PARADISE ALLEY are back! Lead vocalist Steve Vincent tells us about the band’s history, the 25th anniversary of their album “Psychotic Playground” and the late 80s/early 90s London glam scene.
Can you tell us a bit about the beginnings of PARADISE ALLEY?
I had left my band in Scotland, Indian Angel and moved to London at the start of 1992 where I replaced Paul Blitz (ex-Soho Roses) in Scarlet Tears. It was not the happiest of unions and I never really fitted in as they kept telling me not to copy what Paul had sang on the recordings, to do my own thing but make it sound like the recordings. To say that messed with my brain is an understatement, hahaha. Anyway, I had arranged a gig in Oxford which went pretty well but the audience kept shouting for us to play Indian Angel songs and I think there were a few bruised egos. I had an idea of what I wanted a band to be and already had the name Paradise Alley after seeing it in a TV listing so started advertising for band members in Sounds and Melody Maker. At around the same time one of the guys from Scarlet Tears called to suggest I leave and seemed really taken aback when I announced that I was leaving to start my own thing anyway. Again, I don’t think they knew what they wanted really.
Well, one of the first people that replied to my ad was Richie Hale who I knew from a few of the clubs and we hit it off straight away and worked on putting the band together from there. There was lots of coming and going of people in the first six months but eventually I settled on a line up and we recorded our first demos. That line-up I was joined by Johnny Idle and Darryl Wilks on guitars, Rich Emborg on Bass and Adam King on drums. That was end of ’92 and stayed together until the following Summer. That’s when we had Damian Cullen join on drums.
You’ve just celebrated the 25th anniversary of your album “Psychotic Playground.” Can you tell us about the recording sessions? Did you release any demo cassettes before?
Well we had recorded a three track demo in early 93 which we started circulating to get gigs and that included a Hanoi song, Shakes that was meant for a tribute album (the tribute album never materialised). Anway, we recorded the album in the Fall of 93 and it was a pretty crazy time. Damian and I were crashing at Johnny’s flat at the time and they were pretty insane times with lots of partying and not a lot of sleep, hahahahaha. When we were recording, three of us had day jobs so we recorded through the night and would literally go straight to work from the studio. I have no idea how we kept it all together but let’s just say we had some stimulation to keep us going. So when it came time to do the 25th anniversary edition it seemed right to combine the demo and the album as one release.
Was the London glam/sleaze scene still active at this time?
Yes, it most definitely was. Kill City Dragons were still around, Gunfire Dance were regular visitors from Birmingham, the Dogs were still around with Darrel Bath in the line-up. There was us, Waterbratz, Dogsbody, Last Great Dreamers, Pleasure Victims…there were still plenty of us with a love of Cuban heels and eye liner put it that way, hahahahaha. And there were still a good few clubs to keep us entertained too.
Many of the early 90s London glam bands never got the chance to release any records, and you were lucky if you could find anything else than a few pictures and a demo cassette when living outside of the UK. Do you remember any of them that should have deserved more attention?
I think we ALL deserved more attention than we got but we didn’t have the money from the record labels to wine and dine the magazines. I remember sitting with Ray Zell one night and him telling me we were all screwed from the point of view of media attention because when the call came in from someone like Bon Jovi it was an all-expenses paid trip to the States with backstage access, free booze, women, etc. all any of us could offer was a meet up at The Ship in Wardour Street and a wet Tuesday night at the Marquee – it was a no-brainer from the point of view of the journalists, they always went for the more glamourous options.
Did you play many shows? What were your favourite clubs to play? What bands did you play with? What are your best live memories?
We played all over, not just London but there was a bit healthier club and pub scene then so it was worth piling into the back of a transit van with your gear and heading off round the UK. We played some amazing shows through the years, the early ones at places like Newcastle Trillians, The Wag in London, The Anchor in Chesterfield all hold some amazing live memories for me from those days.
We played with most of the bands on the scene back then, lots with the Pleasure Victims and I am still mates with Jez to this day (although he plays Drums now in the Men that cannot be blamed for anything). Played with the Gunfires too, they were the torchbearers for me, they just had “it”. Favourite clubs to play were the Marquee in Charing X Road, the Wag, Trillians in Newcastle, CBGBs is one of my fondest memories and the Coconut Teaszer in LA.
What were your favourite places (clubs, bars, shops…) to hang out in London those days?
The best bars back then were The George, The Ship and The Intrepid Fox and it was like an invisible triangle in Soho that we followed between all three. Club wise there was the Hellfire, Gossips and the St Moritz, all were great places to hang out and sadly all gone now apart from the St Moritz although they don’t have much going on there anymore. Shop-wise you still had Kensington Market which was great to even just hang out in and plan what you were going to buy when you had some spare cash (I admit I am a shopaholic when it comes to clothing, hahaha) but even Carnaby Street was still pretty cool at the end of the Eighties, early nineties, it was so sad to watch all of that change so dramatically.
