interview with Cloven Hoof

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What´s the name of your band? Cloven Hoof

What made you call the band "Cloven Hoof"? I wanted something satanic with 3 syllables that fans could chant the name of. 

How was the band formed? I put adverts in the local paper called the 'Express & Star' in Wolverhampton where I live.

Can you tell about your band? 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 number 18. Articles in "Kerrang" and "Noise" magazine 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 4 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 makeup 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". (Lee Payne) " Over in America Rob Stradansky was championing the band's cause in his "Metal Rendezvous" magazine and college radio stations were airing it on their playlists. A worldwide buzz was growing and international stardom seemed a formality. However bad contract advice and publishing infighting put paid to a huge recording deal. The untimely death of David Hemmings, the bands 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 group's "The 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 sizeable 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 band's 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 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 tracks '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 albums were generally very good. Dave Ling of 'Metal Hammer' and Mike Davies of 'Brum Beat' were particularly enamoured. Unfortunately after this record, contractual and internal problems forced the band to split apart, leaving only founder member Lee Payne to soldier on. A new line up was eventually established, comprising of Lee Payne on Bass, Russ North on vocals, Andrew Wood on guitar and Jon Brown on drums. They 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. 1988's Dominator and 1989's A Sultan's Ransom. Former member of Tredegar Lee Jones was brought into the band for the role of second guitarist soon after the release of these two albums, but contractual difficulties caused the band to split up again in 1990.

2001-2007

In the summer of 2001, Lee Payne began putting together a new line-up for the next incarnation of Cloven Hoof (following a telephone conversation with Andy Wood regarding the contractual difficulties which had caused the band's decade-long split.) The band completed a live appearance at the Keep It True II Festival at the Tauberfrankenhalle in Lauda-Königshofen, Germany on 10th April, 2004. Eye of the Sun was recorded and released in 2006, with the help of musicians Matt Moreton on vocals, Andy Shortland on guitars, and Lynch Radinsky on drums. Tom Galley produced the album. Due to the work commitments of various band members it was impossible for the unit to play live, so Lee Payne was once again obliged to enlist new personnel. Vocalist Russ North returned to England after a period of time spent living in Spain, so he rejoined the band. Eventually the line-up comprised Mick Powell and Ben Read and Jon Brown on drums.

2008 onwards

A collection of re-recorded songs - The Definitive Part One - was released in early 2008,with a new EP to be called Throne of Damnation scheduled for release in 2010. On 27th June 2009, Cloven Hoof appeared at the Bang Your Head!!! festival in Balingen, Germany. They featured on the bill alongside bands such as W.A.S.P., U.D.O., Blind Guardian and Journey, playing their set in torrential rain. The track Nightstalker, from the band's debut album, was used in the soundtrack for the Brütal Legend computer game. In early 2010, following the exit of Russ North, Matt Moreton was hired to record the vocals that appeared on the Throne of Damnation EP. Moreton left the band due to ill health soon afterwards. On 13 December 2010, Cloven Hoof released their first DVD, A Sultan's Ransom - Video Archive, comprising footage of a 1989 concert at Lichfield Art Centre and also featuring two music videos for the songs Mad, Mad World and Highlander, both from A Sultan's Ransom. 2011 saw Lee Payne rebuilding the band, bringing in guitarist Joe Whelan from the band Dementia and guitarist Chris Coss from UK/DC, along with drummer Mark Gould and Ash Cooper on vocals. This line-up released a music video called I'm Your Nemesis. However, North parted company with Cloven Hoof for a final time in July 2012, following a controversial performance in Cyprus. Mark Gould left the band in August 2012, with Jake Oseland replacing him on drums in time for a series of live dates in 2013. The 2013 line-up of Cloven Hoof scheduled a debut UK concert appearance with Jameson Raid and Hollow Ground at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on 30th March, 2013.

