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Tokyo Blade's Alan Marsh: "We’ve always been a little envious of Accept's guitar sound, something we have never been able to get close to due mainly to budget & time restrictions in studios and engineers who don’t like rock."

Interview with Alan Marsh from Tokyo Blade
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 02 May 2020, 12:47 PM

Nothing is ever intentional, however, these unintentional cases could generate quite amazing surprises. Being one of the few remaining NWOBHM bands out there, Tokyo Blade has been keeping it vintage and classic, not putting attention to all the trends running around. Nonetheless, while doing as such, they came forth with their heaviest album to date, "Dark Revolution", signed to a new label, Dissonance Productions. Steinmetal had a chance to talk with the band's legendary frontman, Alan Marsh, about the new album, Covid-19, musical direction, local scene's music and more…

Hello Alan, it is an immense honour to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. I have been a fan of Tokyo Blade for many years, and I feel fortunate for us to have this conversation. How have you been doing sir, especially in these crazy times?

It's an absolute pleasure to answer your questions, I am doing OK, thank you for asking; hope you and your family are too, as you say It's all a bit crazy at the moment hopefully these lock downs won't go on too much longer or I will be climbing the walls!

Even if there is a slight positivity in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still around and it will probably stay with us for the foreseeable future. How have you been coping with the situation? How do you think that England has been handling in terms of taking care of its citizens against the pandemic?

Ooh difficult question, I’m coping ok, I suppose only time will tell which governments have got it right, the UK has followed much the same pattern to slow the virus up as most countries have, and it is important to protect the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus and to make sure all the hospitals and health care workers are not overwhelmed by the amount of people requiring specialised care.

However, in democracies I don’t think they can keep people prisoners in their own home for too long, we’ll all go mad for a start!! No seriously this virus isn’t going away any time soon but economies and jobs and people's mental health need to be taken into consideration soon as we are already seeing here that many shops and small businesses will not be re-opening even when they can and staff are being made redundant and there are many closer to closing, and calls to mental and other helplines are increasingly busy, so worrying times, I sincerely hope the lock down restrictions are eased as soon as possible!

With this pandemic still relevant, the music scenes, in particular the Metal scene, are shut down, leaving fans at home, not being able to head up to their closet venue, or drive to a festival, and have the time of their lives. Even veteran bands such as Tokyo Blade still have to promote its music to the fans and also to try to capture attention for new listeners and followers. How has the band been doing that to try to cover for the inability to perform?

Well with extreme difficulty, the record company’s PR department have placed promotional adverts etc. in the relevant magazines etc. and have arranged us many interviews as possible by phone or by email which Andy Boulton has been mainly handling but that’s about as much as we can do at the moment. We all live in different parts of the country and as we are not allowed to travel the videos we were going to shoot have had to be cancelled, all very frustrating, so yes very difficult at the moment.

Probably being one of the few loyal bands to the old NWOBHM movement, which you have been an integral part of, Tokyo Blade comes forward with “Dark Revolution”. I presume that shifting to Dissonance Productions was a sensible move in order to garner better attention? What is your appreciation of the promotional process provided for “Dark Revolution”?

Yes, it seemed a sensible move, 3MS are a great bunch of guys and did a great job for us on "Unbroken" but they are a small company and so limited in what they can do. Dissonance Productions have a great distribution and merchandise network and have a lot of metal & rock acts on their books and know how to promote them, so hopefully we’ve made the right move.

When I first set my gaze on the album’s artwork, I thought to myself that it is yet another breaking the chains kind of dogma. However, a little while afterwards, and along with the current situation that all of us are in, we do want to break free from the chains of staying indoors aren’t we? What was your initial vision behind that created this symbolism of the artwork?

Well the artwork is down to our friend Andy Bachelor, a graphic designer. We had chosen "Dark Revolution" for the title of the album, so Andy phoned Andy Bachelor and asked him if he could elaborate on an idea he had for the cover. Andy bachelor came back with several ideas, the one chosen for the album cover being the one we all thought was best, it seemed to us to fit the title song the best; mainly as it was so striking visually, the fist in the air represents resistance; the "revolution " and the chains and the landscape artwork the "dark".

Who is that dark revolutionary entity that you are referring to? On who, or what, exactly do you wish to rebel? Is there an injustice that you are implying with the phrase?

