Headliners at RockWich 2015 were Salem and Toni Reed had chance to catch up with Paul Macnamara about the latest news from the band….

Toni and Salem

For those that don’t know Salem, explain a little about yourself and what you do in the band?

I’m Paul Macnamara, I play guitar in Salem.

How did you decide on Salem as a name?

It’s got a whole supernatural, witchy feel, following on from Black Sabbath sort of idea, although we don’t sound much like Black Sabbath.

How did you meet?

We met in 1979, the band was formed from a band called Ethel The Frog, they were not marvellously famous but they were on the metal for muthas album with Iron Maiden and Samson and those chaps in 1979. But they ended up falling out and two of them deciding to form Salem. They knew a bass player and the bass player knew me from school so we met up in the pub and had a chat and said yes it’s a great idea. They had already decided by the time I joined them that the band was called Salem. There has been a few line-up changes fairly early on and those guys from Ethel The Frog moved on, the singer moved on because we were a lot heavier than he wanted to be really and the drummer moved on because he was a manager at a sausage factory aswell and was far too busy to play all the gigs we were playing. So they changed and by 1982 we have the line-up we have now.

Why did the band split in 1983 and after twenty six years apart, what made you reform?

We did a number of demos back in the day, we did three demos and a single, but by 1983, being young kids, we wasn’t becoming rock superstars fast enough and we went our separate ways. We tried really hard, we had been to London and met the record companies and they all said yeah it’s great music but it’s not really what we are looking for. In hindsight we probably could have done more.

Six years ago, basically I put some old Salem recordings on MySpace and people started listening to it. I thought this was bizarre at first, my brother had suggested it and I thought what was the point in doing that, but people did start listening to it and little by little people started contacting us saying ‘I remember you’ and ‘I’ve got the old single’ then a record company came to me saying they wanted to re-release the old demos and the single and that was a no brainer, as the phase goes.

So I got in touch with the guys, all the people that had been in the band and said we have got this opportunity. We had kind of drifted apart, we are all from Hull originally, three are still live in Hull, the singer lives in Tunbridge Wells and I live near Bristol, so we’d all moved around a bit. So I tracked them down and they all said of course, we always wanted to have an album. It’s been twenty five years since we recorded the songs but why ever not. So we had an album which was amazing, to have a double album in your hand after all these years is fantastic.

So we said if we’ve got an album we might as well do a gig, so we rehearsed for a gig. We did one gig and thought this was great, let’s do another one. The bass player had a studio by now because he was still involved in music, so little by little we started recording songs and put some together for an EP, for another gig, and people were interested in it so we did some more.“

How does the industry differ from back in the 80’s to today?

We did quite a lot of gigging in the 1980’s, we never really got too much into the industry side of it because we never got a record deal. I think looking back there was a lot of competition in a sort of negative way between bands and now there is a lot of competition in a positive way. We keep meeting up with guys like Avenger, who are playing tonight, we have played with them several times. We played with them last night in Hatfield and last November in Athens. We would always like their things on Facebook and follow each other and promote it to our friends but at the same time there is a bit of rivalry.

The biggest difference is the internet, you can communicate more with anybody around the world. I mean to contact someone and get a gig in Italy was just totally unheard of back in 1982. Travel is easier, I know we had ferries and things back then but the idea of traveling is much easier now but it’s the same thing with technology, you can record your ideas and share it as a band but other people can do that too, so in many ways there is more competition and it’s just as difficult.

A re-mastered version of “In the Beginning” was released last month, how has this been received by the press and fans?

Everyone seems to like it, we released it first of all as a trilogy and recorded two in one session and another one in another session. We played all three together live and I wanted to put all three together on the album, so we kind of mixed them up. This album is on High Roller Records and they wanted to be very particular about it, they have put it very strictly in the original recordings and they have brightened the sound up to sound much better than it did. The thing to remember is, we recorded four tracks in one day and mastered them and then five tracks and mastered them, so they’re not a finished product at all, they are demos – but it represents what we sound like live.

Who writes most of the lyrics and the music?

There are five in the band and four of us write songs. Guitarists, me and Mark tend to write the riffs, put a structure into a whole song and have an idea about where the lyrics are going to go and where the drums are going to go. Ades, it’s his studio, is the music director and Simon the singer, they tend to put the lyrics on top. We all write quite differently and I’m sure back in the day it caused a bit of friction, but now we see it as a very healthy dynamic really, more light and shade, some faster and some slow ones. The main thing we go for is a heavy sound, certainly the melody has to be good for us and hopefully people will agree with that.

Who are you looking forward to seeing today?

Bigfoot, I saw them when we played at Wildfire and there was two stages, so I went over to the other stage and they were playing and I thought yeah I really like them. So I’m particularly looking forward to seeing them. Always happy to see Avenger, our mates, as I told you earlier. There are a few bands I’ve not heard before and I’m always open to hearing new stuff.

What’s next for Salem?

We are recording songs for the new album – we have half the album complete and the rest should be finished by about Christmas. Pure Steel records have already heard some of the tracks and said we like it, we want to release it. So we are going to keep on going.”

Thank You for taking the time out to talk to us and we will look forward to hearing the new album.

Interview by Toni Reed and Photography by Neil Reed.