Category Archives: Interview

DAVE HILL (SLADE)

SLADE’S IMPERIAL PHASE WAS FROM 1971 TO 1973. THEY SCORED SIX UK NUMBER ONE SINGLES AND TWO NUMBER ONE ALBUMS.

With a uniquely uplifting blend of glam-pop and rock ‘n’ roll (which rocks a bit harder than you probably remember), plus an outrageous sense of fashion and a tongue-in-cheek pub-banter humour, the band became a firm favourite all over the world. Hits such as CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE, SKWEEZE ME PLEEZE ME and TAKE ME BACK ‘OME ensured Slade was the most successful British group of the 1970s, based on sales of singles. Though minus talismanic frontman Noddy Holder since 1992, the band has continued to perform, and undertakes a good-natured MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY tour of the UK each December. In this new interview with The Mouth Magazine, founder member and guitarist Dave Hill talks about what he feels those shows have to offer, in the 2017 world, and he looks back at the Wolverhampton glam-pop band’s career and legacy. Hill, now 71, suffered a stroke on stage at a concert in 2010. Prompted by the breaking news, a few minutes before our conversation, of a high profile celebrity death (and a few minutes of us chatting about that before we begin recording), it’s with Hill’s stroke that we begin…

IN 2010 YOU SUFFERED A STROKE, ON STAGE DURING A GIG. MAY I ASK YOU ABOUT IT?
Yeah, of course you can. That’s good that. That’s good. I’m pleased you want to talk about it, actually…

DO YOU REMEMBER THE STROKE ITSELF?
I didn’t realise that the actual stroke had started two days before. I got off this train and I went a bit dizzy. I thought I’d eaten something bad, ‘cos I was sick. I remember something really weird – that my legs weren’t part of my body. After a bit I thought I was better so I carried on. But all that day, it was a hot day, I’d got a funny head. Anyway, I went up to the side of the stage to take my guitar off the roadie, and I couldn’t press the strings. “My God, what’s going on?” I thought. Then I walked onstage, confronted by thousands, and I tried to bluff myself to thinking “It’ll be alright in a minute”. Psychological. But it wasn’t. I got wobbly, I was playing out of time – some of the people out front thought I was drunk. My son was right by my speaker cabinet ‘cos he was a roadie for us, helping out, and he thought I was gonna fall over and he was gonna have to catch me. Then when I come off stage I said to the band “I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve gone all weird”, y’see… Anyway, I gets in the van and we’re travelling back, and I started to talk funny – like, slurring – and me arm was all funny. At the hotel I attempted to eat something and I went to bed… There was a bang on the hotel room door and there was the ambulance people there. My agent and my son had called up the local hospital. And wow, man, was I in trouble… Blood pressure was, like, 250 over a hundred. I was really flying – I could have had a heart attack. The traumatic side of it was, I goes to hospital and gets treated up, obviously, and I’m in there for several days, and I got really emotional. I thought “This is it. It’s all over”. Good God, y’know? It was a real roller-coaster of emotional feelings. It was so upsetting. I thought I wouldn’t be able to work again. I thought I’d let everybody down. I couldn’t do anything with the arm. I couldn’t even comb my hair. The doctors in the German hospital were very very good with me. They took loads of tests – MRI scans and all this kind of stuff – and they encouraged me. They said “We know what you do – it’s going to take time but we think it will come back”, and then I got tested back home in England too. The guy said “I want you to relax, I don’t want you to get stressed. I think you’re going to make a really good recovery”…

AND THEY WERE RIGHT – YOU DID RECOVER…
I had to take three months off. It was very hard but in those three months, I just felt myself coming back bit-by-bit. I felt my strength growing day-by-day. I worked at it, and I made sure I played my guitar for a bit every single day trying to get myself back. When I went for the first rehearsal with the lads it was liberating to get through it. Really liberating.

THE FIRST GIG MUST HAVE BEEN EMOTIONAL…
My son came with me to Norway to do that first show after the stroke. What was the most emotional thing was that I went out on stage and told the audience what had happened. The audience was brilliant. I told them I’d had the stroke, and I said “But I’m back“… Cor, it was a blinking great moment, that… It was tearful.

