Tokyo Blade was one of the NWOBHM legends chosen to grace that unreleased first issue of Ample Destruction 'zine. Very much in the vein of Tygers of Pan Tang, Tokyo Blade remained in a commendable second row behind the big genere names but, again, it wasn't a case of lack of talent. Both their self titled debut and the sophomore "Night of the Blade" are top releases among all those early British metal gems. Let's see what founding member Andy Boulton tells us about their rich history and about their, back then, recent activities.
Hi, well Andy Wrighton (bass) and I saw each other in a pub called the Ruskin arms which is Iron Maiden’s old stomping ground and the place where we often played and signed our 1st record deal actually. We talked about the old days as neither of us had seen each other for 25 years and we then went to see John Wiggins band play in London and the 3 of us talked about finding Steve Pierce and playing together again.
However, the only missing element from the early years of Tokyo is the presence of either Alan March or Vic Wright, replaced by Nicolaj Ruhnow. Did you think in including any of them in this reunion? Have you even tried to contact them?
No, we didn't really want to work with either of them again and we felt we needed a strong vocalist if we were to re-form.
Nicolaj is a really good vocalist, quite melodic, and probably more reminiscent of Vic Wright than Alan Marsh. His name doesn't sound British at all so, where does he come from? Has he ever played in any other band prior to Tokyo Blade?
You re-recorded “Night of the Blade” with him. It sounds quite different (not only the voice but some brakes and arrangements) but fucking great!!! I really like it and I think it’s a good idea, but probably some people will say that the original version is better, the old sound is better, the old singer is better and bla, bla, bla, what was your reason to re-record that old song and what do you think about all those “metal popes” telling to the bands what they have to do, play, dress and think?
Firstly thank you for the comment and yes we were really pleased with this version. We wanted to establish a link with the past and also hear NOTB with Nic's vocals.
Yes we've had the comparison junkies giving their views as you correctly said. It's inevitable I guess but we don't mind as everyone is entitled to their opinion and I personally would die to defend that right so it’s fine. We don't take much notice of the people that tell us how to play, dress or think and never have. Besides we are too strong and old to change! Ha ha!
I really think that "Thousand Men Strong" is a great album but, as happened with Tygers of Pan Tang’s (also featured in this issue) last efforts, it seems that it's being quite hard for you to get the media and audience attention in the current scene. How was the response, label wise, to a possible new Tokyo Blade album, when you started to work on "Thousand Men Strong"?
Well the music business is very different now so record deals are not the same as they were anyway which is both a good and bad thing. We knew that as with so many bands nowadays we were going to have to do a lot of the promotional work ourselves which we did using our website, Twitter, Facebook and word of mouth of course.
The album was released in March, how would you value the fan and media reaction to "Thousand Men Strong? Do you think that is being capable of reactivating the attention of the metal scene towards Tokyo Blade?
Well the old fans all seem to like it which is of course a priority but we've been stunned at the number of new fans we seem to have attracted too and we are really happy about that. These kids at the shows are younger than my son Jamie, but they all wear the denim and patches and they know all the lyrics and they sing along. It's awesome really just like the old days when Metal was real and rebellious, it's always been about attitude and always should be. I guess that will never change.
In truth we've been amazed at the reaction to TMS. As to reactivating the attention of the metal scene, we'll just have to wait and see I guess. Like us, lots of the older bands are still out there making great records so it’s up to the fans really to have a look at what’s going on.
Another pleasant surprise is the presence of none other than production master Chris Tsangarides behind the control desk. Did you instantly think in him when you were deciding the recording crew for the album? He seems to be quite out from the metal business in the lasts years because, aside from Anvil's "This is Thirteen", I hadn't seen him in the credits of any other album. What is he currently doing?
Chris actually approached me about producing the album and told me he has always wanted to produce Tokyo Blade! As you can imagine that was a real honour to hear as I have been a fan of Chris's work since I first heard Y&T's Meanstreak. He's busy with lots of young bands and he really is fantastic to work with. We love the guy and his production skills.
How was it to go again into the studio with the band and which differences have you found between the old analogue studios and the new digital ones? As a professional musician and teacher, are you that kind of “fanatic” with new stuff, machines and technology going every week to the music-store, buying magazines and catalogues or you are more an “old-school” musician? I mean: old guitar, old amp and toooons of experience, ha, ha.
It was great to get back to the studio again after all those years and nothing has really changed apart from technology of course. We used Chris's studio and he uses the Radar system to record which is digital of course but responds very much like the old analog tape machines. As far as old vs new goes I'm somewhere in the middle, of course there's nothing like the warmth of analog and nothing like the ease and convenience of digital systems. I'm certainly no fanatic about anything to do with music, perhaps surprisingly I have long periods when I don't even touch a guitar. But to me life is about balance and there are too many other things that I am interested in.
As I know you are playing some shows. How is to be on stage again with the band? In one of your last interviews you said that for a band like Tokyo Blade it is very difficult to play right now in UK.... paradoxical, one of the most important heads of the NWOBHM!!! Can you give
us your personal view about this?
The UK has always been a tough market for Tokyo Blade actually. England is more suited to the mass media bullshit that they ram down our throats and people here have become celebrity crazy, mindless sheep on the whole. They seem to have been brainwashed by reality TV shows and bullshit manufactured bands. I fear for my country I really do.
