On the eve of Saturday's "30 years of Night" 30th anniversary gig, our very own Nikolas Vitus Lagartija caught up with Salvation's Danny Mass to ask him a few questions about Salvation then and now, recording & hanging around with Andrew Eldritch, and the dubious benefits of being labeled a "g*th" band...
1. Next week sees the special 30th anniversary celebration gig at the Brudenell. What memories do you have of the very first gig in March 1985? How did it come about?
Danny: It was a charity gig for the miners' benefit fund. It was the height of the miners' strike and we thought we'd do our bit to try and bring down the government! From what I can remember (which to be honest isn't a lot) the Sisters were on upstairs so we had nothing to lose.
2. The venue (Tartan Bar at Leeds Uni) was not exactly designed for live music, being on multiple levels and with the "stage" by the Big Brother style entrance staircase. It must have been quite a surreal experience to be up their on stage...
Danny: We didn't really notice the stairs or the shape of the room. I do remember standing there afraid to let hold of the mike stand but eventually thinking this is amazing! I loved it, and wanted more!
3. The band released it's first EP on MR back in 1983. Why did it take so long to perform "live"?
Danny: When we started, we just wanted to make noise in our bedrooms. Our guitarist didn't even want to play live, and we didn't really have 'songs'. So it took us that long to evolve and write the catchy hits we play now!
4. That first EP (Girlsoul) was produced by Andrew Eldritch, who you knew well. What was he like to work with in the studio?
Danny: The studio time was fast and frantic. We didn't have long and had never been near a studio before. Andrew was keen and enthusiastic. He knew the desk and we worked well together. I love being in the studio. It was a great experience and set us on our way.
5. What do you remember about recording the fourteen minute song "Dust Up", with it's extended instrumental section?
Danny: Dust up was supposed to be an improvised 'jam' like an early Velvet Underground kind of 'trip' thing. But recording in a studio with limited time isn't the best way to do that kind of thing so it was all a bit too structured (even though it doesn't sound like it) by the time we finished. It was a good idea but a little naive on our part.
6. Also before the first gig the band had recorded a mini LP Clash of Dreams, which was finally released last October. Are you proud of that release, or like Eldritch do you regard early recordings like embarrassing baby photos?
Danny: Talking of naive on our part, we thought we would have lots of time to record the songs and work on them, but Andrew was having too much fun trying out the desk and effects that the time disappeared and we were left with just the bare bones of the tracks. I like them, but it could have been so much more...
7. In what ways did the recording session at Strawberry differ from the one at KG?
Danny: The studio was much bigger. More tracks to record to, more effect racks and... more distractions!
8. For CoD, you re-recorded one song The October Hour with the new line-up, so that the song both begins and ends the CD in its two guises. Why did you choose that song to re-record?
Danny: It was one of the songs we got nearer to finishing, so we had more of an idea how it would work live. In fact, we've been playing it at most of our recent gigs, and with the new rhythm section doing a great job on it, it's rapidly turning into one of our favourites!
9. That was the first new recording for twenty years. Are there plans to return to the studio soon?
Danny: We will if we get a chance, yes. The follow-up to "Sass" is long-overdue!
10. If you were to record a new set of songs, would you look at the Pledge route?
Danny: It would be one option.
11. So back to 1985. Having not played before then, for the next few months and years the band seemed to be almost constantly gigging. Did you enjoy life on the road?
Danny: Personally I loved being on the road. We were lucky to have many loyal and dedicated fans, who would travel everywhere to see us. So wherever we played we had an audience, for that we will always be very grateful. It was certainly one of the things that kept us going, and made life on the road more fun. That and Thunderbird wine!
12. You seemed to change guitarist fairly regularly (there was a time when it seemed like every guy who served me in Jumbo Records would turn up in the band the next week). Did you regard that as a positive thing, in that it kept the sound fresh, or a negative in that some people wee less sure what to expect from the band?
Danny: Ha! It doesn't seem like that many to me! We were always trying to develop and evolve into better songwriters, so it helped in that way I suppose, with everybody making their own contributions along the way. As long as we continued to write 'catchy pop songs with bollocks' that was fine. But it wasn't intentional, people change, and we were all young, with lives to live.
13. After various indie labels (including Karbon and Ediesta) you eventually signed to the major label IRS for the album Sass. Did that put an extra strain on the band?
Danny: We didn't know it at the time but I think it was something we were aware of. There was talk of an American tour and major support slots, and although it seemed natural to us, our individual goals were shifting. It was nice to have the opportunity to spend time in big residential studios in the country too.
14. Despite the different musical style, the fact that you got rid of your drum machine early on, the white (rather than black) record sleeves, etc, Salvation were lumped in with the goth scene by many journalists. The kind of festivals (Midlands Goth Festival, Whitby with the Nephs etc) you're invited to play these days still reflects this. Did/Does that frustrate you?
Danny: It's a blessing and a curse. We probably wouldn't have got the start we had if we hadn't been on MR from the beginning. We did try and distance ourselves to certain extent, and we played with some diverse bands and on unusual festivals bills, so it didn't do too much harm.
15. You supported a wide range of artists in the early days (such as Hawkwind and Dr and the Medics). Are there any that stand out?
Danny: Hawkwind was a memorable one, yes. Playing to a sold out Leeds refectory crowd, with nobody knowing who we were. And we lived to tell the tale! The m*****n supports were always fun, and even doing two gigs the same night, supporting them in Leeds then driving to Manchester and playing our own gig there! I loved doing the Rock City all-dayers too.
16. There are some interesting bands on the bill for the Brudenell. Who are you particularly looking forward to?
Danny: I'm looking forward to the whole day. From the stalls in the afternoon, (12-4pm), the discussion on how the Leeds scene was in the early days (4-5pm), and finally all the bands. It should be a cracking day and night!
17. Are there any special surprises planned for the anniversary gig?
Danny: Lots of surprises yes! But that would be telling....
Thanks to Nikolas Vitus Lagartija for the questions and Danny for the answers.
Salvation's remastered Clash of Dreams CD is available to buy here: https://salvation4.bandcamp.com/merch
Post your reviews of Sisters-related material or interviews with Sisters-related musicians here. And don't believe the hype: 1985 most definitely is a fashion statement.
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