Instrumental in fusing metal and punk Warfare singlehandedly changed the face of extreme metal. Soon to release the career-spanning retrospective Songbook Of Filth (pre-order here, read review here) Midlands Rocks spoke to irrepressible frontman Paul ‘Evo’ Evans to get the lowdown.
You started your musical career playing in three really cool Oi! bands.
I started off with Major Accident. I did a couple of singles and a live album with them, we did a few tours around the country, but I was always very determined, I was always there before I even got there. The Blood were the next band and they had Garry Bushell behind them; they were going to be the next big thing as it were, they were on the front page of Sounds and all the rest. They liked my drumming in Major Accident because they’d supported us on a tour, and they liked the way I crossed into the metal genre. The Blood asked me to play on their debut album, which I still think is a brilliant album, but there were squabbles, we were only kids, but I decided I was going to leave without knowing what I was gonna do. I was in Soho, and I met Mensi [Angelic Upstarts] and he said, “We need a drummer for this weekend; we’re playing Leeds, Queens Hall” and I thought ‘F**king Hell, Queens Hall!’ I rehearsed with them Tuesday then played to 15,000 people on the Saturday supporting The Damned.
Those early Oi! gigs could be very raucous.
Very raucous. We did one in Leeds with the Upstarts and one guy brought a chainsaw into the venue and started sawing the table up. Which I thought was hilarious, but it was certainly different. Another guy brought a motorbike into one of the gigs. I remember one gig in a small venue that only held 1,000 but somehow they crammed 3,000 in and the floor was bouncing and the sweat was dripping onto my head and there was a big sheet of glass behind my drums but the crowd were pushing so hard that I was getting nearer the glass, then someone threw something and shattered the glass then they all started fighting each other and I just stood at the side of the stage and laughed. But I always wanted to form my own band. I was never content being at the back as it were.
What was your introduction to metal?
When I was a kid, you couldn’t call it metal but I was into all the glam stuff, Slade, Sweet, all that kind of gear. I liked Mott The Hoople, Pink Fairies. That was punk before it was invented. Then I heard ‘Anarchy’ by the Pistols, that really turned me on. So, I’d say my first introduction to metal was the Sweet with ‘Turn It Down’. That was an amazing song, 1973, I think I was only 8 or 9, I just loved it and I thought ‘That’s what I want to do as a job’. I thought the punk thing was brilliant because I couldn’t stand all that prog stuff, I thought it was dreadful. The sleeves were brilliant, you couldn’t knock it for artistic creation, but the music was rubbish. My friend leant me a Greenslade album, it was like a massive book, the art was brilliant but then you put the record on, and it was like ‘What’s this bulls**t?’ It was dreadful, but then I heard ‘One Chord Wonders’ by The Adverts and I thought ‘This is where it’s at’. What I wanted to do was, instead of all the dragons and demons and all that bulls**t, I wanted to bring the street into heavy metal and give it some reality in the lyrical content and turn it up so loud that it was ear-splitting, but with metal riffs.
When you formed Warfare in the early ‘80s metal and punk rarely mixed.
No. There was a massive schism, if you were into heavy metal and went to a punk show you’d probably get beat up, and vice versa. I think the likes of Warfare brought the barrier down somewhat. You had the like of The Plasmatics who were metal and punky, but not like the British punk, but I had already been in the Angelic Upstarts, The Blood and Major Accident, so I already had a fanbase who followed me. So, when we played a gig we’d have the punk fans, then the metal fans would come, and it was never a problem. I could never understand the division because it all came out of the same Marshall amp; it was all anti-conformity and loud, so what’s the difference if you’ve got long or short hair? I think the energy in metal is far more intense than in punk. But they were wrong back in the day to say that punk rockers couldn’t play, that was ridiculous. I’m not being big headed, but I could play the drums, I was influenced by the likes of Cozy Powell. I wasn’t lacking in the ability to take those skins and hit them hard. When you listen to Generation X and the guitar playing is blistering, isn’t it?
