Beginning in 1981, they signed to the legendary Stoke on Trent based label Clay Records (home to Discharge and GBH). They gave us the excellent ‘Invasion of the Porky Men’ LP and the 12′ ‘Mad Punx and English Dogs’ – both rooted in classic ’77 punk rock along the lines of Slaughter and the Dogs. Who doesn’t sing along to ‘Fall of Max’ or ‘Psycho Killer’ when they’re juiced?
When original singer Wakey left in 1984, drummer Pinch and recently recruited guitarist Gizz Butt picked up ex Ultraviolent singer Adie Bailey. This began a process where the band’s musical output altered, and what emerged was a sound that was more indebted to the thrash sound that was beginning to make waves in the over ground.
Records like ‘Forward into Battle’, ‘Where Legend Began’ and the 12’s ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ and ‘Metamorphosis’ blurred the boundaries between punk and metal, and is one of the main examples of what we call crossover.
‘Survival of the Fittest’ and ‘Five Ways to Die’ simply slay.
Gizz was quoted as saying:
In 1984 to 1986, me, Pinch and Adie were writing and recording some of the most important and influential songs of our lives and our ‘Forward into Battle’ album was the peak of our success. The American fans completely got it. Crossover had arrived!! Our 1985 debut USA tour exploded with sell out shows and sights we’d never seen before, queues half a mile down the street, mosh pits and circle pits all night long.
Various splits and reformations over the years led us to the situation we find ourselves with in 2014, where we had two versions of the band. Wakey had been plugging away under the name since 2002 and focused on the punk period, refusing to play any of the crossover material (his album from that period ‘We Did, We Do, We Always Fucking Will’ is worth checking out). And, since 2012, Pinch had been touring America with Gizz and Adie as well as (then) new members Ryan and Craig Christie.
In 2014, the metal incarnation had just put out a new album on Candlelight Records – ‘The Thing with Two Heads’ (I wonder what that could be a reference to?). A rip-roaring metal album that carries on in the tradition of ‘Forward into Battle’ and with the NWOBHM influences evident on ‘Where Legend Began.’ It was an exciting period to be a fan of English Dogs.
Today, both versions of the band are defunct. However, singer Adie Bailey has teamed up with members of Wakey’s incarnation to form Unholy Alliance, who are well worth your time.
So let’s rewind back to 2014 to read this interview I conducted with Adie and Gizz regarding ‘The Thing with Two Heads’, which had just been released.
CO: First of all, let’s begin with the initial reunion. Why resurrect the ‘Forward into Battle’ line up?
Adie: Well, we got back together because we thought we had unfinished business as it were… out of the blue, Gizz contacted me and asked if I would do it. I was a bit unsure until Pinch jumped back on board so I gave it a go. We had offers from the States to do a tour and we thought “what the hell why not?”
Gizz: I was asked by Scooter Buell of Malt Soda records to reform the English Dogs for a tour of the USA West Coast but that was 2002 and I wasn’t on best terms with Pinch at the time and didn’t have any contact details for Adie.
An English Dogs without Pinch simply isn’t an English Dogs at all. His drumming is very key to the sound so I bought together members of Janus Stark and a drummer called Spike who played in The Damned prior to Pinch and called it ATWAR and we played a mix of tracks from ‘Forward into Battle’ and ‘To the Ends of The Earth’. In a sense it was an English Dogs covers band but that gave me a taster. The ‘Forward into Battle’ album needed to be toured in its entirety. It was a 10-year mission to make it happen and once Pinch agreed then and only then could it be realised. We always felt that we had created a great record but we were so young at the time and it was all over in the blink of an eye.
CO: When you toured in 2012, were you expecting the reactions you got e.g. bands like Toxic Holocaust proclaiming themselves fans?
Adie: No, not at all. We just didn’t know what to expect but what we got was amazing. Joel is an obsessive collector of our records and brought them all down for us to sign when we played in his home town of Portland and he was stood stage side every night singing along to every song.
Gizz: I’d known there was some buzz going around and some bands like Darkthrone and Municipal Waste were making it public that English Dogs crossover era influenced them. Toxic Holocaust were real fucking fans, had all the vinyl, the back patches and stuff. It was so cool to hang out with the guys that I learned one of their songs (‘I Am Disease’) and got up with them a couple of times.
CO: When making the new album, was there a particular mindset you were in?
Adie: Not really. A lot of the riffs on the new album are from back in the 80’s. Gizz had them on old cassettes. They were going to be the next album after ‘Where Legend Began”. So, on our return from the 2012 tour him and Pinch started working on them and they just seemed to work and then the files were being sent to everyone and…the old magic reappeared and this album is what we ended up with.
Gizz: The album was beginning to get written when we were on the 2012 tour. We talked about what we demanded of ourselves in between the gigs and started working on riffs there and then.
