EMQs with… Platinum Al

Last year, in the depths of lockdown and with no live entertainment to review, the glorious website that is Ever Metal was kind enough to open up their Ever Metal Questions series to the reviewers. As an EM contributor I was finally able to fulfil a lifelong ambition – and satisfy my enormous ego – by being interviewed for the site.

The questions were pretty much what we ask musicians, only I had the privilege of answering them myself. And now, in a move that confirms that I really have no shame, I proudly re-present the same interview here, at the Virtual Hot Tub. Well, it is my birthday this month…

Enjoy!

What is your name, what do you do, and can you tell us a little bit about how you ended up doing it?

My name’s Alun, AKA Platinum Al.  I write some reviews for Ever Metal, which came about through meeting Rick and Beth at Pentre Fest a while back.  “I can write!” I lied, and they’ve been too kind to bin me off ever since.

What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?

North Wales in the UK.  We seem to be a bit out in the wilderness to the outsider, but thankfully there are a few venues that put good bands on in Chester and Wrexham (both nearby) and of course, the good old Tivoli in Buckley (just up the road).  Liverpool and Manchester are both accessible.  The big win for us though is Pentre Fest – and all the other events that North East Wales Metal Productions put on.  It’s introduced me to loads of new music and it’s right on my doorstep. 

What is your favourite latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)

Desert Storm’s “Omens” on APF Records is album of the year so far.  Beyond that, I’m still reeling from the wonder of Giant Dwarf’s self-titled master piece, my album of 2019.

Who have been your greatest influences, in music or in life?

George Lucas, for Star Wars – which influenced me more than anything since I was five years old.  Stan Lee and Marvel comics have also been a big inspiration.  Skateboarding in general has opened my eyes and ears to the wonder of the world since my teens. 

In music, there’s dozens: Johnny Cash, Motorhead, AC/DC, Ramones, the Damned, The Misfits, Black Sabbath, The Cult, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Monster Magnet, COC, Melvins, Jimi Hendrix etc etc.

What first got you into music?

I listened to the Star Wars soundtrack first of all; it still has an amazing emotional response on me even now.  The next big development was seeing the film Highlander, which I loved.  A friend of mine recommended the Queen album A Kind of Magic as it featured several songs from the film, and it’s been downhill from there.  Thankfully, through skateboarding I was introduced to music that was a bit off the beaten track, shall we say.

Which current bands or musicians would you like to see collaborate on a record?

Good question!  How about Shakin’ Stevens – the Welsh Elvis – fronting the Misfits?  Danzig can write the songs.

If you could go to any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?

Pentre Fest!

What’s the weirdest music related thing you own?

I have some pretty weird vinyl in my collection, like Roland Rat, the Wurzels and an album called “How to Strip for Your Husband”.   Oh, and a Joan Collins work out record.

If you had one message for your Ever Metal readers, what would it be?

Never ever bloody anything ever.

If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?

So many greats to choose from (sadly).  I’ll nominate my old mate Lemmy, as I probably embarrassed myself when I met him by talking bollocks.

If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

Stop developing new formats – you lied to us about CDs when vinyl was the ultimate.  There are some albums I own on vinyl, tape, CD and download – and I’ve had to buy every single one.  Can we all just agree to not buy whatever new garbage format they try and lumber us with in the future? 

Name one of your all-time favourite albums?

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?

Vinyl, obviously!

What’s the best gig that you have been to, and why?

Black Sabbath at Birmingham Genting Arena on their “The End” tour is up there.

What do you get up to when you’re not writing/ taking photos?

Working the day job and being a dad mostly.  Then listening to music, skateboarding, riding my bike, watching old Hammer horror movies, collecting toys, drinking beer.

Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?

Sir Christopher Lee, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Joey Ramone and Lemmy.

If they have to be alive, then James Hetfield, Glenn Danzig, Dave Vanian, Henry Rollins and pro skateboarder Mike Vallely.

Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?

I don’t know, but I had cherry ones in Greece and they were amazing!

Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Just thanks for giving me the opportunity to flaunt my massive ego by doing an interview, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do!  HAHA!

Oh, and to the readers of Ever Metal: thanks for reading, and never forget that we are fans just like you and we do this for the love of the music.  Never say die!

Read more Ever Metal staff EMQs here.

Black Sabbath – The End

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Black Sabbath + Rival Sons

Saturday 4th February 2017

Genting Arena Birmingham

The mighty Black Sabbath.  They created down tuned, dirty, doom laden heavy metal aeons ago.  Wrote songs that defined an entire genre and inspired millions of people.  Lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle to legendary excess, managing to survive through some miraculous method or other.  Black Sabbath are musical titans.

And this was The End – their last ever gig.  At least as far as we know at this point in time, and taking into consideration the band members current situations.

This was The End – Black Sabbath’s last live performance, ever – in their home city of Birmingham.

Through a result of pure luck I was able to blag myself on a trip to witness the event.  Sabbath are one of those bands that I’ve long been obsessed with, going on nearly thirty years now.  They’ve created fantastic albums that I’ve listened to again and again, so it was great to be able to catch this gig, before it was all over.

The support band were Rival Sons, a younger band that’s regarded very positively by fans and press alike.  I’m only familiar with one album or so worth of songs, but can safely say that they put on a very impressive performance.  Their music is rooted in the classic rock of yore, so it was an apt choice to support.  I didn’t recognise any of the material, but then Rival Sons are a band that definitely require some homework on my part.

A confident and popular support act, Rival Sons coped with the huge arena well.  They merit further investigation – I’m sure that classic song to get me hooked is tucked away on an album somewhere.

And so to the headliners, the incredible but sadly not immortal, Black Sabbath.  Of course they opened with the legendary “Black Sabbath” – what else? – the eerie three note, devil’s tritone that heralded the birth of metal years since.  A perfect start to the evening, Black Sabbath then proceeded to entertain with two hours of solid classics.

From my vantage point, standing in the massive arena hall near the sound desk, I couldn’t see great deal.  In fact, I could see more of Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, in the nearby VIP area,  than I could of Ozzy.  The sound however was superb and the set loaded with classics.  Plus I don’t think Ozzy (or Tony or Geezer) did much running around the stage anyway. bs1

Most of the songs were from the first four albums, which was cool by me.  Highlights were “Into the Void”, “Snowblind”, “Children of the Grave” and an unexpected showing of “Hand of Doom”.  Brilliant bass from Geezer Butler on “N.I.B.” too.

My absolute favourite Sabbath track, “Supernaut”, was unfortunately relegated to being sandwiched in as part of a medley (along with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, another fave) – and therefore sadly under exposed.  A shame that, I went mental when the opening riff started.  No “Sweet Leaf” either.

“Supernaut” should have been in the set, certainly it was preferable to “Dirty Women” which was hauled out of the cellar and into the light one more time.  Although not their best material, this song did give Tony Iommi a chance to shine, the final guitar solo was absolutely explosive.

There were sadly no extra special moments, such as famous guests getting up to join in – maybe that would’ve diluted the spotlight on Sabbath.  It was nice to let them have their final moment of glory.  I think we were all hoping Bill Ward would make an appearance behind the drum kit for one last time though.

And finally, it was all over – with one last rendition of the genius song that is “Paranoid”.

Their final  gig was set to be emotional, set in their hometown for one last time.  In fact it was a hugely uplifting experience, rather than sombre – hundreds of the faithful showing their respect for all the music we love.  Not just Sabbath, but every metal band that’s followed in their sepulchral wake.

Black Sabbath – their legacy lives on.  They are the ultimate metal band and they leave us with a back catalogue beyond compare.  It’s never really The End.

The full setlist is here.