On 27 April 2013, Cloven Hoof played a concert at the Parkhotel Hall in Tirol, Austria. The show was recorded by producer Patrick Engel for a future live album release. A studio album, provisionally entitled Resist or Serve, is due for release in late 2013 on High Roller Records. On 23rd June 2013 Cloven Hoof stormed the R Mine festival in Belgium on a bill that included Hell, Tygers of Pan Tang and Tank. On 21st September 2013 the band played in Italy at Heavy Metal Night 6 to rave reviews. In 2014 Cloven Hoof will play the prestigious Sweden Rock festival with Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper and many European dates are being scheduled in throughout the year. Now Cloven Hoof have an almost legendary tag within the world of hard rock music. With a string of highly acclaimed albums behind them they enjoy a dedicated world wide following but this is a band who would never rest on its laurels. The 2013 version of Cloven Hoof is  a completely new animal. A perfect match of youth and experience like a great football team the band are serious heavy weight contenders. With old school hard rock credibility the band are now infused with a tough but commercial sounding modern edge that makes them a unique compelling package that will take the rock world by storm. For a band to make it big a lot of time, money and effort has to be put in by managers, agents, promoters and record companies. Stability is the key to sustained success as well as pure talent. This band are in it for the long haul, they enjoy a friendship between them that is unique and unbreakable. Mutual respect is boundless between Joe, Lee, Chris and Jake and the audience and just about everyone else picks up on this. Anyone can see these guys genuinely love playing and being together. In a business plagued with endless hardships in this day and age it is a blessing that a band unit such as this has such chemistry and unity of spirit. 

Where are all band members from?/Who does what in the band? Lee Payne - Bass, Backing vocals,  Joe Whelan - Lead Vocals, Lead guitar, Chris Coss - Rhythm guitar,  Jake Oseland - Drums.

What was the ambitions of the band when you started? I wanted the band to have a concept and image that could work together to be original. We had sci-fi & horror music so I wanted our stage show to reflect this. 

Could you explain your music to someone that haven't heard you? Loud, fast, epic

Where was your first gig? Colchester UK.

Where was the latest gig? Purfleet, Essex. UK

Who writes your songs?/who writes the music who writes lyrics? Up until now I wrote everything, but Joe is a great writer so he will contribute songs in future releases.

Who has the best since of humor in the band? Joe again, he is a natural comedian and star!

What's good/bad with the band?/What genre do you feel you are? We have our roots in the NWOBHM but with a modern hard hitting edge. We don't compromise our music because our fans know what to expect of us. This is bad because you only play for a certain genre and we won't sell out so we will never be popular with a mainstream audience.

Why did you pick that particular style?/What are your songs about? We play heavy metal because I was influenced by the true great such as Sabbath, Priest, Lizzy and Rush. Our songs are based around Science Fiction, Horror films, Comic Books, Greek and Norse mythology. 

Do you write your own material or mainly covers? I have always written my own material and have always said "I would rather die on my arse playing my own songs than going down like a King playing someone else's shit" lol! 

Do you have any clips on YouTube? There are many here's a few...

Reach for the sky / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XPg4DyGYgw

 highlander / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh2ZpxfA588

Live in Athens / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOryDaH86L4

Contagion (251,099 views wow)  / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTOCpnT0SHw 

Mistress of the forest / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNNYpqk6pHI

How old are you?/What got you started in music? You are as old as the woman you are feeling lol! I was 14 and I listened to the song 'Highway Star' by Deep Purple and the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. After I heard those I knew I wanted to become a musician. 

At what age did you start playing? I was 17 years old. by the time I had saved up enough money to buy my first guitar. It was a Kimbara Stratocaster 6 string. I then bought a bass 2 months later and liked it far more and I have been playing bass ever since. 

How old were you guys when you first stood on stage? I was 19 years old. Kevin was 18, Steve was 17 and Dave was 20 years old. 

What year was the band started? 1979.

Best/worst gig you've played? The best gig I have ever played was when we played the 'Shockwave' festival in Belgium and I did it with a broken hand. It should have been set in plaster but I said no and had a steel brace to protect my hand before the show because I didn't want to let anyone down. I took it off and played the set and still ran around like a crazy person! When we listened to the playbacks of the gig I didn't drop a note and because I was so high on adrenaline I didn't feel any pain until later…. I passed out in the dressing room lol! That is what I call suffering for your art!

What places will you be playing in in the imidate future? France, Sweden and the UK but many more dates will be announced soon.

Where have you played from then till now? I have played all over Europe for many years. 

Witch band is the best you´ve seen? If I had to pick one it would be Rush.

Is it always the same songs live? When you have been around for as long as Cloven Hoof has you are expected to play certain songs because the fans and promoters would be disappointed if you didn't play them. I suppose half of the set will always be comprised of these. We will always try to bring new songs into the set because new tracks show where the band are coming from now. You are always constantly growing as a musician so we are always trying to mix and match the set. 

