The Band: Quartz
Answers by: Tim Perry on behalf of Quartz
What we bring you here is a piece of Metal history. If you talk about the NWOBHM and you don’t mention QUARTZ, then something is definitely missing. So, it’s time to review a little their story, but also to talk about the new times and their new album “Fear No Evil”. With the line-up they currently show you can only expect the best, and you will get it, because they are back to deliver the goods once again, this is not a pose.
Hello Tim and congratulations for you new album and your long heavy metal career
Thank you and a big hello to our “Metal Brothers” in Spain from of all the members of QUARTZ. We are all very excited about our new album “Fear No Evil” that will be released on the 28th October 2016 by High Roller Records. It may have taken us just a little longer than we anticipated or expected.
Before going with your current activity we would like to talk a little about your story, you are part of the Heavy Metal history and it is always a privilege to talk to such kind of bands. Looking back, how do you evaluate all these years, more than three decades?
The music industry has been a great place to be involved in over all these years and we have been fortunate to meet and rub shoulders with many great musicians and bands. There have been numerous ups and downs and some highs and lows during this time but to be accepted by generations of Rock, NWoBHM and Heavy Metal fans is very rewarding for us and we actually feel privileged to be part of this phenomenon.
If you had to choose, which would be your best moments as a band?
We all agree and are unanimous in saying it has to be getting our first recording contract for a full length album and then Tony Iommi offering to produce the album for us. Gig wise then back in the day playing the Reading Festival three times and touring with Black Sabbath and AC/DC amongst others. More recently it has to be being asked to play at Keep It True XVI shortly after we reformed the band and getting such an unbelievable reaction and reception from the crowd there that just blew us away. To see so many young people in the hall singing aloud our songs was an amazing sight.
Any funny time or facts from the past that you remember with a smile in your face?
Yes there were many funny times and jokes played whilst we were on the road touring. For example at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow we put cling film on most of the toilet pans in the venue and then we hung around to witness the chaos and carnage unfold once the doors were opened to the general public … Sorry folks we apologise if you were one of our victims back then.
Hahaha at least so many years later they know all the truth about it... Quartz is a renowned band and usually linked to the NWOBHM, but you were already existing before the movement exploded, right?
You are correct. We formed a band towards the end of 1973 called BANDYLEGS and this band would transform into QUARTZ in 1977 ahead of our self-titled debut album release on Jet Records. With the name change many people associated with the music business thought that we were new and we assume that is probably why we were labelled NWoBHM back then by the press etc.
In the beginnings you were a heavy metal band based in Birmingham. How did that fact influence you?
That’s not strictly correct. We had played a variety of different and contrasting musical styles in our early formative years in various numerous bands dating back to the early 1960’s. Being from Birmingham and having bands around like BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN literally on our door step we decided that was the kind of music we wanted to write and play and hopefully aspire to.
A goood reason. Do you still consider yourselves a band from somewhere or the globalization has changed it all and it does not matter anymore?
We are very proud to say we are from Birmingham which is today regarded to be the birthplace and the home of heavy metal music by many people from around the world.
Who can be named as the founding member of the band?
Mick Hopkins returned to Birmingham at the end of 1972 after living for a short while in Canada where he played in a group called FLUDD. Once back home Mick renewed his contacts with ex band members from LEMON TREE ie Derek Arnold and Taffy Taylor and ex band members from COPPERFIELD ie Derek Arnold and Malcolm Cope to form a new band called BANDYLEGS. Geoff Nicholls from WORLD OF OZ and JOHNNY NEAL & THE STARLINERS completed the line-up in December 1973 and actually played his first gig on New Years Eve.
Your first album, Quartz, and your second, Stand Up and Fight, put you in the map of the NWOBHM and the heavy metal in general. However, Against All Odds showed a much more commercial approach. With the vision of time, do you regret releasing that third album?
Obviously with the departure of three out of the five founding members from the band and with the difficult process of recruiting new members to try and fill their shoes the make-up and sound of the band did change during that period of time. We, that is Mick Hopkins and Malcolm Cope, made a conscious decision to try and become slightly more commercial in an attempt to try and break into the emerging markets at the time and primarily the USA if we could. We do not regret releasing Against All Odds but did experience a lot of difficulties during the recording and production stages so hence the title.
This 2016 you are releasing your fourth album, “Fear No Evil”. It seems you are back to your roots
With four founding original members returning including the ever present Mick Hopkins and Malcolm Cope plus returnees Derek Arnold and Geoff Nicholls it’s simply a case of “Back in the Band” AND business as usual without most of the usual pressures.
Talking about your current line-up, what new blood are we gonna find in Quartz?
The only new blood you will find in QUARTZ may be in the lyrics of the song “Dead Mans World” on the new album which is a song all about vampires in modern day times. Maybe you are referring there to David Garner our vocalist as new blood but actually David was briefly in the band back in 1981-1982 when he replaced Taffy who left in the summer of 1981 to pursue another musical direction. However, then David too left the band just before we went into the studio to record Against All Odds and many people don’t know that.
