THE TRAPPAZAT STORY
It was 1989 when I walked into Reel-to-Reel recording studios in Telford, UK. Now, Telford was what we English call “a new town”: a concrete mish-mash of so-called modern buildings coupled with dreadfully cramped housing estates. It’s a fact that the architect who designed one of those crime-ridden drug-plagued housing estates, a real shit hole called Brookside, actually got some sort industry award for cramming more people into a square mile than anywhere else in Europe. I know how bad this place was because I owned a flat there in 1989, bought with the dregs of a very dodgy jewellery business I’d owned and ran since splitting Scarab up three years before.
I have to be honest; I had dug myself into a massive hole. I was trapped in a nightmare of a marriage, living somewhere I hated, working a job I hated and my daughter Sam was on the way at that point. I was looking to get back into the music business. So when I walked into Reel-to-Reel in July 1989, and stood outside one of the rehearsal rooms listening to the massive guitar riff of “From Dust till Dawn” I thought, “OK, let’s start here”.
Tony, the bloke who owned and ran Reel-to-Reel, had heard of Scarab. He also told me that he managed a band that was looking for a singer, and confirmed that it was the band I had heard rehearsing in one of the rooms. I stuck around for a while and had a listen.
The singer was a bloke called Kerry Taylor who I thought had a Klaus Meine type vocal thing going on. Kerry had a great rock/metal voice, with a huge range. So I was surprised they wanted to replace him, he could out sing me, at least that’s what I thought.
Brian Meacham had played in a couple of local bands by this time and was already a local legend. I can’t emphasise how good Brian was (and still is). He was a mind-blowing technician on the fret board. I christened him the “Riff Master” and it stuck, and the name is well deserved. Brian is a great bloke that would do anything for a mate, a trait that drove me fucking nuts at times, but working with Brian Meacham raised my game from the day I met him, he wrote the same way I did, riff first, arrangement second, then melodies and lyrics, so we sort of worked well together.
The bass player was Max (Mckee), a great bassist straight out the Steve Harris school of Metal. He loved Maiden and if he could have gotten Trappazat to sound exactly like them I am sure he would have done. You only have to listen to the instrumental parts in “Breakout” to get what Max was about.
On drums was Shane (Spen) Spencer. Spen had spent his drumming career in the shadow of fellow Telford drummer Carl Stokes (Cancer and now the Groundhogs). They went to school together and Spen grew up trying to be the better drummer. But with Carl’s 100% disciplined dedication and amazing ability Spen was never able to compete. So Spen set about being the best showman he could (some may remember his Kerrang centre spread, naked behind his kit). I could write a book about his antics both on and off stage.
Deano (Andrew Deans) the 2nd guitar player was a nice guy. Not a spectacular guitar player, not in the same league as Brian. The band suggested that I could play Deano’s guitar parts as well as lead vocals if Deano decided to leave. I seem to remember that it almost happened, as he was always pissed off with the sudden way Kerry was sacked. I don’t think he ever had issues with me and when I left, I sort of thought he was pleased as he always wanted his mate back in the band. Anyway, after a couple of secret rehearsals Kerry was fired. I don’t remember where the name Trappazat came from, Max I think.
In my mind Trappazat had two sets of songs, the NWOBHM influenced metal tracks and the rock set that were more hard rock than metal. I really didn’t want to get involved in hard rock tracks although they had some great songs, but they were more rock than metal. So we set about developing a full metal sounding set. They had three or four tracks which I thought were great, and we built on that. So I suggested we just write for an album, but I could see blank stares from the rest of the band. The chance of getting a deal was something that they really hadn’t thought about, but it was all I thought about then. “There’s always a way” I said, “if we can put the right product together”.
The first thing we needed to do was get away from Reel-to-Reel and Tony the bloke who managed Trappazat. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the bloke, I just thought if Brian’s manager hadn’t got him any further than playing in this shit-hole then this bloke couldn’t have had a clue.
Now Brian knew a bloke called Pete Marshall who owned a corner shop. To be frank, Pete must have had more money than sense, because Brian talked him into buying a small factory unit and letting us have the top floor for rehearsals, which was great. The sound in there was a bit odd I seem to remember, but at least we were out of Reel-to-Reel and away from every other band in Telford who used the place.
Five of the tracks on here they sort of already had when I joined the band, although the lyrics were dreadful, and the melodies were, in part, pretty bland. So we sorted out the arrangements and re-worked them. I wrote new lyrics and melodies but kept the theme of the songs. I also wrote two new tracks, “1 AM D.O.A.” and “First Born”, plus I had a couple of riffs and melodies for “Prisoners”. So we started to develop the eight tracks as an album, which was great because a couple of weeks later Pete Marshall offered to finance the recording. I think he thought that when the album got signed he’d get his money back and more. Fat chance that was ever going to happen, but he was happy to just get involved with the whole music thing. Like I said, there’s always a way.