Tricky this one. When I write lyrics it tends to go one of two ways, over the years the world has seen a lot of changes a lot of them for the worst and some things have become down right obscene. I have my political views like most people have and one way of expressing my frustrations at the injustices of the world, politicians, greed, poverty etc is to write about them. I do until I get pulled up by the rest of the band and asked to lighten the subject matter a bit and then I try to write stories. Lyrics can always be interpreted by the listener but "Dark Revolution"’s entity, your word; but a great way of explaining it, is the dark side of the human psyche something that’s within all of us, that voice telling us to beware but rarely acted upon. The revolution isn’t something we are rebelling against more of a massive uncontrollable unconscious revolution creeping up on the human race, and if we don’t listen to what we already know we will sleep walk into destroying the world we live in, sounds a bit deep when written down like that, but it is a serious issue.

In terms of lyricism, “Dark Revolution” isn’t focused solely on a singular theme that is stretched throughout the record, yet, I sense that there is a bond between the songs. What is your viewpoint about that?

No, "Dark Revolution" isn’t a concept album so no real connection between the songs other than the fact that they were all written by Andy and me and we have always worked well together. Song writing has always been a relatively easy thing to do with Andy so I guess the bond between the songs is us.

After rehashing the golden years of the 80s with “Unbroken”, which emphasized the cause, and need, for British Metal nostalgia, comes “Dark Revolution”, barging in with a mighty fist of pure steel. Sure that there is the general British feel, yet also with a sniff, a scent of German Heavy Metal, tasting a little bit of Accept and Sinner. First things first, and that needs to be asked, the heavier approach was for the sake of heaviness? Perhaps getting in line with the times and march in with a chunk of riffery chugs or simply you guys wanted to become aggressive?

Rehashing the 80’s!! That’s as bit harsh! It wasn’t intentional apart from two songs "My kind of heaven" which we intentionally did as a part 2 of "If heaven is hell" and "The Last Samurai" which was a nod to our early "warrior" song, the others we just wrote as the ideas came. We’ve always been a little envious of Accept's guitar sound, something we have never been able to get close to due mainly to budget & time restrictions in studios and engineers who don’t like rock. But to answer your question, no we didn’t intentional write them heavier it was just the way the ideas came to us. Andy delivers the riffs so maybe he was pissed off with something when he was writing, there’s nothing like releasing frustration by hitting out a hard heavy riff

With “Dark Revolution” being probably the band’s heaviest album to date, running hard and going for the bone isn’t everything. In your opinion, how do you feel that Tokyo Blade went forward musically? Does “Dark Revolution” present a different level of Tokyo Blade, despite the band’s decades of experience? Was there a way to go forward with “Dark Revolution” after all?

I think there’s always a way forward, both Andy and I and indeed all the guys in the band still have a massive passion for hard rock & metal with no sign of that ever changing  so we are always looking to move the band’s songs & sound forward, obviously it’s a brave band that strays to far from their roots but you have to move forward or you stagnate, and yes; a whole album of hard hitting, hard songs can become overwhelming no matter how much you like that sort of thing, great live though, so on an album there does need to be a little light and shade in the different songs, we have tried out some new ideas on some of the songs and hopefully we have still retained the essence of what we are! We have a small but loyal worldwide fan base for which we are grateful; they enjoy what we do and that’s why we do it

Over the last couple of years, I have heard the phrase “Grandad Metal” from folks of the younger generation simply annoying current running bands, most of them newcomers, still commemorating NWOBHM. Of course that most Metal chaps nowadays might not be celebrating the old British Metal vibe, and probably older in age, however, it is still being saluted. How do you find the relevance of this old music movement nowadays?

I think the expression ‘Grandad’ metal is a bit mean, but people do like to stick labels on things, Airborne do music in the style of AC/DC and Greta van Fleet do music in the style of Led Zeppelin does that make it ‘Great Grandad’ rock? It’s rock music for old and new fans of the genre, I think it’s great that new young bands are still out there taking influence’s from older bands' music and making it their own. We all did that, Thin Lizzy being a major influence on Tokyo Blade, the NWOBHM is a hard, passionate, energetic, aggressive style of rock which emerged from the punk era, perfect music to get your rocks off to best sampled live, and I think it still has a place today.

