An Interview with Steve Dawson of Geordie

All images courtesy of Steve Dawson

By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

Image credit: Star Shots Photography

Recently, we caught up with veteran guitarist, Steve Dawson, of the recently reformed glam rock outfit, Geordie. Among other things, we touch on how Geordie is kicking off 2022, Steve’s early years, his long and varied career in music, what’s next on the horizon for Geordie, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Geordie, the link to the band’s Facebook page is here. Once you’ve checked that out, dig into this interview with Steve. Cheers.

Andrew:
Steve, thanks for taking the time. Walk me through your early impressions as a burgeoning musician.

Steve:
I started playing when I was eleven years old. It was a long apprenticeship lasting all through my teens and beyond. I played in local clubs, bars, and venues and experienced all kinds of ups and downs. My first dalliance with the actual business side of music came when I recorded four songs with a band called Saracen for the NWOBHM compilation album, Roksnax, in 1980. We were taken advantage of and didn’t see a single penny, despite the album selling around the world and influencing the likes of Metallica and others. I quickly learned not to be exploited again.

Andrew:
What was it about the guitar that initially drew you in?

Steve:
The way it looked and sounded when Jimi Hendrix was playing it. When he died, “Voodoo Chile” went straight to number one – that song still blows my mind – and there was a film of him playing his white Strat. That was it for me, I had to have a guitar.

Andrew:
Take me through some of your early gigs where you first cut your teeth.

My first gig was in a nightclub when I was seventeen with a band called Midnight Lightning, and to be honest, it was a bit ambitious for a band of our experience. We were very good in a rehearsed sense, but we’d only played in a small practice room up ’til then. We had no idea about monitors on large stages, or not getting drunk before the performance! Needless to say, we got paid off, which at the time, brought us right down to Earth with a bang. However, in retrospect, I did learn more from that gig than any subsequent one thereafter. Following gigs were done in Youth Clubs where we fared far better.

Then came Saracen, by then I was twenty. We gathered momentum far too fast and we played some very prestigious gigs, like Newcastle Mayfair and Sunderland Mecca, normally reserved for more successful bands. I was beginning to think that running before walking was becoming a pattern in my career. We decided to wind it up when another band of the same name got an album out first. In 1983, I headed off to London to see what I could do there That’s another story altogether.

All images courtesy of Steve Dawson

Andrew:
If you can, take me through you joining the animals. Paint a picture of your time in the band.

Steve:
In 1994 I was playing in a band with Terry Slesser. We were called upon to play a charity event by the Mayor of South Shields. It was at this event that I met Hilton Valentine, original guitarist with The Animals, who joined us for our set that night along with a few other guys.

Shortly thereafter, I got a call asking If I’d like to try out for a reformation of The Animals (called Animals II for legal reasons). As well as Hilton, the lineup also included original drummer John Steel. The vocalist was Robert Kane, now in the current lineup of Dr. Feelgood for the last twenty years. The band built up a great reputation over time and we toured all over the world – Europe and Scandinavia, USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Russia, the Arab Emirates, and much more.

Eventually, Dave Rowberry (original keyboard player after Alan Price left) joined us, along with Argent and Kinks bass player, Jim Rodford. Unfortunately, Hilton, who was divorced and a bit lonely, met an American girl on the road and she turned out to be a bit of a Yoko Ono. The rest, as they say, is history. The band factionalized and eventually morphed into what is now called Animals and Friends in 2002. That is also the year I moved on from them.

Andrew:
Prior to joining Geordie, you also made your mark in the amplification business. I was hoping you could take us through that as well.

Steve:
In 2005 I joined Marshall Amplification’s R&D department designing amps right up until 2014 when I left. Jim died in 2012 and the direction the company was taking with the new management wasn’t for me. I started my own business, Root Two Amplification, in 2015, where you’ll find me when Geordie isn’t gigging. In 2017, as you know, is when the Geordie reformation began.

Andrew:
Pushing forward to Geordie now. Walk me through how you came to be in contact with Tom Hill and Brian Gibson.

Steve:
I’d known Tom for about twenty years since I was in The Animals in the 90s. Brian had moved down to the Cambridge area in the 80s and settled there, so I didn’t meet him until the band reformed in 2017.

All images courtesy of Steve Dawson

Andrew:
What did the early conversations regarding reforming the band look like? What pushed things over the edge?

