DAVE HILL (SLADE): “GENE SIMMONS Said That KISS Would Listen To Slade Alive Before Rehearsals To Get Them In The Mood”

SLADE (Live at the O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., December 5, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

No one wrote foot stomping chant along anthems quite like them. Slade influenced a generation of Rock bands from KISS to Cheap Trick, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot and dominated the singles charts for years. Mick Burgess called up a very chatty guitarist Dave Hill to talk about the upcoming tour, his new book and how it felt when Slade stepped in for Ozzy at the last moment at the Reading festival in 1980.

You’re back on tour very soon. Are you looking forward to getting started?

Getting back on the road is a continuance of the fact that I’ve never really left the road. Touring is all I’ve done and I’m still on the road but I am certainly looking forward to playing these shows in the UK again. We’ll be doing a special show in Birmingham too that we do every year that is a bit of a ritual before Christmas.

Do you still get that same buzz playing live as you did when you first started Slade?

I certainly do. We did two shows in the Czech Republic and two shows in the Ukraine recently and they were pretty moving. They were all packed out and the passion of the response to us was incredible. The audience weren’t all in the 50s either there were quite a lot of people in their 20s which is amazing. The response we got was absolutely incredible. I kid you not, they would not leave the building, we’d done the Christmas song and everything. I just thought I was in the right place. It’s what I’ve done all my life. I can’t think of anything else apart from family that gives me a greater reward to a boy from Wolverhampton growing up on a council estate to be rocking the world. As a teenager when I turned professional, I had no idea what turn this would take and I certainly never envisaged becoming a pin up. When I had my first job at Tarmac and there were posters of Lennon and McCartney on the wall and I used to wonder what it’d be like to be that famous and I eventually found out.

What about the setlist. What have you got lined up for this tour?

Of course, we do all of the hits that people want to hear and we’ll do one or two treats maybe In For A Penny which wasn’t really a big hit but I really like it as it has a guitar passage that’s quite haunting a bit like Parisienne Walkways by Gary Moore. We’ll also probably do How Does It Feel. That always goes down well and I know that it’s Noel Gallagher’s favourite song. The lyrics of that song could be written for now and it’s about new frustrations and new relations and although they are different to those we had in post war years each generation still has them. We might have a different government now and different Pop music but the only liberating factor is that we still have the same Queen.

You have Mal McNulty on vocals and he’s been with you since 2005. How difficult was it for you to find someone who could sing the songs as well as Noddy?

You might be able to replace your guitarist but your singer is something else. Noddy was a hard act to follow. When I lost Noddy, it wasn’t unpleasant but it was hard. It was hard because I still had the passion. He was totally unique and came from a similar working-class background. His voice was like the cry of a working man surrounded by pumping factories and noise. It was so difficult to find someone who could sing the songs like Noddy but I think we found the right person in Mal.

Where did you first come across Mal?

He was actually in Sweet for a while and it was Andy Scott who suggested him. We did have a different singer before but he didn’t have the grittiness of Mal. He’s a nice bloke too. It’s one thing getting a good singer but you need someone that’s compatible. When you join a band with a name you shouldn’t act like a Rock star because they’re totally unknown. Mal has been around a long time and knew just what to do. It’s the same with our bass player who worked in the original Mud and was in The Rollers for a short time so he’s been around too.

John Berry is your bass player/violinist. There can’t have been too many bass players around who could also play violin. How did John end up joining Slade?

He wasn’t actually a violin player when he joined, he just said he’d try and learn it. Jim Lea was a great violin player. He was trained. Everything that Jim did he had a passion for musical ability and good ears. Between him and Nod, they produced some of the finest records that came out of the ’70s. we weren’t a band that had Chinn and Chapman writing songs for us, we did that ourselves so we were totally in control of what we recorded to the record company. We weren’t manipulated. We were just doing what we were good at. Although we experimented with Jazz and loved American music and I was so influenced by Hank Marvin, we were never going to play music like that. We just concentrated on writing good songs that came naturally to us and suited who we were.

Being in the Newcastle area it seems appropriate to mention your former manager Chas Chandler who was born in Newcastle and performed with The Animals and managed Jimi Hendrix before becoming your manager. You must have a soft spot for Newcastle due to Chas?

That’s right, Chas was our manager and he was from Newcastle. I always have fond memories of playing at the City Hall. We had some great nights there. It was the go-to venue for us back then and with Chas being from Newcastle you’d have all his family members and school friends turning up. Although we could understand Chas, some of their accents were quite strong so sometimes they were hard to understand.

You’ve just released your biography, So Here It Is. How long did it take you to write this?

