Original studio reel transfer by Eroc. Mastering and audio restoration by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in February 2020.
Burning brightly but briefly during the heady days of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Troyen are now back in business, and are in it for the long haul, as drummer Jeff Baddley reveals.
On Saturday 28 February, 2015, history was made at the UK’s Brofest extravaganza when Troyen – guitarist / vocalist Steve McGuire, guitarist / vocalist Nick Mannion and drummer Jeff Baddley – performed together for the first time in over thirty years. Regrettably, bassist Dave Strathearn was unable to commit to the reunion, but for Troyen’s fans – and the band themselves – it was a dream come true.
“Brofest was phenomenal,” recalls Jeff. “We’d initially got together just for that gig. That was the plan. And then once the Brofest guys released the news that we’d be playing there, we started to get approaches from other festivals, other gigs etc, which was nice, but something we hadn’t anticipated. The downside was that Dave, the original bass player, had to step aside because he just couldn’t commit to anything else. So we got another bass player, Karl Altdorfer, a guy we knew very well, and he fitted in splendidly, and when we actually played Brofest, when we actually walked onstage, it was just... I struggle for words to describe it. When we were playing the second track, which was ‘Dreams Never Lie’, originally one of the tracks we had out in 1981, and there were people who weren’t born then singing it, that just messed with my head,” he laughs. “That was one of those things I’ll take with me to my grave. That was just unreal. It was fantastic. The whole performance was great and the way we went down, the way we were received, it was just fantastic. Way more than we could have hoped for.”
The Troyen story starts back in 1980. “I worked in a pub where Dave Strathearn used to drink, so I got to know him there, and in the same pub drank a guy called Steve Bartley who was the drummer of Nightwing. We all got chatting, and Dave and I decided that it would be a cool thing to be in a band together. I was drumming in bands at school, and Dave was a bit older than me and had done a bit more pubs-and-clubs stuff, so we dabbled with bits and bobs but never actually got anything done. Then we got word that Steve McGuire – who I used to be in a band with at school – was in a rock band and was playing just down the road, so Dave and I decided we’d go along and watch. The guys were pretty good, and Nick [Mannion"> was in the same band with Steve. Anyway, we watched them and then decided, when we were driving back home, that actually we would like to do that, and we would be better than the bass player and drummer that they had. So I eventually got in touch with Steve (and bear in mind that there was no social media in those days, so it was all by snail mail and telephone and tracking people down etc), and said ‘I came to see you, it was really good but you really need me and Dave in your band.’” Another laugh. “So, basically, it transpired that Steve and Nick left that band and came to play with me and Dave, and that was the birth of Troyen,” or Trojan, as they originally wanted to be called.
“There was another band, already established, called Trojan and we were persuaded to change our name following a nice little letter from them saying ‘you really can’t do this’ – which was fine, and understandable. So we were in Steve’s front room, discussing what we were going to be called, and Steve’s dad was heavily into opera. There happened to be an album cover within eyesight, called ‘Les Troyens’ and it turned out that ‘Troyen’ was French for Trojan. So that’s what we decided to call ourselves. Simple as that.
“This would have been at the very end of 1980. December 1980 to January 1981, that kind of time,” the drummer continues. “We started gigging probably around March or April 1981, and we were still in touch with Steve Bartley and Gordon Rowley of Nightwing. They were in Amazon studios, in Liverpool, doing the ‘Black Summer’ album, and we were chatting, and Gordon said ‘You need to get yourself a demo tape – you need to get yourselves more out there in the public eye’. And we arranged that while they were in Studio A, for argument’s sake, we were in Studio B, doing our tape.”
