Latest updates:

We hope you enjoy your visit here. Please join or login if you have joined before.

MT @ Facebook

Not logged in

Users online

32 guests

Welcome to our newest member, willtravers

Lee Payne (Cloven Hoof)

Interview with Lee Payne from Cloven Hoof
by Grigoris Chronis at 13 February 2005, 4:52 PM

How eerie a poor editor can feel, standing in front of a nothing less than tempting interview with one of his all-time favorite artists, cannot easily be only described, but even hardly uttered! Under the mighty melodies of the 1989's Sultans Ransom Long Play masterpiece (a mere example of what Bad Timing can do to marvelous recordings…), the driving force behind UK Metal heroes Cloven Hoof has a lot to say about the band's reunion, plus lots of stuff regarding the past… and future! As you'll see, Lee Payne may be the living proof for what Heavy Metal stands for…

Lee, its a great honor to be talking to you, I really mean this!

The feeling is mutual my friend! Thank you Greg for the opportunity to spread the word to the Cloven Hoof faithful.

Well, my first question could not be different from what I had in my mind since Cloven Hoof’s reunion. I mean: Why was there such a delay in the making of the band’s comeback album, Absolute Power? I remember myself starving from the very first days the title was announced; still this was 1.5 year ago???

It is truly amazing how things have progressed in terms of demand for the band.  All the old fans have remained true and have supported us through all these years, in fact there is a whole new audience of younger fans that have got into Cloven Hoof.  We are even bigger now than in the 80s, which is astounding! It proves Heavy Metal fans are the most loyal and freethinking people in the world. They know what is good and what is not, no one tells them what to like or what to do. Stupid fashion trends and pop music comes and goes… Metal is forever.  Because of this demand we have had to make the album our best ever so the fans will not be disappointed. The production and songs had to be perfect, and getting the right deal takes time. We originally set out to release our own self financed album just for the fans, but as usual Cloven Hoof grew bigger like some Frankenstein.

So, since Absolute Power is being shaped these days, how are things rolling? You know, what’s the feeling like to be recording once again after all these years?

It feels amazing to bring to life the best songs I have ever written. I can’t wait for all the Metal maniacs to hear them. Working with Tom Galley in the studio is a real education. He has worked with Brian May, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, John Thomas, Glenn Hughes, Ted McKenna, Mel Galley, Don Airey, Peter Green, John Wetton, Ray Gillen, Scott Gorham, the list goes on… and he is as good as they come. The pre-production was worked on like never before and it is safe to say Tom has changed the way the band will record forever!

Some info on the current line up would be gladly welcome! Also, any details you think you can share with us regarding the recording studio, and the label that will release the album.

The current line up will be revealed after the album has been mixed; it gives an air of mystery and suspense for the fans. If I told you now it would blow it \[Laughs]. Xzec Records is our new label and we are thrilled to be part of a company dedicated to promoting the band to the limit. We have the right deal people with the right expertise in place to do the band justice at last, so exciting times ahead. Xzec is a label that has done its homework and is in touch with the fans and the true Heavy Metal movement. We have used a variety of studios this time for putting down base tracks, and many more will be used for mixing and mastering. Not like the old days when we used Mad Hat studio for everything. I saw our old producer Mark Stuart at Christmas and we had a great time reminiscing about A Sultans Ransom (1989).  He agreed that it was a killer album and he was proud to be part of it, I think we all felt that.

Really, how did you come in contact with Tom? Is this a strictly professional deal or he seems to salute the recordings? Has Tom (and you, of course) decided to stick to the classic Cloven Hoof sound or he (you) will try to pass a more current vibe?