I played a reunion show with my old punk metal band The Desecrators prior to the FITB tour and the rehearsing and preparation for that was great for getting back in the mode. I don’t think Adie ever lost it one bit. He came to mine for rehearsals and belted out the loudest voice I’d ever heard. Who needs a PA? Even for Glastonbury!!!! Actually, I think he’s excelled himself on this new album.
No bullshit, our biggest influence was ourselves. The 84 and 85 era stuff that we wrote, ‘To the Ends of The Earth’ and ‘Forward into Battle’, sure a few other things came out. Most of the songs on the album are less than three and a half minutes long which is more of a punk trait.
CO: Adie has mentioned that some of the riffs on here date back to the mid 80’s, explaining why this album feels like a genuine continuation of ‘Where Legend Began.’ Do you have a certain frame of mind when writing riffs (“that’s an English Dogs riff, that’s for The More I See” etc)?
Gizz: No, I just write riffs and whatever I’m working on at that moment in time influences the riffing creation. They get used there and then and if something doesn’t get used then it goes in the “riff bank”. Pinch and I worked really close on this album. He dropboxed me whole song templates that were drums only and some of his crazy patterns would actually suggest a riff to me.
CO: The album has a very straight forward musical attack and production, but it still evokes the great albums of the late 70’s/early 80’s. It could have come out straight after Forward into Battle. Are you a fan of the big, digital recordings with triggered drums that you hear on a lot of mainstream metal albums these days?
Gizz: For sure, without a doubt but some producers even more so such as Andy Sneap for instance. Everything he does sounds really well focused. The mid-range in his sound is really strong. He knows what he’s doing with triggers, EQ and compression alright. Obviously, I rate Scott Atkins as well.
We tracked all the parts ourselves for this album ourselves! Guitars, drums, bass, vocal, even harmonica! We all have our own studios or easy access to a studio, and we all use pro tools so that recording tool and the ability to Drobox large files between us has given us the freedom to write, demo and record this album to a level that sounds like it was on a £40,000 budget.
The truth is though that it cost us nothing because we did it ourselves. Absolutely D.I.Y. except for the final mix which has just cost a few “favours”. Thanks to a great old friend Dean Pansy for that one! Unlike the old days we now have the equipment and the knowledge to record to a high level because we all hung out with producers and engineers and Apple Mac guru’s so in time you get to learn a load of tricks and tips.
CO: I like the inversion of Love Song by The Damned (Hate Song). Is there normally a message with the lyrics, or are they just designed to fit the music?
Adie: No particular message on that song really. It’s pretty much tongue in cheek. It can be about anyone who has pissed you off, but generally the lyrics have been written first and the music fitted round them.
Gizz: Pinch writes most of the lyrics, I write a few. Every song has a message or if you like a story, for instance “Turn Away from the Light”- Life is full of external influence. The only one that matters is inside yourself. Don’t be led, be the leader.
“Hate Song”- You can only let someone abuse your friendship so many times before you have to cut them out of your life.
“Royal Flying Corpse” (which is one of mine) – is based on a saying “You die twice – once when you physically die and twice when your name is spoken for the final time.” It goes out to the nameless soldiers and pilots of WW1 especially the ones who got killed first, with no glory not a single reward whatever that may be.
CO: Vocally, I hear influences from Quiv (Broken Bones) as opposed to the more Paul Baloff influenced vocals on ‘Where Legend Began’. Was this deliberate?
Adie: Yes and no. We just didn’t think that the “Exodus” style vocal would work on these songs and we felt the gruffer vocal would, so I just went in the studio and ripped my tonsils out and it just fitted the songs nicely. I’m very happy how they turned out.
CO: Adie, you personally seem to be the one flying the flag for punk in the band (punky vocals, Burning Flag t-shirt) while the rest seem to adopt a more metal approach to the music. Do you pay much attention to metal these days, or is punk where your head is at right now?
Adie: I pay attention to both. I mean punk is where me, Gizz and Pinch came from and have not forgotten. It will always be there but musically we moved on. You have to. You can’t keep churning out the same old stuff for 25 years and not get fed up of it. I still get out and watch some of the DIY punk bands when I can. I totally admire their spirit.
CO: Gizz, is metal where your head is at right now?
Gizz: Right now, it’s metal, heavy rock, stoner rock. The last punk band that really rocked me was The Casualties. I also got back into the Dead Boys again.
CO: You once mentioned that a generation of metal fans have grown up expecting wall to wall brutality, and would have dismissed the likes of Dio on this basis. Would it be fair to say that this mindset is a big reason behind your work with TMIS as well as English Dogs, as you’re clearly a sucker for melody?
Gizz: Yeah, I love a good hook! I’m a sucker for the guitars and vocals and backing vocals creating huge chords as they all meet. Check out “Rectify” and “Down with The Underdogs” on the new album. There are minor added ninth chords and seventh sharpened fifth chords produced by the overall combination of sounds.
