Thank you for agreeing to do this interview, Clive. Black Widow is one of the most influential bands and I'm really honored we can talk about it. Firstly I would like to ask you when were you first exposed to music as a kid? What were some of your early influences?
Thank you for asking me to do this interview. I come from a musical family my father, mother and sister all played the piano. My father was even in a dance band and made a record himself although I have the only copy made.
Where and how did you start playing music?
So I started lessons on the piano, later at school we had a recorder group. I later moved to clarinet and after school days my parents bought me a saxophone after joining Pesky Gee! I did a few gigs on the same bill as Jethro Tull!
I bought there first album “This Was” learnt “Serenade to a cookoo” from the album and that’s how I started.
I first listened to music in the 60's a great time when all my friends were into the Beatles I loved the girl groups from the USA and my hero was and still is Phil Spector and his “Wall of sound” (now he was really heavy).
Frank Lee Union was your first band if I'm not wrong. Then you got into band called Inside Outfit which later was renamed into Pesky Gee. In 1969 you recorded single called Where Is My Mind / Place Of Heartbreak, later your first album called Exclamation Mark! What are your strongest memories from the recording sessions and the production of the LP? How many copies were made?
Yes, Frank Lee Union was my first band although there never was anyone named Frank Lee. I worked in a department store and a guy there had a band when he found out I played sax he asked me if I was interested in joining, I didn't think I would be good enough, but I actually found out it was easier than I though. I remember coming home and telling mum& dad we were better than the Beatles. I was so excited. Sadly Frank Lee only lasted about 6 months but also from work I was asked if I wanted to try out for another band “Inside Outfit” I got the job and as you know we later changed the name to Pesky Gee!
Kay Garret was our singer and I have to say I've never had such fun. This must be back in 1966?
Pesky Gee! was originally a soul band but later when soul was fading we came to like the more prog rock sound. We used to do Vanilla Fudge “You keep me hanging on” and when they released the follow up we decided to cover it and it became the single.
Pesky Gee! were discovered in Warrington by a songwriter and singer Malcolm Rabbit from the group “Fairytale”. He approached the band and said he had a song for us “A place of heartbreak”. The next day we learnt it and he introduced us to his London management sadly for Malcolm it became the b side.
They took us into the PYE studios in the middle of the night and in 4 hours we had recorded the album. It has many mistakes and we kept asking to re record some stuff but were told it would all be ok in the mix 40+ years later the mistakes are still there, but many people seem to like the album.
We have always though we recorded at that time of night because someone was being paid to let us use the studio.
The funny story to Pesky Gee! album “Exclamation Mark” is that our name has an ! at the end of it we really liked that as no one else had it. Our manager rang PYE records to say don’t forget to put the ! on the end of the name but some silly secretary got it wrong and they didn’t put the ! at the end of the name but called the album “Exclamation Mark”
! is an exclamation mark just in case you didn't know?
I would appreciate if you could share an interesting story with Pesky Gee on concert.
Well I remember 1 gig where we were playing “Piece Of Mind” by the group Family in that number I played Sax & Clarinet so I had my hands full, the stage had these columns placed on it that went to the ceiling thinking it would in a break in the song look cool to lean against one to my horror they were not solid and as my hands were full. I could not stop one falling over it landed on the drummer knocking every drum over and with a domino effect also knocked all the other columns over. Somehow we managed to keep playing but then had to re build the stage.
Around early 1970 legendary Black Widow was born. What do you remember from sessions you did before starting Black Widow?
Well, we rehearsed for 6 months on the black magic act and when the time was right and we were to launch the band and new stage show at the Phoenix Theatre. That’s when we changed the name and Pesky Gee! were no more, but we became “Black Widow”.
In 1970 your recorded your first and probably most legendary Black Widow album called Sacrifice. You also released single called Come to the Sabbat / Way to Power with cover of the devil holding your name. I really like it. What do you remember from recording and producing this album? I am also interested about your influences on album. The album is very dark and you were very into magic. What particular magic and what books? Anything besides that?
Well at the time of recording Kay had sadly left us for personal reasons The “Sacrifice” album was based on an occult story.
