Interview with

In this world,there will never be another band like RAVEN. Think about many N.W.O.B.H.M. bands have released record after record since that glorious movement (Holocaust, Saxon, and Iron Maiden immediatley come to my mind)? The fact that they have survived an excursion to a major label and are still making music which rocks is major acomplishment. After almost a year,I have finally got my RAVEN interview for you all to read (trust me,it is a long story involving a piece of shit tape recorder which killed both the tape and itself in one shot and a few e-mail problems.)...and I hope you all enjoy this as much as I enjoy Raven's music.

Interview by - Chris O'Brien

U.F.-How did RAVEN form and when did the band form?What did the band sound like originally? How did the sound evolve from the beginning up till the "Lt It Rip" 7"?

JOHN-Ok, the band formed back in 1862...oops! I mean 1974...basically we'd been on holiday in Spain, Mark got a spanish acoustic guitar and we were both messing around with it..Mark and a kid from down the street came up to me and said - "we wanna form a band and you can play bass!" and that was it - from there we had to learn how to play - and try and get some equipment!! Our 1st gig was in december 1975 at our high school..we played about 5 or 6 originals, and covers of Queen, Deep Purple and Status Quo!

U.F.-How long was it before the "classic" RAVEN line-up (John-Bass and Vocals/Mark-Giutar/Rob-Drums) was born? What were the bands early shows like? Was it easy to get gigs?

JONH-Well, for the 1st 5 years we were a 4 piece - 2 guitars, bass & the move to a 3 piece was pivotal in creating our own sound....we always did originals.."Inquisitor" dates back to around 1976!! Back then it was Mark & Me and a guy called Paul Bowden on guitar..with a changing cast of drummers..eventually in 1979 Paul left the band...we had a replacement for about 3 that time our current drummer Sean Tayler(later to join "Satan") left and Rob Hunter joined..the guy was not working out as 2nd guitar so we let him go and from then on the Raven sound was born- Rob and I worked great together and Mark was free to go nuts on guitar..also, I took over all the lead vocals which were previously shared equally between Mark, Paul & I!!

We used to play these pub shows in our home town (Newcastle Upon Tyne, England) with the occansional opening slot at the university or the local rock venue, the Mayfair Ballroom..then we started playing the working men's club circuit we'd make anywhere from $50 to $150.00 a night and would play about 1 or 2 times a week and got a reputation before Rob joined..

U.F.-How did the band get signed to NEAT Records? What were the terms of your contract? Did the label ask you to record ep's after albums or was that the band decision?

JOHN-We were playing this tiny gig in Newcastle - Balmbras Music Hall..and the Tygers of Pan Tang came to see us with their manager - who asked if we'd like to do a single on Neat! Of course we jumped at the chance!

At the time , a lot of bands put out ep's & 12" singles just to keep things moving, to promote the album or tour..its still a cool concept!

U.F.-How long after the "Let It Rip" single was the bands debut "Rock Until You Drop" released? Who did you tour with to support the album? How long did it take to write the album after the single was finished?

JOHN-The 1st single was "Don't Need Your Money" not "Let It Rip"!! But that came out in May or June of 1980 - Ozzy heard it on the radio and we ended up playing 4 shows with him - this was the 1st UK tour of the Blizzard of Oz! We also played with Motorhead, Samson, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake....

We recorded songs off & on for the next few months..tried to find another record deal with no luck..came back to Neat & finished the album "Rock Until You Drop" in the early part of 1981. We had no problem writing songs...once Rob joined ideas just poured out of the 3 of us!

U.F.-The songs on the follow up album "Wiped Out" were a bit faster than those on the irst album. Was that a result of the band being better song writiers or being more comfortable in the studio? Would you consider the album a precursor to the Speed/Thrash metal bands that formed a few years after this albums release?

JOHN-Well, "Wiped Out" was us saying we were gonna play as fast & crazy as possible!

We'd learned a lot from the producer & engineer on "Rock.."(Steve Thompson & Micky Sweeney) and basically took what we had learned & ran with it..the entire album (and the Crash Bang Wallop tracks) were recorded & mixed in about 1 week...basic tracks were cut live with vocals & solos & other stuff added later..we actually wrote "To the Limit To the Top" in the studio...played it up the the break in the middle..paused & wrote the rest, hit "record " and finished it up! Very raw, very raucous..but theres a great feel on it! This album inspired a lot of people to play faster/harder..and probably to miss the point also - its all B.S. if there are no songs under it all!