Personally, I love all manner of Rock/metal bands & styles and still get a buzz when I hear a good rock song and I’m very glad there are young bands coming through as us older bands are sadly coming to the end of our time, but we will keep going until we fall off the stage lol!  So long may these new bands rock; as if hip hop, rap & pop is the alternative, then the world will be a darker place.

What can you share regarding the songwriting process of the album? What kind of lessons would you say that you learned from the previous record that might provide you hints of how to do things better?

Well Andy comes up with the music and I do the melodies and lyrics, mainly; sometimes I’ll bounce a new chorus idea at him or a variation on a verse riff and we make it work, as in all partnerships we do disagree sometimes on the direction of a song but not often, we bounce the ideas off each other until we are happy with the end product, Andy and I are always looking to improve our songs and always look to improve on the songs that came before, so yes we look at previous songs to see what ideas worked and what ones didn’t.

While the songwriting process of “Dark Revolution”, what can you say that lifted you up, energized or influenced you that made you motivated to push forward?

I think the single biggest thing that has lifted us and given us a new purpose is the fact that Andy has built up his own studio at his home and we can for the first time produce ideas of such a quality sound wise that we just can’t fail to be motivated, we can hear straight away now if an idea is worth pursuing, that’s definitely given us the motivation to write more. Luckily I don’t live far from Andy so it’s easy to get together and try new ideas, well not at the moment with the movement restrictions due to Covid 19 but we still send ideas to each other via the good ole internet but it’s not as good as being together and bouncing the ideas about, definitely a long way from the portable cassette player we use to use back in the day

Other than the song “Dark Revolution” that is simply one of the heaviest Tokyo Blade songs I have ever heard, there is one of the best blasts from the past in the image of “The Lights Of Soho”, an urban longing son. It actually made me think of early Def Leppard a bit transfused with Tokyo Blade classics. How does this song make you feel while listening to hear it? Perhaps it makes you long for the past, with that street sense?

It’s difficult to say really, we get so close to the song while writing and producing it to a finished product it can be hard to be objective, as it’s been a while since we finished the album I have attempted to just listen to it and not pick fault and I think overall it’s not bad. I suppose "the lights of Soho" is a bit more retro but it’s us, some ideas turn out more old school than others, when I listen to the song it doesn’t make me long for the past but it does make me think what could have been if we hadn’t had such, shall we call it bad luck, bad management, bad record companies plus a dash of our own stupidity in some of the decisions that were made

Certainly one of the positive notes of the album is the sound. Though it is polished and modern, yet it successfully captures the essence of NWOBHM, while at times having me thinking that I am listening to Iron Maiden or Saxon. Who did the studio work on this album? What is your appreciation with how Tokyo Blade sounds in 2020?

Well the 2020 Tokyo Blade sound is all down to Andy Boulton, he engineered and produced & mixed it in his own studio. Andy spent hours of hard devoted work to get the album up to the standard it is, it’s the 1st time ever we have been in a position to work on an album with no real time restraints and Andy has produced a fabulous guitar sound full of power and energy which along with the great drum & bass sounds drives the songs along, as you have said bringing a modern sound to the songs while retaining our roots, we are very pleased with the end result.

Andy aims get an even better sound on the next album so he’s set a high marker for himself but I know he will do it, Andy being in lockdown, has been busy working on ideas for the next album so something positive for us in this awful situation the world finds it’s self in, but there are so many I’m afraid to open my emails as I’m getting behind because there’s so many ideas.

I am sure that you guys had plenty of plans of how to support “Dark Revolution”, those were probably gone bust with the Covid-19. However, plenty of bands nowadays are rescheduling with hopes that those new dates wouldn’t go to waste. What is going on likewise on the Tokyo Blade front?

Yes, a great deal of our plans have been shot down thanks to Covid 19, but everyone is in the same situation, luckily for us we hadn’t arranged a great deal for the early part of the year as we were working on the album but unfortunately it looks like the rest of the year will be cancelled. I think I can speak for most bands and say we all look forward to this pandemic being over and we can all get back out on the road and the live music scene getting back to normal.

Alan, many thanks for the time that you dedicated for this interview, your effort is highly appreciated and also thanks for releasing such a strong album. Cheers sir, all the best and health

My pleasure and thank you, to you; your family and Metal Temple readers, stay safe, Cheers ,Alan.


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