Fusing punk and metal was a risky move. Did you think it could fall flat on its face or did you think you were onto a winner from the beginning?
I thought I was on to a winner because I never ever thought negative, I can’t. You hear negatives from people; ‘What if?’ F**k what if! I never thought for one minute that it wouldn’t work. I just believed and I think belief is all.
I can hear a lot of what would become thrash and black metal in the early Warfare sound. Does it bother you that you don’t get the credit you deserve?
Sometimes, yes. But you’ve got to think the thrash thing wasn’t invented when we started. So, I was writing songs that were fast and furious before all that came about. It’s not the appreciation thing but it’s who is behind you. I got on well with the record company. Lemmy produced some of our records and they sold 1,000’s but they would anyway because of the connection. Did I get the credit? That’s a difficult question to answer and I don’t know if I want the credit, I just got my head down and got on with it.
I often think that pioneers can get usurped by those who follow and refine the sound for mass consumption.
People get in touch with me from all over the world to say how much I’ve influenced them, it’s unbelievable, From Chile, Brazil and recently by a band called Outrage from Japan who’ve just done a cool version of ‘Metal Anarchy’ and all these bands are crawling out of the woodwork telling me they were brought up on Warfare. It’s fantastic, especially after all these years and the hiatus that I had, I was out of music for 25 years.
I imagine when bands cite you as an influence that means more than any accolades?
Definitely. I didn’t give a f**k what the critics were saying, if the records were selling and I was paying the mortgage then f**k the critics. There are about 20 bands in Japan who’ve covered Warfare songs and I’ve just been signed by Ward Records in Japan as well. They’re releasing Songbook Of Filth in Japan and are asking me to go across and reform the band so…
What was it about the North East in the early ‘80s that produced bands like Venom, Fist, Satan, Warfare. Bands that were filled with rage and fury. Were you tapping into a shared consciousness or were you a product of your environment?
I think it happens in any town where you have a cluster of bands, but it was very punk, the North East, more than it was heavy metal. I think David from Neat Records tapped into it by mistake. I don’t think he realised what he was releasing. He was a businessman, he wasn’t into the music, I don’t think he listened to Raven, apart when they were playing live, some of the stuff on Neat is fantastic. The kids should be ashamed really, there’s a lot of older bands reforming and we’re showing them how to do it and we are 60-year-olds. I shouldn’t be showing the kids how to rebel. It’s a namby-pamby world we are living in. When Warfare went out to play, we were for real, we weren’t mucking about. All the carnage and intimidation, setting fire to tour coaches, it was great fun. Somebody told me they have noise police at gigs now; you’ve got to play at certain decibels and if you don’t you get fined. If I was playing now, I’d turn it up to the maximum and I’d be more than happy to get arrested for it.
And although there was rarely any trouble at gigs there was an air of danger which made it exciting.
Oh yes, you never knew when it was going to kick off. In Warfare’s case it was the band who caused it! It was me who caused the carnage then the kids used to go mental!
What was a typical Warfare gig like?
There was never a typical one! We were banned in Holland. We got some pig’s blood from the abattoir in the afternoon and hid it in the venue. I said to the band ‘Pretend your Christians, you don’t want to give anything away’. Before we went on stage, we covered ourselves in black gunge and then we absolutely blasted their ears out and third song in we got doused in pig’s blood, then the bassist decided to smash up his bass and then there was a fight in the audience to grab the pieces. It was just carnage. And the guys doing the sound were crapping it thinking that the gear would be lost; the microphones were falling into the audience and as a finale I destroyed my drum kit. I was going to set it on fire, but someone stopped me from doing that, which was a shame, but it wasn’t my drum kit. The band following us couldn’t play because all the kids were shouting “Warfare”. I do remember Kerrang! magazine saying Warfare made the Sex Pistols look like puppy dogs.
What was it like being both a frontman and a drummer? How did you whip up an audience from behind the kit?