The band’s demo, featuring ‘Dreams Never Lie’, ‘Futures Friend’, ‘Don’t Send Me To War’ and ‘Crazy Lady’ was recorded in August 1981 over three days – “recorded, mixed, mastered, job done,” adds Jeff, proudly. “We kept a certain amount for PR, the ones we sent out to radio stations and for record labels etc, but at the gigs we did we sold around five or six hundred copies, and we sold them for a pound a time in those days. And the engineer was Gil Norton who was a very young guy at the time. We were one of his first projects, and obviously Gil went on to much bigger and better things later on.” Norton’s CV is very much based around the alternative music scene, and I wondered if working with Troyen had put him off metal for life! “I don’t think we scared him off,” laughs Jeff, “but we did learn a lot from him about how to record, and the way to get a decent sound, things like that. We certainly got a lot out of it that way, and the overall sound of the demo, we were more than happy with. It was great.”
Not long afterwards, the musicians took the decision to get a frontman in. “That was Neil Treanor, who fronted a band called Graf Spee. Neil was the cousin of one if our roadies, so that’s how we kind of met. He said he was in a band, I said I was in a band too, blah-blah-blah, and it turned out that, while Steve and Nick enjoyed doing the vocals jointly in those days, we thought it might benefit us to get a frontman in. And it worked for us. It was a good fit. So what we did then was, we went back into Amazon and re-recorded the four tracks again but with Neil on vocals.”
Although the songs are the same on the second tape, recorded in December 1981, the versions are completely different. “We had to completely re-record them, because Amazon, in their infinite wisdom, although they told us they would keep the tapes on file for an indefinite period, had recorded over them. But the beauty of that was, because it was their error, we got it free of charge. Again, it was three days, four days tops, to do everything.”
At this time, Jeff remembers that Troyen were playing “pubs, clubs, anywhere that would put on what were in those days rock bands. The genre, the categorisation, that we were a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band was foreign to us at that point. We were just a rock band, as far as we were concerned. It was someone else who said we were a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band – it’s not something we set out to be; we were just a rock band playing rock and metal at that point. I don’t think we were ever billed as a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band, not from memory. We were just a band playing wherever we could, whenever we could. We did a hell of a lot of gigs in a relatively short period of time. We would play anywhere for anything in those days, and – because we didn’t have real jobs and weren’t grown up! – we’d be playing in the middle of the week, we’d be playing at weekends, wherever we could.”
The band weren’t averse to slipping in a few covers in their early days. “Off the top of my head we used to play ‘Free And Easy’ by Uriah Heep, we used to play ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, ‘Wishing Well’, and that was probably it. We probably had two or three covers in an hour’s set. The scary thing is that we’ve got set lists from gigs we did back in the day, and half of the songs we can’t remember – we’ve absolutely no idea what they sounded like, and the titles mean absolutely nothing at all! There’s a bootleg tape of us playing The Lion in Warrington, one of the big iconic rock venues in the North-West at the time, and you can hear the tracks on it but the quality of the recording isn’t good enough to work them out.
“Meanwhile, because of our association with Nightwing, Gordon approached us and said ‘We’re going to Europe to do a six-week tour; would you like to come and open for us,’ which didn’t take a lot of thinking about, to be honest, and it was fantastic! I think we did that from May-June 1982, and there were loads of gigs, as well as stupid things like when Nightwing were on the bill at the Schüttorf Festival in Germany, and we weren’t playing that day but because we were touring with them, we were there, and we ended up playing football in a park just across the road from the festival venue. There was us and some of the band and road crew from Simple Minds, who were also on the bill, and we ended up having a game against some German lads. So we were playing international football, really!
“And we had a Bedford CF van which was our tour bus, and we called it Eartha in rhyming slang – Eartha Kitt – because it was shit! That did about 6,000 miles on the European tour, and it was knackered before we went so it was even more knackered by the time we got back. I’ve got a vivid memory of pulling up at services in Germany – and I need to point out that we carried two of the lighting crew with us as well, so there was the five of us in the band plus two lighting crew and our roadie Gary all in this van, and I’m driving. And also bear in mind that we slept very little and drank a lot in those days. So we stopped at these services to get fuel and buy snacks and stuff. Everybody came back and I said ‘Is everybody in?’ ‘Yeah.’ So I’m driving down the slip road to get back on the autobahn and I can see in the rear view mirror Gary, piling down the road behind us because we’d left him behind!” Jeff laughs. “But that tour made us, really, it made us what we were. When we came home (and I was still living with my parents then) we’d continued gigging and playing all over the UK, and this bloke from Austria kept phoning my mother, wanting to speak to me, and he wanted us to go back and play a tour and festival in Austria. And I’ve no idea as I’m speaking to you now why we didn’t do it. No idea at all. Had we done that, that would have taken us to another level, I think.
