Zal Cleminson chatted to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio about his career for an hour special first broadcast on Sunday 17 March 2019.
Guitarist Zal Cleminson found fame in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) during the 70s, where his guitar playing and mime-makeup blew many a mind. Many other projects along the way, including a reformed SAHB (with vocalist Max Maxwell), before Zal took a break from the industry.
In forming a band featuring members of the tribute band The Sensational Alex Harvey Experience, this album sees a return to music. The band have already released an EP that sold out quickly.
This album kicks off with ‘Armageddon Day’. And it sounds exactly like that; a gothic build before guitars scream in. It’s rare that Zal has worked in a twin guitar set-up but he does here. It’s loud, it’s heavy, and over the grinding powerful rhythms there’s some fantastic guitar work. Not as obvious as in one-guitar line-ups but the deft touches are plentiful.
The acoustic intro to ‘Guns Of God’, with spaced vocals, is reminiscent of Sabotage-era Sabbath, before the twin guitars beef things up. There’s a dark edge to the song, and the guitar solo really stands out.
The mix of the lead and rhythm guitars with the vocals are often kept fairly even, but rather than adding to a muddled feel, bolsters the heaviness. Have a listen and you’ll realise just how intricate it is in places.
There’s a definite enjoyable groove throughout the album, it’s mind-blowingly heavy, certainly compared to Zal’s more theatrical work that many will be familiar with. The guitar work towards the end of ‘IOU’ really will leave you in awe. And the keyboard work in ‘Still Breathing’ is reminiscent of the heaviest end of early Rainbow. It duels with the guitars superbly.
Alex Harvey was the theatrical rock’n’roll poet, Nazareth were the classic rock band, this album is classic metal and Zal is clearly on form. A new groove has been ploughed. Having spoken to Zal about the project, he is at home here. And it shows. ****1/2
Review by Joe Geesin
Zal answers questions on how this project came together, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth and more…
Joe How did this project come together?
Zal I was in Cyprus, with my girlfriend, and I was going through a rough time, personally. I picked up the guitar for the first time in 10 year, plugged it into this little amp, and it was like therapy. There was a lot of stuff coming out.
So I put some stuff down, working on Pro Tools. I sent some stuff to the keyboard player of The Sensational Alex Harvey Experience (a tribute band Zal had gotten to know around Scotland). And it kind of snowballed from there, I was really keen to put together a band, full proper band.
Joe The EP sold out quite quickly didn’t it?
Zal I just wanted to get something out to the public. We did a handful of gigs too. The reaction was really good. To the EP, to the band.
Joe The album’s much heavier than previous work. Was that intentional?
Zal Yes. It’s the kind of music I’m into. It’s more what I was doing with Tear Gas (who became SAHB with Alex Harvey in 1972), I was into Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, that kind of thing. It’s back to the roots, it comes to me more naturally.
Joe What next for Sin’Dogs?
Zal We’ve got some gigs coming up at the end of July, going through to the end of the year. A head-to-head with Snakecharmer, and then another album.
Joe Why the split from the reformed Sensational Alex Harvey Band?
Zal We’d become a tribute band to ourselves. I wanted to rewrite some songs, write new songs, no-one was interested. I wanted to move on.
Joe Do you think remaining as The Party Boys would have been a better option? (The Party Boys were Zal, Hugh, Ted, Chris and guest vocalists including Fish, Dan McCafferty, Billy Rankin, Maggie Bell)
Zal Now that’s an interesting question. If we’d had new songs at the time. Interesting cross section, we picked songs out of a hat. Sin’Dogs are more focussed. I did some work with Alan Thompson, would have been interesting if that’d worked out.
Joe Any stories from your work with Midge Ure or Bonnie Tyler?
Zal Bonnie Tyler sung to a backing track on stage. The songs are great, some interesting guitar parts, but I learned all these guitar parts, and we had to mime to it while she sung. Working with Midge was great, I toured with him for his Gift album.
Joe How did your collaboration with Elkie Brooks come about?
Zal John Giblin, Elkie’s bassist, contacted me as they needed a guitarist. I got a call. I wrote some songs with the keyboard player. Minutes was a great album. It was a session gig.
Joe Why didn’t Tandoori Cassette last?
Zal Now that’s a question. I sang myself. We did one single and had some gigs. Some complex music, but we didn’t have a direction, we couldn’t find a proper audience. We had some nice arrangements.
Joe The two albums you did with Nazareth remain firm fan favourites. How do you feel about them now?
Zal I really enjoyed them. I came in during the No Mean City recording process. I think they wanted ideas and songwriting as much as a second guitarist. I went out to see them to get a feel.
Joe I remember you telling me once that the band were haemorrhaging money during the recording process.
Zal Oh yes, Malice In Wonderland, with producer Jeff Baxter. We recorded that in the Bahamas, money being pissed away. I wondered if it was a tax dodge thing. Between that and I wanted to write more, so I moved on.
Joe What else have you been up to outside of the music industry?
Zal I’ve been writing a book, it’s almost finished. It’s a project I’ve always wanted to do. It’s futuristic, off the wall, a bit like my guitar playing. I want to get it out but the music comes first. If one person buys it I’ll consider my job done.
Joe What sessions have you done that fans might not know about?
Zal None, really. We did some live gigs with The Zal Band, but that was more a panic moment after the original break up of SAHB.
Joe Any message for your fans?
Zal I’ve been amazed by the support. There’s fans out there older than me. There’s a song on the album called IOU as I do owe it to the fans.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 4 August 2020.
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