CLOVEN HOOF

I am glad that I am old enough to have witnessed the rise of NWOBHM. With bands like CLOVEN HOOF I would not be who I am today. So it was a pleasure to be able to interview them. Anders Ekdahl ©2017

What was it like back in the early 80s when everything was new and fresh and NWOBHM was on everybody’s tongue? When did you realize that you too were a part of that wave?
-It was a magical time back in the early 1980’s heavy metal kids really did rule the streets and denim and leather clad hoards would go anywhere to see a band. The British press were championing the cause of home grown talent and venues would welcome the N.W.O.B.H.M groups who played their own compositions unlike nowadays sadly. The underground scene spilled out into mainstream and the world took notice of original fresh and exciting new metal bands like never before. People said to me you can never get anywhere playing your own material, but I paid them no heed. I just said watch me, then the N.W.O.B.H.M movement just exploded on the scene. I knew our time had come to take our new brand of metal to the people.
Back in the 1980’s the media was run by writers who genuinely loved metal. Malcolm Dome, Dave Ling, Chris Welch in particular. Geoff Barton was the most important writer by far and half my own record collection was purchased on his flawless recommendations of good taste. He definitely was responsible for bringing Cloven Hoof to the attention of the metal world with his ‘Breaking through in 82’ article in Sounds music paper. He tipped us for big things and when he took over a Friday rock show stint for Tommy Vance he played ‘Gates of Gehenna’. We owe Geoff a lot. We really did feel part of the New Wave after features in Sounds and later appearing in the first ever Kerrang! magazine that Geoff founded. I didn’t agree with his review of Rush’s Hemispheres album however. He panned a totally fantastic tour de force, I suppose we all make mistakes.
In hindsight I would have appreciated those halcyon days even more because they beat today’s music scene hollow. The British metal fans today deserve so much more from the press than it pandering to corporate fashion hype. It is really hard for new groups to make headway. If Cloven Hoof could make it really big then we would champion a whole new wave of British heavy metal.
We would invite a number of undiscovered bands to be on our tour and make the shows mini festival events. No one would have to pay to be on with us like the big corporate groups. It is a shame they don’t help promote new talent and put something back into metal. The major record labels and bands only think of one thing… money! That attitude sucks!!!

How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
-I wanted something demonic with three syllables that people could chant. Cloven-Hoof! I also wanted a horror, sci-fi image to match the name and style of music too. It was difficult finding something that fitted then an ex-girlfriend who worked for the library service got me a book of spells and witchcraft grimoires. To show the Cloven Hoof is to let ones evil nature show. It also means worshippers at the feet of the Devil… perfect!

Back in the 70s there weren’t as many bands as there are today. What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of music you play?
-It was always a highly competitive business being in a band and trying to make a breakthrough. In today’s market place of seemingly infinite choice it must be even harder. I have the same musical influences, it never changed really. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Wishbone Ash, Motorhead, Montrose. Synthesise them all down, mix it up a little and you can get a basis for the Cloven Hoof sound. Those bands still sound as good now as they did then, their music is tireless and a constant source of reference.
When I was a school kid I heard ‘Made in Japan’ album by Deep Purple and wasblown away. I thought that is what I want to do in life… play loud fast music like that! I have always been influenced by a steady diet of Greek and Norse mythology, old horror and sci-fi films and Marvel comic books. I suppose this amalgamation of things that fuelled my imagination is mixed up and synthesised into our songs. I have pretty vivid nightmares too and many of our riffs are playing as a background track to these. I keep a tape recorder by the bed and I hum song ideas into it sometimes in the middle of the night. This drives my wife crazy, she thinks I am insane singing away into a tape machine in the middle of the night… well I am! Lol.
I decided from the start that due to the black magic orientation of the band, I would try to learn as much as possible about the subject. I had started to write a title track called Cloven Hoof (surprise) and it seemed a good idea at the time to make a section of it an actual Witches rune from the Book of Shadows (This is a collection of witches spells, as used by Aleister Crowley etc).
Many unexplained events happened to the band I feel sure as a result of this. I was showing the band’s original guitarist the finger picking part of the spell section whilst reciting out loud the lyrics. Suddenly a guitar jammed between two Marshall cabs was mysteriously thrown forward as if hurled by an invisible force, and my companion the six string maestro was off like a shot out of the door saying “Call me tomorrow… see ya!” I was left alone to ponder what a strange atmosphere had descended on the room afterwards. Funnily enough, this happened on Beltane night, a witches
Sabbath!
Things finally came to a head when a vocalist who had recently joined the group announced that after he had practised reciting the said witches rune section of our title track, he felt as if unseen hands had gripped his legs! He delivered an ultimatum… “unless you change the words, I will leave the band!” I duly complied under protest.
However there were still some passages of the song that I left unaltered and as ill fortune would have it, when we performed the track at a rehearsal hall, it was duly struck by lightning! The guitar amps were fused and the hapless vocalist was mildly electrocuted. Needless to say he wanted nothing more to do with the fledgling Cloven Hoof after that!