“After we came back from Europe Nick left the band. I can’t remember why, if I’m being brutally honest, but he did, so we continued as a four-piece which, again, worked, although Steve had to work harder on the guitar. We decided we’d go into Crow Studios which was very local to us back then, and we knew people there and we got a very favourable deal, and we went and recorded ‘Free Wheelin’’ and I think we recorded ‘Syrian Lady’ there as well. But they never made it to a commercial demo, if you like; they never got any further than that.” The band were also sounded out by Neat Records. “That’s as far as it went, though” says Jeff. “After we came back from Europe we were approached by Neat to release a single, but we never took it any further.”
When asked what were the worst of times, Jeff struggles to come up with an answer. “There weren’t any real lows. It wasn’t exactly, well, no, it was...” he contradicts himself. “It was living the dream at that point. Everything was great. We’d get a phone call or whatever, can we go and do a gig in Matlock or can we do a gig in Blackpool or can we go and play in Hull and we’d just go and do it. Not really the worst of times, but I do remember that we were booked to play at a gig at a working men’s club, either in Yorkshire or Lancashire, and when we got there it turned out that the concert secretary had fallen out with whoever and decided he’d book the loudest band he could possibly could before he left. You know in ‘Spinal Tap’ where they turn up at the air base? That was us. We have played that gig. That film, to me, is like a documentary of my life - every gig that they did we’ve done in some form or another, believe me! So we sound checked and we said to the guy ‘Look, I understand that you didn’t book us but this is what we are, and this is what we do, and we can’t do anything else. Do you want us to play?’ And he said, ‘No, it’ll be fine...’ Dear God, it was...” his voice tails off with another laugh. “So it was a low point, even though it was very funny! There weren’t any real low points other than deciding, with a huge amount of regret, at the beginning of ’83 that we’d have to knock it on the head and move on to other things.
“I guess we went the way of many of the bands of that time... We were all early twenties, we were playing all over the place and doing what we wanted to do, but we all had ambitions to do other things. Steve was a qualified accountant by that point, Nick had been to college, I’d had a spell at college, and we just weren’t generating enough money to let us do what we wanted to do. So we basically just went our separate ways. We physically played our last gig in December 1982, and by January/February ’83 we were starting to say ‘I can’t do this anymore. If I want to get a house and get married and do all the adult and grown-up things that people do I can’t continue to be a professional musician.’ So that’s what happened. While it had been fantastic and we were having a great time, we all had personal ambitions to do bigger and better things with our lives. And that’s what happened. No fuss, no crisis, we just went our separate ways.”
Which brings us back to Brofest 2015 once more... “As I said, we did it, initially, for just one gig. We were going to do it for one gig, and one gig only. No recording or anything like that. But once we’d been approached by the guys at Brofest and, like I said, it had been put out in the public domain that we were on the bill people started contacting us via social media saying ‘Will you come and play here, will you come and do this, have you got anything new out?’ so we decided at that point that we should really have something to promote what we were doing.” The result was ‘Finish What You Started’, released in February 2015, which featured the original demo and four other songs recorded by the Brofest line-up.
“We decided to re-issue the original four tracks, and to do ‘Syrian Lady’ and ‘First Blood’ because we had them in the catalogue anyway and ‘Syrian Lady’ was always a crowd favourite. And then Steve and Nick, because they’d been dabbling with stuff over the years, they had these two tracks ‘Backlash’ and ‘Finish What You Started’ so we put out an eight-track album, purely and simply by public demand, if you like.”