Ok, let's go back 30 years in time to England's early 80's. Tokyo Blade was formed in 1982 but I know that you've been some time around before under the name of Killer and then Genghis Khan. Those were the big years of NWOBHM but, can you tell us, from your point of view, how did you live those years as youngsters and what made you found the band during that musical explosion in the UK?
Well there isn't much to say really, we are just musicians and as such have an overwhelming desire to play our music. It's an escape thing and a way of expressing our views on life and in general a fun thing to do. Sadly when it becomes business much of the fun aspect is taken away and we like all other Musicians have to deal with arseholes of which the list is long. Apart from the Record companies, agents, bootleggers, and critics we also have the arseholes from the past who want a slice of our very small pie. Sometimes we all wonder if it's worth it but still we continue so I guess we're all mental lol.
There was an obsession among the British bands with the oriental culture. What was the origin of that? In general, there was a long tradition in Rock and Roll with Japan: live albums, tours and so on; what was the reason for you?
Quite simply Alan Marsh wanted to call the band ‘Blade Runner’ and I wanted to call it Tokyo so we combined the 2 names.
I've always though that your music, specially in the debut album, was quite reminiscent of Di'anno's era Iron Maiden and the fact that your first names were Killer and Genghis Khan (2 Maiden songs), concretely in 1981, just make me feel curious about this. Was Steve Harris' band some kind of influence when you formed Tokyo Blade or did all your key bands went back to the 70's?
Yes strangely enough it was pure coincidence. Killer was just meant to be a temporary name and as Alan was in a band called Ghengis Khan way before Maiden existed and we took the name as we liked it. When his former bandmates objected we changed it to Tokyo Blade. Our influences were the same as Maiden’s ie. Judas Priest, UFO, Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple. I was really influenced by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and early Queen.
This a more personal question. Searching for some pictures in internet, I found some where you appear with native-American culture stuff and a precious eagle. You have an especial relationship and connection with that culture and peoples. We, the European, fucked lots of native cultures with strong and very interesting knowledge (especially all across America, but also in Asia or Africa...) what do you think about that part of our History? What has that culture given to you? You seem a very open minded person.
As you probably know my wife is an Apache and we met 5 years ago. My relationship to the Native Americans started as a small boy. I watched the Western movies with my late Father but I couldn't understand why the Indians got the bad press when they were treated so terribly by the settlers. I did my research as I always do and discovered a far different story of course. History is generally written from the viewpoint of the victor and as the Indians had no form of writing and were massacred in the most hideous crime against humanity it was easy for the Americans to tell the story their way.
I do whatever I can to help the charities like “one spirit” http://nativeprogress.org/ who work to aid the Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge reservation. In fact we have just recorded a new track called “Camp 334” which is about the reservation still on US Government records as “POW Camp 334”. The proceeds will be donated to the people of Pine Ridge to help ease their obscene poverty. Nowhere in the world should people be treated this way and as fellow humans we should help or hang our heads in shame. The same can be said for all of the poor in the world. Check our website for news of the tracks release and where it can be downloaded from.
In 1984, you released and album with Combat records, entitled “Midnight Rendezvous”, which mostly contained songs from your debut. Then, you also released and EP with Powerstation under the same name and I think that one of them is even included in some re-releases of the first two albums. What did exactly happen? Why two releases with the same name?
The 1st album was simply called Tokyo Blade, Combat wanted to call it “Midnight Rendezvous” and we had no say in that decision.
Towards the mid 80’s, the history of Tokyo Blade turned a bit confused, at some moment your albums were even named under the moniker of Andy Boulton’s Tokyo Blade. Then I think that there was an American version of the band with some ex-members. Can you explain us what happened during that period?
I recorded an album called “Ain’t Misbehaving” and used the name Tokyo Blade as it was my name, however because of issues with our old record company I called it “Andy Boulton's Tokyo Blade”
Then, in the 90’s, after 6 years without releasing new stuff, Alan Marsh returned to the band and you released “Burning Down Paradise” and “Pumphouse”. How were the “difficult 90’s” for Tokyo Blade? Why did this reunion end so quickly? If I’m not wrong, you didn’t take part in “Pumphouse”?
No I have nothing to do with “Pumphouse”. The Tokyo Blade re-union was very short lived for the usual reasons, lack of support, lack of interest and differences within the band.
Well, that was everything. Thanks a lot for spending some time to appear in the pages of Ample Destruction ‘zine and good luck with Tokyo Blade in the future. Some last words?
My pleasure, thank you for taking the time to interview me.
And to all the metal fans out there a big Thank You, and a warning:
And to all the metal fans out there a big Thank You, and a warning:
If we do not support our music as well as we possibly can by making the effort to go and see bands live and buying the new music instead of just downloading it then it will surely die. The mainstream media will get their way and we will all be force-fed the utter shit that they manufacture for us. I am not being over-dramatic here or trying to scare anyone but it's a FACT! Look at your high streets and shopping malls in the last few years - they are all the same and full of the big corporate giants. What has happened to the small caring family businesses and the specialist stores?
Bless you all,
Andy Boulton, December 2011.