SEAN CANNING - SACRED ALIEN
💿 Hi, it’s a pleasure for us to have on Hardrockheavymetal SEAN CANNING of SACRED ALIEN!!
Welcome!! Well hello to you and to all the readers of HardrockHeavymetal, it’s certainly a great pleasure to be here...if only in a virtual form.
💿 Can you tell us somethin’about the birth and the name of your band?
Sometime in autumn of 1980 when I was just turned 16, I started at Art College in Stockport (just south of Manchester) and via a convoluted combination of kismet and coincidence I met a guy there one day (a couple of years above me) who I thought looked really cool and was a drummer..his friends called him ‘Neil’. I knew from our brief chats that he had a band...so in an attempt to track him down and offer my services as a singer, I collared one of his friends the next day and asked him to pass my number to ‘Neil’ – He swigs from the can of coke he has just bought and looks at me with a blank expression, “Neil?” I continue “...you know, the drummer guy?...you were with him when we met?” – He nearly chokes mid-swig as he realises who I am talking about...”Oh!” he says, laughing, “you mean Chris!?” Now it’s my turn to be confused. “We call him ‘Neil’ because he is a mad Neil Peart and Rush fan!” So, with that sorted out I passed my number to him and the next day Chris rang up and invited me to a rehearsal to try out...thankfully the rehearsal all went well and following our first rehearsal in October 1980 we booked our first gig in December that year.
The band had been formed by Martin ‘Ted’ Ainscow (guitar) and Chris Lea (drums) with their old mate Dave Clowes (bass) a few months earlier and when I joined the name was already in place, but I later heard how it came about. Ted & Chris had been in a ‘Power Trio’ called Silverthorn with Ted on vocals. When they got together with Dave on bass they wanted a new name. So while sat in the pub one night someone said ‘Precious Alien’, which everyone agreed was Ok...and it was Colin Seddon from Biting Tongues (cult Manc post-punk band) who said ‘What about Sacred Alien’ – and that was it.
So it was already settled when i arrived...but I loved it. Still do.
💿 Which artists or bands impressed you the most as musician in your early times?
Well, we have already covered Chris’s Rush obsession (which culminated with him becoming personal friends with Neil Peart many years later) – and if I had to point at the one band that unified us all especially in those early days it would definitely be Rush. However, I was a complicated kid at the time and was in to all kinds of weird & wonderful things.
As well as tuning in to the NWOBHM scene (my personal faves being Witchfynde) and being a huge fan of sabbath, Van Halen, Priest and the usual crowd, I was obsessed with Bowie, the Cramps, Alice Cooper, Magazine, Kraftwerk, Syd Barrett and the wilder fringes of disco and psychedelia. Dave (bass) had an amazing collection and introduced me to Parliament, Alex Harvey and early rap (Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, Lenny ‘the hat’ White, etc) – we loved all sorts of stuff.
And when Warren Heighway (our manager) came on the scene early in 81 it really kicked into a whole other gear as we were doing gigs with Angie Bowie & Jayne County...and he was introducing us to Nina Hagen, Klaus Nomi, Toyah, the New York Dolls and all sorts of fabulous weirdos. That ended up influencing our theatricality a lot.
He also managed Jayne County in the UK.
💿 LEGENDS 1980-1983 will be out on March 6th. It’s a collection of your songs finally available for all NWOBHM fans and not only. Can you tell us somethin'about this project and about relationships with label SKOL RECORDS?
It’s the day we never thought we’d see! We are thrilled that this material is finally out there. I know there have been a few dodgy copies of our first 1981 demo kicking around...and the two singles (Spiritual Planet/Energy and Legends) are obviously out there, but ‘Legends’ the album includes some tracks even we had forgotten. It was a whole year of detective work and painstaking digital recovery to get the best possible surviving versions of the demos, most of which only survived on well played cassettes. At one point it looked like we would only have enough material for an EP.
But then we found an old Ampex reel from a session we did in 83 (we think!) – we didn’t hold out much hope as it was so battered it was unplayable. However, our pal Christophe Bride at Oxygene studios (who has done a lot of re-releases over the years) was able to bake the tape, which fused the oxide back on the plastic and allowed us to have one chance to play it and – it worked! We were astonished to find two original songs on there, ‘Eyes’ and ‘Electric Beam Squad’ that we thought had been lost for all time! Aside from that revelation, there are also 2 tracks from the session we recorded at the same time as the legends single back in ’81 – tracks which until now have never been heard outside of the band!
