"Pick Us a Winner"
Now, first off, before we go any further, I think I should try and clear up this confusion.
"Is there any confusion?" interupts Gary Holton. "Are you confused?" he demands.
Frankly I am.
Holton smiles a toothy smile, as if the object of the exercise really is to perplex you. "Well, that's ok then. I fink it's good to have people wonderin'."
Wondering about what you might ask?
"You want to know if the band's still called 'Eavy Metal Kids or whether we've changed our name to just the Kids," Holton continues, "right?" Right.
"I tell ya what 'appened. The British press were the first people to call us The Kidsy'see as an abbreviation, y'know. They'd start off an article wiv the full name, 'Eavy Metal Kids , then later on shorten it like they do wiv everybody. It didn't go further than that at the time though. 'Owever, when we went over to your America, we found that there was this fing over there that if a band played badly they'd be called 'eavy metal. Everyone'd say aww, that was a real 'eavy metal set, meanin' that it was a load of shit. So we thought we'd better drop the front part of our name for the States. But we didn't change it permanently or anythin' y'know."
"Anyway, when we come back to Britain, we find that Atlantic's sent out these press releases proclaimin' big name changes an' all that. It was a bit of a cock up in some ways, but in other ways it was good 'cos it kept us in the press. I like the name The Kids 'cos it was more us on stage. But we are a loud 'eavy band, there's no denyin' it, y'know what I mean? I will not deny it, it works both ways."
Gary Holton, the (Heavy Metal) Kids' vocalist, is a cocky little urchin, the sort who immediately reminds you of that arrogant little toughy of your schooldays who, in spite of his diminutive size, could lick the best of them. He possesses what can only be described as a curiously schooled Cockney accent : phrases like "f'rinstance" and "y'know what I mean?" Pop up with fair frequency; he sniffs a lot ; the extended vowel sound that people like Bolan and Harley have adopted to characterise their own particular singing style is very much over the top.
Holton's speech comes across in an oh so crass fashion. And, like a colour TV with the orange turned up too strongly, it's an amusing if unsubtle effect. "I used to ave a posh accent before I joined this crowd of yobs". He says, referring to The Kids. We're talking in the plush conference room of London's Atlantic offices. Dressed in a white boiler suit with most of it's buttons undone so that the front gapes procariously open, Holton obviously enjoys the experience of the interview, and relishes the chance to assert his larger than life personality over anyone and everyone: "I can see you knickers!" He screams at various lissome secretaries in raucous East End tones. Oh so brash.
We continued talking about title combinations/variations for a while, and I made the point that, despite the name, the Heavy Metal Kids do not and never really have played heavy metal music. More confusion! "That's because the definition of 'eavy metal came after the name," Holton claims "Y'see we got the name from William Burroughs donkeys years ago. In his writins the 'eavy Metal Kids were in fact a bunch of pooftahs that used to run around wiv' truncheouns tied to their waists. Loadsa bands 'ave got their names from Burroughs - soft machine, for example. He's quite good for 'fings like that. So anyway, we 'ad the name for years, then all of a sudden up pops this new brand of music called 'eavy metal. It's so silly - I mean I can remember saying that I used to be in a beat group, remember that? Then there was pop group, then it was rock band, then it was just band... Really this 'eavy metal thing was just pure coincidence".
So I put it to Holton that he must have first thought about forming a band called the Heavy Metal Kids some years ago. "Yeah," he leans back on the couch and preens his hair with his hands, trying to restore a steadily failing quiff, "I've 'ad this idea of hooliganism on stage in my brain for abaht four years now. The actual band has only existed for abaht two years though."
The HMK's biography cites an outfit called Biggles as Holton's first major band. However, when questionned about his early rock and roll days, Holton's usual colourful stream of words narrows to a trickle. "Biggles. Disaster. A very expensive disaster," He laughs "A fortune was spent on that, it really was".
It transpires that Biggles were in direct competition with another band called Heaven and (or so I gather) Holton was somehow vocalist for both of them. Not surprisingly, the two bands flopped rather badly. Even so, I seem to recall that Biggles were promoted quite strongly in the music papers.
"I dunno. I dunno much abaht promotion," Holton says successfully manoeuvring the subject matter. "The music business is a funny business, y'see. Like, f'rinstance, look at this," He points to a stack of expensive if rather dusty hi fi equipment to his left. "When's this used? Once, twice a week? Look at me, I aint even got a bleedin record player. I 'ave to come in 'ere if I wanna hear anythin' decent. So it's a funny business. You get everything back to front. All the people who don't play the music 'ave the music, and vice versa. Does that make sense? I mean, you journalists are a funny lot too." He grins cheekily as I wince slightly, "I've 'ad a lot of 'ostile people in interviews, I don't know why. You're not 'ostile are you? A lot of people i've 'ad interview me are - I'll mention no names - dumb. They really try to put you over on your back. They sort of say, well, listen boy, I'm gonna make you or break you. They forget that wivout rock and roll their papers wouldn't exist. That's what makes me angry wiv the press, their superior attitude. Apart from that, they're a nice bunch of fellas." He concludes cordially, if rather condescendingly.
