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If you like classic heavy metal with a dash of power metal then UK band Stranglehold are well worth a listen Over to Steve Hales & Jon Nicholas...
1. What are you currently up to? (e.g. touring/studio,etc.)

Jon: We are currently preparing for a tour that will hopefully take in most of Europe, and we're already putting the finishing touches to the new material that will appear on the next album.

2. Brief history of the band and the style of music you play.

Jon: I always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to play the guitar...The band thing naturally followed but the style of music I play is thanks to many hours of devoted headbanging to Yngwie, Mustane, Judas Priest and early Gary Moore...I like to think that although I have my own sound and playing style, there are elements of all the aforementioned Rock Gods.

Steve: I started playing piano when I was a kid and remember watching the prog bands like Genesis and Marillion and copying the keyboard parts. Then I my folks took me to see the late great Buddy Rich in concert and I suddenly realised that the drums were in fact the greatest thing in the universe! Since then a litany of awesome players have served as influences. Bands like Rush, Deep Purple, Maiden, Dream Theater and on and on. I like well played and well constructed styles, but that actually kick it too! For technical stuff there is a cut off point when you can disappear so far up your own ass that you never come back. Sometimes it's better to just simply ROCK! Everything in moderation.

3. Could you take us through some highlights of the debut album

Steve: Picking out highlights of your own work is tough. I think that in all music the points or hooks that make a track stand out are totally dependent upon the individual listener's ears. Maybe a certain lyric works for someone, while a solo or even a rhythm change- up flicks someone elses switch.

After all, one man's meat is another man's poison! For me XIII (13) is a personal highlight as it's a bugger to play and is the first track Jon and I ever collaborated on. It's an odd track and certainly not an easy listening single, but I like it. Total Eclipse, Achilles Heel, Instinctively Infectious and Dying By Design seem to be the most accessible tracks, but for me the epic Depth Charged still floats my boat ('scuse the pun), both to listen to and to play.

Jon: Yes, and away from the songs, eventually seeing the completed Derek Riggs artwork all boxed up will be a high point for me.

4. How did you hook-up with Valhalla Records?

Steve: We have never really been interested in recording deals or the whole thing behind record labels. To me it's like the music industry equivalent of getting married. These young bands rush out full of ego and testosterone and get hitched as quickly as possible to whichever fresh-faced label smiles sweetly at them. Sign the license, then they produce some offspring to order, over which they have no influence over. After a while as they are quietly slid to one side for a younger model, and they realise that their kids don't actually resemble them much, and after all...wasn't it all supposed to be about the kids!?

Jon: Get to the point Metaphor Man!

Steve:Okay, so we've been doing this Stranglehold thing a while now, but suddenly the timing and the people involved and the product and everything just seemed right. I've known the Valhalla Records label manager for a long time and I trust him. I also have other personal dealings with Valhalla Records and know for sure that they are the most exciting new label around today. Anywhere! They have a totally different outlook and structure their business dealings in a way that helps and involves the bands at all levels. I think they suit a set up like ours where the band members want to be involved and work with the label, not just for them! It's what being in a band is all about, isn't it?

Jon: - Yeah, and getting pissed!

5. How has the Internet helped spread the word about the band and do you think downloading is helping or killing music?

Jon: As an avid internet shopper/user, I appreciate the importance of downloadable music as well as it's negative effect on CD sales. I have discovered many acts that have not been marketed in the UK through mp3 downloads and subsequently bought their albums....It's important to remember that it's still much nicer to hold the CD and read the inlay than lose a miniscule, and often low quality, file among the thousands on a harddrive.

I'm an itunes member, and at the start I used it frequently but now I'd rather have the real thing...

Steve: It's a tough one. On one hand there are thousands of great bands that now have an audience, thanks to the internet. On the other, the fact that there is a free pirate copy of everything means that if any one of those thousands of new bands want to actually make a proper living out of their music, then it is going to be much much harder. I don't think downloading is "killing music". That would be like saying the proliferation of porn online is killing peoples sex drives. If anything I think the more music people hear the more they are likely to play it themselves. But at the same time there needs to be a way to safeguard the rights of the copyright holders, as taking their labours for nothing as exactly the same as breaking into their house and stealing their instruments.

6. Two of you were in Lionsheart, the Steve Grimmett fronted band. What were the highlights of your time in the band and why did you leave? (e.g. couldn't you have stayed members of Lionsheart as well as Stranglehold)

Steve: Well in fact myself and Pete are still members of Lionsheart. The way things are panning out we are both totally able to play in both setups. As for highlights, there are just too many to mention when you are playing behind the Lord of Darkness himself (or Uncle Darkness as he is to my little daughter)!

7. What bands/artists do you admire and/or are an influence?
Jon: As mentioned previously, Malmsteen, Megadeth, Judas Priest and other not so clinical True Metal bands. Although I appreciate and enjoy listening to all the prog bands, Dream Theater etc. I like to know that the musicians sweat a little bit whilst they perform. I also like the spontineity found especially in Yngwie's and Gary Moore's playing...I like to see the rest of the band adapting to the climate created by an instrumentalist. Don't expect note-for-note guitar soloing at our gigs, the album tracks are all one-take live solos and although the themes will be the same, I'll play to the groove of the band on each night.

Steve: Man I like loads of stuff. I'm well into Rammstein at the moment after seeing their latest gig in London. Wow, what a show! Although I've been known to listen to anything. A bit of jazz, some death metal, even some classical. Shit, even some country is cool! And those country girls sure look perdy!!!

8. What ideally would Stranglehold like to achieve ideally by this time next year?

Jon: To have the second album out and in all stores in the UK and Europe would be superb.

Steve: To follow up on the terrific feedback we have had from the USA and Japan and get our CDs out there. But yes, to get number 2 out by this time next year!

9. What's the most rock 'n' roll moment the band has had so far?
Jon: Pete's radio monologue about facial hair!

Steve: Haha, yeah, usually a man of very few words Pete was pressed on the matter of beard growth in a radio interview that developed into a fine, if not award winning piece of broadcasting history!

Tapes must be found of his Dali Lama-like musings on the fragile state of the human condition, all through the cunning use of facial hair removal allegories.

10. What CD's do you currently have available and where can they be purchased from?

Steve: - Stranglehold - "Stranglehold" on Valhalla Records.

Distributed by Cargo Records and available in all good records stores. Available direct at or online at Tesco Online and Amazon.

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Interview © 2005 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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