DID YOU FEEL VERY DIFFERENT? THE SHOCK, THE TRAUMA, OF GOING THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THAT CAN REALLY CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE…
Yeah. You’ve been really really vulnerable and it’s not nice, y’know? It’s been a few years since I had the stroke, and it’s not to say that I don’t get stressed sometimes, but it does change you. Something happened recently; someone I know got diagnosed with a brain tumour and he’s only 23. He’s been given a few weeks to live. He’s gone from feeling slightly unwell to having a death sentence on him. The uncertainty, the idea that absolutely anything could happen… It’s horrible. But the stroke changed me. The stroke made me look at those things in me life that I might have worried about before… The uncertainty of things, not knowing what’s gonna happen and what could happen… And I went “You know what, I’m just not going to worry about that anymore”… It precisely affected me in that way. I learnt that from it. Okay I’m still on medication and I still have regular tests and all that… But I realised that the only thing that actually matters is right now. Right now. This moment. Everything else is optional, and some of it’s good and some of it’s bad, and there’s choices and all that. But right now is the only cash you’ve got on the table…

YOU APPROACHED RECOVERY VERY POSITIVELY – BUT I SENSE FROM TALKING TO YOU THAT YOU’RE NATURALLY A VERY VERY POSITIVE PERSON…
Yeah, I am. I am positive. My stroke made me even more positive. Enjoy your life while you have it. Okay? We’re all gonna go eventually (and where we go we’re not quite sure, but hopefully it’ll be ok). At the moment the joy of life for me is watching me grandkids grow up and get involved with the things they like doing. Also, continuing to do what I do – and it does help me to be in a job, or a life’s work, that I think is something positive. For the last two years I’ve been writing my life story for a book – which has been quite wonderful for me, having a look back at things. So because I’ve written a book I thought maybe I’d get invited on a show or two, and I’d be able to talk about certain things. And here we are. I’m really grateful to you that you wanted to talk about my stroke. Also, obviously, mental health is a big issue these days – and I suffered big from depression in the past…

YEAH. I WONDERED WHERE THAT CAME FROM, FOR YOU?
It was a long time before I had the stroke. Funnily enough I was feeling great, generally, when I had the stroke. But before then I had an operation and it slowly crept up on me to have wrong thoughts. It was a real black hole. If it’s untreated and left to fester it can get worse. I didn’t leave it. The doctor couldn’t help me, but eventually I met someone who was the right psychiatrist for me.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE ‘RIGHT’ PSYCHIATRIST?
Well, someone who properly explained it to me, got the right medication for me, and persevered with me… I always remember the day I got well, or started to feel well. Suddenly music started to sound great again. I’d still carried on playing. I’d carried on getting on stage to do shows. Me continuing that, carrying on me job, was a life-saver, I have to say…

THE ROUTINE…
Yeah. Routine. Otherwise I’d have ended up going to bed and not getting up, and all that. I had that feeling, but I got through it.

OFTEN PEOPLE DON’T REALISE THAT YOU CAN BE DEPRESSED BUT STILL HAVE GREAT DAYS – GOOD TIMES, LOTS OF LAUGHS, LOTS OF FUN… BUT IN THE END IT’S ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU TURN IN ON YOURSELF, AND THAT’S THERE ALL THE TIME…
Yep, yep. Depression, unless you’ve actually experienced it, you just wouldn’t know that. It’s not something that’s about just ‘having a bad day’. It’s actually about feeling really really bad inside, feeling rotten inside. So it’s more than being ‘a bit off’. It’s about feeling that nothing is right anymore. Because I’ve been through all that, I feel I now have that armoury in me – so I know when other people are going through depression. I understand. Obviously the stroke come along when I’d gone past that and was feeling well, and I wasn’t expecting the stroke, so that really knocked me for six. But I got well from it… although at the end of last year something else happened. I got knocked over by a bicycle on the promenade in Brighton. I broke my left arm, so that was something else I’d gotta get through. I’m fully recovered from it, thankfully, but it was a bit like “Yeah! Christmas here we come” and then ‘bang’, I’m on an operating table in a hospital… But there you go. Things are trials, aren’t they? I can’t think of a person who has a life without some sort of trouble, something that they’ve got to go through…

I THINK THE OLDER I’VE GOT THE MORE I’VE REALISED A LOT OF GETTING THROUGH ANYTHING IS ABOUT TRYING TO KEEP YOUR THINKING, YOUR APPROACH, AS POSITIVE AS YOU CAN..
It is important to carry on trying that, yeah. Also, I have a deep deep love of Wordsworth’s poetry, which really helps me. William Wordsworth… He talks a lot about the depths of nature, and about natural things round us, and having a sort of sense of faith in those things. He doesn’t talk about any particular organised religion or anything like that, but about a sort of depth of feeling within yourself. A spiritual thing, I suppose. I often call upon that in times of need. I think we all have it, actually. But perhaps some people don’t know how to reach inside themselves to find it. I’m not trying to preach anything here – but I find that sometimes within nature, and all things like that, it’s good. It’s not, like, trying to run off but it’s…