This brings me to Mick Long. Mick was Brian’s boss. He owned and ran Sound Services the electrical repair shop where Brian had worked since leaving school. Mick was a nice bloke. Softly spoken middle-aged rock fan that always had a smile on his face. I really liked Mick but he knew fuck all about band management - he knew fuck all about repairing a Television Set either, but had made a living from that, or so I thought. So there we were, financed, managed, our own place to practice and eight tracks ready to record. The next job was to book a couple of gigs to play the new tracks live and see how they sounded live, Mick, our new manager didn’t waste any time sorting this out.
The first gig was a massive first show for any band, let alone a bunch of nobodies from nowhere. Oakengates Town Hall is a huge place, with a massive stage. You would load your gear into the lift and the lift would go up to the hall and the top of the lift would be the front part of the stage. It had real dressing rooms, a massive downstairs bar, and Mick hired in the biggest PA and lights I’d ever worked with. We got a few pyros and stage props and made it a huge show. We pulled 600/700 people in that first show and I look at the six or seven photos that have been found from the gig you can really see the scale of it. Anyway, we played the show and went down a storm. I remember it being recorded, but I assume that’s long gone.
The second gig was a very small pub in front of 100 people and that’s as much as I remember. With a couple of gigs under our belts we went into Sine Wave Studios in Birmingham for two weeks to record the album. Max, Spen and Brian slept in the studio’s chill out room for two weeks in sleeping bags. Deano travelled back and forth as and when he was needed, which if I’m honest, with Brian doing all lead solos, 90% of the duel lead and almost all of the Rhythm, wasn’t that often. I stayed at my best mates flat 10 miles away in Sutton Coldfield. I had lived all my life in Sutton Coldfield till I left in 1987. Carl was my Roadie in Scarab for its 4-year life span and I’ve pretty much included him in every musical venture I’ve done - right up to this year (2011) when roadied for me at Download.
So day one in the studio, the Marshall stacks were set up in a corridor alongside the live room; where the drums were; and Max’s bass was plugged straight into the desk, so all the backing tracks, including all harmony guitars, were recorded live. I think the first few days went OK. I remember problems tightening up the drums, as the final product reveals really. I think the rest of the band were all so used to Spen’s very loose drumming style that they didn’t notice the massive tempo shifts that I was hearing. The engineer, a bloke who’s name escapes me, not that he gave me any reason to remember him, just sat there drinking cans of shit larger and smoking weed: he didn’t give a fuck as long as he got paid. Anyway it all moved on, Brian was flying through the solos and the tracks were coming together nicely. I talked Brian into doing some of the guitars again after Deano had gone home one day as they sounded shit in parts but seven days into the session we was ready for the vocals. I had two days before we were due to start mixing.
Most of the vocal recording went OK. I was never entirely happy with any of it, but then again I never am. But after battling with the engineer for over a week I just wanted them done. Looking back and chatting to Carl about it, I seem to remember I decided to leave the band as we neared the end of the vocal recordings. I remember not liking the vocals on “Dusk till Dawn” so I insisted I did them again and thought they were better, only to come in the next day to find they had been scrubbed and the original vocal track was being used. The engineer came up with all sorts of sound effects; some were ok, like the stuff in “We are Soldiers” and the “Dusk till Dawn” intro. But other stuff, like the Indian guy counting in “Breakout” was dreadful. At some point the plot was lost completely and tweeting birds were added to “Can’t Stand the Heat”. There were also some Monty Python clips, which I thought just turned it all into a bit of a joke really.
It’s funny, but looking back, I don’t remember any of it being all that much fun really, apart from the day Spen came back from a the local sex shop with a blow up doll, just for a laugh he said, but then he woke Brian and Max up one night while shagging it!!! Brian jumped out of his sleeping back in the dark and kicked the doll that hard while it was still under Spen it instantly punctured while he still had his dick in it. Then there was the time Scarab roadie Carl came for the day. It was the first time he’d ever met any of the band and got so pissed he could hardly string two words together but that didn’t stop him trying to give Brian all sort of advice, “you hic!! Need more….er harmonisation man.” They didn’t find it funny, but I spent most of that afternoon lying behind the mixing desk with my sides aching and trying not to laugh out loud.
The following week or two I spent listening to the finished album. With every listen the more dated it sounded. In 1990 Maiden were struggling, let alone a band trying to sound like Maiden. Birmingham metal band Marshall Law had just released their first album on HM Records in Birmingham and it sounded fresh and tight (although they did used a drum machine) compared to our album which I thought sounded so loose at the time. Looking back it wasn’t just that which caused my departure from the band; it was my personal life at the time as well. I was living through a nightmare of a marriage, living in a shit hole, plus my daughter Sam had just been born and I was really struggling to juggle it all. So I left. I turned up one day to rehearse and told them I was leaving. I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t what to stay and not give 100%.
