STEVE ZODIAC - Vardis
💿 Hi, it’s a pleasure for us to have on Hardrockheavymetal STEVE ZODIAC of VARDIS Welcome!
Hello, my pleasure to talk with you!
💿 On Nov 26th , 2021 will be out your new live album entitled 100 M.P.H. @ 100 Club, recorded in London last year. Who writes remember this gig because was unable to be there. I booked flights and hotel near the club, but some days before in North Italy, where I live, had erupted the covid madness, before the world understood that was a global and not a local problem. Can you describe the feelings of this night?
The show itself was a fantastic experience in the end, despite the dawning reality that Covid was only going to snowball. The week leading up to 13th March 2020 started strange and ended in a surreal atmosphere as events unfolded. On one hand it was obvious to everyone in Europe the situation in Italy was deadly serious, on the other we had national disgrace Johnson telling the world he “shook hands with everyone” on a Covid ward and keeping everything in the UK open. So we had people like yourself who couldn’t travel, ticket holders from all over Europe who had already come to London, and the 100 Club bombarded with calls and emails asking if the gig would be pulled. In the end we knew we would have a great crowd and no official guidance, and the show went ahead so we didn’t let anyone down. We came off stage just after 11pm, the last live music in the West End of London for the next 14 months, so we were lucky to get the album in the can. I think for the crowd and the band it was two hours of escape from the grim reality to come, and that contributed something to the atmosphere on the recording.
💿 I love the sticker GUARANTEE! NO OVERDUBS..Too many live album changed in the studio today…
Musicians are always looking for perfection and we are no different, but it is a simple fact that the more live material is reworked and rerecorded in the studio, the more distance you create from the essence of the performance. Go too far and it sterilises the whole record. Our debut album, 100 MPH, was live and guaranteed no overdubs, and since then Vardis has given everything we have to the audience by making the overall performance paramount over individual perfection. It’s taken 41 years to bring out a second live album, but 100MPH@100Club is true to that same tradition.
💿 Can you introduce your current line-up? It seems to work great!!
Thank you. Improvisation and feel are central to Vardis’ music, so chemistry between the lineup is everything. As a trio we have to feed off each other and have that innate understanding to explore the songs every time we play, so I’m very lucky to work with Joe Clancy (Drums) and Roly Bailey (Bass). After the Vardis reunion shows in 2014 we parted with our original drummer as he had no desire to make new music, and were fortunate to poach Joe Clancy from the Adrian Smith Blues Band. Adrian had so many live commitments with Iron Maiden that the blues band was only ever a studio project, and Joe was itching to try something new, get on the road and play live. After one rehearsal with me and Terry Horbury (who joined me on bass in 1985) the chemistry was instant and we were delighted to offer him the job without auditioning anyone else. His power and technical quality has helped me reach new levels. We recorded “Red Eye” with this lineup for Steamhammer. Terry became increasingly ill in the studio and was diagnosed as stomach cancer, which tragically took his life while we were mixing the album. The finished record came out in tribute to him. We completed a European tour to promote “Red Eye” with former Sabbath and Scarlett bass-man Martin Connolly filling in at short notice, before auditioning Roly, a multitalented musician and accomplished songwriter in his own right (his solo albums are excellent). Playing a few festivals with him it was clear he bought a new dimension to the chemistry. The energy of this lineup is truly magical, and I’m so pleased to have captured it on 100MPH@100Club.
💿 Can you tell us something about your early days? Which artists or bands impressed you the most?
Growing up as a child of the 1960’s my parents always played lots of Rock & Roll, Country, and Blues so I couldn’t escape the influence of American Music from the 50’s and 60’s, especially Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. I still write songs on an acoustic guitar and feel out the shape and progressions in a Country Blues style, before cranking up the speed and the amplifiers with the band to turn on the Vardis sound. In 1970, when I was about 13, we bunked off school to see the Woodstock movie at the Cinema and Jimi Hendrix’ performance inspired my career in music and desire to learn guitar. T Rex was also a very big band for me in those days, Marc Bolan had this ability to elevate simple songs through sheer feel in his voice and guitar playing, a true inspiration.
💿 Where does the band name come from?
Our original name was Quo Vadis, Latin for “where are you going?”, which I learnt from the 1951 movie starring Robert Taylor. I liked it because I was a bit lost at the time! Before our first EP I decided to add the “R” and drop the Quo as there can only ever be one ‘Quo’.