Can you tell us about your second album “Heartbreakers & Homewreckers”?
Well at the end of the Psychotic Playground Tour we played a showcase at The Marquee for a few major labels but the band literally split up on stage. Our bass player was arrested the night before for aggravated assault so spent the gig in a prison cell and we played with a stand-in bassist. Johnny and Damian announced they were calling it quits so it got pretty tense during the gig, hahaha. There was no way I was ready to call it quits so I put together a new line-up basically with friends of friends. They were all influenced a bit more by Classic Rock stuff and flashier stuff like Steve Vai but we did click from a song writing point of view so we kept going. Like the first album it started off self-financed but then we had a friend of the band help us out and then the producer offered us extra studio time in exchange for representing the band to the record labels once it was finished. I think rather naively we accepted although it is a pretty good album but label-wise no one was biting with that type of music by the mid-nineties so we just stagnated.
It did become more apparent as we recorded it however that we were all pulling in different directions and by the time it was finished there was me in one camp and the rest of the band in the other. We struggled on gigging for a while but it wasn’t a happy time and we ended up playing just gigs local to where the band were living around Berkshire, just West of London. We became a bit of a glorified covers band by the end of it sitting on an unreleased album and I was miserable. Delinquent in the States heard the album and contacted me saying they wanted to sign us and take us to America so after a lot of negotiating on my part, we signed the deal. At that point the rest of the band quit as it wasn’t there thing anymore, musically or otherwise. They hate the album now and have said some pretty unkind things about me and the band but hey, that’s up to them, they weren’t complaining when they were having sex with lots of pretty girls because they were in the band but that’s life I guess.
Did you get any opportunities to tour outside of the UK?
Well when I brought over The 69 Eyes from Finland for their first ever UK shows back in ’96, the plan had been for us to then go over to Finland and tour with them but the rest of the guys in Paradise Alley did not get on with them and so it sadly never happened. We have talked about doing Scandinavian shows and other European shows but we’ll see what the future holds I guess. We did almost tour Japan in the nineties as we were on the verge of a deal there and some dates were pencilled in but for one reason or another it never happened. We did tour the States twice, first time starting off in New York, including CBGBs then down the Mid-west to the South in Alabama and Georgia. That was in 1998 when the second album came out and then we went back and played around Los Angeles in 2000.
Have you ever thought about releasing your albums on vinyl?
Actually, when we first started planning the debut album it was meant to be a vinyl release but that was definitely on the way out in the early nineties and we figured we would probably be shooting ourselves in the foot by doing that so opted for CD. I would love to see them on vinyl but it’s so expensive to do and the second album line-up do not want Heartbreakers re-released in any format whatsoever, something about us trading off on their genius or something, hahaha. So sadly that will not be happening, people will just have to content themselves with the digital version of Heartbreakers and the CD of Psychotic Playground (at least until that sells out).
Do you sometimes miss the good old days of cheap collage flyers and paper fanzines?
I miss those days so much, there was something about making the flyers, trying to be as eye catching as possible, fly posting, going out and talking to people that was so cool and the old paper fanzines were incredibly cool and were generally very, very supportive of us and all the bands in the scene.
Any bands/albums you have liked recently?
I guess I am pretty old school in that there is not a lot of the new stuff that is grabbing my attention. I do like the latest Plastic Tears album, not just because we’ve been friends for a long time, haha, I just genuinely think it is a really good album. I am a fan of Trench Dogs too and their album is a regular visitor to my CD player, very cool looking band too. A lot of the new stuff is more influenced by “Hair Metal” which has never really been my thing as I am more of a Hanoi/Ramones/Stones fan so it’s not that it is technically bad, it’s just not my thing.
Can you tell us about the 2019 version of PARADISE ALLEY?
Well, other than Taj Sagoo who was in the last properly functioning line-up of the band when we toured the States, it’s completely fresh. We have Ben Alexander on bass who has been a friend of ours for a good few years now and he was completely the first choice when we decided to put the band back together. He has fitted in so well and he brings so much to the band with backing vocals and song writing as well as his bass playing. We have a lead guitarist that we are working with right now and we should be making an official announcement on him very soon but again he’s bringing a lot to the table with ideas and enthusiasm which is great to have, otherwise after doing something as long as we have, you start to become a bit jaded. Drummer-wise we are still auditioning but we are holding out for the right person as so far no one has actually been into the same type of music and they all want to be paid a regular wage which in this day and age is incredibly unrealistic, lol.
We are working towards a new album and playing as much as possible and not just in the UK. We’ve already been invited to Europe and the States and we want to spread the word as much as possible. We know we are a cult underground band, we have no illusions of being signed to Universal and making millions, but as long as we can get out there, make people happy and ourselves happy playing rock’n’roll then I reckon we are winning. We aren’t reinventing the wheel, we are a low-slung guitar toting rock’n’roll band, just like we always have been.