"No Such 'Fing as Hype..."
"Metal Scraps" Allan Jones talks to Gary Holton
Gary Holton is a Heavy Metal Kid, their lead singer in fact. As far as he is concerned that initial reaction was nothing less than perfect. The Kids were, at least, getting attention. "We created an impact. We came on strong, really laying on people at the beginning. We told people that they had to look at us, and they did." Holton really typifies the kind of arrogance and aggression that the Kids seem to be striving towards. He's an East End kid with a background of gangs and street violence. On stage he comes across like an awkward cross between a tripped out Artful Dodger and a skid row hooligan.
Sometimes that act is a little too convincing. "We do get into a little bit of trouble, we seem to attract trouble. I don't know why. Probably because of the name. At the gigs people always want to challenge you to see if you really are heavy. I'm very aggressive to an audience. A bit rude y'know, and sometimes they don't understand that it's meant to be humourous. I try to ignore it most of the time. But if someone was to have a go at me, then..."
Reviews of the band have praised the physical energy of the Kids' performance. Holton is nothing if not constantly active. At the Reading Festival he flogged himself into a state of exhaustion trying to get the audience to their feet. The fact that he eventually succeeded has been clouded somewhat by the claims of some critics that the Kids were allowed to over-run, when bands like Chilli Willi say, were forced to curtail successful sets because of the strict schedule at the festival.
It's indicative of the kind of suspicion with which the Kids are surveyed, and brings to a head the argument that the band are nothing more than second rate hype. That too, according to Holton, is untrue and an attitude coloured by envy. The band has had to fight as much as any other to survive. They've been lucky he concedes, in fact they've had a record company behind them, but they've not sold themselves into debt by relying on massive subsidies.
As for the promotional campaign it was certainly no heavy sell routine, and certainly could not be compared with the publicity afforded bands like Queen and Cockney Rebel (his comparison). The heavy Metal Kids were no overnight success, no manufactured commercial product to be wheeled onto the market. "We just couldn't do it like that," argues Holton, defending the band against allegations that the kids were totally calculating in their approach to success, and had created an image that appeared to them as the most commercially viable at the time. "We don't work like that. I suppose we could, if we were to just think of the Heavy Metal Kids and nothing else. Not the music, not the audience, not nuffink, and that way we could be successful and impress everybody like Queen and like Cockney Rebel. We could do that, cos we've got summfink that's controversial. But there is no point in doing it like that. I'd stop enjoying it, man, and if yer start feeling like that about it, what's the point in going on." Then he adds a rider, "And anyway there's no such fing as hype...if you can follow it through."
Another pertinent question. Have the Heavy Metal Kids followed it through? Well, the album hasn't made them a fortune, but then again they haven't lost any money. It has, in other words, been selling steadily. There was a single "Rock 'n' Roll Man" released from the album, but it didn't sell many copies. But as Holton explains it wasn't "a real single, more of a promotional thing for radio an' that," so he didn't expect it to be a hit. If they did release something as a 45, it would have to be a "really classy job. Sumfink we could look back on in a year's time and be proud of." Their real glory though, is as a live band. It all comes out then - this, at least is the Gary Holton theory - that's where the Kids are really scoring.
Gary's got no doubts at all that the Heavy Metal Kids, and their own special brand of rock 'n' roll, are gonna make it, even if some critics doubt the band's ability, and continue to do so. He's not setting any time limit on their success, it's never been a case of "if we don't make it in three months, we'll quit" you can't equate time with success.
It's just a conviction that the Heavy Metal Kids have got something genuine and vital to share with their audience. God knows it's difficult to see what it is, but one smiles and agrees with Holton. "The Heavy Metal Kids - and remember, we're a band, it's not ME and a backing group - have a lot in them musically. We really have. Deep down. Once you get into us we really have. We're gonna make it. I really think that we could be Big News within a year. Yeah, I'd say that...".
About six months ago, when they first emerged with their first album, the Heavy Metal Kids were faced with a crucial reaction that varied from polite indifference to downright hostility. They were virtually unanimously derided for their crudeness and lack of originality, and although it was reluctantly conceded that they would eventually find the success they were so earnestly seeking, no one wished them any luck on their journey.
And that success, it was argued, would depend more on the slickness of their promotional campaign than any musical achievement. Their album could have ended the critical abuse, but as it's only distinguishing feature was its mediocrity, the sniping continued. There was little ambiguity about the antagonism they provoked, and many bands would have relented under that pressure, or at least had a serious re-think about their musical strategy. The Heavy Metal Kids just soldiered on, ignoring the barbs of the critics, showing a remarkable unconcern for the attitude of the press.