I have been trying to get Tom to produce the band since 1984. After our debut album I heard Phenomena I (e.n.: first of a multi-artists-participating series of three concept albums, released during 1984-1991 under Tom Galley’s management) and thought Wow, that’s the guy for us. I knew he would get that epic sound, so after meeting him at his home I realized what a great grasp he had for concepts. We gelled perfectly, in the end it was all about record company politics. Tom always wanted to produce the band, and he always kept track of us and our recordings. No one is more aware of were the band have come from and what it is about than Tom. He was instrumental in blending the traditional style of the band with contemporary production. The new sound is aggressive, heavier and immediate, but with textured layers of sound. It really kick ass!

Lee, the upcoming album’s tracks are fresh compositions? I mean, are there any tunes dating back to the glorious days of the 80’s? Is there any way of dealing with a concept album? Do you think you can give us some track titles?

Eye Of The Sun (e.n.: originally featured in the Fighting Back, Live 1986 release) has got a reworking on the new album, I’m pleased to say, because we always loved the song. We will always try to do that, take one track from the past that deserves attention and contemporize it. That way the song gets a new lease of life. Fresh compositions are as follows: Inquisitor, Whore Of Babylon, Absolute Power, Angels In Hell, Kiss Of Evil, King For A Day, Golgotha, Freak Show, Running Man, Cyberworld, Zombie.

Really, what’s the deal with Xzec Records? Have you signed a long-term contract or does this depend on the feedback Absolute Power will receive? Apart from that, I think it’s the right time to have a Cloven Hoof back-catalogue reissue series, don’t you think? You have no idea how many people are desperately searching for the band’s legendary albums!

Things have worked out for the best because the future of the band is assured with the greatest producer ever, and a four album deal that will give the fans at least another 50 killer Hoof songs. Momentum is assured with no gaps in between albums like before. The back catalogue will be taken care of too, because the fans deserve to get the products easily. Xzec will be the sole label for all past works after all the legal stuff is tied up.

On the spot: as a musician but also as a Heavy Metal fan, how would you describe digital V.S analogue sound, from the recording mode in the studio till the CD (and not vinyl anymore) in the fans hands. Since you are currently recording, how would you contradict today’s advantages contrary to the good ol’ days?

Hey, guess what? The new album is going to be released on vinyl too! (e.n.: I’m starving!!!) Yes, it’s true, that is because we listen to the fans and give them what they want. Xzec is committed to the band so we said put it on vinyl because it has magic to it. What the loyal fans want… they get! Only the best for them.

Digital recording certainly makes putting down the songs easier. It used to take hours of boring messing about with engineers experimenting with mikes etc, before you could actually get down to playing. Time and budget used to be a problem, now things can have a decent mix as you go along, and you can get the playing tighter than ever. Things can be put down quicker with a better overall clear mix. As long as you get the initial instruments recorded with a clean signal, killer sounds can be added to them during mixing at the end. This is a godsend because you don’t have to be stuck with a crappy sound, just because an engineer miked you up wrong at the start or the EQs were unsuitable. No more… Well your stuck with it, I’m afraid. Today you can get things perfect, in the old days we were virtually playing live in the studio with a few over dubs.

Will there be any other extra stuff in the Absolute Power CD? You know, any bonus video, demo recordings or stuff like that?

There will be, but I will tell you at a later date, so stay tuned.

Lee, are there any plans for an upcoming tour in support of your soon-to-be-released album? Are there any confirmed dates already?

No confirmed live shows yet, but expect news at the end of the summer. These things take time to plan and this time around everything will be done right. Our live gigs will be better than ever too because we will have ages to rehearse and perfect the show.

Please, take some time to share with us your feelings during Cloven Hoof’s mini tour in Europe. You know: Germany, Greece… Germany might be the centre of the Rock/Metal world (just the way Britain used to be back in the 60s/70s/80s) but you had such a great welcome in smaller countries, too.

Awesome, moving and humbling, these are the only words I can find to describe it. We never expected such over the top hero worship, it was hard to compose myself, seeing them all at last and being able to play for them after all this time. Everyone went crazy including us!

