided we weren't bothered about booking gigs just yet, it was better to see if we could find someone and Ade had worked with Francis previously and he said, "Well, he's that good he's never going to say 'Yes'", but he did so that gave us the impetus to go, "Right, well we'd better raise our game a little bit here!"

It was a real shot in the arm, exactly what we needed, so we became excited again and looking forward to doing stuff, which is why the album didn't take that long to record. Probably only about six months, I think, bearing in mind we aren't all in the same town, I have to travel from the south east up to Hull, so six months is quite a feat to get ten tracks out as quickly as we did. So yeah, with "Win, Lose Or Draw," it's definitely got a fresher, more raw edge to it and the production's different as well.

Oz: You said there it was almost a surprise to have a new album out, but can you see yourselves keeping this momentum and releasing new albums quicker?

Simon: Definitely, yeah.

Francis Gill: I think we'll probably end up recording before the year's out.

Simon: We've already had ideas kicking about for new material so it's one of those things where you say, "Well, we've got the momentum, let's do it" and surprisingly, in keeping the costs down by travelling on the coach, it's doable, whereas before, taking trains and everything, it just became ridiculous. We can do a few more trips a year now. It batters the old body up a bit...

Francis: Well, you've got a process now, it's basically dialed in. I think you recorded this in four sessions.

Simon: Yeah, that's way we work now because time's critical. When I go in, we write the melodies, write the vocals, then record them and we don't come out until all the main vocals are done and all the backing vocals are done so it's labour intensive when we're in there, but the fact is it's enjoyable. We really, thoroughly enjoy ourselves doing it. We've tried doing it where I'll go in and record a demo then come back later, but the momentum is always when we're doing the first vocal stuff because you get really into it, then you have to try and recreate that in the next session and we found that didn't work as well, so we write and record it in the first session.

Oz: Salem's an interesting band in that you've done more since returning than you did in the original run. Whereas first time around you released some demos, a single and an EP, since returning in 2010 there's been four full lengths. What's driven you this time around, or is it more a case of fortune?

Simon: To be honest with you, when we got back together in 2010, it was just nice to put the old demos back out there and then it was a case of, "Well, how about we try writing something new?" It was all just trial and error really, but then we found that we really got into it and really beginning to enjoy it and then a few gigs started happening. I mean, we played Dubai, who's going to turn that down? Going to Italy and Greece and all that, it's like a lads weekend away, playing a few gigs, having a few beers and visiting foreign countries. But with that, you've gotta put the work in, to make sure you've got an album to go do that.

So the impetus has always been, you're not going to get rich and famous, but as long as it doesn't cost you a fortune, if gigs pay for themselves and your travel's covered, then I think everybody's doing well. The money isn't there with record companies anymore, they're very supportive but the money isn't there because that's not the way the world works anymore. The main thing is to keep up the enjoyment. I think that was a lot of the motivation again because obviously we were disappointed that the original band finished but it's like, "I like doing that, it's really good. Let's go back and have another go." It's only about enjoying doing it.

Oz: This album's out through Dissonance, so far how's the relationship with them been?

Simon: Very good. Again, we're not top of the tree and that well known but they treat us with respect, the communication skills with every band is exactly what it should be. At the end of the day, all you want is to be treated with decency and they do that and so obviously it's reciprocated. But I think also, where we're at the age we're at, you haven't got an edge, there's no egos involved, so when you're not dealing with an egotistical person, within anybody, the relationship with a company is easy, as it's supposed to be. At the end of the day, we're not costing millions of pounds and we're not making millions of pounds and neither are they, so it's all about doing it for the right reasons and treating each other with a degree of decency, which I think Dissonance definitely have done.

Oz: Good. It's rare to get that from any employer! You mentioned before we started filming about the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, is that a movement that you're happy to be associated with?

Simon: It's never bothered me, people saying that because at the time when Salem was originally formed in '79, it was from out of Ethel The Frog, who were classed as being part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I think at the time, or certainly in the earlier days, we didn't know that that's what anybody was called. We always considered ourselves more rock, more akin to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and the kind of stuff we grew up with. But no, it doesn't bother me because there's some great bands associated with the NWOBHM and it's an internationally recognised music brand. It was so vast. You could go from a band that sounds almost punk like to someone like Praying Mantis who were more on the melodic rock side so it encompassed a whole range of music.

Francis: When I first met Ade in 2009, he was mentioned about Salem being in this New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bracket but when I first heard them, maybe a year later, I thought, "To me, that's not New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, at all like." To me, it's never sounded like that so it's probably more about being around at a time then it is ticking the boxes of what you might think is a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band. I don't think the tag does any harm though.

Oz: Well like you say, it's such a broad selection of styles. Salem doesn't sound like Venom, who doesn't sound like Witchfinder General and so on. Just finally to wrap up, now that the new album's out, what's your plans for 2020?

Simon: Oh well, we've got some dates in Germany and we're playing in Lens, going up to Paris as well. As we said earlier, we're going to be recording some more music and there's more gigs on the horizon. The main thing is though, a lot of the venues that we played in say 2010/2012 are disappearing. Either they're not there anymore or if they are there, they're putting on unfortunate "tribute" acts. Unfortunately for us, they're prepared to pay them a lot of money, because they get a lot of people in through the door, God knows why.

So unfortunately what tends to happen is original bands get pushed away. There's still the same amount of original bands doing their own music, there's just not as many places to play, so we're all kind of trying to get the same gigs, which has made it very difficult. It's not a complaint, it's just the way it is. We're still able to get some gigs in, this is the first time I've ever played in London. I've done the outskirts before, so yeah, you're never too old! Never too old to realise one little dream!

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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