VARDIS

 

DECEMBER 1982 – INTERVIEW WITH MALCOLM DOME

VARDIS


SO, MANIACS, whatever happened to Vardis? Two years ago, it seemed that you couldn’t move for this Yorkshire trio. Their seminal live first LP ‘100 MPH’, put ‘em well up the charts, as did a shoal of strong singles. Gigs sold out, helping build the lads a healthy grassroots following, and the media latched onto the blond-haired, bare-footed lead guitarist/vocalist Steve Zodiac as a
potential star.

But…. it all turned very sour very quickly for the band. A second album, ‘The World’s Insane’, proved to be mediocre, failing to sell well, live shows became less frequent and less publicised, as Vardis took three or four not inconsiderable steps backwards. And 1982 has been a rock ‘n’ roll washout, Vardis-wise. Their third long player, ‘Quo Vardis’, to be honest was horrible, resulting in an acrimonious parting of the ways with their record company Logo. Moreover, the last time the group played a UK gig was back in June. That was at the disastrous Monmore Festival of Rock, when they were second on the bill to Hawkwind – and went down so badly, you could hear a pin drop between numbers. This was in Wolverhampton, supposedly a Vardis stronghold!

So, Mr Zodiac, what’s gone wrong?

“Well, it’s not been as quiet or as bad as people think. Basically, what a band does is dictated by the people who run their label and manage them. We were let down by a lot of people at the wrong time and went through untold disruptions like having three managers in little over a year (the near-legendary Motorcycle Irene now handles their affairs) and we felt the band was being herded into a corner. So, we needed a break to sort things out.

“But, on the bright side, Vardis are now involved in a much better set-up. And, we’ve certainly been busy over the past few months. For example, we did a summer tour in Scandinavia, which was fabulous. We didn’t realise how popular the band was over there. But there were some gigs where 10,000 people turned up? We’ve also been recording some demos with Nigel Gray (he of Girlschool/Police/Tank production fame), which have come out really well.”

Zodiac is confident that these tapes will rapidly land Vardis a major deal.

“We’ve lots of interest at the moment. I’d like to see us have a single out in the early part of next year. But we’re gonna be very careful about signing. I hope the band will get picked up by a big company, who don’t necessarily have large numbers of HM acts already. That way, we’ll get a better buzz from ‘em. In fact, going with a record label who’ve more experience with pop than heavy stuff would be a plus for us. Vardis wanna have hit singles. We’d love to cross over in the way that Quo and Rainbow have managed in the past.

“Our music has really progressed. ‘Quo Vardis’ shows the direction we’re headed, becoming more thoughtful about how we both write and arrange songs. Vardis are not a band who wanna spend the rest of their career just regurgitating ‘If I Were King’ and other of our early standards.”

All of which is very nice, but as I said before, ‘Quo Vardis’ was to my mind a weak recording. The songs were second division rock‘n’roll and the production was decidedly spoilt by a confusion of ideas. It sounded almost as if the tracks were forced into a preconception for mass string arrangements, with scant regard for balance, dynamics or taste. Besides, the Vardis public spoke volumes by not buying it.

“That’s not at all true. The LP sold very well, but over a long period of time rather than in a quick spell. It probably would have done even better if Logo had decided to promote and advertise it. And all the reviews we got were great. What’s more our new material is even stronger. It’s certainly good enough to help us make a big impact this time around.”

Only time, naturally, will tell whether Zodiac’s air of almost utopian optimism and confidence in his ‘new direction’ material is at all justified. Meantime, the band (still completed by Gary Pearson on drums and bassist Alan Selway) face a more immediate test of their popularity, when they go back on the road over here for a short series of gigs towards Xmas, and follow this up with a full-blown UK club tour in January/February. So, will old Vardis fans still turn out to see them? “I’ve no doubts about it. Even though we’ve not been doing much over here recently, we still get sacks of fan mail. I’m sure we’ll come back bigger and better than ever!”