… LOCATING INNER PEACE?
Yeah. You can find inner peace. And part of that can be faith, actually. Faith is good. It’s actually somewhere that you can channel something good, and it can help you keep positive about things around you. You can find it in nature – faith is there in nature. So it’s there in the very fact of the existence of this planet, y’know? So, for people to believe in something is good for them. It could be a God or it could be something else that they believe in. But I think it’s very good for people to realise there’s things that are much bigger than themselves. It makes ’em humble and can make ’em be more understanding of other people… ‘Cos people getting on with other people is the most important thing, I think…

DAVE, LET’S TURN OUR CONVERSATION TOWARDS SLADE… THE 1973 SINGLE CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE WAS COVERED BY OASIS AT THE HEIGHT OF THEIR BRITPOP POMP. THAT SUGGESTS THAT FOR A WHOLE GENERATION, NOEL GALLAGHER’S GENERATION, SLADE WERE PART OF THE FIXTURES AND FITTINGS OF YOUTH…
Yes, it does – that is very true. The first time I met him I saw Noel Gallagher in an airport and he came up to me and said “Hey man, I’m a big fan”. So I know Noel, and I’m fully aware of his love towards Slade. In fact he’s just done something nice for me. Noel’s done a nice piece where he has an appreciation of the influence we had on young artists like them. There’s bits in my book about growing up in Council houses and on Council estates and so on. He says he looked upon us as people who could have lived down the road from where he lived. It looked like we were a geezer’s band, and I suppose we always have been a geezer’s band. So we probably were people who could have lived down the road from Noel and Liam. One of Noel’s favourite songs is HOW DOES IT FEEL, which was this really good song we did in the movie SLADE IN FLAME. And, like you say, Oasis did a version of CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE a few years back. Nod likes Oasis as much as I do, ‘cos they’re very principled in the root of rawness – which is also what Slade were about. Maybe they saw a purpose in us, to then go forward and do what they wanted to do…

I LISTENED TO IT BEFORE THIS CHAT AND CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE IS MUCH RAWER THAN I REMEMBER. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN A GREAT TUNE, TOO… 
I’m very fond of it. I’ve got a particular story about CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE… It was going to come out the week after this particular edition of TOP OF THE POPS that they wanted us to go on. People would watch TOTP to see what I’d wear next, so I’d got this idea for a costume for when we did CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE. Usually at TOTP I’d go in the toilet bit of the dressing room to put on what I was going to wear and then I’d come out and everyone would start falling about laughing, right? On this occasion I’d got this outfit which I thought looked Egyptian. It had a head-dress that looked Egyptian and then a long cape with all mirrors on it, all over. Everything was happening, you know what I mean? It had mirrors like Noddy’s hat, but really big ones. So I got changed in the loo and I come out, and our manager Chas Chandler’s there and Nod and everyone. Nod always knew where I was coming from with the clothes and Chas was always very positive about me and whatever I wore. Anyway, they fell about laughing like they always did and Chas, who was a Geordie, he says “Flippin’ ‘ell Davy. That’s great. This is gonna be another number one hit”, right? So I goes on TOTP in my Egyptian gear – and we heard later through a third party that someone quite famous said “Dave Hill, I’ve met him… He’s the metal nun”… He’d thought I looked like a metal nun! I could see what they meant! Anyway, the point is, when I’d come out the loo after getting changed at TOTP and they’d be falling about laughing, I’d say the same thing to the other chaps in the band: “You write ’em, and I’ll sell ’em”…

THE WAY YOU LOOK IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF MAINSTREAM POP; GRABBING ATTENTION…
Yeah. Absolutely true and, along with Nod, that’s a principle I hold dear. The way you look has a lot to do with how your record will sell. The thing is, you’ve got to have a great record first – and CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE was a great record. It encapsulated our audience – it was gutsy and earthy, and a bit blokey. It barnstormed everywhere across the world. The costumes were a sort of ‘added bonus’. I’ve had many exquisite costumes over the years, of course, ha ha! But that one sticks out because of that ‘metal nun’ line. Whenever I get spotted in the street or around airports and things, which happens quite a lot, people usually smile when they look at me. It’s not a depressing thing or anything – when they see me what they’re doing is remembering something good. Maybe they had a great time in their youth in the ’70s and Slade contributed to that. Maybe we were something very much fun in their lives… I’m glad to be in people’s lives like that, very happy to have been part of their musical upbringing.