I had co written “Come to the sabbat” with our guitarist Jim Gannon and that was the most commercial song on the album and was picked as the single (it was tipped to go to number 1 in the charts but in the end was banned by the BBC and got no plays on the radio)-
I think the “Sacrifice” album was recorded at Dee Lane Lea studios. I remember it was a huge place and you felt very lost in there.
On “Come to the sabbat” we wanted to use strings and we had some children (I think they were about 15 years old ?) from a music school come with there teacher.
We taught them the part they played it perfectly first time and that was it I often wondered if they knew what they had played on.
Yes the album is one if not the first true black magic album we used the correct words and did quite a bit of research.
Jim wrote most of the songs and did a great job. We used all the correct words and obtained a lot of knowledge from Alex Sanders the then King of the witches.
I would also like to know more about the cover art of the LP.
A lot of people like the cover. I was not so keen myself. It has always looked like 2 bananas and a sparrow to me but we had no choice. It was picked by the management.
The inside cover was designed by Circa in Leicester where we came from and was cartoon demons but quite clever at the time
I got in touch with one of the guys from Circa for the new B/W album but in the end we went with Hugh Gilmour who has done a few B/W covers over the years and is well known for his rock covers
I would like to hear story about touring as Black Widow. You played at many festivals?
We never managed to get to the states as we were banned there after Charles Manson did his black magic murders they thought sending us over there so soon after would not be a good thing so our management sent Black Sabbath who they had recently signed up, who then denied anything to do with black magic.
The biggest festival we played was the Isle of Wight to nearly 1000 000 people. The band are still huge in Italy (we toured there with YES) and we did many European tours.
You also worked with Alex Sanders. He was involved with witchcraft. Can you share a few words about that?
Our management put us in touch with Alex and his wife Maxine and they helped us get everything correct on the album and also helped with the live show. Sometimes Maxine was our live Sacrifice
Alex passed over many years ago but I'm still in touch with Maxine and she has kindly written some Sleeve notes for the new B/W album. She also wrote about her time with the band in her book “Firechild”.
I hope to meet her again soon
Later you released two more albums in the 70's. The first one is called just Black Widow and the second one is called III. Can you tell me your thoughts about this two releases?
I didn’t really like the 2 follow up albums. We had dropped the black magic by then against the wishes of myself and some of the band.
B/W 2 had some good songs Mary Clark or Legend of Creation would have been good singles but we went with a cover of “I wish you would” not a great follow up for us and it had no flute on it. The instrument that had really been prominent in the first single
I also didn’t like that the albums had no proper titles to go from B/W to B/W 3 everyone asked what happened to B/W 2.
What happened next? I know you disbanded around this time and went to form Agony Bag. Please tell me more about Agony Bag.
Well it didn't happen for Black Widow. We started to fall out and 2 of the guys became very difficult to work with. They wanted to drop the black magic. Something we should of stuck with, but they got there way and it was a disaster we just became an ordinary band.
It was not a happy time for myself. The 2 guys thought they were gods gift to music. They also brought drugs into the band and that was it. We lost our good reputation.
Even though we replaced them it was too late. They had ruined the band it was time to split.
I started Agony Bag about 2 years later after meeting up with Clive Box the original drummer (These 2 guys had thrown Clive out the band).
Clive had great ideas and I always wanted to be singer and front man. Something we did not really have in B/W, so the easiest way to do that was start the band myself.
I wrote all the songs for Agony Bag and our manager used to work on the James Bond films with Sean Connery and taught me all about stagecraft.
It was a fun time again and Agony Bag were well before there time and if you look on U Tube at our video “Rabies is a killer” you will see why.
In 1997 you released album that was not released in its time. Why not? Then next year you released Return to the Sabbat which is alternative version of you first album with Kay Garrett as the singer. I love it!
We had left our management by then and we started to record the next album. Jim had left the band and we were very happy about that. We now worked together as a band again. Halfway through Kip the singer left and was replaced by an American called Rick E.
He had been the singer with “Twisted Sister” but left before Dee Snyder joined them as he thought they were going nowhere.
Rick was a great singer, but I don’t think our songs were right for him that he did in B/W years later. I heard him sing heavy rock and realised that’s what we should have been doing with him.
But before we could get a contract. The band finished and along with a demo of “Sacrifice” the 2 albums spent 30+ years under my bed at the time Black Widow was a dead band
A friend and fan of the band later started a record company when I told him about the 2 albums, he went crazy and wanted to release them so they came out on Mystic Records UK. By this time everyone wanted to know about the black magic band that had started the whole Devil worship thing going.