How long did you work in the composition of the album and how was all the process? Is it easier than 30 years ago?
After Geoff Nicholls was asked if we could write a couple of songs that might be used in a zombie film the rest of the songs on the album came fairly quickly with all the band members contributing in varying degrees. Having Geoff back in the fold with his prolific and proven lyric writing and compositional talents allied with his wealth of experience from his days in BLACK SABBATH has made things easier undoubtedly. What has changed is the technology for recording and producing music.
One thing is clear when you listen to the album from the very first moment: David Garner is a great vocalist, not only for heavy metal but also for hard rock, I would say
No arguments there from us David has a great voice and vocal range to suit several styles. He can virtually sing anything we ask him to and has a great ear for harmonies etc. which is a real bonus for the band. Also Geoff Nicholls is what you could call an “unsung hero” as he shares the lead vocals with David on our new album singing “Rock Bottom”, “Walking On Holy Water”, “Dangerous Game” and “Scream At The Devil”. This naturally brings a lot of subtle light and shade and some distinctive contrast to the album which is what we wanted to do from the outset.
Yes, having a monster as Nicholls on board makes everything eaiser, for sure. I think old fans will not miss Taffy Taylor or Geoff Bate, except for the old and good times. How did you hire Mr. David Garner?
When we finally decided to reform the band back in 2011 for initially a one off memorial charity gig in Birmingham we actually contacted Taffy Taylor as one of the five original members. Taffy wanted to do it but because of ill-health problems and with him living quite far away he ruled himself out. We then contacted David Garner and asked him if he was interested and after some initial reservations (and with Taffy’s blessings it should be noted) he eventually said yes so we didn’t hire him. David is a full and equal member of the band just like everyone else is. We still have contact with Geoff Bate who has his own band and is still working the circuit too.
I also would like to underline the great work on guitars, classic sound, great melodies and elegance all over. Mick Hopkins is really on fire
Mick comes up with some truly incredible riffs which can be the sole inspiration for a song. He continually amazes us week after week, month after month and year after year with more and more riffs when we meet to jam and work on stuff. Mick is a wonderfully gifted musician and guitar player but has also put in the hours and hours of practice over the past fifty years or so since turning professional at the age of sixteen and it clearly shows. We have to keep a fire extinguisher to hand at rehearsals these days for sure.
Hahaha... Also a great work by Geoff Nicholls on keys and the guys on the rhythm section, all in all a great team
Geoff is one of a kind and that is why Tony Iommi wanted him to help him when Ozzy and then Geezer left BLACK SABBATH and the reason he ended up staying for nearly twenty four years in total. Dek and Malc are the powerhouse and driving force behind the band and still are more than able to deliver the goods these days as you can hear.
We are definitely what you call “Old School” but also want to develop and improve as musicians so we appreciate that you feel that we have also managed to achieve a modern approach with this album. Mick had some ideas for a zombie rhythm riff and had been working on how he wanted to portray the relentless marching of the undead swaying from side to side. He played it to us at rehearsals and we all loved it. Geoff mentioned that he had been asked to write two songs for a zombie movie and then he came up with his ideas for the melody and lyrics and everything worked extremely well we think. Scream at the Devil is one of Geoff’s offerings and he brings the demonic side to the bands writing from his time and long association with BLACK SABBATH.
What are the lyrics about?
We cover a wide range subject matter on the album. Some are drawn from life experiences, others have political and social comment and then we delve in to the fantasy realm with post nuclear survival including zombies, vampires and demons just for good measure.
Is this the album you wanted to create from the very beginning or the monster was growing and changing with time?
Basically both YES and NO as you can’t always tell when you are recording how things are going to work out. It’s a mixture of development and bottled up material waiting to be released fused with experimentation from other influences so it’s also a bit of a monster too. We just hope that people like it and they think it’s been well worth the wait (only time will tell now).
I believe with this great album you have no other chance than making some dates around. Anyone already? For instance, playing in the Keep It True would be a great place to celebrate it...
We love playing live so are really looking forward to the opportunity of promoting this album when it is released at the end of this month. We would really relish a return trip to Keep It True to showcase the new album if possible. As for future festivals and gigs we are playing at HARD ROCK HELL NWoBHM in Sheffield (England) on 3rd of December 2016 along with a spectacular line-up of other NWoBHM bands spanning Friday and Saturday which is going to be amazing. Also co-incidentally we are planning to come to Spain in the New Year to visit our Metal Brothers but details are not as yet confirmed with the promoter or the venue so keep checking on our official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/QuartzBackintheBand for all the latest information and details.
We will be looking forward to that gig in Spain. What are your plans for the future?
We have already started work on our next album. Some songs have been completed and others are nearly completed with a few still in the early development stage. So all being well you won’t have to wait another thirty three years for another QUARTZ album.
Those are the best news we could hear! Thank you very much for your attention and welcome back QUARTZ!!!
No we would like to thank you for allowing us the time and opportunity of this interview and for providing the means and the platform for getting our message out there. We hope we have managed to answer all of your questions.
It was really cool and interesting, another lesson in Metal, thanks!