WHAT WAS YOUR OWN MUSICAL UPBRINGING, DAVE? DID YOUR PARENTS LISTEN TO MUSIC?
If you can vision 1949, when I was three, it was Glenn Miller and the big bands. Sunday dinner. British forces overseas. People stationed in Germany sending their loved ones messages on the BBC. It’d be “Corporal So-And-So sends his love to his sweetheart, would you play Pat Boone for her”… Or it might have been Bing Crosby.  There was Billy Cotton’s band show, various entertainers, the early days of Bruce Forsyth… My memory of going into the 1950s is that people didn’t look like a teenager, they looked like their parents. If you look at some of those old pictures of people on the sea-fronts in the 1940s, pictures of Blackpool and all that, what you’ll see is people in ruddy suits and ties sitting on the beach. And women didn’t show too much in them days, there wouldn’t be bikinis like there are now – they didn’t sunbathe. Can you picture the scene? Things were very covered up and, after the Second World War, it was definitely ‘black-and-white Britain’. It was tough going. Writing my life story for my book made me look at that – ‘cos I looked at old pictures like I’ve just mentioned. Everybody seems really old, and you go “Actually how old are they?” and it turns out they’re 40… “He was getting on a bit in that one, he was 40″… They looked 60 at 40! What they were wearing and how their hair was and everything else – and there was a grim look about everything as well.

IT’S FUNNY ISN’T IT? MY MOTHER’S DAD WAS 76 WHEN HE DIED AND HE WAS DEFINITELY ‘AN OLD MAN’, BUT MY MUM WAS BORN IN 1944 SO SHE’S NOW NOT FAR OFF THAT AGE HERSELF – BUT I DON’T THINK OF HER AS ‘AN OLD WOMAN’. SOMETHING CHANGED DURING THAT GENERATION, DIDN’T IT?
Yeah! Rock ‘n’ roll probably. It definitely helped in my case. Okay I’m 71 now, but I don’t feel like I’m 71. So I don’t think about age like that. I’m here and I’m still working and I’m grateful for that each day. But, back then, it wasn’t until 1956 when things changed I reckon… Elvis Presley, y’know? Suddenly you got this white tie on a black shirt, a hairstyle, someone moving rather oddly. Suddenly rock ‘n’ roll comes into Britain. Bill Haley & The Comets. Buddy Holly. Chuck Berry. When I was at school as a teenager, there was the Teddy Boys and tight trousers and flicked hairstyles like Tony Curtis. And the movies on a Saturday morning – maybe Doris Day or Flash Gordon or cowboys and… it was great. Everything become a bit of an Americanism, y’know? America looked like a place you’d want to go and live. There was that big influence, and people wanted to be glamorous like that. I think it really affected me. After ‘black-and-white Britain’ everything just seemed a lot happier. Then Britain spawned Cliff Richard & The Shadows. I was a bit older by then and I loved it – electric guitar. A mate down the block wanted to play bass. He lived in what we called steel houses, sort of prefab-style buildings. Horrible places – you could hear your next door neighbour breathe. I remember being at his house and FBI by The Shadows was on the charts. We didn’t have a plug on the end of the bloody amplifier lead so he shoved it in the light-bulb socket, ha ha ha… He could’ve blown us up. Then we starts playing it… I go [sings] dun-de-dun de-diddley-dunk de-dun-de-dun de-diddley-dunk, and me mate goes bum-de-bum de-bibbley-bum… Oh, I loved it. I loved that riff. I had to be Hank, y’know? Everybody wanted to be Hank. I just knew, having learned guitar, that I wanted to be a part of that. Part of the ’60s change that was going on. Britain became fantastic in the 1960s… We won the World Cup in 1966, and there were great bands and great songs… Then there was people like David Bowie and Marc Bolan and I guess when you look at 1970s pictures at least you can have a good laugh about it all, can’t you? Like when Reeves & Mortimer took Slade off on their programme, ha ha…

DO YOU REMEMBER GETTING YOUR FIRST GUITAR?
Yeah, clearly. I was thirteen. I ordered it from Kays catalogue, so it was a mail order thing. It come by the post in a cardboard box and when I got it out it felt like an alien being had arrived, y’know? It was amazing to me, but it was actually a dreadful guitar. I think the strings were about half a foot off the fretboard. I played it out of tune of course. My Dad said “I don’t want you to waste your money so we’ll get you a few lessons and you can get the principles of it”… So I went to a guy at our school, a teacher. He was a Biology teacher but he was also a jazz guitarist. He said “You’ll never get anywhere with that crap guitar so you’ll have to get a better guitar, but we’ll start you off on that”. I’d sit there in his house with a sheet of music, learning. One of the first pieces I learned was TELL LAURA I LOVE HER by Ricky Valance. Brian, who was the teacher, switched over how I played the guitar. He told me I was playing it upside down (I’m left-handed). He said “There’s no such thing as a left-handed guitar so you’ll have to play it right-handed” and he told me I’d get used to it. And he was right ‘cos I did! He did me a sort of a favour, actually, ‘cos now my left hand is my ‘power hand’… Anyway, eventually I did get a better guitar, round about when The Beatles made it.

