by Daniel Hinds

The NWOBHM gave us many great bands, some of whom went on to fame and fortune (Maiden, Leppard, Saxon), and some of whom delivered only a few killer singles and albums before disappearing (Jaguar, Witchfinder General, Gaskin, etc.).  Demon walked the line between the two and never really fit easily into any category.  After two fairly straightforward, very riff-oriented albums with occult themes, the band took a bold step into more progressive territory with the awesome The Plague.  Continuing to progress, they followed it with an even more conceptual work, the underrated British Standard Approved.

Sadly, the band lost founding guitarist Mal Spooner at this point to cancer.  Determined to carry on, Demon created many more albums of their patented brand of classy hard rock and metal throughout the late 80s and early 90s.  Blow-out was released in 1992 and the band went on hiatus afterward, with mainman/vocalist Dave Hill releasing a solo effort in 1994. 

Fortunately, the band has become active again of late, releasing Best of Demon vol. One earlier this year and lining up some live dates for the summer.  Following that, we have a new album to look forward to, as well as remasters of all the Demon classics.  Dave took some time at the keyboard to answer my queries regarding this legendary, one-of-a-kind bandů

In the beginning, how did you decide on the name 'Demon'?  Were there any other names that were in the running?
We were on our way to Spaceward Studios, Cambridge, to make our first recording ("Liar") when we noticed a very small car in front with a large gentleman in the back.  Someone remarked that he looked like a "big demon," the name stuck, but not long after we changed it to Demon.

Were you ever pressured (by labels, etc.) to change the name at any point?
A lot of people thought we should have changed the name after the early albums, as the music did not seem to fit the name, but we decided to stay with Demon.

The sound you guys had on Night of the Demon and The Unexpected Guest wasn't the typical NWOBHM.  What kind of influences did you have in the early days that led you to create your sound?
The influences in the early days came from people like Alex Harvey, Jimi Hendrix, through to Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Deep Purple.

The first two records had a number of tracks that dealt with the occult, something you shied away from after that.  Did you just feel you had exhausted that subject?
Because of our name I think the first album had to be called Night of the Demon, therefore we decided to do half of the album in a 'dark' style and the other half standard rock. With the startling cover, name and the dark side stage show, this was to lead us down that path.

The Unexpected Guest was basically an observation of things unknown, for instance "Sign of a Madman" was about the guy who shot John Lennon, "Strange Institution" was about an illness my father went through.  I suppose by the end of that album, we had said all we wanted to on that subject.

What do you make of the whole black metal movement in the 90s?
I must admit that I have not taken much notice of the black metal scene of the 90s, but I think there will always be a place for it in the wider spectrum of rock.

From the listener's perspective, it seemed there was a big change in style from The Unexpected Guest to The Plague.  Were you aware when you were writing it that it would be significantly different or not?
We set out working on The Plague with the intention of doing something completely different both lyrically and musically.

The artwork on The Plague was very unique.  How did you hook up with the artist?  Was he given song titles and lyrics to work from or just left to his own devices?
We met the artist Mike Hannon in the office of Clay Records (the Mike Stone empire, Discharge, GBH, etc).  He had done some work for Clay Records so Mike Stone suggested we use him, Mal Spooner and myself explained the concept to him and gave him a set of lyrics.

The actual concept behind The Plague was a little difficult to grasp (for me anyway).  Was it meant to be somewhat open to interpretation?
With The Plague we had a story line already in our heads and the music just developed from there.  The drawings and the info inside the gatefold (which did not appear on the American Atlantic release) were meant to explain the whole concept.

I was amazed to see The Plague released on Atlantic Records.  How did that deal come about?  Was it a good thing or a bad thing in the long run?
Mike Stone sent copies to quite a few US record companies and whilst in New York at one of the early New Music seminars, he was contacted by Atlantic, who wanted to sign the band.  In hindsight this was probably not one of the best moves of our careers, although it was great to have been on such a prestigious label.

British Standard Approved is, to my mind, one of the most cohesive and well-integrated concept records of all time, both lyrically and musically. Was it more challenging to put together than the previous albums?
BSA just seemed a natural progression after The Plague and the mood we were in at the time, I don't think we ever stopped to think what we were doing or if it was more challenging to us.