I really hope Zodiac is right and not just deluding himself. For whatever my misgivings about the band’s musical direction, I still retain a great respect for both their fighting spirit and talents.

But, I’d just like to conclude with a personal plea to Messrs Zodiac, Selway, and Person… get back to the good-time style that you displayed so brilliantly on ‘100 MPH’. It’s what you do best, and what you always said you most wanted to do. Leave delicate orchestral manoeuvres to bands like Magnum who use ‘em best. Bring back the power and wave goodbye to string sections!
MALCOLM DOME


Kerrang! Issue 45 – July 1983

VARDIS ‘The Lion’s Share’ (Razor Raz 3)

I WILL confess to a certain dread when I finally placed this twelve track ‘Best Of. . .‘ compilation of live, studio and unreleased trackery on my turntable and slowly turned up the volume. But I was immediately and pleasantly surprised. As the first track and erstwhile single ‘Let’s Go’ burned into the concert version of ‘Living Out Of Touch’ Vardis were proving themselves one helluva powerhouse rock band, Zodiac’s guitar in particular sounding louder and fuller and raunchier than ever I thought a Telecaster could as he exercised a simple but incredibly direct and exciting style of big block chords and sinewy lead lines swimming in sustain but in no danger of drowning. Behind him bass man Alan Selway and drummer Gary Pearson kept the rhythm section as tight as arses and exceptionally Heavy on the Beat. Hmm, so far so good!

But, oh dear, when it comes to song-writing Vardis make Motorhead sound like Paul McCartney. If this is their best then I’d hate to hear the rest because here there’s hardly a melody in the house. As the needle bit into ‘Move Along’ (also live), an unreleased track ’Destiny’, ‘Too Many People’ and so into the second side Steve Zodiac’s tunes grew first predictable, then ponderous until finally I was screaming out in pain for something just a little bit different. But no go Joe, apart from silly bagpipes on ‘Police Patrol’ and some bluesy saxophone on ‘Walking’ Vardis offered the same heads down trash all the way and, quite honestly, the body blows wore me out after five rounds. This just has to be an album for the dedicated headbanger only.
CHAS DE WHALLEY


Interview – Nick Kemp
A HARD rock band who cite T. Rex, Slade and The Stones as their major influences? This I have to check out!! But hold fire sirrah, why the incredulous attitude? Vardis are all round or about their early twenties and like myself grew up in a musical climate of mid-seventies powerpop glam glory. Sure it was considered hip to be into Yes, Zep, Floyd, even Focus, but really we were all secret Slade freaks or closet Bolan clones – as Steve Zodiac points out with gusto: “I got a lot of stick at school for being a T.Rex fan but I still reckon Marc Bolan was the greatest rocker that ever lived. He had everything necessary for success; great songs, enough power not to be considered wet and an image that was totally original.”

So an interesting start but what strikes me immediately is the transition from aping Bolan in front of the bedroom mirror, tennis racket et al, to being the Ronnie Van Zant of HM with a band that at first listen seem to have as much in common with Bolan’s mob as Maggie has with uncle Ken. “It’s all rock’n’roll don’t forget, 12 bars or whatever, the only real difference is in guitar styles. . But essentially, T.Rex and other bands around at the time just did what most bands still do – hit the audience with a fast exciting rock’n’roll set. I know Vardis don’t exactly sound like T.Rex but when I say influence I really mean that it was because of Bolan that Vardis exist today.

“Uh, elaborate if you please . . .”When I first heard ‘Get It On’ and ‘Jeepster’ I had no option but to rush out and get the album (‘Electric Warrior’) that they both appeared on. One play and I knew what I was gonna do for a living. It was the desire to get up on stage and do what Bolan was doing, rather than wanting to play similar material.”