At that point in time though, I’m guessing that the members of Troyen still had no real idea as to the potential longevity of the band. “Absolutely!” Jeff agrees. “Once we’d decided that we were going to do more than one gig and there was interest in the UK and there was interest in Europe as well, we said that we would do it as long as people wanted us to do it – and we’re still doing it, so people must like it! We’ve had several line-up changes over the last four years, but only because life got in the way of doing what we wanted to do. Nick left because... Well, I’ll be brutally honest, when Stu Bartlett at Brofest contacted me and asked if I could get the band back together I honestly thought Nick had died. I was aware that he had a form of cancer, and he was hard to track down. We finally found him, but because he suffered from cancer he had underlying health issues and that basically came to a head when we were going to play at British Steel in France in October 2017; we were due to go on Thursday and on the Tuesday Nick’s girlfriend contacted me and said that he was in a coma. His immune system was very weak he’s susceptible to the slightest cold or virus – I mean, God help him with this corona virus! I spoke to the guys who run British Steel, told them the situation and said we could come as a three-piece, and we wrote the set for that in the car on the way over – songs that we could do as a three-piece without Nick. Come the end of 2017, Nick decided that his health was too important. So we brought in Steve Haslam. Andy the bass player then left in December 2018 because he had family commitments, and we now have Mark Norley on bass. The people who’ve been in Troyen have all added to the band’s standing, and have all fitted in perfectly. I mean, if we’re driving to the other side of Paris, or Belgium, or Holland to do a gig and you’re in the car for twelve hours, you need to make sure you’re in the car with the right people! And the guys we’ve got in now, Mark and Steve, it’s probably the best line-up we’ve ever had, and the best sound we’ve ever had too.”
Since ‘Finish What You Started’ the band have issued two EPs – ‘Storm Child’ in Aug 2017 and ‘A New Dawn’ in July 2019, as well as putting out both versions of the demo on one CD (“we only did a limited number of copies to make it a collector’s item and they sold out in a couple of weeks”). “‘Storm Child’ would have been an album, but because of the personnel changes we had at the time we didn’t have the time to get the new people in and get up to speed so we turned it into an EP. The title track was written by my good self and is about the birth of my granddaughter because she was born in a thunderstorm. And ‘A New Dawn’ is exactly what it says on the tin. We had the brand new line-up with Steve and Mark with us and we decided we’d put out another EP because, again, line-up changes were slowing the creative process down, and there was the demand for something new. In the old days, before the internet and stuff, you could put out an album every two years if you wished and people didn’t care. In this current environment, this digital age, where everything’s so in-your-face, you need to be putting something out there quickly because otherwise people will rapidly forget who you are. So we decided we’d release another EP rather than an album, and called it ‘A New Dawn’ because it was a new dawn for the band. A couple of the tracks on there are older tracks that we wanted to put Steve and Mark’s stamp on, but the new album we’re working on at the moment and which will hopefully be out in November will be all new stuff.
“We’ve got two or three tracks that are ready to go,” he continues, “some of which we’re incorporating into our live set now just to make sure that they work, and they are Troyen in the twenty-first century rather than Troyen in the Eighties. It’ll have seven or eight tracks on it by the time it’s finished, and it’ll be classic Troyen but moved on a bit. Going back to the Eighties, late Seventies, we were influenced by the likes of Free, Bad Company, Wishbone Ash, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, that kind of band. Steve Haslam and Mark Norley are a little bit younger than Steve and I, and they’ve got influences that are more Eighties’ metal so in the new material we’re writing now we’re trying to develop that influence while trying to keep true to who we are. One of the things people have said about us over the last four years is ‘We like what you do because you’re evolving all the time,’ and I think that’s important – to have that stamp, that pigeon-hole of a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band, but be able to move with the times as well.”
John Tucker March 2020