Just with the patter, really. You’ve got to wind and audience up and up and up and then you just blow their lugholes out really. But I was a good entertainer, I was born to entertain. But it was difficult, don’t get me wrong, to sing and drum at the same time. You do have to be a bit of an athlete. If I do go out live again, which is a big if, I would go to the front of the stage, I wouldn’t drum again. On the whole it worked quite well, it was fine. The bassist and guitarist were looking behind and doing what I told them.
There’s a new collection coming out on Cherry Red titled Songbook Of Filth. How did that come about?
For 25 years I took a hiatus from rock n’ roll. When I was 30 years old bands couldn’t get arrested, Motörhead went from Hammersmith to the Marquee, and then grunge music started to come in along with that horrible dance music, it took over and heavy metal seemed to take a dive. I thought ‘I’ve made 10 studio albums, I’ve seen most of the world, now I’m going to do something else’. Then I brought my own fairground, I think they’re fantastic and that’s what I did for 25 years. I got offered gig after gig, asked to produce records but I said ‘no’ to all of it. Then I went to see Motörhead in 2006 and it blew me away and got music back in my blood again. I used to speak with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and said ‘I’m thinking about doing it again and told me to go for it. He told me I’ve got something no one else has; Warfare. He told me he’d play on some of the songs if I started Warfare again and I though there’s no way to turn that down. So, that’s when I wrote ‘Misanthropy’ and ‘Cemetery Dirt’ and ‘Fast’ Eddie blasted the guitars out for us. Then I found some really rare stuff in the loft, it sounded so vital and immediate and well ahead of its time. I thought I’d put a collection together of Radio 1 sessions and demos. I put it all on there, some of its gritty, there’s some brand-new stuff and ‘Misanthropy’ features Pete Way on bass and that’s the first time that Pete Way and ‘Fast’ Eddie have played together on a commercial release and, sadly, it was the last bassline that Pete played before he died. I’m very humbled about that because I loved his bass playing.
How did you decide what to include and what to leave off?
What I decided to do was take a broad spectrum of what I’d done across my career, but I wanted to put some rare stuff on. ‘Addicted To Love’ only got to white label stage and then it got banned, but when we rehearsed it, it was called ‘Addicted To Drugs’, and it would have been even more banned but I found the very first rehearsal, the first time we ever played it, it’s so loud and I thought I’ve got to have that on there. I’ve got three of my old bands; Major Accident, The Blood and the Angelic Upstarts, with me drumming on them, I thought they were vital to include. And things like ‘Sick Boy’, originally by G.B.H., and I can’t remember doing it. I do remember watching them at the Queens Hall from the side of the stage, when we were on the bill, and I thought ‘What a great band’. I wanted to put the Friday Rock Show session on because that was so cool when Tommy Vance said it was one of the top ten sessions, and Tony Wilson who produced it, said the songs were brilliant as well. I think the new track ‘Black’ kicks ass, and it’s so relevant; no one spoke out in the day about priests fiddling about with kids.
Your lyrics always courted controversy. For example, ‘Rape’…
That was based on a true story. It was in the newspaper about a guy who’d been disfigured in the war, and he actually raped a girl because he was so ugly he couldn’t get a girl and he got 30 years in prison. It just caught my eye when I was reading the newspaper, Neat Records weren’t happy about it, and neither were Roadrunner because they thought it was in such bad taste. I was trying to look at it from the point of the guy who fought for our country and got disfigured; can you imagine nobody fancying you anymore if you were a good-looking guy? It’s like the Elephant Man all over again. Lyrically, it’s a pretty horrible track. But I always tried to keep the lyrics street; ‘Wrecked Society’ was about a homeless heroin addict, who I became quite friendly with. I sat down and asked him about his story, he told me, and I put it into a song. There were various things like that I did. It was kind of like method acting, finding out about the subject matter then really going into it. ‘Ebony Dreams’ was about returning North after I’d been to London and just looking at them all and nobody had moved on, it was all so pathetic. It’s all about the contentment of fools and I don’t know what they’ve got to be content about. It’s all about two kids and a mortgage, which is OK, but there’s no anger in them or energy. There was so much apathy. I think things are worse now, there’s more to be angry about than there’s ever been.