But the story doesn’t end there, oh no, not by a long shot. They got the old singer Kerry back in and re-did all the vocals. I thought it a bit odd him singing “First Born” as it was about my daughter. I found it even stranger when the new mix of “D.O.A.” came back and someone had talked Brian in to playing virtually a constant lead break over the whole track, they even entered it in Radio One’s Rock Wars and won a semi-final round with it - which was a total compliment to me, picking a track I wrote. They changed the name of the band to the very generic Warning and unbelievably (and I hope you are sitting down for this) signed to a Scottish Country and Western label and toured Bulgaria. You really couldn’t make this shit up could you? But it’s all true. The album was released of cassette only, and sold very few. I got hold of a copy and thought Kerry had screwed up the vocals, they sound so rushed and very bland. With his great voice it could have been a lot better, but I guess it was all lack of time. Brian had changed some guitars, and like I said, been talked into laying a lot more lead down. I guess the label thought that he was their biggest asset and they were going to make good use of his talents. Well, I agree with that, he certainly was.
A couple of years later Warning’s van had broken down and was being towed off the M6 motorway after a gig, when some fool feel asleep at the wheel and smashed his 40 footer into the back of them killing himself, both the bands roadies who were in the back of the van, then 5 other poor souls on the other side of the carriageway after smashing through the central reservation. That, quite understandably was the beginning of the end. I know one thing, it changed Brian, and to this day, to me at least, he never speaks much about the accident or the whole Warning era really.
So what happened to them all I hear you say?
Straight after Warning split up. Brian, Spen and I along with a bass player called Steve Kelly formed Hostile around 1993 and played everywhere for two years. We recorded and issued two demos, “Playing with Fire” and “Pull” both recorded in my flat on my own gear. We reformed in 2004 and put a CD EP out called “Dance In Hell” and did one last tour before I moved out of Shropshire and headed for the quiet life in Wales and Brian left the country forever.
Brian played in many other bands through the 90’s and beyond but never got much further. In 2004 he bought a nightclub in Telford, worked like a madman for 12 months until he’d had enough of the UK with its red tape and small business bullshit. I also think like me, he was at that crossroad where you have to make a change. He sold the shop, the house and the nightclub and moved to Crete in early 2005 where he still lives playing the bars and clubs on the island. To this day I still believe him to be the best guitarist I have ever seen on stage and by far the best I have ever worked with. I’m hoping that I can tempt him back to the UK in 2012 for one last album. If anyone of us ever deserved to get noticed it was Brian Meacham, pure natural talent is an uncommon thing, but Brian has it in bucket loads.
Spen went on to play with Assert, a punk/metal band led by a lunatic front man called Steve Britton (no relation) but that all ended in tears, as these things tend to do most of the time. He now plays in a sort of comedy covers glam rock band with Kerry Taylor, and Hostile bassist Steve Kelly, wearing silly wigs and glittery costumes. I think they are called C.R.A.P, no I’m serious, Classic Rock And Punk, I believe it stands for.
Max has spent the rest of his career in cover bands, one that was called Screamer, played hundred’s of gigs in the mid 90. Even Max has been seen lately with his latest band wearing a comedy facemask. They’re called the Comic Book Heroes and are based in Telford playing covers.
Deano left the music business, although they did one last gig when Warning reformed without Spen for a one-off charity gig around 2001. This killed Warning for good from what Brian told me later.
Me? Well, after being a single parent for five years, I moved to Wales in 2004 went to University and joined a cover band playing up to five nights a week. I did the cover thing for a year to get back into it all and I can say hand on heart, never again, I hated it. Since then I’ve done a brief stint with Solstice and Jameson Raid, sorted the Trappazat album out, released the Scarab album and a new Scarab EP on the Miskatonic label. Now I’m concentrating on a solo Britton album that will be out Summer 2012, not even the offer from the mighty Cloven Hoof that I got in summer 2011 tempted me away from this current project, even though I’m a life-long Hoof fan. Chances are after the solo album is done I’ll take it on the road at selected festivals in Europe and play Scarab/Trappazat and solo stuff. So watch this space as they say and watch out for the Britton album in 2012.
If you punch Trappazat in on the Internet, like I have just done (Oct 2011), nothing comes back, not a single page. There is absolutely no info about this band. This really has to be a first, even the most obscure of bands have a least one page on Google. However I shouldn’t be surprised, we were only together long enough to record eight tracks and play two shows. I’d like to be able to say five guys came together and changed the world, but we didn’t. I can’t even say we all liked each other that much during our stint together, some of us are still not really talking. I can say this though: we wrote and recorded a bloody great NWOBHM influenced album at a point in time when the NWOBHM was as unfashionable as it’s ever been. That makes me proud, we stuck to our metal guns, and I’ll be fucked if I was going to let it rot in someone’s loft, it’s worth more than that. So, here it is, Trappazat.