Greece was like coming home because I had always loved the country and its myths and legends. The AN Club audience rocked man! You are only as good as your audience live and that gig was electric, one of my all time favourites. Next time we play there I want a look at all the cool ancient sites around Athens, I never got to time because I was too busy doing interviews.

Keep It True was incredible because the festival had a great vibe. The spirit of all the groups was supportive like it should be, one big Metal family playing to the best fans on earth… True Metal fans. I spotted loads from Greece, Italy, Poland and Holland too, and it was cool to chat with them afterwards.

I know it sounds typical, but it’s not! How did it feel? Did you feel short of your own expectations? Was it better? Really, what did you say to your relatives and friends when you got back to UK?

There is no better supporter of the band than my old man. He encouraged me from day one and is the biggest Metal fan on the planet. He used to go to most of the old shows and loved the European gigs the best. When we got back he said:  Well was it as good as the old days? And I said Better! The whole experience surpassed my expectations.

It might be an average thing to see a 30-35 year old N.W.O.B.H.M. devotee in a Cloven Hoof concert, but what about younger ages? Really, do you know if traditional Metal bands can now approach today’s teenagers? You know, apart from legends like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Kids seem so trapped in this Nu-Metal scene (on one hand) and the tons of Gothic-like, female-fronted so-called-Metal music. Surely, the music industry and the media are more of Absolute Power than ever before in pulling strings, still young music fans do not include that much nowadays music & lyrics to a political-social point of view for life in general.

In Greece there were loads of younger kids, which is great. I think there is a growing number of young people who realize true Metal is better than the pretentious high pitched girl wailing over boring keyboards, and obvious guitar patterns. Goth music is for sad motherfuckers who can’t get laid, \[Laughs]. Go out and get a girlfriend and get a life… Listen to real true Metal. Nu-Metal offers nothing new but basic predictable changes, and pop choruses. I think it sucks!

The majority of the Cloven Hoof material is Sci-Fi, horror based, but there is always some dealing with true-life urban matters. We know the real world is harsh unfair and mundane, right? So it is good to transcend the here and now and explore alternate universes and dreamscapes. Thinking mans Metal someone branded us, I kind of like that.

The media today thinks it can tell everyone what to do and think, the Internet is good because they can’t hype that. Make your own minds up kids, don’t be robotic sheep. Absolute Power - the title track - is about the rich getting richer and greed is everything. The enemy is apathy; the average true Metal fan makes his own mind up. That is why I am proud to be associated with heavy Metal, it doesn’t follow trends, it makes its own rules.

Do you think it’s a good time to give us a brief, very brief bio of the Hoof’s deeds from 1979 to 1990, when the band split up? You know, there are many Metal fans not that familiar with the bands history.

Well, here it goes…

Cloven Hoof was originally formed in the heart of the West Midlands, England in 1979. The group went through various line up changes until spring 1982 when the band line up consisted of Lee Payne (bass guitar), David Potter (vocals), Steve Rounds (lead guitar) and Kevin Poutney (drums). The first demo tape the band did together was given the thumbs up from no lesser stars than Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) who took a copy of the tape into national Radio One, and Rob Halford (Judas Priest) who got it played on a radio station in Phoenix Arizona. The station was bombarded with heavy Metal callers who wanted to know more about the band. Soon afterwards the group were taken under the wing of ex-Judas Priest manager David Hemmings.

The Opening Ritual - a four track mini album - was released in July of 1982, and the EP stayed in the Sounds and Kerrang! Heavy Metal charts for six weeks peaking at #18. Articles in Kerrang! and Noise magazines followed by Geoff Barton tipping the band for the top in his prestigious Breaking through in 82 feature and play list. The image adopted by ourselves during this period was worth noting! Because there were four band members, I came up with a concept featuring the names Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Outlandish stage costumes were donned and heavy Kiss- style make-up and masks. We wanted to be the band we always wanted to see and hear… Total senses overkill.