I am a bit old school in that I want to have my music on physical format. Recently we’’ve seen a rise in LP sales. Why do you think that even young people today buy vinyl?
-Vinyl is back, no doubt about it. Sales of vinyl records have been soaring, although they still represent only a tiny fraction of the music industry’s revenues. It’s true that some digital media really don’t sound very good. Low-bit-rate MP3 makes compromises in fidelity. CDs reflect exactly what the artists recorded in the studio, vinyl distorts it. Like me some listeners honestly feel that the defects vinyl introduces somehow make it more attractive or “warmer”. Certainly the act of putting a record on a turntable and having to change it every 20 minutes makes the listener feel more involved with the music. Also the retro appeal factor is a contributing item with young people, even they must realise crackles and all you can’t beat vinyl. We see increasing numbers of young fans at our live shows, they seem to get off on our raw power just as much as their parents probably did. In fact sometimes we get a whole family generation group from Mom, Dad and the kids. It makes you feel kind of warm and humble to appeal to such a wide demographic group. Providing a metal sound track to people’s lives is an awesome privilege.

I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
-The prime area Music streaming services misses out on is the user owning a tactile product with cover artwork as an integral part of the overall experience. I used to put on headphones read the sleeves from cover to cover and find myself in another world. I really got into a band and let the music connect. You can’t get the same experience out of random songs. Some people don’t even get the full album they just choose the more immediate ones and dismiss the tracks that need to grow on you. In my honest opinion vinyl beats CD’s hollow both on sound and understanding where the band is coming from. You need the total package, not a range of unconnected songs. You can’t even read half the lyrics usually on a CD because the text is so small. This is why vinyl is making a comeback and it is harder to copy the music off vinyl because of the needle crackles. I don’t think streaming will kill off metal ever because the fans are so loyal and intelligent. They make their own minds up and don’t follow stupid fashion trends, unlike sheep like pop audiences.

What part does art work and lay out play? Any message that you want to bring forth with it?
-Artwork has a very important role in giving the audience a pictorial flavor of what the music is like. In my opinion the cover should denote the overall essence and feel of the material contained within. Some album sleeves are just pieces of art that bears no resemblance to the music, I feel that is
pointless. Alex Von Wieding is a fantastic illustrator who captures Cloven Hoof’s subject matter perfectly. His work is so powerful and mystical, I enjoy telling him my thoughts in a sketchy brief and he always delivers in spades. He reads the lyrics first from cover to cover then asks for the musicians overall vision. You can tell even from the initial sketches that he is on the right lines and he completes his work with speed and terrific detail. I am always finding new things when I stare at his paintings. I can’t imagine anyone else doing our sleeves, Alex is the perfect artist for the band.