Steve:
When the agent who used to book The Animals asked me what the Geordie boys were up to in 2017, I approached Tom, who in turn approached Brian to propose having another bash. We got together with a singer called Mark Wright, who ironically was from Lancashire, and it sounded really promising, so we decided to pursue it. Then the world started going wrong shortly after!!

Andrew:
Was Vic Malcolm asked to take part in the reunion?

Steve:
Yes, he was. He decided he couldn’t commit to live work because of health reasons. He also lives in Cyprus, which complicated matters. However, he’s still very much on board with regard to writing and recording, which is a bonus because he’s a great writer.

Andrew:
How do you go about translating Vic’s parts while also making them your own? 

Steve:
I try not to change the orchestration or arrangements too much. Instead, I rely on my identity and feel on the guitar, to give just enough of a twist to make it fresh, yet still authentic.

All images courtesy of Steve Dawson

Andrew:
The band has a new singer in Terry Slesser, who actually has a history with Geordie as Brian Johnson’s replacement. Expand on that for me. 

When Brian [Johnson] joined ACϟDC, he was singing in the North East Working Men’s Clubs with a lineup that was basically his version of Geordie at the time. Tom and Brian’s version featured a great singer called Rob Turnbull. Anyway, Johna’s lineup, now in need of a replacement, recruited Terry in order to continue. However, they changed their name to “The Dudes,” as the Geordie name seemed redundant without Brian. They were doing cover versions anyway. Incidentally, this was not the first time Brian was filled in for. Dave Ditchburn guested on the No Good Woman album. He didn’t replace Brian though. However, Tom Hill and Brian Gibson had left by then and weren’t on that album. A few years later, Tom, Brian Gibson, and Vic would reform Geordie with Rob Turnbull on vocals, and Dave Stephenson on second guitar. I guess that makes Rob the first official replacement for Johna.

Andrew:
It’s always a risk for older bands to record new music. This said, does Geordie have its eyes on a new studio venture?

Steve:
We do have plans to record new material, as we don’t want to be regarded as just a nostalgia band. Initial sessions with Mark weren’t quite working out, but we are more than confident that with Terry, and the vast experience he brings to the table, things will progress exponentially in this area.

Andrew:
Come what may, Brian Johnson will always cast a bit of a shadow over Geordie, which must be tough to manage. How does this lineup intend to push forward and create its own legacy?

Steve:
I wouldn’t say he casts a shadow per se. We look upon it more as shines some light on his roots. He’s often very vocal about his early days with Geordie in interviews. We intend to do our thing and move forward like any other motivated rock band. Hopefully, we’ll make significant footprints of our own in time.

All images courtesy of Steve Dawson

Andrew;
Geordie’s original rhythm section remains intact. How integral are Tom and Brian to the sound and soul of Geordie? 

Steve:
Tom and Brian have played together since they could play. They have an empathic link that makes them especially coherent in the foundation that I play over. Not to mention very individual styles that are part of that signature Geordie vibe.

Andrew:
In your own words, what does Geordie mean to the legacy of glam and hard rock music? How would you describe the band’s influence and importance?

Steve;
Geordie’s original chart success coincided with the glam rock era of the early 70s. However, anyone listening to the albums can tell that they are a good old classic rock band, just like Sweet if you took Chin and Chapman out of their equation. When I play with the band on stage, it’s very evident to me that the songs are grabbing the audience from the get-go. It’s catchy, it’s rock and roll, it’s fun and it’s hard-hitting. It’s very enjoyable to play. They carved their place in the cornerstone of rock music, and although maybe not as pronounced as Zeppelin, Purple, ACϟDC, etc., it was nevertheless significant. Sadly, the band dropped off the radar for a long time, which has made the journey back especially arduous, compared to other bands who never stopped. We will prevail though, it’s too good not to.

Andrew:
The threat of becoming a “legacy act” always looms for veteran bands. What will keep Geordie vital as we move forward? 

Steve:
New material. This is basically the lifeblood of any band that continues a legacy, no matter what level they’re at.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next for both yourself and Geordie in all lanes, Steve?

Steve:
We need to get the new lineup match-fit by gigging as much as we can. This is easier said than done right now, as lots of venues are still rolling forward bookings from 2020 and 2021. We also need to start recording as soon as possible, as that will lend validity to the forward progression of the band

All images courtesy of Steve Dawson

Interested in learning more about Geordie? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

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