U.F.-After the "Crash,Bang,Wallop" ep came out,the "All For One" album was released. Why do you thin that the album was so huge? Did the sales for the first two albums pick up after "All For One" came out?

JOHN-I have no idea! Well, it has such a big sound - we'd grown tired of the limitations of recording at the Neat studio and insisted on working with the guy who had done Accept's "Breaker" cd - this was Mike Wagener who brought Udo Dirkschnieder (Accept singer) in as part of the production team..for the 1st time we did pre-production for a week..then went down to London to a studio to record...16 days it took but we had such a great time...we knew we wanted to slow things down & let the songs breathe..and Mike did an amazing job capturing us on that album... because this was our 1st domestic release in the U.S.A...this album probably did better than the other 2.

U.F.-To support the album,you were sent out on the road with Metallica in the U.S. for the "Kill Em All For One" tour. Was this the bands first U.S. tour? How did the band get in contact with Johnny Z of Megaforce Recods? How were the crowds during this tour? Did you think at the time that Metallica would become as big as they have become today?

JOHN=Jon Z. contacted us in 1982 to come & do a festival (Halloween Headbangers Ball in Staten Island NYC Oct 31 1982!) which we did, along with 5 club dates with Anvil - after this Jon & his partner Tony wanted us back to tour in '83...the opening act was there we were - 2 bands + crew..17 people in a 6 berth winnebago touring America...(thank god we had 2 trucks & a couple of mattresses !!)

The reaction was really positive ...we've always been the kind of band to win over a crowd - any crowd...we played this club in Oklahoma straight out of the Blues Brothers..everything but the chicken wire..Metallica went on & died the death..we went out jumping on their tables screaming "wake the fuck UP!! " and won 'em over..

Metallica were real young but had some great ideas...Cliff in particular was real talented....we had a lot of fun really seeing America and kicking ass!! No way would you have thought Metallica would do what they have done - mainly due to the drive of Lars I have to say...

U.F.-On the following ep,how did Udo of ACCEPT get the producers job? Whos idea was it for him to sing on "Inquiitor" and "Born to be Wild"?

JOHN-While we were doing the "All for One" album we thought up the idea of doing "Born to be Wild" and dragged Udo into singing on this + a remake of "Inquisitor"..basically us screaming our heads off!!!!!

U.F.-Where was the "Live At The Inferno" album recorded? What does "I.G.A.R.B.O." mean? How many albums had the band sold at this point?

JOHN-"Live at the Inferno" was recorded on tour in the U.S. through 1984 - we toured until we got a major deal....and the live album was our way to beat Neat to a "greatest hits" album...i.g.a.r.b.o. ??? "i've got a rampant boner on"!!!!!

U.F.-Why did you leave Neat Records for Atlantic Records? How did Atlantic gain intrest in signing the band? Was their contract better than the contract you signed with Neat? What other labels were interested in the band? Looking back,do you think Atlantic did a good job for the band?

JOHN-Well, we left $60 a week for America and ...$60 a week!!!! We were getting nowhere on was like pulling teeth to get go on the road...we had to get away from it..and the USA thing came at the right took months to negotiate the Atlantic was a decent deal & the inital promotion was good..we had the "On & On" video...and did a ton of press..all good until the "Pack is Back"...

U.F.-"Stay Hard" was the first Atlantic-Era album. Do you think that the die-hard RAVEN fabns were disappointed because the album wasn't "All For One" part 2? What was the video shoot for the "On and On" video like? Who did you tour with to support the album?

JOHN-Well, other than the sound not being as cavernous as "All for One".."Stay Hard" is a good album...its more commercial but not too much you know? Funnily enough, we never heard anything bad!! We toured until Rob broke his arm on stage in Buffalo...which took a bit of momentum away... the video was done in an old roller rink in Staten Island...from 8.00am to 6.00am....most of which involving us hanging around...waiting!!!

U.F.-"The Pack Is Back" was the next album and personally I thought it sucked. How do you HONESTLY feel about the album? Did you guys REALLY write "Screamin' Down the House"? How much did the label interfere with the songs on the album? Whose idea was it to use the Uptown Horns? Why did you guys wear those costumes on the cover of the album? How many potential fans do you estimate you lost because of this album?