The deal with Skol came about when we announced we were re-forming.
They (among others) got in touch and I saw that they’d done some great re-relaeases (including some by friends of mine like Stu from MacAxe) and so we went with them.
Bart Gabriel at Skol has done an amazing job of remastering the tracks for release. They sound full of energy and dynamics – a real skill considering the ancient equipment they were recorded on back in the early 80s.
💿 There's a great return of format such as vinyl and cassette. What's your thinking about these classic format..love for vintage or is it impossible a future for music outside digital?
I personally LOVE vinyl. I buy everything I can in vinyl these days...I am so happy that it is back. The Mrs is not so happy because it takes up so much space, but it looks beautiful. And bands are tuning in to that...buying any physical form of music is a real collector market now so it pays to make it the best, most beautifully designed object you can. I’m very pleased that ‘Legends’ is out on CD but I am itching to get a vinyl version out there, probably in luminous green vinyl...watch this space! Also cassettes I love...between that and the indie 7” it was the original format most of us heard NWOBHM music back in the day. I do have some old live material and demo tracks that didn’t make it on to the ‘Legends’ album that I am tempted to put on cassette as a fan only/live gig only purchase...again, stay tuned!
💿 It's fresh your gig at BROFEST in Newcastle..satisfied about positive feedback received?
It’s been a few days now since we played at BroFest and wow...just wow. We played a reformation show last year to a sell out audience and although there were a few proper fans there it was mostly people we knew. So Brofest#6 was our first real show in front of the NWOBHM faithful. We had a blast onstage, massively helped by the great stage management & sound crews...and the audience seemed to enjoy it! The real joy however was meeting the crowd afterwards and having a beer with them...the reaction has been great, I know lots of people were intrigued as they knew the name but didn’t know much about us. We are very lucky to have 3 original members in the current band...which I know is a rarity and we are double lucky that the bass slot is being filled brilliantly by Chris’s brother Mike Lea (Sugar Bullets, Department S, Kopek Millionaires)...So we have a great live show and I hope this will be the first of many shows in the future.
💿 Can you tell us somethin'about your next live shows?
I am afraid I can’t at the mo. We dont have anything definite booked...however we are looking and hope to organise some gigs soon. It’ll probably be only in the UK for now but we are definitely open to offers...we’d love to play more. So if you are in a band yourself, or promoting a metal night somewhere, please get in touch and book us on a bill!
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – that goes for anyone.
We’d love to chat so get in touch.
💿 A demo, a single and a split..Why in the roaring years of NWOBHM wasn't there the chance for a full-length?
That’s a very difficult question. Its a question that rouses painful memories, full of regret, thwarted ambition and unrealised dreams. Sorry, getting a bit over-dramatic there. We tried out for many labels, we sent the demos, we had the meetings...and not just majors...there were some smaller metal labels like FM and Music For Nations that showed interest too...but in the end no-one took us on. We were a bit difficult to pin down I guess, I see that now...and we just didn’t have the funds to release or record a full album, We were all in low paying jobs, I was signing on, Warren was on benefits, we barely had enough money for equipment, and the gigs certainly didn’t pay much. Plus, after the DIY enthusiasm of the early NWOBHM, the scene and the sound got commercial very quick, and we didn’t really fit either the Denim & Leather chuggers or the emerging poppy Hair-Metal scene. We were still doing our cosmic rock vibe and although we got lumped in with the glam metal scene later in our career we were never really clap & stomp glam-metal either.
So it was a difficult marketing proposition for a label I guess. On top of that after ’82 the line-up went in to free-fall with members leaving and so we never seemed to get back on our feet, finally splitting in early 84 with just the 1.5 singles to our name.
💿New music..Are there projects for the future?
YES! YES! YES...and YES!! As soon as we got together last year the new songs stated pouring out.
If you were at BroFest you will have heard one of them (‘Beautiful Delusion’) as part of the set. Now ‘Legends’ is out we feel we have cleared the decks a little and can start emerging from our 80s cocoon to reveal the new, 2020 Sacred Alien to the universe. As well as ‘Beautiful Delusion’ we have about 6 other songs pretty much ready to go...We hope to start recording this summer for a release sometime in 2021.
💿 Thank you so much for your time! See you soon on Hardrockheavymetal!
My absolute pleasure! I hope to have a beer with you soon....all of you!
Sacred Alien Sean Canning