The BIG Über Rock Interview: Kev Riddles (Angel Witch/Tytan) Print E-mail
Written by DJ Astrocreep   
Sunday, 17 December 2017 04:20

When I was at the recent HRH NWOBHM festival in Sheffield, a familiar face appeared before me in the media room. Even though his band were not playing the weekender, Kevin Riddles, formerly of Angel Witch, now of Tytan, was taking a breather from the action out the front, so I figured that was as good a point as any to see if he was free for a chat. Luckily, he was!


HRH NWOBHM DJ Interviewing Kev Riddles


I started by taking him back to the beginning of his adventures in heavy metal, by asking how hard it was for a band such as Angel Witch to start off back then?


It was right at the beginning of the punk era. As Steve Harris once said, punk didn't bring anything to the table, all it did was take up all the gigs! Getting gigs was really difficult at the time, unless you were spitting on people.


Was there anyone in particular who influenced you in what you wanted to play and write?


Probably Zeppelin, Sabbath, Purple, I mean the classics. I'm very lucky I'm at an age where I grew up with the finest bands that have ever existed, so they're bound to leave a mark, bound to influence what you listen to, how you write if you're a writer. You can't help it.


You've (Angel Witch) been mentioned by the likes of Dave Mustaine and Chuck Schuldinger as being a big influence on what they created. How does it feel to be mentioned as such by the likes of them?


We sat and watched a programme called 'Metal Evolution', and I was staggered to hear Lars (Ulrich) say about Angel Witch. I remember Lars as a lovely guy, who was absolutely broke, living in London and we used to get him into The Marquee, just so he could be somewhere warm . *laughs* It's great for him 20 years later to turn around and say what a great influence Angel Witch was on him and Metallica. That can only make you feel good!


When you were recorded with Angel Witch, was there any particular process to recording?


Angel Witch had been touring solidly for about 18 months or two years before we got the deal with Bronze Records, so the material was there, it was honed, it was polished. We were lucky in that regard, that we were able to literally walk straight into the studio and although we didn't have a great deal of studio experience between us, because we were such a tight unit, we were able to walk in and pretty much just do it live. All the backing tracks were done in, I think, four days. Overdubs with pedals and guitars, I put a few bits of keyboard and pedals on, then we did the vocals. Because we knew how to do the songs, we knew what we were doing, it was a smooth operation. I think that shows on the record, that for such a young and inexperienced band, it was a very smooth, very slick and enjoyable album.


Were there any songs you felt were a must play in a set?



Oh crikey, yes! ‘Free Man’, ‘Gorgon’, ‘White Witch’ and obviously ‘Angel Witch’. They were the standard staples and Kev (Heybourne) still plays them now. We saw Angel Witch a couple of years ago at Headbangers, opening, and they were playing pretty much the entire first album, but they've had a few albums out since then and there's a good spread of material, but the basis of it was the first album inevitably.


Would you say that the band has evolved much since your time with them?


I'm not sure. I think the problem is is that we got it right, back in those days. I think Angel Witch were, alright, admittedly of their time, but we were a pretty well formed and well-rounded unit. I'm not sure there was a lot of growth to be had in the writing of the material. I didn't think there needed to be, because the material was so strong, it could, and it has, lasted all these years. So, not only the first album, but through the rest of the albums, the writing has always been strong, Kev was always a great song and riff writer. I would literally put him up there with some of the best riff writers in the world. Not mentioning any names, but we lost one recently. He was great, and he's continued that. Maybe a bit of maturity has come into the new material, but that's inevitable as we get older of course.


Who decided what the setlist would be?


It was fairly democratic. Most of the writing was done by Kev, but as far as how the sets ran, it depended obviously on time, the type of place we were playing, but generally in those days, you played for an hour and a half, no matter what. So, as long as you had an hour and a half's material, that was generally good enough. I remember when we supported Sabbath, we only had 45 minutes to play, then Bill was taken off to hospital one day, so they kept telling us to keep playing, because Bill hadn't come back from hospital yet. We played for two and a quarter hours and the only song we had left was ‘Paranoid’, for God’s sake! *everyone laughs* So, they said yeah, go for it, so we played ‘Paranoid’ in front of Sabbath. One of the highlights of my life. *everyone laughs*


I was about to ask about highlights - what would you say are the ones that stick out most for you?