The great thing about bands like Warfare and Motörhead was they weren’t too ‘clean’. There was dirt under the fingernails.
Exactly, it was real. I was angry and I still am. I hate royalty, can’t stand them, can’t stand religion, can’t stand politics. These people are robbing us every week, all our taxes. There’s more to write about nowadays, anger wise, and I’m the man.
Can you tell me about the infamous time when you “supported” Metallica in 1986?
A few years before I’d got pissed with James and Lars at The Lyceum during the Lightning tour and we got on really well. When they were touring Puppets someone in their camp suggested putting Warfare on the bill. At that time, we had recorded a third album, Metal Anarchy, and were doing very well and then their management approached me and said they wanted £10,000 pay-on, which was common practice. If people don’t know the music industry you pay to play sometimes because you’re using their profile, lights, road crew and everything. They phoned me and said you can play the Hammersmith Odeon with Metallica but it’s going to cost you £10,000. So, I said ‘Fuck off!’ they replied, ‘It’s Metallica you know, you’re gonna get a load of profile’. I thought I’ll show you profile so I told my management ‘Give me a wad of cash’ and I went to see a friend on the fairground and said, ‘This lorry; we’ll take a ride out of here, put up camouflage netting and add a big PA system’ and we were halfway there because it had its own generator and we drove it to London. We stayed at a beautiful hotel and then at 6pm we drove round to the Odeon, opened the back up and started to play as loud as possible. I’ve never seen anything like it. People came out of the pubs, kids were jumping over the Hammersmith flyover, thousands of kids, headbanging, moshing, it was a proper headlining gig, never mind going on third or whatever. The kids went mental, and then the bouncers came out. I threw a microphone stand through a car window, which happened to be a manager’s car, one of the bouncers had a shooter, an actual gun, and he shot a bullet through the side of the lorry. My friend was driving the lorry and he lost control of it because a bouncer smashed the windscreen with a crowbar so he ploughed up the side of all these cars, turned a mini over, he just wrecked a load of cars and all you could hear in the back of this lorry was bang, crash, and there was one mini he actually drove over the top of it with this fairground lorry and left track marks on top. The police arrived, roadblocks everywhere, cameras going off. The bouncers were handcuffed, and I remember going across to one of the bouncers and smacking them as hard as I could, claret everywhere. A copper got hold of me and said that’s another point against you. Down the police station, I had a Warfare t-shirt on, and this copper said, ‘My daughter loves Warfare, you wouldn’t mind signing that for her?’ and I thought great, this is my get out of jail card, I took my t-shirt off and signed it, but he still fingerprinted and nicked me. So afterwards I had to walk back to the hotel with no t-shirt on. I had to go to court and was fined. It made the papers, News of the World, The Sun, The Mirror all had big headlines. Next week I got a letter from Neat Records, it had a cheque for me and a clipping out of one of the magazines; Bark at the Moon was number four in the charts and Mayhem, Fuckin’ Mayhem was number one. They couldn’t press enough, it all expanded because of doing that one protest thing. If we’d have paid £10,000 to support Metallica, it would have been forgotten.
Do you put your chaotic streak down to your schooling in punk rock?
It was more a non-conformity. I was OK until I went to Grammar School, and I hated it with a passion. It was old-fashioned and Victorian. They used to throw board dusters at you and everything. After school I’d take a dog for a walk by the railway works in Shildon, I’d sit on the pit heap and watch all the workers come out like robots. I made a vow to myself I was never going to do anything 9 to 5, school was bad enough, and things like that inspired me to make music. If you listen to ‘Strangled’ on Songbook Of Filth you’ll know where I’m coming from.
Finally, what are your future plans for Warfare?
At the moment I’m concentrating on Songbook and then we’ll see what happens because it’s all just destiny. To be honest I don’t really know what the future holds.