I am a word buff so when I find a band name that excites me I want to know the reason behind the choice. So how did you pick your name?
Dave Wilkinson – I joined a band called Deceiver in the late summer of 1979. We played some of our own songs which were quite blues based with a lot of Black Sabbath influence and also played covers of songs by bands like Sabbath, Free and Wishbone Ash. Spartan Warrior’s original drummer and bass player were also members of Deceiver.
In 1980, Deceiver were moving into a different musical sphere and when they recruited Neil Wilkinson and John Stormont on guitar the bands musical perspective opened up and that really was the first incarnation of Spartan Warrior. So we decided to change our name in line with our new direction.
A variety of suggestions were made but the band couldn’t agree between us. The original drummer was at the time reading a lot of Greek History and Mythology and he was absolutely enthralled by the Ancient Greek culture, especially that of Sparta, so he proposed the name ‘Spartan Warrior’.
The drummer wrote all of the proposed names down, put them in a beer glass and we agreed to use whatever name was drawn out. “Spartan Warrior” was the name drawn from the glass and it was suspected that the drummer had written Spartan Warrior on all of the pieces of paper and was guaranteed to have his way in the name choice.
Spartan Warrior became the band’s name at that point.
There are so many genres and sub-genres today that it is hard to keep track of them all. So what was it that made you pick the style you play?
Dan Rochester – Obviously I wasn’t in the band when it started (I wasn’t even born until 1991), but from what I gather, Spartan Warrior didn’t ‘pick’ a style of music to play, they just played what they liked and what sounded good. It definitely wasn’t to try and fit with what was current or popular.
Since the band reformed and I joined in 2011, I have seen that the band still do exactly the same. We’re very fortunate in that there is an audience for the type of music we play, and we’re extremely grateful, however there never has been and never will be a time where we change our music style to suit anyone other than ourselves.
I personally am a big believer in music just being ‘music’. I don’t tend to be bothered with how something is labelled, rather if it’s good then its good, if it’s not, I don’t listen to it, regardless of what genre or sub-genre it is.
What influences you in creating your music? What is/has been the single greatest influence?
Dan Rochester – Lyrically, influences can come from a lot of different places. What we experience as a band – things we see on the road, in-jokes etc and then stuff that Dave reads in books or sees on the news (as an example). For instance on the “Hell To Pay” album, ‘Bad Attitude’ & ‘Court of Clowns’ are about real-life situations the band have ended up in, while ‘Shadowland’ and ‘Walls Fall Down’ are both fictional, inspired by books.
Musically, Neil or I will just write a riff or melody without a pre-conception of what anything should be like, and if it sounds good we’ll keep it. We obviously don’t stray too far out of our ‘sound’, obviously we keep the vibe of what makes Spartan Warrior who we are, but we’re definitely not afraid to bring in new influences too.
Neil and Dave are very much from the UFO, Van Halen, Black Sabbath school of music, whereas me, Tim & James are from the slightly more modern, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest school of music, and luckily for us, combining both styles of playing and both backgrounds together works really well and still serves the Spartan Warrior sound.
How important is it to have a message as a band?
Dave Wilkinson – It rather depends upon whether or not as a band you have something relevant to say on any particular subject. I don’t think that there is any pressing need for bands to deliver political messages or share their collective or individual views on any subject matter through the medium of their music and lyrics.
Primarily for Spartan Warrior it’s about writing songs that come naturally to us and which ultimately we hope that people will enjoy hearing. If we have something important to say then we will say it but it’s not important to have a message to deliver… we’re musicians not prophets!
Is image an important factor to the bands appearance?
Dan Rochester – I would say it is yes. While we’re not (and never have been) a band that overly dress-up and have a theatrical image, we do think actually looking like you’re in a heavy metal band is important.