The first album came out as B/W 4 not a title I wanted but due to a mistake that’s what it was called and then we released “Return to the sabbat” that was the Sacrifice album but this time with Kay Garret as one of the singers (This album also has the most fantastic cover) when you turn it makes a different picture something quite unique.
In 2008 you recorded a show you did called Demons of the Night Gather to See Black Widow Live. What can you tell me about this? How do you like it?
No you are wrong. We recorded the live black magic show back in 1971. It was the last time we did the black magic show.
We played Beatclub in Germany to a live audience. I remember we played one song the 10 minute version of Sacrifice but in the afternoon they had asked if they could film the black magic show.
It was the last time Clive Box played with us and before the audience arrived they filmed the whole show.
I had forgotten about it but remembered we had recorded Sacrifice. I tried to get that recording for a long time but was told it was in bad condition, but one day I got a call to say it had been restored
It was sent to me. I sat down to watch it and to my surprise it started with the song “In Ancient Days”. The song that was the start of the black magic show then I remembered we had recorded the show in the afternoon here was the whole show of the Sacrifice album.
So Mystic and I bought the rights and it came out as “Demons Of The Night Gather To See Black Widow” the title of a poster I had.
Although it’s in Black & White it’s a great memory of the show that was banned at the time and had caused all the press to write about us.
In 2008 you recorded a show you did called Demons of the Night Gather to See Black Widow Live. What can you tell me about this? How do you like it?
Black Widow went there own ways but a couple of years back I met Geoff Griffith the bass player and we both had the idea to bring back Black Widow so it was great that we decided to work together
Geoff also had a studio (unfortunately the studio was in Thailand) but ignoring that fact we set to work writing and we went back to the black magic we loved and should never of left.
A year or so later the with a guest spot from Tony Martin (Black Sabbath) and also Kay Garret and Paolo “Apollo” Negri a great keyboard wizard from Italy the album is at last finished and titled “Sleeping with Demons”.
Geoff and myself wrote all the songs and I also wrote a song for Kay. It was great to work with her again. She had not been in the studios for many years.
We have also started our own record label, so we have full control over the release.
It was great to think we are bringing back one of the most influential bands of all time and this time I really enjoyed recording even though I had to travel to Thailand for my parts.
Geoff would pick me up on his motorbike from my hotel and we would travel to the mountains turn right at the elephants and there was his home and studio (true).
There is also a release of a live bootleg gig coming out of the old Black Widow. What can you tell me about this?
Yes there is after all these years a bootleg live gig I found that was recorded when we did the YES tour in Italy. A guy had recorded the gig on a small tape and kept it for all these years.
I've had it cleaned up as best I can and also released a few B/W things that have never been out before and a song of the never released Kay Garret album.
I thought its better to have this out than kept again under the bed. I guess it’s for collectors and fans the title is “See’s The Light Of Day” ad will be released on BWRecords in Italy.
You are also involved with many other musical project. Anything you want to share about that?
Well I have been asked to record as a guest with many artists over the years like Death SS, TAXI, Paolo “Apollo” Negri, Dilemma Of Nicole, and many others. I also write for many artists in pop music as well.
Bands like The Airwaves from Sweden have a great song out that I co wrote “Hey You, Ring Me Tonight”.
I have for many years been working on my musical “Metalheart” and I hope to finish that soon with guest artists.
So many things are happening at he moment, but what im concentrating on is “Sleeping with Demons” first.
What can we expect in the future? Black Widow tour? I'm really happy for you guys, that you are playing together again!
Well it’s possible some of us would tour and we have been offered a few things I want to play festivals but like I say, lets see what happens with the album.
Last year I was a guest with the band Propagandi from Canada. They had recorded “Come to the sabbat” and it was amazing all the young kids knew the song. I could not believe it and what a fantastic band they are.
I would like to thank you again for taking your time to complete my interview. I'm very happy we could talk. Would you like to share anything else?
Thank you Klemen for this interview. If anyone wants to get in touch I will always answer any questions. Please listen to a sample of the new album on our website www.smackmanagement.co.uk
I hope to meet many new and old fans when we get to do live shows. So anyone please come and say hello!
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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