What has been the best/most promising gig so far? That is really hard to say because most of our gigs are fantastic for any number of different reasons. I really loved playing the 'Bang your head' festival in Germany a few years back because we played in torrential rain and everybody was scared we would kill ourselves by getting electrocuted, but we did it for the fans who were also getting soaked to the skin! My favourite gig in 2013 was when we played in Austria for the first time. The fans were incredible, the sound was great and the next day we climbed hundreds of feet to the top of the mountains as we felt so high on adrenaline after the show!

Have you had any bigger tours from start to now? Our audiences are increasing by the year so we are bigger now than we have ever been, this means we play to bigger crowds today. 2014 should be a fantastic year for us because some very interesting tours are in the pipeline.

How big crowds do you usually play for? In 2013 we have played anything from 2000 to 18-20000 so it does vary.

What are the plans for the rest of the year? We are definitely confirmed for our shows in Paris on 1st June 2014 followed by the most prestigious event of the band's career playing Sweden Rock in June 2014. We are also performing at the 'Power & Glory' festival in the UK in August 2014. We are currently entering into talks with a top level management company so we can't give too much away just yet but it will take the band to a different level.

Where do you usually play? I usually jam in my spare room at home, it is kitted out like a recording studio.

 How do you get psyched up for a gig? I just think of all the things I have been through to play the show and remember what a privilege it is to play for all the fans who have stayed faithful to the band for so long.

What are your goals with your music? I want to make people feel like I did when I first heard Highway star by Deep Purple. If people love our songs like I loved that track then I have touched the sun!

When did you decide to go all in for the music? 1979 when I first formed the band, I knew it was the only thing I loved.

Is it easier to get your inspiration from older bands or from bands more modern? I think you should keep an open mind and listen to all bands, but you cannot stray too far from your own identity and what the fans expect of you. I think the bandwidth of the band is pretty broad though as we have epic multi time changes in some songs, as well as more immediate tracks that the crowds can sing along too live. Every song is like a mini movie put to music that can be fast, slow whatever to suit the mood and content. Cloven Hoof music is not safe or predictable… I hate that!

What are your sources of inspiration? Greek, Norse mythology, Horror and Sci fi Films, Marvel comic books and nightmares I have.

What's the first step when making a new song? I write a chorus hook line then build the song outwards from there. 

How do you feel about the downloading of music instead of buying albums? It is killing music! Bands cannot make a living from doing what they are good at and the corporate fat cats are getting richer by supplying the pirate technology. The blue chip companies could stop it but they won't, so the law allows musicians to be ripped off.

What would be your dreams for the band? Just to earn a living from playing metal and to do it till I die.

Besides your own music, what genres and bands do you listen to? Mostly Old school metal plus Tori Amos (She is a genius).

What do you hold most dear? My family and band members.

What would be your greatest fears for the future? If I lost any of the current line up, but Joe Whelan is simply irreplaceable. He is the most talented singer and lead guitarist I have ever encountered in my life.

When you are on stage, what do you fear most then? I always fear my guitar lead will not work or my amp will pack in.

What songs and what years were they released? / 

Studio albums

Cloven Hoof (1984)

Dominator (1988, re-released 2011 & 2012)

A Sultan's Ransom (1989, re-released 2012)

Eye of the Sun (2006)

Resist or Serve (Due 2013)

Live albums

Fighting Back (1986)

Compilation albums

The Definitive Part One (2008)

EPs

The Opening Ritual (1982)

Throne of Damnation (2010)

Have you been part of any other projects? I have had many offers but Cloven Hoof has been all I ever lived for.

Have you been in any other bands? Only Cloven Hoof and I now play in Joe the singers solo project band called The Kontrast. The current band line up are the best musicians and people I have even known or worked with. We love and respect each other totally as players and as human beings. So when Joe asked us to help him out we said yes immediately as brothers. His solo career is incredibly successful too so we are having a ball doing that and kicking ass with Cloven Hoof as ever. It makes total sense to be there for each other in any musical enterprise. It also means the band will stay together with its future assured.

What do you work with outside of the band and the music?  Music is all I do, nothing else means anything to me.

What would you do if there was no music? I would probably throw myself off a very high building!

How important are your fans? They mean EVERYTHING! Cloven Hoof are nothing without them.

What's the funniest/most memorable thing a fan has done for you? An 18 year old Canadian Girl travelled from Canada to England to watch us play a single show. All she wanted was a single kiss and a t-shirt after the gig then she went home again. Hey it was the least I could do!!!