💿 Can you tell us somethin'about recording of the first E.P. (100 M.P.H)?
100 MPH EP came out on “Redball Records” a very small Northern UK label and studio. We financed it ourselves, and only after it did really well in the UK Independent and topped Metal charts did we sign with Logo. They released the album 100 MPH a couple of years later which made it into UK Album Chart and stayed in the Heavy Rock charts for months. It was recorded on Mickie Most’s RAK mobile studio over two gigs at Lowestoft Pier Pavilion and Slough Polytechnic!
💿 The first full-lenght was a live album..What's the matter of this unusual choice?
In the seventies live shows were our bread and butter, we made our early reputation by energising crowds and then feeding off their energy. The fans were absolutely wild, bringing their homemade banners, custom Vardis jackets and ripping their clothes off in the mosh pit. It was like a football crowd, so capturing that on record was a natural starting point.
💿 You're part of NWOBHM..You feel NWOBHM as a movement or only as an happy period of time for British HARD’N’HEAVY music?
I definitely see NWOBHM as a cultural movement and not a musical genre. The UK was a tough place for ordinary folk in the 70’s: unemployment was high, wages low and prospects were bleak. Music was one of the main escapes for bands and fans alike, and looking back I will always be proud to be part of that movement. At the time I really did not feel like that, Punk Rock was still prominent and I wanted to engage that as much as with Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. From very young I was into all kinds of music without being too aware of genre. For some reason the UK really likes to categories and pigeonhole music, and because I wanted to create fusion with mine I don’t think Vardis fits perfectly into any of them.
💿 Here at HARDROCKHEAVYMETAL we are strong defenders of classic format. Love for vintage or isn't there a future outside digital?
The reality of streaming becoming dominant is that physical sales are driven by audiophiles and committed fans, who generally prefer to spend money on better sound quality and objects to have and hold. I think there will always be a place for vinyl LPs and CDs are in most danger of being squeezed out by digital. But I don't worry about the technology too much as long as good music gets out to the people and finds it’s audience. I personally prefer 12” vinyl as the art of the complete album is in the sleeve, but I appreciate that digital can get music to people who might otherwise not be able to afford to buy a record, so I keep an open mind.
💿 In absence of live music many bands provided streaming concerts. What's your opinion about?
Is football on TV better than a live game at the stadium? I don’t think so, but with no other option it is still entertaining. I can see why it works during Covid, or for solo work and promotion but I don’t think the power and energy of a live band can be experienced through stream no matter how good the quality.
💿 You shared stages with many bands and artists.Who's the craziest?
Honestly the bigger the artist then the more down to earth they usually are in my experience. Sharing a pint of beer with Lemmy, Ginger Baker, or Roger Taylor we’d have a laugh and talk music, football and girls like any friends down the pub. After we played Heavy Metal Holocaust with Ozzy I was surprised by how approachable and chilled he was over a few drinks, nothing like his reputation at that time after breaking with Sabbath. The punk scene seemed to be more out of control and wild in those days, I always thought those guys were like the kid in the playground who would eat anything. Although by then it was probably just speed.
💿 I see you live the last time at GRIMM UP NORTH FEST 2019 in Bury. It was a concert full of energy. I love your ability to improvise. Don’t you think that today many rock and metal bands have lost this ability?
I wouldn’t want to comment on individual bands, but I would not get any satisfaction from playing the songs exactly the same every night, like working a conveyor belt. Freeform improvisation is integral to Vardis, I don't remember a time we weren’t doing it. I’d guess that at least 20% of 100MPH@100Club is improvisation, a one off. Of course the songs have structural foundation and keystones that we have to be tight to hit at the speed we play, but when we’re all in the groove that allows us to relax, enjoy the buzz and express ourselves allowing the music to work on us the same way it does the audience. Every Vardis live show is always different and we never play the same way twice, even in rehearsal.
💿 Can you tell us something about your next projects..Time for a new full length after RED EYE?
I can’t say too much right now but during lockdown I’ve been digging through the archives and putting together some rarities, singles and B-sides for a retrospective project. I’ve also been working on new songs but myself, Joe and Roly haven’t actually played together for over a year as we all live so far apart and travel has been impossible because of coronavirus lockdown. Fingers crossed we can get together very soon and you will see Vardis back on stage and in the studio again in 2022.
💿 Thank you so much for your time! See you soon on Hardrockheavymetal!