Just for the record, Vardis formed somewhere around 1977, initially as Quo Vardis, a name taken from the biblical epic movie. They toured extensively around the Wakefield area, awaiting the day when success would be theirs. It took two years and . . .
“It were ‘ard work in those days (says Steve) but I never really doubted that we’d achieve some recognition for all that slogging it really happened with our first L.P, ‘100 MPH’, which was released on Redball Records (of E. F. Band fame). Up until then, none of us had realised the potential of the band, but the initial pressing run of 2,000 said out almost immediately,”

By this time Vardis had dropped the ‘Ouo’ for obvious reasons and employed Gary Pearson on drums. He added a fuller, punchier sound to a band whose approach of tight, raunchy rock’n’roll spiced with a heavy dash of metal-soon prompted London based Logo records to snap them up. Their debut album entitled ‘100 MPH’ (do I hear ‘Deja vu’ anyone?), was quickly recorded and put in the shops. Being a live LP it was just a case of set up and switch on the tape. “Yeah it was sort of easy to record, granted, but we put out a live album because everyone felt that Vardis were really in their element on stage. The fans who bought it got exactly what they expected of the band – a good fast LOUD rock’n’roll set. We thought it was the best way to introduce Vardis. In fact the live aspect hung over till the next album ‘The Worlds Insane’. It was actually recorded in the studio but we tried hard to make it sound as energetic as possible and most people think ‘The World’s Insane’ is closer to a live sound than a studio without losing the benefits of recording in a good studio.

Vardis have recently released a new album entitled with devilish wit ‘Quo Vardis’, and it’s something of a departure from their familiar up’n at em style. The Latin translation takes on a new slant. Which direction, Steve?

“That’s the whole point of the title. I think Vardis are going through a slight transition, at least on record. On ‘Quo Vardis we’ve tried to experiment with our music without losing too much of the raw power.”

On our second meeting, over the hair of the dog in London’s legendary Ship, Vardis’ PR, the voluptuous Motorcycle Irene (Reno to her friends) chained me to the bar, welded a set of headphones to my delicate ears and forced me to give a listen to the aforementioned album. A 10-trade blast it looks likely to give Vardis the big break they have deserved for quite some time. The single is certainly something of a surprise, but while some HM pop hits are written simply to augment the bank balance, ‘To Be With You’ is clearly a genuine effort, showing a new depth of maturity In Zodiac’s writing. 1 only hope the band have the conviction to air it on the forth coming tour. And talking of tours, they’ve got some very strong feelings on the subject – in particular the use of mechanical props.

“Vardis have always been a physical band live. We can’t see the point of having robots walking around the stage when a rock show is all about music. Take Motorhead (oh dear, hold three columns on next month’s letters page . . .) they were fairly popular until the Bomber tour, but it was that aeroplane effect that put them in the big league. They would never have become as big otherwise. Their tours sold out because the kids wanted to see this `incredible special effect’. Special effects! What’s that got to do with rock’n’roll? On our forthcoming tour, which incidentally will be taking in all the major venues, we plan to exploit the physical side of rock’n’roll. I’d like to get catwalks rigged up so we can move around as freely as possible-lots of ramps and things.

Sounds similar to the last Rolling Stones tour…
“Yeah. Jagger didn’t have to have an aeroplane on stage to make it big, he projected his personality. If you’re not a good performer it’s not fair on the fans to prop yourself up with mechanical toys It a band can’t cut it on their own charisma they should be out selling shoes or something.”


INTERVIEW – MALCOLM DOME

S0, MANIACS, whatever happened to Vardis? Two years ago, it seemed that you couldn’t move for this Yorkshire trio. Their seminal live first LP’100 MPH’, put ’em well up the charts as did a shoal of strong singles. Gigs sold out, helping build the lads a healthy grassroots following, and the media latched onto the blond -haired, bare-footed lead guitarist / vocalist Steve Zodiac as a potential star.