JOHN-Honestly? Its a good album..but not really a RAVEN album,,,Rob really loved the idea of a big commercial album...and I have to admit we went for it too...we had a lot of people telling us what to do and of course the record company pushed Eddie Kramer(producer) to rub off the rough edges....Rob insisted on playing the songs to a click track..which took away the Raven feel.....there are some good Raven style songs...the title track, Nightmare Ride, Hyperactive..but some of them.....ugh!!!

The album took forever in our terms...2 weeks pre production...4 weeks recording and 2 weeks mixing... it was great working with Eddie Kramer & we had a lot of fun...but we were heading a little off track.....the cover? Well the title was a football thing, the (Green Bay) Packers and all that so - the idea was football players bursting out of lockers.. looked more like hairdressers!!!! HA!!!! Those costumes were only worn for that thank god!!!.............We were to do a killer video with NFL films...Atlantic would not put up the money at the last minute...they made us build this "commercial sailboat" and then took away the wind..... I'm sure the cover was not well received but on the road the songs worked great - and if they had been recorded with that fire..different story!

We did some dates with Judas Priest - biggest US dates we ever did and playing with our heroes was a big thrill!

U.F.-After the "MAD" ep,the last Atlantic-Era album, "Life's A Bitch", is somewhat of a return to the classic RAVEN sound. How was the song writing for this album different than it was for the previous two albums? How come Atlantic Records dropped the band after this album?

JOHN-After "Pack" we did the "Mad" ep which was both to show we could still freeking rock..and to have "new product" as we were to tour with Twisted Sister..that tour died 3 days before we were due to we toured the clubs - next was "Life's a Bitch" some inner conflict as Rob was not too happy with the harder direction...but he probably plays the best he ever did on that album! We basically holed up - wrote the album in 2 weeks and then recorded it using the engineer from the "Pack" Chris Isca, and its a vicious album! STILL kicks ass!!

Atlantic did not know what to do with it...after the whole album /tour thing...we decided to do a special show in NYC for Atlantic....they arrived early & left....Basically we had no-one pulling for us there..we decided to try our luck elsewhere..

U.F.-What led to Rob "Wacko" Hunter leaving the band? How come he always wore the lacrosse/hockey goalie helmet? How long after he left did you find Joe Hasselvander?

JOHN-Thats when Rob left....he'd just got married and wanted to concentrate on working in the we tried auditioning drummers before we said" why not try Joe?" who had just quit Savoy Brown and had stayed at our house in upstate NY a few times...Joe's got the same crazy influences and is an amazing we got lucky!!

U.F.-How did you get the deal with Combat Records to releasethe next album "Nothing Exceeds Like Excess"? Where did the band record the ongs that appeared on the "Ultimate Revenge 2" compilation?

JOHN-We did a rough demo - a guy came from Combat to watch us rehearse..we got the deal! but the "tell you one thing, do another" scenario was even worse than Atlantic. We did the 'Nothing Exceeds.." album with a zero budget in 6 days..but it has some great songs on it and was a good kick in the face to those who'd thought we'd gone!

We did that "Ultimate Revenge 2" show in Philadelphia..totally horrendous organization basically we were trapped in that place with no food all day....still, it turned out ok!

We got to go back to Europe to tour - something Atlantic would never let us do..and then we split with our management.

U.F.-How come the next record "Architect Of Fear" wasn't released in the United States? Do you think that because of most of the 90's records not being released here,fans in the U.S. might have thought the band was finished?

JOHN-We'd toured Europe with Kreator & ended up with a handshake deal with their manager, who brought us over to do an album in Germany - which was an experience! We wanted the heavy sound of "Lifes a Bitch"/"All For One" and the album(Architect of Fear) was super heavy!!! Never did come out in the U.S. as no-one was interested basically! Remember grunge??? That was becoming the rage....

U.F.-"Everything Louder" was one of the "Heaviest" albums I had heard in a long time. Were most of your other 90's records like this one...being heavier yet still retaining the RAVEN sound?

JOHN-I'll have to copy you the Architect album & the Heads Up ep - yep, they kick ass!!!