In a lot of ways I think we were ahead of our time, because our vision of combining image and music was perfectly suited to the multi media Sci-Fi games market. And remember we were doing the masks thing years before Slipknot and all the others. I suppose we must have influenced many bands in presenting themselves in a hard rocking theatrical way. But the music always came first!!!

The project drew huge attention and major labels were queuing up to sign the band, the high chart position was a big help too. Over in America unbeknownst to us Rob Stradansky was championing the bands cause in his Metal Rendezvous magazine, and college radio stations were airing it on there play lists. A worldwide buzz was growing and international stardom seemed a formality. However bad contract advice and publishing in fighting put paid to a huge recording deal. The untimely death of David Hemmings - the band’s manager - was another terrible blow. An independent label was the only alternative for Cloven Hoof to once again gather momentum without the support of a major label at the helm.

Undeterred the groups Opening Ritual attained air play on numerous radio stations worldwide, but it was not until Tommy Vance and Geoff Barton played tracks off the EP on Radio One in the UK that the Cloven ones carrier really began to break into a gallop. 1983 saw Cloven Hoof touring throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, earning themselves a sizable underground cult following. In the summer of that year the band recorded a four-track session for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on Radio One and a similar session for Beacon Radio for DJ Mike Davies.

On the strength of the bands popularity Neat Records signed the outfit to record the album Cloven Hoof. The opus notched up sales figures of 24,000 units in 1984 alone, and it became apparent that the band’s gigging activities would have to stretch further afield due to success of sales overseas. A European tour was organised that year culminating in the Shockwave Festival in Genk, Belgium. The Dynamo Club in Eindhoven Holland was another highlight of the initial gigs abroad. These venues provided some of the most enthusiastic Heavy Metal fans the band had experienced. The applause at the end of these sets was astounding.

A Metal Hammer compilation album featured the track Crack The Whip from the debut album. Another compilation album entitled Metal Inferno contained The Gates Of Gehenna and Laying Down The Law. The next album was a live album featuring a whole set of new songs called Fighting Back, this was a very ambitious undertaking, with Rob Kendrick (ex-Trapeze and Budgie) replacing David Potter on vocals. The reviews for the album were generally very good. Dave Ling of Metal Hammer and Mike Davies of Brum Beat were particular enamoured. Unfortunately, after this record contractual and internal problems forced the band to split apart, leaving only yours truly to soldier on.

A new line up was eventually established, comprising of me on bass, Russ North on vocals, Andrew Wood on guitar and Jon Brown on drums. We signed a recording deal with FM Revolver and a publishing deal with Trinifold. The artists Trinifold managed at the time included Robert Plant, The Who and Judas Priest. Dominator, a Sci-Fi concept album, was released in 1988 on FM Revolver, produced by Guy Bidmead who worked with Motorhead, Cozy Powell and Whitesnake. This line up played many blistering concerts throughout the U.K. Andy and Russ (both ex-Tredegar) re-energised the band with their experience and enthusiasm. Me and Jon provided a rock solid bass and drum onslaught that surpassed all previous line-ups. So much so that many big name bands refused to give the band a support slot for fear of being upstaged or blown away.

A Sultans Ransom, the last album release from this period (1989), was considered one of the best British Heavy Metal releases of the year by Metal Hammer magazine. Dave Mead the editor no less gave the album an illustrious 4 star review and labelled it A flagon of mystical Metal. The same year a further four track session was recorded for the Tommy Vance show consisting of… Night Riders On the Astral Plain and Fox On The Run (e.n.: originally recorded by Sweet). Lee Jones, another ex-member of Tredegar, was added to the line up on duel lead guitar and his powerful rhythm work is heard along with Andy on this session.

Andy Scott, the guitarist from Sweet, was scheduled to play with the band at Media Vale during Cloven Hoof’s cover of the song, but a car accident prevented it. The curse seemed to strike again… It would ’ve been a big honour for us if Andy Scott had played on that session because we were all big fans of Sweet during our school days. When I spoke to him on the phone I had to pinch myself, because it is not every day that you get to talk to a genuine boy hood hero.