It’s taken about 69 years. I always wanted to do it but because I didn’t do it years ago when we went back on the road, I think it makes for a better story. I had to survive Nod leaving, I had to keep it going. The book explains the depression I went through. I was walking on stage to huge crowds but I was taken over by depression for three years and I had to drag myself onstage. Coming to terms with depression is very difficult, for a start, you don’t understand why you’re like that. I suppose there were circumstances that led to it. My mum suffered from it and if you read the book you can see there was a lot in her life that caused reactions. She was a great woman and a very clever woman. She met a married man and had a child out of wedlock and in the 1930s that was taboo. My father’s wife wouldn’t divorce him but they ended up together so they faked a wedding to make it look respectable where they had a gathering of friends at a Registry Office and they were all outside while my Mum and Dad went in, put rings on and told everyone they were wed but they didn’t actually get married but it doesn’t matter does it? They were great parents, they were forward thinking and they allowed me to do what I wanted to do. The book is a bit of a period drama with ups and downs and lessons and tells how I had a stroke on stage in Germany 10 years ago. I came through that 3 months later and went back on stage. These are the things I wanted to talk about as well as the great times I had with Slade. I was even born in a castle and I was born there as the hospital had been bombed during the war so they allowed babies to be born in the castle and I was one of them.

Was it quite an emotional experience for you reliving those times again?

It was emotional and sometimes it was hard on me. I always felt Mum had a bad deal in life. She grew up in a strict but loving environment. She actually worked for a War Cabinet minister but we don’t know what she did due to the Official Secrets Act. You never know, she might have worked for Churchill. I also had a half-sister who died at 30. She suffered fits and had a brain tumour so that was really sad for my Mum and it affected her greatly. There were times when I was really successful but Mum really wasn’t very well but fortunately Dad was and he kept things together. Writing the book did bring a lot of those memories back, some of them very happy and some sad. I wanted to write the book so it sounded like it was me talking to you about my life, where I grew up and what I had done. I worked with someone who was a massive fan but it’s a book not just about Slade but it’s a personal journey that I wanted to share.

Back in the ’80s American Metal band Quiet Riot had a huge hit with C’mon Feel The Noize and their Metal Health album hit number 1 in The States. What did you think when you heard their version of your song?

I quite liked it actually. Their singer, Kevin DuBrow sounded like Nod. They actually did us a favour as when they did it as the record company in The States thought they’d better sign us as we were the originals. Then they found out we had My Oh My in the charts then they released Run Runaway which became a big hit record for us. They brought us over and we toured with Ozzy Osbourne believe it or not. So Quiet Riot really did us a big favour.

You were asked at the last moment to step in for Ozzy at the Reading festival in 1980. Did you have any idea at the time that that show would be like a second chance for the band?

That was an emotional time for me as I was close to leaving the band as I was short of money. Chas Chandler talked me into doing it and that’s another thing I can thank him for. He told me not to worry about any of the heavy bands on at that festival as none of them had the hits that we had. I was nervous on the day and we drove into the wrong car park. The car park attendant recognised us and took us through to the right area and everybody crowded round us when they heard we were playing. They told us the show had been a bit boring so far and they thought we’d liven it up a bit. We went out on stage with Chas standing at the side and we started going down a storm and he was grinning at me like a Cheshire cat. I certainly think that was a big turning point for us as a band and reinvigorate our career in the ’80s.

You sang Merry Christmas Everybody too at the height of summer at that festival, that must have been surreal?

You may have had a field full of people in denims and leathers but they’re a bunch of romantics at the end of the day, I could see some of them crying when we did Everyday. Slade were never a band that was formulated. There was something in us that made a connection to the man on the street and that song just makes that connection no matter where or when we play it but seeing all those people singing to it on a summer’s day in August was amazing.

Merry Christmas Everybody is an evergreen Christmas favourite. What do you put its popularity down to?

Good music comes from real life. The phenomenal popularity of the Christmas song reflects a time of strikes of problems. The nation related to the lyrical content of the song as it was exactly what the people were doing at Christmas time. We weren’t preaching, we were being real. I think the song has just become engrained with the whole atmosphere of Christmas over the years so that when you hear it, it reminds you of having a great time at Christmas.

You’ve been name checked as an influence on bands as diverse as KISS and Cheap Trick, Twisted Sister to Oasis. How do you view your influence on the music scene?

We toured with KISS. At the start of the tour we headlined and part way through they hit it big and we ended up supporting them. Gene Simmons has always said we were a big influence on them. He told me that before they started rehearsing, they’d listen to Slade Alive to get them in the mood. There’s other bands as well that have told us how much we influenced them which is always nice to hear.

Christmas is just a few weeks away and we’ll undoubtedly be hearing a certain song many times between now and then. How will you be celebrating Christmas this year?

I’m a family man and will be having a big family Christmas with my kids and grandkids. When I walk out on stage, I become that Rock star person but when I walk off stage I’m just Dave and love being with my family.

What about 2019. What are you planning for next year?

Staying alive would be a good start. We already have bookings for next year which is nice to know. I think it may be time for me to do a solo album. It’s been a long time coming and I might just do it for me. If it sells, it sells. I’ve written my life story and I think a solo album would be good to do before I get much older. I don’t think I’ll start ringing up famous people to play on it though. It’s not going to be an instrumental album but it’ll have elements of that. It’s going to be a personal thing with a reflection of things that I’ve been through or know about. I’m enjoying it so far and I hope I can give that enjoyment to others. Most of it is recorded and it just needs finishing off. I just need the time to be able to do it and I may get that in January and February.

Slade’s UK Tour starts at the O2 Academy, Newcastle on 5th December.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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1 Comment

  1. Keep on rockin Dave Hill, saw Slade about 50times from 1972_1991best live band ever, always in my memories forever
    Ian grocock sheffield

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