"Now that I'm wiv The Kids I do get people confrontin' me and sayin', hey, your'e the guy who picks his nose on stage aren't you? but only occasionally. Still, it's comin', it's comin'. I fink everyone's got it wrong, y'see I'm already a star, it's just that a few million people don't know it yet. I know that I'm a star," he giggles almost childishly, "I'm working bloody hard at it. It's all them other people, y'know. But I'll talk 'em round to it. One day."
Holton talks with and exudes such enthusiasm about his life as a Kid, he reminds you of the stagestruck youngster who's only just discovered the delights of performing to an audience. "You said it, performing's what I enjoy most of all," he says still trying to revitalise that lost quiff, "I mean, in the studio I find that I 'ave to really concentrate. It's very visual with me y'know."
He first took the stage when he was 11: "I did opera for abaht two years, believe it or not, just small parts in Sadlers Wells Productions. Then I decided that I wanted to act, so I did a course at the National Theatre for three years. In the end, I go thrown out of the course - for reasons I won't go into - and over a period of time I got thrown out of almost every other school possible. Then I saw this ad in one of the music papers, sayin', "Rock singer wanted"... but that's all in the past. I'm not really interested in the past, because this is such a new field. the 'Eavy Metal Kids are limited in their scope, everyone's limited, so the whole business is so unprofessional. I mean, take live gigs: you've got 'alf a dozen people there, you've got a couple of press guys there, you've got guys running in front of the stage all the time, you've never got the lights right... no night is ever just so, ever perfect. If you could get that," his breath trails away for a moment, "if you could get as professional as the legitimate theatre, it'd be just great."
But surely you can have a good show without it being perfectly coordinated, with split second timing. "Oh yeah, yeah, you can do," Holton says in a disbelieving voice, "I dunno though. If you're going to get slap dash, you're just going to come back to that same old excuse." He adopts a lazy Southern American accent: "You know, it was a bad gig man, we travelled a long way last night though, so cool it, far out, I've had too much dope man..."
"I mean, if you're like me, your a perfectionist. I want things to be just right. When I go on stage, it's my fucking stage y'know, it's mine. That's why if something goes wrong I tend to get aggressive. When we played the Redding Festival for instance, John Peel said something just as I was rappin' so I lobbed a full Coke tin at him and it splashed all over his record decks. He was well pleased. But I really think the business should get more professional, I really do."
The HMKs were launched by Atlantic in a blaze of publicity around 18 months ago, as a raucous rock reply to the then-fading glitter scene. Successful though the campaign may have been, in my eyes at least it seemed to reek of rather more than the usual amount of hype. When I mentioned this to Holton, he really jumped down my throat. "There was no big campaign," he exclaimed "I'll tell you what 'appened. In every paper in a single week, we put in what amounted to a two page ad - four quarters, and one page. That's all we 'ad. The 'eavy Metal Kids 'ad the lowest budget that Atlantic 'as ever given to a band for a first album. It was the way it was done. And apart from that, I was shooting my mouth off to the press left right and centre at the time... Seriously, we must be the most under publicised hype band in the business. If we' done what some new bands 'ave done - that's put out little half page ads over a period of eight weeks and spent twice as much money, it wouldn't 'ave been called hype. It was the way we did it."
"Incidentally, there is no such thing as hype if you're good enough to follow your campaign through. If we'd failed and got the chop, then we would have been a hype; but we're still alive and kicking, so we're most definitely not."
So, for now, the Heavy Metal Kids, who got their grounding in front of super cool Speakeasy crowds and as ever anxious to get back to the days of good ol' aggressive rock and roll, grind on - a tour with Alice Cooper, taking in much of the continent, is currently underway; the release of a new single, a re-working of "House Party" ("Bloody good, quite amusing." says Holton) is set for the near future.
As the interview drew to its close, Holton grew increasingly anxious to draw attention to the fact that, although he's the spokesman of and fronts the band, he nonetheless relies on the other members of the band to a great extent. With Barry Paul on guitar and John Sinclair on keyboards, he's apparently at last found a line up which is both comfortable and permanent.
"I'm really 'appy with the new band," Holton enthuses, "really 'appy. If for any reason the record company or our management goes against us and kicks up the bollocks it won't matter at all. No one's going to stop us now, no way."