We were very lucky, we did gigs when Motörhead, Saxon, April Wine, Krokus, Max Webster, you name it, we played with everybody who was around at the time. Probably, the standout has got to be the Sabbath tour, the ‘Heaven and Hell’ tour, with Ronnie Dio, for God's sake! One of my heroes beforehand, then to actually share a strange with the man was just absolutely extraordinary. Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi were just rocking out at the side of the stage while we were playing one of their songs, ahhhh, it doesn't get any better than that, it really doesn't.


Who are you playing with now?




A band that I got together after Angel Witch split, Tytan. Similar sort of thing to Angel Witch, insofar as we only had one album, in ‘83, then the record company went bust, and the album disappeared! Fortunately, we were asked to do a 30th anniversary gig by a German promoter, at Keep It True festival, a fella called Oliver Weinsteiner. We managed to get most of the band back together and it just sounded great, so we've kept it going. That was in 2012, we got a fresh deal with High Roller Records, the new album 'Justice Served' is out now. It's the biggest seller that High Roller have had so far, so we're doing ok. Jules, my good lady wife, who books and manages the band is doing a fantastic job - I'd have to say that anyway - but she does a great job for us.


Would you say that your time with Angel Witch helped you with Tytan?


Yeah, absolutely. Angel Witch was a phenomenon, we realised that at the time, because we were a part of NWOBHM. It was a phrase that was coined at one of our gigs, that we did with Samson, Maiden and Angel Witch. The reviewer came up with that phrase. So, not only were we part of it, but we were part of the start of it and we realised that at the time, that it was something special. Obviously, it wasn't just us, there was Maiden, Saxon, Samson, all of those bands, the ones on the ‘Metal for Mothers’ album, even the weird ones like Toad the Wet Sprocket, people like that. We were all part of a creative group that happened to come along at the right time. It worked.


You mentioned about the memories of Tony Iommi rocking out as you played ‘Paranoid’, do you have any other fond memories of your time in music?


Yeah, I had the very great fortune to play with Paul Samson in a band called Empire and we were asked to support Maiden on the ‘Somewhere In Time’ tour in '86. That's without doubt the best tour that I've done. I've been a production manager and a tour manager with other bands as well, but that's the best tour I've ever done. They were, and still are, the nicest, most down to earth people I've ever worked with. Just fantastic, and what a great band live! They deserve everything they've got. People always used to say that Angel Witch should have done what Maiden did, and all that stuff. No. Maiden were and are special. They were there at the right time, with the right material, with the right band, they deserve everything they've got. Good luck to them!


Is there anyone you've encountered that has ever thrown a diva strop or the like?


I'm trying to think... Tytan did a tour in ‘83, supporting the Tygers of Pan Tang, to promote their album ‘The Cage’. Inevitably, they had a cage on the stage, where the drums were. We had two orders - don't get on the drum riser and if you DO get on the drum riser, don't get on the cage! Red rag to a bull, sorry, don't say that to a support band, especially one that are going to have fun, no matter what! *laughs*


For the first couple of nights, we, the band, didn't get on, but we had a dancer, a young lady called Carmine, who used to come on during a couple of the songs. She did a quite erotic little dance, a little bit of interplay with our singer, Kal, and the first thing she did, she did not only get on to the drum riser, but she was so small and petite that she was able to get through the bars and into the bloody cage! *laughs* We were told off, somewhat, for that. That was a moment. I've seen Rob Weir from the Tygers since, and Jess Cox and we laugh about it now, but at the time it seemed really important to them.


This is supposed to be a fun business, we are supposed to be enjoying ourselves, and it was no different then than it is now. I mean, it would be great if everyone was rich and famous, but that only happens to a lucky few. The rest of us just get out and enjoy ourselves. That's all you can do.


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