QUARTZ is a classic NWOBHM band, for real. If you were there in the late 70s, early 80s you could read about them in Kerrang! Or Metal Forces. With them back in action an interview just had to happen. Answers provided by Malc Cope (drums) and Mick Hopkins (lead guitar). ©2015 Anders Ekdahl
Looking back on your discography you released albums on some major labels. Why didn’t QUARTZ break bigger than you did?
MALC – There were several reasons as to why Quartz had only limited success. Record company politics back then played a major part in a bands development or indeed in a lack of development. Record company policies would change on a regular basis as would the amount of investment into any one act. We were often told that we were an “American” act? Soas a result of this we received little investment. The record buyers’tastes changed several times too with The Punk Movement being one the strongest at the time which killed off many of the heavy metal bands. If you check out the charts in the seventies there were a lot of manufactured acts and “Top of the Pops” and commercial radio almost brain washed peoples musical tastes. We were let down big time by the last guy who managed us, because he swayed us away from Danny Reddington who had done wonders for us, by making lots of promises that he couldn’t or didn’t deliver on. We also over exposed ourselves in the UK when we should have done more gigs abroad. The musical climate in the late seventies and early eighties was like a see saw with lots of ups and downs.
You started around the time Iron Maiden and Saxon did, before NWOBHM. How comfortable did you feel being tagged NWOBHM?
MICK–We actually started several years before both Iron Maiden and Saxon came on the scene. We didn’t mind being tagged with the NWOBHM label after all it’s only a name and someone else’s personal preferencesas to which music genre you best fit into or belong to. At the time we were much more concerned withand concentrated on playing our own music amidst the Punk Revolution. Plus we were determined to try and keep flying the flag for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music rather than sell out or fold as many bands did back then.
If you look back on your discography which album do you feel was the most underrated?
MICK –The first album didn’t get great reviews at the time by all means but ended up being known for the tracks “Mainline Rider”(which was the forerunner to Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell”) and “Street Fighting Lady” both of which go down a storm at our live gigs even now.
MALC – Yes I’d agree with Micky regarding the debut album but also feel that with all the problems we had with the “Against All Odds” album allied with the initial distribution problems this meant that this album didn’t make as big a splash as it could have.
It seems that today more and more old NWOBHM bands are active again. Do you feel that there is a new interest in the older bands?
MALC – Yes that’s definitely true and is possibly due to the fact that there is a lot of information available about some of those bands via the internet that is easily accessible these days. I do admire a lot of those bands as they did put a lot into what they were doing back then and many got burned out at the time. The renewed interest in recent years has given them and us a new sense of purpose and a renewed belief in what they and we were doing and trying to accomplish.
MICK – There are a lot of bands reforming these days. I think fans like to go back to their younger days. Plus the new fans like to hear the songs that their elder brother and sisters or even parents used to listen to.
When you play your older songs today do you try to keep them true to the original versions?
MICK– We try to play everything as near to the original versions as possibleas I think it’s what the fans want or even indeed expect. Now we are back as a five piece outfit with Geoff (Nicholls) back in the band obviously it’s a lot easier for us to do this.
MALC – We try to stay faithful where ever we can and only change things if we feel we can improve on the original versions or for live appearances where there might be a need to change things a bit.
What kind of venues are there to play today?
MALC – We have played a few gigs and festivals since we reformed in 2012 with some in England and others in European venues. Sadly there are not now the same numbers of venues that there used to be back in the seventies especially in and around our home of Birmingham but London still has a very healthy music scene and several places in Europe have a massive interest in and support of Rock, Metal and NWOBHM specifically
MICK – We have a couple of gigs planned for next month as it happens. The first is in a 350 capacity venue close to where we live. The main type of artistes that this venue and other similar venues tend to promote istribute bands but then occasionally they will put on bands that play their own compositions and music. Our following gig is a festival in London called DESERTFEST (UK) 2015 which is huge with lots of bands appearing over three days at numerous multiple venues in Camden Town simultaneously and also DESERTFEST (GER) 2015 in Berlin.
Is playing live still the best way to attract new fans?
MALC – Yes I think live gigs have an amazing impact on gaining fans. Quartz always has been known as a live band and is where we play best.
MICK – Playing live is very gratifying for the band. To go down well with an audience after all the hard work of writing, recording and rehearsing the material makes it all worthwhile. To get that special interaction and reaction from the crowd is really what it’s all about for us.
When you write songs today does the QUARTZ vibe come naturally? What is the QUARTZ vibe?
MICK – It is the same way today as we have always doneit. Geoff (Nicholls) and I will come up with riffs and chord sequences. Geoff writes most of the lyrics but David (Garner) and Derek (Arnold) have chipped in in the past and have also contributed on the new album for example David and Derek have written the lyrics to a composition called “The Stalker” and Derek came up with the keyboard idea too.
MALC –The “Quartz vibe” comes from the feel of the power and excitement our music has.
What state is the record industry in today? How different is it really from the 80s?
MALCC – The Record Industry is possibly worse today than it was back in the eighties. This is mainly due to the internet I believe but it’s very difficult and complicated to explain.
MICK – The record/music industry has changed drastically and not for the better either in my opinion. There are many shows around today like “X Factor” and “The Voice” for example who have singers on (mainly “boy bands”)who are here today and gone by tomorrow. In the past the bands could actually play their instruments and actually played on their records and would write songs that could stand the test of time and still be played and appreciated many years later being called “classics”. Bart Gabriel has worked really hard for us with the compilation “Too Hot To Handle” which is a mixture of demos and rarities which wouldn’t have otherwise seen the light of day but for him.
What will the future bring?
MICK – We will endeavour to carry on recording and gigging whilst we still can as we are really enjoying every minute of playing together again.
MALC – I wish I had a crystal ball and could answer that. It would be a dream to get a recognised album out and to tour regularly at this stage of our career so keep one’s fingers crossed (and everything else crossed too) for us and who knows.