Raven’s John Gallagher Discusses the Band’s New Album, the N.W.O.B.H.M., and Metallica’s First Tour
Raven have a history like few other bands, having been a minor player in a couple of metal’s major turning points. Formed in 1974, the group was part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. And in 1983, they toured the United States with an unknown band opening for them called Metallica, on their first-ever tour. They’ve always stayed true to their thrashy, self-proclaimed “athletic rock” sound and just this week released Walk Through Fire (Metal Blade). They will be touring the U.S. in September. Below, the ever entertaining John Gallagher fills us in on Raven’s last decade.
REVOLVER What have you and the other members of Raven been up to over the last decade?
JOHN GALLAGHER We got “slightly” derailed back in 2001 as my brother Mark [Raven guitarist] suffered an extremely serious accident where a large building wall fell on him, crushing his legs. At first the doctors did not know if he would survive, then they thought they’d have to amputate a leg and he’d never walk again. But being made of sterner stuff than most, and being a stubborn Geordie [a native of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, U.K.] he proved them all wrong. It took almost three years but we did a few gigs with him first in a wheelchair, then a Mad Max–style leg brace, and this winter he was skiing again! So during this period we slowly planned the new album.
Why did you want to restart the band now?
It’s not like we had broken up. The accident stopped us in our tracks for some time. Once Mark was literally “back on his feet” we started on the new album.
What inspired your new album lyrically?
Quite a few songs deal with adversity and rising above your troubles. We went through our fair share during this period, losing our dad, then [drummer] Joe [Hasselvander's] mom, then our mom, and Mark’s accident just for starters! But there are other themes. “Trainwreck” is about the TMZ-style celebrities out there and “Armageddon” is sci-fi, so there’s lyrical variety, but sonically we wanted that energy and power combination and it’s there!
You’ve been grouped into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. How do you feel about that? What do people misunderstand about that time?
Before then, the major labels could not give a toss about metal, but once the indie labels started to have success they wanted “in.” The bands are probably all a little more friendly now than then!
What’s your favorite memory of touring with Metallica?
Probably watching Lars’ face as our drum roadie told him, “I might have to work for you, but I don't have to eat next to you—fuck off!” Or being entertained by Cliff [Burton] playing guitar, just playing nonsense songs at a soundcheck in Boston. He was such a character! The whole tour was quite special and looking back, I do not know how we all got through it. It was their first tour and in opening for us, we got to “show them the ropes.” I remember this one show in Oklahoma that was quite literally identical to the scene in the movie The Blues Brothers, you know, the gig with the chicken wire?? Except no chicken wire at this one: Metallica got up and got abuse through the whole show. Shit thrown at them, the whole deal. Now when we got up, we’d been used to playing to punks and skins back in England and instead of cowering, we just gave it back, screamed at them, jumped on the tables, and kicked their ass into enjoying it or else. And that’s what it’s about: get a reaction, and then feed it—even if it’s a bad one!.
Interview by Kory Grow // Photos by Yuki Kuroyanagi