WERE THEY AN INSPIRATION TO YOU?
Oh, they were life-changing. I saw ’em and I thought “What is this?” – the funny hairstyles and all that. The impact of them was amazing and it’s what made me go “That’s what I wanna do, and I wanna go professional” when I was about 18. My Mum probably wanted me to grow up to be a doctor or something like that, but she knew I was serious about music, and they both recognised a bit of ability in me so that was it. Mum and Dad knew I was good at what I was doing and so they said “Give it a go”…

IT’S INTERESTING THAT YOU MENTIONED THE BEATLES BUT YOU DIDN’T ONLY MENTION MUSIC, YOU MENTIONED THE LOOK. I SUPPOSE THAT TAKES US BACK TO WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT EARLIER…
Exactly. The Beatles had a uniform: the fringes, the jackets they wore. They had that uniform look because [Brian] Epstien said to them “You don’t want to look like old rock ‘n’ roll heroes”. He told them that even though they loved Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, they should bring their music to a new audience. They were smart, in a way, but there was something different about them. And those hairstyles were an absolute spot-on thing. I combed my hair forward over my ears. I’ve got big ears and I used to have a complex about it. For me personally The Beatles were great. And when they made it big I wanted to be George Harrison, I wanted to be a Beatle. I went professional and eventually met Nod, which become our singer. From then it was going on the road and playing to people, being part of some movement, and actually being good at it. It was me thinking “This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life”. The rest is history.

WHEN COMMERCIAL SUCCESS CAME IN THE EARLY 1970s WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? DID IT TURN YOUR HEAD?
Well, it didn’t come easy. We had a good manager and we worked hard to be successful. Eventually we wrote COZ I LUV YOU – we weren’t sure at first so we worked on that record and got it right. It became our first number one record and it started the ball rolling. We were principled that we were serious about it all, so we thought “Right. We’ve had one number one, now we have to have another”. There was always that demand. We were always focused on our greatest strength which was as a live act. We held dear to that but, okay, when ’73 come and those massive hit records, we became the ‘go to’ band of the decade. We almost felt that we were The Beatles of the 1970s – so I must admit that some days I was floating on air, feeling “My God, this’ll go on forever”. It did feel like that, y’know? We weren’t a band who got into drugs. That was never the case with Slade – but we always liked a drink. Like a lot of people we liked a drink. I got lost a bit but I didn’t lose a sense of perspective. I didn’t forget about the people I loved and the people who loved me. But, you see, people change towards you. There’s always people who are not quite sure what they’re gonna say to you anymore. They grew up with you but now they feel that they can’t talk to you…

I’VE HEARD OTHER ARTISTS SAY THAT… THAT FAME DIDN’T CHANGE THEM – BUT THEIR FAME CHANGED THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM, THE PEOPLE THEY’D ALWAYS KNOWN…
That’s exactly right. I think there’s a song, something about “Everybody’s changed but I’m still the same”. Well, I didn’t change. Success was amazing, but it isn’t natural. It’s a lot to cope with and people do act up towards you. People can be quite rude! These days, being older, it’s a different feeling that I have. I like having a normality in my life – I like mowing the lawn or going for a walk. When I was writing my life story I really wanted to depict what’s good and what’s real for me now. That’s family. My own family. Kids. Grandkids. I love what I do and it is important to me – but it isn’t more important than family… It is good when people see me and shout “Dave!”, ‘cos I like knowing that people have nice memories of Slade. It’s a two-way thing, ‘cos I’m serving a lot of good people out there, and they’re serving me… And that’s what I want to deliver for them on these dates we’re doing – some jumping around, clapping and singing or whatever… A ruddy good night out!

WE’RE BACK TO TALKING ABOUT YOU BEING POSITIVE…
Yeah! And the Slade shows are something positive in a rather difficult world. There isn’t that much you could really like on the news right now, is there?

 

SLADE play Sheffield University Foundry on Friday 8th December.  Tickets here
Other December tour dates and ticket links here
Pre-order Dave Hill’s autobiography SO HERE IT IS… here