How often do you rehearse? 2 times a week unless there is a big show they we may stretch to 3 if breaking in a new song.

Where do you rehearse? We rehearse in our home town of Wolverhampton at a place called Jailhouse Rocks. It is run by great people Jez and Tracey, they spoil us with free food and drink when we have a break lol.

Name 2 of your own songs you like at the moment? 'Reach for the Sky' and 'Cloven Hoof'. On the new album not released yet 'Spartan' and 'Helldiver'!  They will become Hoof classics.

What do you feel is the best liveband you've seen? It is almost impossible to say but Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Rush are always incredible!

What drives a band that isn't all that famous and renowned to try to make a living on their music and to keep playing? The best feeling in the world is when I go to countries around the world that I have never been before and they know all the words to my songs. When they sing along with us on stage it makes me so proud and humble. That is what keeps me going and the e-mails of support I have got for over 30 years! God I really love being apart of heavy metal all this time, it has the greatest and most fans in existence.

Any pearls of wisdom for all other bands out there? Always treat other bands with respect because all groups have the right to run their music up the flag pole and see who salutes it. Metal bands and musicians in particular need to stick together because it's us against the world!

Would you like to add anything else? I always respect bands who support us on the bill and encourage them. I love talking to the fans at Cloven Hoof live shows. They tell me what they like about the band and it helps me write for them too.

Describe your show, visually and musically. A high energy assault on the senses with the band running around the stage like wildmen generating exciting anthems of metal mayhem. It is like a football cup final where there is only one team and the band and fans are united in metal brotherhood! See us live we blow the fucking roof off every place we go!

How do you view the musicindurty of today? It is easier to get heard and seen today by a world market through the internet. But it is very hard for the right audience to pick up on you due to the business being saturated by terrible bands who would never have been given the time of day before the world wide web. Pirate down loading is killing the business because it is robbing the bands of income and the blue chip record companies are supplying the equipment and technology for the pirates to do it. So they are still the winners and end up being richer no matter what…it is a shame.

What advice would you like to give other bands? Get a music lawyer when you first get a record contract. never sign without proper legal advice and hold on to your publishing!

What are the biggest obstacles for a band? The pop dominated media. Fashion trends make me sick and true metal has to fight tooth, fang and claw to get accepted. Mainstream magazines never write about true good music all they do is support what money men want to serve up.  Also crooked record companies, managers and agents need to be avoided.

What is best/worst with playing the clubs? Clubs gigs with the right audience who love you can generate a fantastic atmosphere with the band and audience being so close together. It can be a magical experience and we have had many storming shows at rock clubs around the world. The down side is if it is poorly advertised and promoted the turn out could be poor. It never happens these days thank goodness but we used to play our hearts out in the old days no matter what even if there were only a few attending. The fans still deserve your very best and everyone knows I would never tolerate less than 100% effort. Cloven Hoof always gives its heart and soul to the fans and plays its very best live and in the studio.

Tell us about up comming gigs and why we should be at them? Sweden Rock is the greatest metal festival in the world and it has been my ambition to play it for many years. The fans in Scandinavia are some of our best and most loyal so it is a dream come true to be there along with Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. We will play the best set of our lives no doubt about it, so be there all you metal maniacs!

How would you describe your sound in one sentence. Epic, multi time change, thinking man's metal!

What is your favorite crappy instrument? The mouth organ because I play tunes to  deliberately irritate people on it. The ukelele is good for that too, due to plenty of George Formby songs to have a go at!  lol! My girlfriend fucking hates it!

What was one of the most quarrelsome times for you in the band? A show in Cyprus was a nightmare in 2012 when an ex singer got drunk out of his mind and ruined the festival for the promoter, the fans and everyone. We sacked him for that and for a catalogue of drunken episodes.

Whats your Pre-show ritual?  Standing round in a group hug like gladiators before battle. I used to kiss a silver upturned cross with cloven hooves given to me by a witch.  It has disappeared very mysteriously.

What Won't you spend money on?  Paying advertising bribes to magazines to write good things about the band. They know who they are! Papers like that have no integrity and they are cheating the true metal fans with hype.

What do you feel a band should spend their money on? Merchandise for the fans - recording new demos of future tracks.

Do you have anything to add?May I just offer you my profound thanks to you Robex in asking me so many excellent questions. I hope you and the fans will like my answers. Thanks to all the incredible loyal fans who have supported Cloven Hoof all these years. You have given me the courage to make music for over 30 years and I hope to do so for many more. 

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