I would say from a fan perspective, watching bands like Judas Priest, Scorpions and Iron Maiden while I was growing up, it was exciting seeing them look the way they did playing the music I loved with an image and a stage-show to enhance the entire experience. To me, it would feel cheap if I was just watching 5 guys stood in normal clothes on a bland stage. If I wanted to just hear the music, I would listen to the album. I go to a live show to see a performance, and I think image is very important because of that.
So for that reason – because we see things from a fan point of view as well as a musician’s point of view – we present ourselves in the same way as the bands that we like present themselves.
How important is it to have an album cover that stands out to grab people’s attention in this day and age?
Dan Rochester – I think in 2018, good album artwork is essential due to the amount of bands releasing albums. It is very easy for an album to remain undiscovered or be overlooked due to using a stock image or something that doesn’t stand out in favour of something that grabs people’s attention.
A lot of bands and artists seem to overlook artwork, either because they can’t afford a good painting, or because they don’t see it as a priority – I’ve even heard some people use the excuse of wanting ‘the music to do the talking’. The way I see it, if you’re scared of the artwork detracting from your music, you need to write better music that you’re more confident with.
When I was younger I used to buy albums on the strength of their covers alone, due to not being able to hear them beforehand. In this day and age where it’s very easy to hear what an album can sound like on Youtube or Bandcamp before you buy it, it can give bands the impression that they don’t need to try anymore because the music is already there. What they don’t realize is that people who buy physical products still value having a striking cover on their CD or LP as it makes the whole package more special.
We are extremely pleased with the artwork that Timo Wuerz has produced for the “Hell To Pay” album, and the response to the cover so far is incredible.
What kind of respect do you get from your local scene?
Dan Rochester – Our local scene is very strong with bands from all genres supporting each other. Every time we play locally (Newcastle being the closest thriving music scene to our hometown of Sunderland) the turn-out is always excellent with support from fans and other bands alike.
How massive is it to get response from places you have never heard of?
Dan Rochester – I think it’s a huge deal, as one of the many goals of being in a band, at least for us, is to take this as far as we can. When we get emails from people in other countries that we’ve never been to (or even heard of sometimes), it really means a lot to us that they’ve took the time to support Spartan Warrior and send us a message or buy an album.
There’s only so much a band can play their own local scene or area before it outstays its welcome or becomes stale, so the whole point to us was that, while we still love playing locally and massively appreciate the support, in order to survive we had to get our music and our name out to as many corners of the world as possible, so when we see results of that, it makes us very happy and proud.
Social media has played a huge part in making all of the above happen, as bands can gain new fans with the click of a button nowadays, but what is even more special, is when you see fans travelling (sometimes from different continents) miles and miles just to see your band or a line-up, it really does mean a lot and it’s a very special thing.
Is playing live still a great way to get new fans to discover you?
Dan Rochester – Definitely. Every show can bring something new – someone discovering you by accident when going to see another band on the bill, someone being more impressed (or less impressed, but hopefully not haha) than they thought they’d be etc which leads to those people telling their friends and it dominoes like that.
Even at shows (especially festivals) where people might have missed our set, we’re a very social band in that we’re always at the merch table or watching other bands ourselves, so we usually get to speak to a lot of people and spread the word that way.
What does the future have in its womb?
Dan Rochester – The future will give birth to a lot of great things in due time! The lead single from the album (entitled ‘Covered in Lust’) will be released on the 31st January on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and then the “Hell To Pay” album itself will be released on February 23rd, which we will follow up with a UK tour later in the year. We are in talks with many festivals worldwide at the moment so the hope is to come to an agreement to make a lot of them happen. Aside from that we have 1 or 2 exciting things we cannot divulge just yet 😉
Once the album cycle is coming to an end we will start work on our 5th album. Ideas for new music are already flowing and we can assure you that it won’t be another 8 years until our next release!
Spartan Warrior can be found at the following sites –
Facebook – www.facebook.com/spartanwarriorofficial
Instagram – www.instagram.com/spartanwarriorofficial
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_spartanwarrior
Merch – www.spartanwarrior.bandcamp.com
Listen – https://spartanwarrior.bandcamp.com/