In 1990, however, the band decided to shelve its activities due to contractual reasons once again. Cloven Hoof was sadly for all intense and purposes in a process of suspended animation… But one day the beast would rise again! Which brings us to recent history…

So, is it true that both Robert Plant and Rob Halford showed interest in the bands first demo tape, back in 1979?

Yes it sure is! Planty took our tapes into radio one for the Tommy Vance Rock Show. We got a session out of it, because Rob Halford did the same thing. In fact I will be doing an interview soon that will be recorded on film for a forthcoming DVD with an interviewer who was there when Rob told me how he had played our demos on radio stations in the States, and the switchboard was jammed with people asking where they could get our albums from? Rob always said we would be a big band one day, well with help from the Metal army out there maybe we will. It is people like yourselves who make these things possible.

I would easily come to the conclusion that you have been a rather unlucky band. I mean, if I had created masterpieces like Dominator or A Sultans Ransom I’d surely want to achieve all I deserved. Watch your opinion?

All the various trials and tribulations teach you patience and resilience. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. You have to have belief and a driving obsession for what you are doing. After 20 years people are still playing our music and flocking to see us live, so that proves a point. I am really proud of all our previous albums so I don’t have much to prove, the fans like it, that’s all that matters. I’m in this business for them.

Are you aware that your The Opening Ritual debut is a rare collector’s item these days? Really, was Elemental Records your own private label or were there other recordings in that label not known to us? In how many copies was this EP pressed? Did it make it to the UK Heavy Metal charts back then, in 1982?

I was recently told a copy of The Opening Ritual was sold for £200. Wow, wish I had a garage filled with copies of it \[Laughs]. Every copy was sold out in a matter of months after it was released. It got into the Heavy Metal charts at #18. Elemental Music was set up by ourselves as a label to release the debut EP like a lot of bands did. My father personally funded it in 1982, but CBS had the master tapes after they expressed an interest to sign us. We have recently found back up masters so we can re-release it later this year on a DVD that will also contain videos of archive live performances.

Even if the band was in the N.W.O.B.H.M. typhoon in the early 80s, Cloven Hoof’s sound was more mystique than e.g. the typical Tygers Of Pan Tang, Samson or Saxon British sound. I would easily place Hoof under the Angelwitch-Witchfynde umbrella, but with a more epic feeling. Would you consider Black Sabbath or Rainbow as more of an influence for you rather than e.g Deep Purple or Judas Priest? Really, what are the bands/style you think had the biggest impact on the Cloven Hoof sound?

When the first line up used to rehearse, we played Gates Of Gehenna, Nightstalker and Return Of The Passover. These were the only 3 songs I had written up to that point. The rest of the practice were taken up with playing Temples Of Syrinx by Rush, Warrior by Thin Lizzy and Delivering The Goods by Judas Priest (I never told Rob Halford about that - Laughs). This gives an insight to the prime influences on the band at that time. We get the epic influence creeping in because I love Greek mythology. Road Of Eagles was very much inspired by the pomp and might of those ancient battle texts from legend I had always had a fascination with the occult and horror movies, so I wanted to reflect this in the name and material of the band.

But I never listen to any bands these days to keep my writing fresh and original. I write from my own imagination and some ideas are the direct influence of dreams. I keep a tape recorder by the bed in case I wake up in the night with a cool idea. My girlfriend probably thinks I’m crazy! Many times they have woken up finding me humming a riff or melody line into the recorder, I must be hell to live with. Cloven Hoof is all I live for.

Even if thousands of bands emerged during the late 70s/early 80s in Britain, not so many lasted more than let’s say 4-5 years or 2-3 albums. Apart from what bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon or Def Leppard have achieved, Cloven Hoof really had a steadily ongoing quality in their releases. I would easily say that each release was better than the previous one. It’s something we tend to never see in our days. Would you agree?