We toured Europe in 1991 & 1992 and did really good..then the business got bad over there and our manage had problems...we regrouped back in the a Japanese deal and did the "Glow" album..which is kinda schitzo..but a great album - heavy..its got a ballad(!!!!!!!) and a Thin Lizzy cover (The Rocker).

We did the Foundations Forum (metal convention) in Los Angeles in 1994 and basically stole the show..that was a blast!!!

We toured japan in 1995 and did a killer live album "Destroy All Monsters" then did the "Everything Louder" cd in 1997...and returned to Europe with Tank & Hammerfall opening for us!

U.F.-"Raw Tracks" was released in the United States by Metal Blade Records. How did you get them to release it domestically despite not having a "new" record in the U.S. for almost a decade? How old are some of the tapes those songs were taken from?

JOHN-Well, the "Raw Tracks" stuff is ALL unreleased - like a box set without all the stuff you have already got! A label in NYC wanted to do a "best of raven" with extra tracks..when they disappeared without a trace I took the idea further & we took it to our Japanese & European labels who loved it - Metal Blade picked it up for the U.S.A.!!

It's got live stuff /unreleased songs and demos from 1984 onward and is a great package the fans seemed to really apprieciate!! "savage & the hungry" was from a demo we did in 1984...dunno why we did not use the song, but I stole the title and most the lyrics for the "life's a bitch" savage song!

U.F.-"One For All" is the most recent album the band has released and I have not read a bad word about it. Do you think it is one of the bands best to stand with the first three classics? How would you describe it to someone who hans't heard the album or the band before?

JOHN-It's basically totally 100% RAVEN!! We hooked up with producer Mike Wagener once again..and had the greatest time doing the album at his studio in Nashville. We got fast rockers, heavy rockers..rock & roll and some moodier pieces..great sound & that "live in the studio" feel!!

U.F.-What does the future hold for RAVEN?

JOHN-Well, we have a ton of new material we are fine tuning ..also looking for new deals in japan & europe..hope to be recording the new album later this year!!

U.F.-Just a few more the first March Metal Meltdown how did it feel to play with the other NWOBHM bands? Did it bring back any memories? Were you surprised that some bands were still around?

JOHN-Well, most of the other NWOBHM bands at that NJ festival with the exception of Blitzkreig..had reformed for that festival only!!! We never went away so its not a nostalgia thing with us!

U.F.-Are you happy with the job that Neat did with the re-releases? Do you realize that over the past few years the bands first seven albums have been re-released? Are there any plans to re-release the albums from "Architect" to "Everything Louder"?

JOHN-Neat did a decent job on the plans to re-issue those albums in the U.S.A. right now but its a good idea at the right time...

U.F.-When can fan expect a new album? Do you guys have any side projects that we can look forward to?

JOHN-Joe has put out a "pentagram" album last year and has just finished another (he's playing all the instruments with Bobby Leibling on vocals) ..but thats it!

U.F.-How can fans get in touch with the band?

JOHN-Please contact us at our website:

U.F.-Any final comments? Thanks for the interview.

JOHN-My pleasure - thanks to you guys & everyone out there for your support..we are "building" a killer album for you - see you soon!!


Dont Need Your Money/Wped Out 7" single-1980(or 81)-Neat Records

Rock Until You Drop-1981-Neat Records_

Wiped Out-1982-Neat Records_

Crash Bang Wallop ep-1982-Neat Records_

All For One-1983-Neat Records (Megaforce in the U.S.)_

Live at the Inferno-1984-Neat Records (Megaforce in the U.S.)

Stay Hard-1985-Atlantic Records*

The Pack Is Back-1986-Atlantic Records*

Mad ep-1986-Atlantic Records*

Life's A Bitch-1987-Atlantic Records*

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess-1988-Combat Records~

Architect of Fear-1990-SPV Records

Heads Up ep-1991-SPV Records

Glow-1994-SPV Records

Destroy All Monsters (Live in Japan)-1995-SPV

Everything Louder-1997-SPV Records

Raw Tracks-1999-Metal Blade Records

One For All-2000-Metal Blade Records

_=Re-released by Neat Records with bonus tracks in 2000

*Re-released by Spitfire-Fierce/Mayhem records

~Re-released by Century Media in 2000 with bonus tracks