But . . . it all turned very sour very quickly for the band. A second album, ‘The World’s Insane’, proved to be mediocre, failing to sell well, live shows became less frequent and less publicised, as Vardis took three or four not inconsiderable steps backwards. And 1982 has been a rock ‘n’ roll washout, Vardis -wise. Their third long player, ‘Quo Vardis’, to be honest was ‘orrible, resulting in an acrimonious parting of the ways with their record company Logo. Moreover, the last time the group played a UK gig was back in June. That was at the disastrous Monmore Festival of Rock, when they were second on the bill to Hawkwind – and went down so badly, you could hear a pin drop between numbers. This was in Wolverhampton, supposedly a Vardis stronghold!

So, Mr. Zodiac, what’s gone wrong? “Well, it’s not been as quiet or as bad as people think. Basically, what a band does is dictated by the people who run their label and manage ’em. We were let down by a lot of people at the wrong time and went through untold disruptions like having three managers in little over a year (the near-legendary Motorcycle Irene now handles their affairs) and we felt the band was being herded into a corner. So, we needed a break to sort things out.”

“But, on the bright side, Vardis are now involved in a much better set-up. And, we’ve certainly been busy over the past few months. For example, we did a summer tour in Scandinavia, which was fabulous. We didn’t realise how popular the band was over there. But there were some gigs where 10,000 people turned up! We’ve also been recording some demos with Nigel Gray (he of Girlschool / Police production fame), which have come out really well.”

Zodiac is confident that these tapes will rapidly land Vardis a major deal. ‘We’ve lots of interest at the moment. I’d like to see us have a single out in the early part of next year. But we’re gonna be very careful about signing. I hope the band will get picked up by a big company, who don’t necessarily have large numbers of HM acts already. That way, we’ll get a better buzz from ’em. In fact, going with a record label who’ve more experience with pop than heavy stuff would be a plus for us. Vardis wanna have hit singles. We’d love to cross over in the way that Quo and Rainbow have managed in the past.

“Our music has really progressed. ‘Quo Vardis shows the direction we’re headed, becoming more thoughtful about how we both write and arrange songs. Vardis are not a band who wanna spend the rest of their career just regurgitating ‘If I Were King’ and other of our early standards.”

All of which is very nice, but as I said before, ‘Quo Vardis’ was to my mind a weak recording. The songs were second division rock ‘n’ roll and the production was decidedly spoilt by a confusion of ideas. It sounded almost as if the tracks were forced into a pre-conception for mass string arrangements, with scant regard for balance, dynamics or taste. Besides, the Vardis public spoke volumes by not buying it.

“That’s not at all true. The LP sold very well, but over a long period of time rather than in a quick spell. It probably would have done even better if Logo had decided to promote and advertise it. And all the reviews we got were great. What’s more our new material is even stronger. It’s certainly good enough to help us make a big impact this time around.”

Only time, naturally, will tell whether Zodiac’s air of almost utopian optimism and confidence in his ‘new direction’ material is at all justified. Meantime, the band (still completed by Gary Pearson on drums and bassist Alan Selway) face a more immediate test of their popularity, when they go back on the road over here for a short series of gigs towards Xmas, and follow this up with a full-blown UK club tour in January / February. So, will old Vardis fans still turn out to see them? “I’ve no doubts about it. Even though we’ve not been doing much over here recently, we still get sacks of fan mail. I’m sure, we’ll come back bigger and better than ever’

I really hope Zodiac is right and not just deluding himself. For whatever my misgivings about the band’s musical direction, I still retain a great respect for bot their fighting spirit and talents.

But, I’d just like to conclude with a personal plea to Messrs. Zodiac, Selway, and Person . . . get back to the good-time style that you displayed so brilliantly on ‘ 100 MPH’. Its what you do best, and what you always said you most wanted to do. Leave delicate orchestral maneuvers to bands like Magnum who use ’em best. Bring back the power and wave goodbye to string sections!

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