I definitely would agree with that astute observation, because we always try to get better. I feel each Cloven Hoof album has improved on the last, so expect a quantum leap with the new one. As long as this is the case then the band will continue. I always want every track to be great because the fans expect it, anything less is letting them down. Most bands only have one or two good songs per album, the rest is rubbish. I would never do that, Cloven Hoof stands for quality epic Metal. With the new album we have raised our game to a whole new level.

Cloven Hoof had an occult background, at least in their early days? Was it a theatrical point of view? Really, what’s your relation to other forms of art e.g. theatre or literature?

I was into the occult at first to get a background for the songs, but loads of weird things started happening, so I left the supernatural well alone. I had the shit scared out of me, so the songs are to be taken in a theatrical way. The Cloven Hoof track is great but we won’t play it live, because weird things happen sometimes because of the ‘witches rune’ part.

I have always been a creative person its in my nature. At school the art teacher would let me just develop because he knew id pass an A level, all the rest of the kids had to follow a structured lesson. Learning an instrument came very easily too because I guess I’m just born with a talent. People are different and are good at certain things, you have to find out what it is and channel it. Writing songs is my best gift, it brings me the biggest enjoyment in life, and I am most proud of it. To create a song and share it with the Cloven Hoof fans live is the most gratifying experience imaginable. I want to let them know how much I appreciate them always, without them there would be no point.

One of my teachers said to me: Never underestimate the power of the imagination. He was right, because I would not be talking to you now without it. In creating Cloven Hoof music imagination is the key. I love anything that is Sci-Fi, horror based, be it artwork, books or film. I love H.R. Giger, J.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Greek , Norse and Roman Mythology, German black and white 1920’s cinema, The Golum, Nosferatu and Casket of Dr Calagari; they have a dream like magic to them. Fritz Lang Metropolis is great too.

There have been lots of British bands reuniting during the previous years. To name a few: Angelwitch, Jaguar, Gaskin. What do you think the motive is behind all this movement? How much do you think Britain can contribute to today’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal music? Britain has always produced some of the best Metal bands in the world, and always will despite a climate in the media that is very anti-heavy music. The press in general in the UK is diabolical and when bands break through it is against tremendous adversity. Maybe that is why the groups are so good… They have to be great to stand any chance at all. It’s fantastic all those N.W.O.B.H.M. bands are alive and kicking. It is proof that Heavy Metal is still thriving against all odds; the fans are still there so the music must be good to survive the test of time. I personally like all those acts, so fair play to them.

Cloven Hoof is not a band to rest on its laurels however; I would hate to be part of a band that has stagnated and is wallowing in nostalgia. A group should move on and keep things fresh and interesting, without selling out or copying anyone. We have a few surprises in store that should appeal to a new audience and keep the faithful on board. For me the reformation of the band is a personal crusade to put Cloven Hoof where it should have been in the first place, a leading worldwide name band. If not for all the crooked deals we would‘ve been. I also want to help new acts get the chance to play to bigger audiences. They are the future, and will keep Metal alive. If we can become a major group then maybe we can make a difference. Too many groups only think of themselves. Metal bands should stick together like brothers, together we are strong like fingers in a hand that form a fist.

‘Nuff said! Lee, thanks a lot for your spare time! We honestly wish all the best for the band’s future plans! Last words are gladly welcome from you!

Heavy Metal is people’s music, and we would rather be a penniless people’s band than earn millions by playing Pop music and so called Nu-Metal bollocks! I am very proud of all our previous albums, but the new one Absolute Power will take the band into a different league. The fans will not believe there ears, and we have been amazingly fortunate to have them standing united with us through thick and thin. Thanks Greg and give my very best wishes to all our fans in Greece, they rule! Together we can restore Metal back to where it belongs… Keep Metal True!

Links: Official Cloven Hoof Website


You do not have permission to rate

Metal Temple © 2000-2014
Yiannis Mitsakos

Designed, Implemented and Hosted by PC Green