Is it a whole different way to promote a band today with all these social media channels? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way, playing live and word of mouth?
-The internet has changed the face of promotion forever. It has given a voice to everyone so there are artists out there on the world stage like never before. With all that choice it is a double edged sword as sifting through all the dross the real deal bands can get lost. it was ever thus I suppose
but hopefully the cream will always rise to the top, or at least one would hope. Social media has its good points that like minded people can share information about what metal bands are doing. Fans can learn news instantly straight from the horse’s mouth as it were. But for all the positive points
there are cyber trolls and ex band members with agendas setting up fake id accounts to take a pop at you without come back. You have to take things like that in your stride because it is not just a general metal hostile press to contend with these days.
Personally I don’t have much time for promoting anything on the web because I am too busy writing songs and rehearsing. Valued friends do most of what is needed but I always find time for interviews with respected journalists. I always reply to fan mail no matter how long it takes me to sift through it
and write a reply. The fans mean everything to Cloven Hoof and we will always sign autographs and talk to them at shows. Word of mouth is just as important to building up a fan base now as it was back in the early 1980’s. We tend to pick and choose our gigs these days because promoters have to pay a lot in flights due to half the band being located in the USA whilst the other half residing in England. You can reach much more people by being heard on the internet than by playing endless gigs on the road like we used to do, but I guess it was a lot more fun.

I am not a person that dwells in the past but I get a feeling that it was better in the past when it came to gigs and people showing up for them. Has the massive amount of different ways to spend your time made people not come to gigs anymore, can people not be bothered to go out and support their fave bands anymore?
-It was much better in the past for gigs as there was a whole different culture and mindset back then. Everyone was much more receptive to going out and seeing bands work in the live environment. New undiscovered talent had a much better chance of being accepted if they could cut it live. Today many acts just mime and look good in promo videos, what talent does it take to do that?
Venues are being let down with falling attendances so they choose the soft option of tribute acts who play safe sets of easily recognisable tunes. Waste of time tribute bands are every where… I hate it. I would rather die on my backside in front of an audience playing my own songs rather than
going down great playing other peoples shit. It is down to crap TV shows brain washing the audiences into accepting the same old mainstream bollocks. Have courage in your convictions, bands should refuse to be a lame facsimile and play their own stuff period. There is too much payola too going on with the British rock magazines only championing bands with record companies who pay for adverts. Integrity counts for nothing so true metal fans shouldn’t pay any attention to those hype rags.
Video games and endless TV channels are sadly making the general public stay at home. It is a vicious circle that needs dealing with and I feel the media in general have let the public down badly. By them not allowing new talent to blossom it does not bode well for the future. The take the money
to continuously hype up corporate acts and their formula driven drivel.
Simon Cowell instead of being praised up to high heaven should be fucking publicly beheaded if you ask me for crimes against music and humanity. Moguls like that sun tanned asshole have an iron grip on the media in Britain and it needs a revolution to get rid of the lot of them.
Apathy lies at the heart of it and the general public have lost the will to think for themselves. They are being spoon fed rubbish like cheap and cheerful reality TV shows and crap bland boy, girl bands. Rap music is total shit and has taken over from where disco ended, both contaminate the airwaves with total dross. I think it is just a way for gangs to launder drug money. It is totally unmusical with some guy talking total bollocks over a drum beat. Wise up people… true metal is THE salvation!!!

How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
-Given the chance I would tour with Cloven Hoof every day of my life, no question about it. There is nothing better than being onstage feeding off a crowd of head-banging metal heads singing along to every word. If we can get the right promoter and tour agents then we would do it in a heartbeat. We
are above all a band that prides itself on our live performances and anyone can see we give the audience all we have got. If the new album “Who Mourns for the Morning Star ” is a great success and sells well then maybe we can get the right management company to make a global tour possible. Fingers crossed my friends.

What will the future bring?
-Well more shows around the world hopefully and another appearance at Sweden Rock festival, that was my all time favourite event. I am writing another album at the moment and there are enough songs to make it a double. Having George Call as our singer and Danny White on drums in the band is so inspirational. I can’t stop coming up with song ideas at the moment, this can only be a good thing. Cloven Hoof will soon have a 40 year history so that proves we must be doing something right. If music survives the test of time then it must be good so here’s to all the fans who have made it
possible. The best is still yet to come…Cloven Hoof salute you all!

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