With thirteen Top 40 singles and a Top 10 album, Terrorvision were the hellions of the U.K. charts in the 1990s. Peaking with ‘Tequila’ which reached No.2 in 1999, the Bradford act have since gone down as one of the greatest live acts in the country. We caught up with the band – singer Tony Wright, bassist Leigh Marklew, guitarist Mark Yates and drummer Cameron Greenwood - at Stonedead 2021 to chat about surviving lockdowns, magazine covers, and record company politics. Middleman: Eamon O’Neill
Welcome to Stonedead chaps; how are you doing?
Leigh Marklew: Great thanks! We’re getting there. We’re on stage at about eight, and by then we’ll be rocking and rolling.
You’ve done a couple of shows leading up to Stonedead, starting at Cottingham Civic Hall; was that a good warm up?
Leigh: Yeah, it was our first gig back after eighteen months of not doing anything.
Cameron Greenwood: There’s always going to be a bit of gig rust. No matter how much you practice, it’s not the same as getting out there and gigging; it’s a completely different feeling.
In terms if vocals, is it hard to get up to speed, Tony?
Tony Wright: [croaks] No, it’s fine. [cue laughing from all]. No, I think it’s fine. I hope so! I’ve seen people who worry about it and then they can’t sing because they worry about it too much and they clam up. They’re on Strepsils and Vocalzones and honey and whisky; I’ve done it myself, and all it does is stress you out.
You’re a band that has a catalogue of singalong songs, so the audience always gets behind you.
Tony: It’s not about hitting the notes is it, really? [more laughing from all] Do you know what I mean, though? I’d rather say something good than hit this amazing five-octave scales; I just think that the words are more important than hitting the notes, I suppose.
Stonedead carries on the tradition of the Monsters of Rock Festivals, and you guys played the original festival back in 1994.
Cameron: That was a great gig. I was three!
Mark: We done the second stage and that was the first year there was a second stage, and either side of us was Pantera before us, and Sepultura after, so we were a bit poppy, but we pulled it off.
Back in those days, Tony you were the poster boy popping up in Kerrang regularly; what was that like?
Tony: I don’t know, because I didn’t get Kerrrang! Do you know what, we grew up in Bradford, we played in all the venues in Bradford, and then we got an opportunity to go and do stuff, so if someone said; “do you want to do this, do you want to do that?”, you’re not going to go; “no” and then look back at all the stuff you turned down. You can have regrets, but it’s better to try something isn’t it, because you might not get a go at it twice. So it was par for the course; we were all on the cover all of the time.
Leigh: Yeah, it didn’t seem odd. I think before, when you first start, once you got your first live review in Kerrang! – which was shit – actually, the first three were shit.
Mark: Yeah, they hated us, didn’t they? There was also a magazine called Raw, and we were in that so much we had a supplement that came with the magazine; our own supplement!
Leigh: It didn’t make us feel like; “oh, we’re fucking rock stars now!”, and it wasn’t like, hard to get your head around; we just did it. We were just in such a bubble of being busy, going out and playing, and doing loads of interviews and writing. It was just non-stop, so you just think; “yeah, Kerrang!; sweet, great!”
The band’s popularity hit new peaks with the release of the ‘Regular Urban Survivors’ album in 1996.
Mark: It was popular. It sold a lot of records.
Leigh: It was really exciting. I just remember it being exciting. I remember when ‘Perseverance’ got announced, it was number five in the charts, and it was the day that we were doing TFI Friday with Chris Evans. You’re going to be on the telly, live, on the Friday teatime, you’ve just found out that your single’s gone in the top ten for the first time, and it’s just like, you are living the dream.
Mark: We got to go and make videos in Las Vegas and L.A., and for us lot, it was amazing.
Speaking of Vegas, you had your own label didn’t you?
Leigh: Yeah, Total Vegas was the imprint, but EMI was the label.
That’s a big label to be on; the home of Queen, Iron Maiden etc; did you go in and raid the cupboards when you visited?
Leigh; Yeah, we used to raid the cupboards, but to be honest with you, they didn’t have a lot of good stuff. They were a bit hit and miss, really. “No, I don’t want Cliff Richard’s new fucking album!”
Tony: It’s why we were on Total Vegas; you can say what you want. We sort don’t want to be on EMI because their sort of roster had nothing to do with us. We were a million miles from what their rock roster was at the time, and so we didn’t want to be part of that. Donington, playing places like that; Kerrang! was all that when we first started playing; that’s why they hated us, but I suppose that was why we got our own label.
To differentiate yourselves a little bit?
Leigh: a little bit, yeah. Just to say we’re not just another retro rock band. We wanted to do our own thing, whatever that is.
I wanted to talk about the track ‘III Wishes; which is an underrated Terrorvision classic; it must be the loudest single ever mastered!
Leigh; I think we asked them to turn it up a bit much! I remember John Cornfield [producer] ringing me up going; “is it supposed to be that loud?” He says; “it’s nearly distorting”, and we went; “yeah”.
Lyrically, it’s such a fantastic song.
Tony; It was the follow-up to ‘Tequila’, and they put the posters up, put the adverts in the magazines, but then forgot to put it in the shops. I don’t know anyone that’s got a copy. You’re the first person I’ve met that has one. So, yeah it’s a shame. I think we were all sort of ready to leave EMI at that point anyway. ‘Tequila’ probably stopped us leaving, if anything.
Leigh: Yeah, if ‘Tequila’ hadn’t come out we’d have left EMI within a year, to be honest.
When you first heard the Mint Royale remix of ‘Tequila’, did you want embrace it, or was it something you weren’t that bothered about?
Tony; Yeah, they sent us a copy, we heard it, and we thought; “yeah, it’s the kind of shit they play on the radio; let’s do it!”
Mark: It was the most played song on radio that year.
Leigh: Yeah, we had a lot of remixes done because if you remember, back in the ‘90s, to release a single in fifteen different formats - which was ridiculous – if you were going to provide original material, you’d have had to do an album’s worth of songs for every single. So remixes were a thing. To be honest, I don’t know what everyone else thinks, but most of them were shit. They just took one part of the song, but with ‘Tequila’, they actually kept the essence of the song and created a great pop song with a fresh look on it. It’s the first one I remember us all going; “yeah, that sounds real fun”.
So what’s next for Terrorvision?
Tony; Well, we’ve been in lockdown for eighteen months, so we’ve been rehearsing when we can, with masks. We’ve been rehearsing, we’ve been writing, we’ve been trying new stuff, remembering old stuff; it’s been quite good actually because we’ve played some songs that we’ve never played live. And just because there’s so much rehearsal time with nowt to do, we’ve rehearsed some old ones that we’ve never played; “no way! That was alright!”
Leigh; Yeah, we did one of these online things back in April or May, and we rehearsed quite a wide ranging set for that and threw in a couple of new ones because we’re writing new songs as well. We’ve got a lot done with that, and that’s going really well. So yeah, next for us is all about getting some new stuff together and deciding whether we want to release it.
When can fans expect a release?
Leigh: I’d like to think there’ll be something next year; weather that’s singles, and album, whatever, we don’t know yet. We’ve said before, we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves, clearly, because it takes us a long time. We’ve got stuff going on in our lives, so yeah, maybe next year we’ll have something out.
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