The Beatles were played religiously in my household before I started collecting Punk and Metal vinyl. I’m actually more into digging old stuff that I didn’t quite get first time around like Deep Purple, Cream, Led Zep, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd, and I must have bought every AC/DC album in the last couple of years, but if something new comes along which is refreshing then of course it will stay in my van stereo for weeks at a time. Baroness being the perfect example.
CO: Do you still stand by your assertion that ‘Forward into Battle’ is an album of brilliant songs played badly?
Gizz: Ha Ha! It’s only me that played badly on that record, everyone else played great! I would say we play the songs better live nowadays. Check some of the YouTube footage from the 2012 Forward into Battle tour.
CO: Tell us about the new members.
Adie: Ah yeah, the two new guys. Craig and Ryan Christy. They are both tattooists/artists from Dana Point, California. Friends of Pinch but also massive English Dogs fans. Great guys to know. They just fitted in straight away as they could play all the stuff…. Perfectly.
CO: Looking back, what’s your take on ‘Where Legends Began’? Gizz doesn’t seem to rate it, but I think it’s the best album Iron Maiden never made.
Adie: Ha! Never heard it described as that before. I wouldn’t say I dislike it but I’m not overly keen on it. There are some great songs on there, but it was ruined by the production. Far too weak and totally not what we wanted. We had a producer whose mind was expanded by certain things and he just totally fucked it up. I’ll be honest though and say that I did think we had taken a bigger leap forward than what we should have, but hey you learn by your mistakes.
CO: The title, the cover. It’s a reference to Wakey, isn’t it?
Adie: Er, don’t understand that one. Why would it be a reference to him. “the thing with 2 heads” is a reference to Craig and Ryan’s other band of the same name and also the fact they are twins. Sorry to disappoint you but that is all it is.
CO: Is it true that you lads now own the name English Dogs?
Adie: Yeah, that is true. It is registered to us. It has been for a couple of years.
CO: If you own the name, how can Wakey still release records with the name?
Gizz: He releases them on record labels that have no distribution or budget though. Bedroom record labels, mates’ labels. That isn’t the point though. He shouldn’t be doing it.
You have to look at Iron Maiden and say would it be right if Paul Di’Anno formed a band (With him as the only original) and called it Iron Maiden then would it be right? So, if I were to be Adrian Smith and Adie was Bruce, then Pinch is the Steve Harris and English Dogs should not and cannot exist without his persona and drumming style and sound. Pinch formed and named the band, led the band, wrote 95% of the lyrics. What is Wakey doing? He ought to know better. Pinch asked him to join his band and then he leaves. Then he forms a band years later with 3 totally new guys and calls it “English Dogs”. It reads like a mid-life crisis to me! It can’t be English Dogs without Pinch in the band!
Adie: Has he released a record? Didn’t know he had.
CO: A recent interview sees you claim that it was “the Disorder crowd” who dismissed the band from “To the Ends…” onwards. Did you find it amusing when bands like Amebix (who grew out of the squat/crust scene) started adding metal into the mix?
Gizz: That was maybe a little misinterpreted as I wasn’t referring to the band Disorder, more of the fans of Disorder that were living close to our areas that all tried to act like and copy Disorder and looked down their noses with their sneering.
A lot of those guys did actually form Metal influenced bands so I can’t understand what problem they had with us in the first place. Like what you’re saying, Amebix mixed anarcho punk with metal and were very open about it and those guys lived with Disorder so I can’t understand if there was a problem. I never met those guys although I keep thinking I met one of the Disorder guys in Finland. I’ll have to check that out.
CO: Gizz, we recently discussed Janus Stark on Facebook, where you seem surprised when I mentioned that I knew pop punkers who still rave about the album, because you’d considered the album to be very Therapy? Influenced. When you look back at the album, do you think it still stands up?
Gizz: I fucking love that album. I mean it was recorded and produced by a real master “Terry Thomas” and still retains all its integrity. I was never keen on the label “Pop Punk” sorry, and like everything, that album has a mix of metal elements as well (“White Man Speak with Fork Tongue”) but the fact that it was done when I was experiencing the Glory days of The Prodigy is significant and therefore worthy of attention. That was a big time. Sometimes I didn’t cope too well. It gave the lyrics quite a special poignancy.
CO: In regards to the English Dogs signing to Earache Records in the 90’s, label owner Dig Pearson has written that “We registered the name of the band, but to our surprise the word “English” cannot be registered unless you are given royal seal of approval, so the band quickly changed their name to Janus Stark…” Is he right on this, or have things changed regarding the registration of a name?
Gizz: We registered the band name with a band name registering society funnily enough! Registering the name at companies’ house was the problem initially. I’m glad the Janus Stark album didn’t come out under the name English Dogs though. English Dogs should always evoke the sound of punk metal crossover and nothing but!
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.