Bio: Salem is a rock band from Hull, UK, formed in late 1979 by two members from Ethel The Frog – who had appeared on the first Metal For Muthas album alongside Iron Maiden, Samson, Praying Mantis and so on – Paul “Tog” Tognola as singer/guitarist and Paul Conyers on drums. Ade Jenkinson was invited to join on bass (Tog was going out with Ade’s sister), and Ade knew me (Paul Macnamara) from school days as a handy guitarist – and so the line-up was complete.
We started off with the aim to only play our own music – though early gigs featured some covers to get us going – and in January 1981 we recorded our first demo at Fairview Studios, Willerby, Hull.
This was at the time of the NWOBHM movement and, like other bands from that time, we drew on the great heavy rock music of the 1970s such as Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, UFO, Black Sabbath, etc. Our aim was – and still is – to play heavy music, to use the twin guitars to best effect and compose songs with the main emphasis on melody.
By about April, Tog decided to leave the band – I think we were heavier than he really liked – and we were joined by new singer Simon Saxby. A little later that year, Mark Allison joined us on guitar – and we were back to the twin guitar sound again.
In April 1982, we recorded a single (again at Fairview) – Reach To Eternity / Cold As Steel that we released on Hilton Records – now considered to be, “a highly collectable and valuable rarity”, and is also listed in Record Collector’s “Rare Record Price Guide”. Following the interview in the May “Kerrang!” the single sold all over the world.
We were now starting to get a fair amount of attention – and playing loads of gigs. Soon Paul Conyers found that this was difficult to juggle with his senior professional job so he felt it would be better for the band to let someone else take over the drum stool – and so Paul Mendham (a friend of Simon’s) joined Salem.
… and we are still the same line-up today!
We recorded two more demos – which we took to several record companies, although only to be told, “yeah – we love your music – but it’s not quite what we’re looking for at the moment”.
And by May that year, we felt that – after all our efforts – we just weren’t getting anywhere, so we decided to go different ways.
Twenty-six years later in 2009, I posted some old Salem music on MySpace – and people started listening, and contacting me. And to-cut-a-long-story-short – I ended up in contact with High Roller Records who were keen to release our 1980s recordings. The result was the double-album “In The Beginning …” released by High Roller on vinyl – and by Pure Steel Records on CD.
With the release of the album, we decided to play a gig – which was great fun, so we thought we’d do more – then we thought, why not record some new songs …
… and three year later – we’re the same band – we’ve released two EPs, played gigs all over the UK and Europe and now have our new album “Forgotten Dreams” released on Pure Rock Records (part of Pure Steel Records).
Music of Salem: Our music is created by the whole band. Sometimes starting with a entire song structure by me or Ade – or perhaps a guitar riff from Mark – and then Simon with Ade will build the vocal parts and develop the whole piece, with Paul putting his own stamp on the drum part.
We all have different tastes. This sometimes caused some friction “back in the day” – but now we see this as very healthy and a positive benefit.
The result is a variety of music – a mixture ranging from hard rock (some reviewers have called almost AOR) through to full-on heavy metal.
Why do we choose this genre? Basically because we love it.
Everything you listen to has to have some influence on your song writing. We still love those brilliant 1970s bands – as well as loads more. For example, I really like the music of Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold (as well as a bit of jazz and classical music) – Mark has always loved Metallica and is really into Lacuna Coil – and so on.
Lyrics, themes and concepts: The lyrics of the 1980s songs were often about troubled relationships or a bit of swords-and-sorcery-type fantasy.
Simon now writes most of the lyrics – often with Ade as a foil – about more modern themes (commentary on the perils of believing everything you see on Facebook and the “virtues” of so-called TV talent shows like X Factor) and personal experiences of the band members/family (including feelings during a major shift in long-held beliefs, a arduous trek through the Himalayas and the anguish of separation from loved ones).
Every song is different.
Ideas about the album: We must admit to being very pleased with the new album – “Forgotten Dreams”. Whether the songs are hard rock oriented or more “metallic”, our overarching aim is to create strong melodies – a real emphasis on powerful vocals and memorable riffs- and I think we’ve achieved this.
Ade owns the studio and we have given him the overall direction of our music. He also produces our music – and we have been absolutely delighted with the results. Nice one Ade!
Reception: We’ve also been thrilled with the reception. When we sent off the first recordings to Pure Steel Records, we got a very positive response – they loved the music and were really keen to do this album with us – so that gave us a huge boost, you know, “maybe we’ve got something here!?”
And we’ve had a fantastic reception to the finished album – loads of great reviews – we’re getting comments like “masterpiece”, “awesome”, “10 out of 10” – and even been given “Album of the Year” by some commentators!
So that is great!!
Preference; live or studio: I would say that gigging is more exciting – being in different countries, the buzz we get from being on stage together and from the audience! Although the hours and hours travelling can be tiresome!
The creation of new music is always an interesting and fulfilling experience – and the recording is fun. The best part is listening to the finished album – and thinking, “yeah – that sounds good!”
Next steps: We really enjoy gigging! It’s great to see different places and meet people who are really into our music. We’ve played across the UK, as well as playing gigs/festivals in Italy, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands – and we’re already booked at larger festivals in Italy and The Netherlands in 2014, and planning a tour with some very established bands next Autumn (in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy).
We have started to record music for our next album – and it’s already sounding great.
We’ve also been filming for a music-video too. All good fun.
This year (2013) has been particularly successful and great fun – and the future looks awesome.
Preference; cater to the audience or music for its own sake: As our music is a team effort, there will sometimes be some element of compromise here and there – but the objective is always to get the best result in terms of music that we like and also represents Salem. We have never, for example, tried to write a song like a particular band to deliberately tap into their fan base.
Having said that, whilst we are not specifically trying to please a certain audience, our view is that if we like the music – the song, the lyric, the structure and the overall sound production – then hopefully others will like it too.
Greatest Accomplishment: Whilst we enjoyed our time in Salem in our youth – we have achieved much more over these last few years.
Playing on stages – large and less-so – at home and in Europe has been suberb fun.
However, the “Forgotten Dreams” album has to be our greatest accomplishment – so far, that is!! “The Best Is Yet To Come”!
The fact that we’re all together – and still alive at our age [LOL] – is no mean feat!!
Anything else? Please check out the new album and keep up-to-date on our tours etc – you can hear some of the songs on our website, Facebook (and here), YouTube and ReverbNation etc. – join us on Facebook, ReverbNation, and Twitter…
We would like thank all our friends and supporters – everywhere!
… and finally, there are so many people who have helped along the way in one way or another, it is difficult to single-out anyone particular, however, we must give special thanks to Mario and to Arturo who put us on his Heavy Metal Night festival in Italy, which helped to re-launch the band, to Ricky Squires who played drums on a few important gigs in 2012 when Paul was not available, and to Pure Steel Records for their faith in us and our music.
21 December 2013
Photos courtesy of 21 Frets Photography.