Alcatrazz on the road…

So here we are with a new chapter in musical adventure. The story so far…

I’m very pleased to be part of Alcatrazz, a band that started life from the ashes of the successful group New England. Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) and Gary Shea (bass) formed the band and are still there rocking it today. Through its ranks have been such notable musicians as Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Graham Bonnet, and the current line up is completed by Doogie White on vocals and Joe Stump on guitar, making this a seriously heavy hitting band.

Rehearsals started at the excellent Panic Music Rehearsal Rooms in Acton, London, where Jimmy, Gary and I convened to start working the set; the first of nine rehearsal days, between eight and twelve hours long. Mark (the owner) and Rob are awesome people who went the extra mile in every way, including providing a safe collection point for numerous gear deliveries. We crashed at the Acton Travelodge which put us in walking distance of the studio and the three of us battered our way through the guts of the set for the next few days until Joe and Doogie arrived once we had the ‘vibe’ together and we were finally able to hammer it along as a complete band. And mightily grand it sounded!

Rehearsal time…

However, on a personal note, after becoming acclimatised to southern Italy, well…by Odin’s frosty scrotum, I found London to be cooooooold. However, manfully undeterred, I have weathered this particular climate disaster and avoided the dreaded ‘tour cold’ thus far (or Udo’s speciality…the gift of pneumonia).    

While in Acton we became frequent customers of the Spice Shack for lunch and the excellent Deliish cafe for breakfast; so much so that I’m sure they miss us now that we are gone. The days were good and relatively injury free apart from some heavy blisters, one skinned knuckle and a grazed knee from falling out of my Travelodge bed (yeah, yeah…it’s a long story). Hangovers were minimal…digestive systems relatively intact…Travelodge sleep generally good…so, all went well. While many around us appear to be abandoning any ideas of Covid protocols, we are all masked up and as sanitary as a heavy metal band can be. That spiky little bastard virus will not get its grubby paws on us!

By Wednesday 10 November we were ready to rumble, and after some van related skulduggery, moseyed with purpose to the bustling metropolis of Great Yarmouth and the Thursday headline slot at Hard Rock Hell. There we were quartered in excellent little chalets; the band’s American contingent in one, Doogie, Me, Giles (our manager) and Nicole (merch lady/photo wizard) in the other. Of course…this was not without incident…

HRH and my own room! Woohoo!

It appears that, hailing from Noo Yawk, Mister Stump was not what we would call ‘kettle savvy’. During the course of creating one of his fine cups of coffee he filled the Russell Hobbes electric kettle, joyfully anticipating the taste and aroma of finely roasted beans and scalding hot water mixed together. He then, of course, placed said kettle on the electric stove element to warm it up…which it did indeed do. It became so warm that it melted over the electric hob destroyed the kettle and Joe’s dream of a fine beverage.  The billowing clouds of black smoke had ruined the moment for him.             

On gig day we had a nice long soundcheck and the HRH crew guys could not have been cooler; very helpful, very professional and friendly. I was using my in-ear monitors for the first time in actual action and they were a revelation: clear sound, plenty of volume, but without blowing my eardrums in. This is the way forward!

Showtime came and we hit the stage on schedule for our 90 minutes of glory. It went pretty smoothly, especially considering this being the first return after the enforced Covid break from live performances. The set was good and it was interesting to feel how songs did or did not fit together live. Very few hiccups. However…of the few that did occur, perhaps most notable was the second half of opener ‘Grace of God’. During this portion of the song, Doogie performed a vocal feat of immense power and beauty, rivalled perhaps only by Pavarotti’s unreleased cover of Slayer’s ‘Dead Skin Mask’. It was possessed of soaring highs with melodically poignant passages sure to make the most hardened headbanger weep with uncontrollable joy. Of course he had also switched off his microphone, so we, and the world at large, were robbed of what Doogie assured us was one of the finest pieces of vocalisation ever performed in public. Shame.

Gary and Doogie, one of the finest voices in rock (especially when audible through switched on microphone).

Nevertheless we remained undeterred. Mister Monitors emerged from his bunker to correct this grievous oversight and the rest of the set went swimmingly. We accidentally robbed Jimmy of one keyboard solo by coming into a verse too early and I’m certain that it too would have been the most thought provoking and incredible piece of music ever performed; enough to have the spirit of the mighty Jon Lord beaming down upon our very own keyboard wizard…but alas, it was not to be.

Jimmy mourning his lost solo.

For me, it was an absolute pleasure to share the stage with four highly skilled and professional musicians and I loved every minute of it. These boys are all at the top of their game already and knowing that it will only get even better as the band hits its stride, is exciting stuff.

All too soon it was over and we loaded out and returned to base. The next day was a pretty horrendous travel day with further van related skulduggery, but we are now firmly based and preparing for the tour with Girlschool to begin on 17th in Milton Keynes. Cannot wait. In the meantime, Joe Stump and his magic bag of snacks will be appearing in the resurrected ‘Joe’s Deli’ series on the Alcatrazz Facebook page, so keep an eye out for that. But never EVER let him use your electric kettle…

That’s it for now….more soon!