A lot of the themes on BSA are distinctly British.  Were you concerned at all with how it would be received outside of England?
Once again we never stopped to think of the implications, we just wrote from the heart.

After BSA, I was really expecting Demon to become a full-fledged prog-rock band, but instead you seemed to take a turn for a more straightforward approach.  Was this something of a conscious decision or just how Heart of Our Time turned out?
Heart of our Time was the only Demon album that was never actually planned as an album.  After the death of Mal we kicked a few ideas around to see if we still wanted to carry on.

Was there ever any question of continuing Demon after Mal Spooner passed away?
We thought about it briefly, but we knew Mal would have wanted us to carry on.

How did you hook up with Steve Watts?  Was it difficult to forge a new song-writing partnership after working with Mal for so long?
Steve worked with us on BSA and we forged our writing relationship on Heart of our Time.

After Heart of Our Time, it became nigh impossible to get Demon albums here in the U.S.  Were there any significant changes in your distribution channels at this point (or was my local CD shop just lame)?
There was a shortage of press coverage and importers just didn't seem to want to order copies even though they were available at that time.

After Blow-out, did the band officially break up or just go on hiatus?
We decided to take a break, but it just lasted longer than usual!

Can you tell me a bit about the current line-up and how everyone came to be in Demon?
The current line-up has been together for three years and are:

Steve Brookes (ex Discharge) - rhythm guitar who was introduced to us by Mike Stone and who has been with us since Taking the World By Storm.

Andy Dale - who played bass on Breakout and has done the backing vocals on all albums since.

Ray Walmsley - lead guitar.

Duncan Hansell - keyboards.

John Cotterell - drums.

These have all been friends for many years.

Reading an interview with you from 1998, you mentioned taking over a record store.  How is that going?  Is it difficult to balance a full-time job like that and writing and recording for Demon?
The record store is going very well and we have added our own small recording studio in the building.  As far as the difficulty of working full-time and keeping the Demon project going, I suppose it is something I have got used to over the years.

Since it has been eight years, I'm sure everyone has been very curious about how the new album is coming along.  How far along is it? When can we expect a release?
The new album is nearly ready for mixing, but is on hold for the moment, as we are currently rehearsing for forthcoming live dates.

What do your kids think of Demon's music?
My children have grown up with the music and they have always accepted it as something quite natural, like any other type of music. I also think they are quite proud of it.

Demon's website (www.the-demon.com) is one of the cleanest-looking, best-organized sites I've ever seen.  How did you hook up with the guys who run it?
Mikael and Thilo were big Demon fans with separate sites. (Mikael - Sweden and Thilo - Germany)   We got to see their sites in early 1998 and thought how great they were. We were so impressed with their work we decided to contact them and ask if they would like to become the official site for Demon with our input, they were delighted.

How were the tracks for the Best of Vol. 1 chosen?
With great difficulty, but we let Mike Stone take the blame for that!

Can we expect a Best of Vol. 2 in the near future or is that a ways off?
Yes we shall be doing Vol 2, hopefully this year.

There was mention of an acoustic album being recorded at one point.  Is that project still in the works?
The acoustic album has been put on hold at the moment, but we are considering resurrecting it at some time in the future.

Are the remasters still on track for an April release?
The remasters have also been put on hold whilst we concentrate on the forthcoming live dates.  We are also looking for licensing deals.

Are there any unreleased tracks from past recording sessions that might see the light of day someday?
There are a number of tracks that we have recorded in our own small studio that might see the light of day sometime - but nothing from the past.  Apart from one or two different mixes, all recordings were released.

It seems like the metal scene in England started to deteriorate in the late 80s - has it gotten any better in recent times?  What do you attribute that downfall to?
I can't really put my finger on what has happened to the British rock scene in recent times, but somewhere along the way, we have lost our spirit and traditions, which were stamped by bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and carried on by bands like Demon

What are your plans for the rest of 2000?
To play to as many people as possible and to make as much music as possible!!

http://www.the-demon.com/

Missing the menu on the left?  CLICK HERE