Interview with Frank Hall

NECROMANDUS entsprangen den späten 60s und sollten ihr selbstbetiteltes Debüt im Frühjahr 1973 der Welt präsentieren, doch es kam nie zu einer Veröffentlichung. Gepriesen als die „zweiten BLACK SABBATH“ mit einer Prog Rock-Schlagseite, bezeichnete der ‚Melody Maker‘ die Band aus der britischen Grafschaft Cumberland als eine Art von „BLACK SABBATH spielt YES‘ Greatest Hits“.

Ein Bandmitglied verließ jedoch kurz vor Tourstart mit BLACK SABBATH die Gruppe, so dass es ein jähes Ende für den Hoffnungsträger NECROMANDUS nahm. Erst 2010 kam es endlich zu einer offiziellen Veröffentlichung des Albums, obwohl es bereits jahrelang als Bootleg kursierte. Doch drei der ehemaligen Bandmitglieder waren mittlerweile verstorben.

Nun hat Drummer/Gründungsmitglied Frank Hall als letzter Überlebender von NECROMANDUS die Gruppe wiederbelebt und ein neues Album an den Start gebracht. Grund genug, um mit ihm die Vergangenheit und die Gegenwart zu beleuchten. Unser Gespräch im englischen Originalwortlaut:

Do you remember the date, when you started NECROMANDUS?

You could say NECROMANDUS came together when the prospect of making an album suggested. Toni Iommi took a big interest in our band which was then called HOT SPRING WATER, he suggested a name change and we came up with NECROMANDUS.

How did you four come together?

Dennis McCarten and I were in a band called HEAVEN, it broke up and I asked Baz Dunnery and Billy Branch if they would join the two of us to form a new band.

Can you describe the time of the end-60s, the music, the spirit and culture?

Psychedelic is the only way I can describe it, a great time for music, we were mixing with people like Hendrix, PINK FLOYD, THE WHO and John Mayalls BLUES BREAKERS, it was great. Creating music and the exciting artistic freedom together with everything the life of a band can bring made it an amazing time.

How do you get into music and become a musician?

I was five or six when my Gran took me to see a military band and I was totally blown away by the sound and power of the drums. From then on the sound of the drums was the most important thing in music for me and I was hooked.

Do remember your first bands?

he first band I joined was called ROUTE 16, I couldn’t really play and had two weeks to learn the basics. The van crashed on the way to our only rehearsal so I had to do the gig unrehearsed – Terrifying!

Who came up with the name NECROMANDUS?

Honestly it was probably my mistake mixing up Nostradamus and Necromancer.

How close was your contact with Tony Iommi?

I became friends with Tony from the first time we met in 1968. Then in 1969 my then band HEAVEN played the Tow Bar club in Cumbria with BLACK SABBATH and I mentioned to Tony that I was leaving and forming HOT SPRING WATER with Dennis, Baz and Bill. When we also later played with ‘SABBATH, Tony was so impressed he invited us to Birmingham to play more gigs alongside them at other venues. We got better and Tony said we should get some good songs together and maybe do an album, but we needed a better name. We became NECROMANDUS and Tony really helped us in a big way!

You also knew Bill Ward from their EARTH-days.

Bill was the first top drummer I met way back in 1968, when he was playing at the Globe Hotel in Cockermouth, Cumbria. He was and is a true gentleman, he helped me immensely if I ever needed anything Bill made sure I got it, sticks, snare drum stands – anything to do with drums! He is stilling helping me nearly 50 years on, playing our tracks and plugging us on his US radio show.

Why did Barry leave the band on the eve of a US tour with BLACK SABBATH?

Barry left the band, because he said he didn’t believe it was going to happen for us, our album or our management, his depression and fear of flying were a big factor.

And you were dropped?

The label dropped us flat when Baz left, I tried to get another guitarist, but where was I going to get someone with Baz’s touch of genius at a moments notice – impossible.

What did you do after the tour?

We did concerts with THIN LIZZY, pinched their rider, a crate of beer and Phil Lynott went crazy about it. We played on the same bills as SUPERTRAMP, Gary Moore, CLIMAX CHICAGO BLUES BAND, Glenn Hughes‘ TRAPEZE, ROXY MUSIC, SLADE, HAWKWIND, Ollie Halsalls brilliant band PATTTO, Tony Kays band BADGER and our very own “support band” JUDAS PRIEST.

When did you call it quits?

I called it quits with NECROMANDUS after Baz left the band, there was no point carrying on when the best guitarist in the north of England leaves you.

What did you do in all these years – musically and in your private life?

In the years after NECROMANDUS split I played in several “cover bands” and it was pretty disheartening. Then came a band called BIN MEN with Mal McNulty (now with SLADE) singing and playing guitar plus Dez Duffy on guitar and a brilliant bass player called Dave Setchfield. It was a great band and I got the enjoyment back.

When did you hear for the first time, that bootlegs of your album sell well over the world?

I first heard of the bootleg albums back in the 90’s. I was both flattered and annoyed if you can understand that.

Today Baz, Bill and Dennis had all died, but you started the band again. When and why did you it?

I always wanted to try and finish what I started over 40 years ago. I would see and hear guitarists, but no one came close to Baz until one night I heard a young man called Dean Newton at a concert in Cumbria – then I stopped looking, I had finally found the right guy. I asked Dean if he was interested in the NECROMANDUS Project and he said yes, it was 2010.

Who are the band members today?

Billy Branch’s son John was crucial to the new line up, as soon as I heard him sing the similarity to his dad’s voice was unreal. He is our Lead Vocalist but Deans sings as well and their voices are complimentary. John Marcangelo, who played with Baz and Mik Kaminsky in Violinsky is our keyboard player. Our album features Banjo Cunanan on bass but he had to go back to the Philippines and we have now been joined by the superb Paul Spedding, an old buddy.

Are the songs new compositions or old unreleased songs?

Eight of the songs on this album are new, mainly written by us and three are older NECROMANDUS-numbers, reworked by us. We have used original 70’s gear, including Baz Dunnery’s specially made guitar, in all our recordings. All the numbers were recorded at Tom Tyson’s Music Farm Studio’s in Cumbria, just a few miles from my home.

What are your goals with the album?

My goal was simply to let all our fans hear more of our music and to develop the exciting themes which we started in the 1970’s. We want to tour after we finish our second album at the end of this year and if the opportunity comes to play gigs or festivals in Germany, we would love to do that. My experience of the German fans is that they really appreciate good progressive rock – and I hope thats what we play!

What do you want to say to your long time followers who loved your debut album and hear from your new one?

I would like to say thank you to all our fans for their loyalty and patience. I hope that they get pleasure from our music and that it has been worth the 45-year wait!