guest author: John Wisniewski
Once again it has been a while since the NWOBHM legends Cloven Hoof (formed in 1979) had returned to active duty with ‘Eye of the Sun’ in 2008. Their latest studio album “Resist or Serve” received raving reviews, and with the new line up Lee Payne / Bass Guitar – the only remaining founding member, Joe Whelan / Vocals and Lead Guitar, Chris Coss / Rhythm Guitar, and Jake Oseland / Drums, the band is currently working on a studio album due in June 2016. Let’s hear more from Lee Payne himself:
Hi Lee. Talking about Cloven Hoof albums – are you excited about the latest from the group?
I am really proud of ‘Resist or Serve’ album, the tracks sound really fresh and exciting and there are some real crowd pleasers like ‘Deliverance’, ‘Brimstone and Fire’ and ‘HellDiver’. We launched the album at our debut at Sweden Rock Festival 2014 with Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and Foghat to name but a few who were on the bill. We went down a storm so much so that we were asked to start work on a follow up album and that is exactly what we have been doing for the past 9 months. It got some great reviews and pleased the fans and critics alike so I have to really had to raise the bar for the next album to top it. I think without doubt that the next album will be the greatest Cloven Hoof album of all time and will be our magnum opus.
What has kept the band going for so many years?
When you believe in something then you should fight for it, no matter what obstacles get thrown in your way. If you believe in yourself and your music then it will endure. A band is nothing without its fans, and Cloven Hoof fans are some of the most loyal and die hard supporters in metal.
Their letters of encouragement are a constant source of inspiration and as long as they will keep buying the albums, then I will keep writing them. In over a 30 year history there will be line up changes and style changes – it is inevitable. Every musician plays differently so the chemistry has to be right. People change and so do agendas. Sometimes it is necessary to inject the band with new blood to stop the sound becoming stale. Cloven Hoof always stand for music played from the heart, regardless of fashion trends. We have always stuck to our guns and the metal world know that this band is the real deal and that we have musical integrity.
Another thing that keeps me going is that you always think that your greatest song lies ahead otherwise what’s the point? I feel lucky and honoured to be part of the NWOBHM genre. The test of good music is whether it endures the test of time and it is true to say that Cloven Hoof are more popular now than they have ever been.
Keeping it true is everything and heavy metal is my life. I will keep playing it Loud till I die!
Who do you like in metal and hard rock, Lee?
My taste never changes really, from the minute I heard ‘Highway Star’ by Deep Purple I was instantly blown away, it was a life changing moment. I think I was 13 years old and Ritchie Blackmore will always be my ultimate hero. I love just about everything that he does. The reason I bought my first bass was that I fantasised about being in a band with him!
In terms of my actual style, Geddy Lee of Rush and Chris Squire of Yes have been my prime influences. Geezer Butler was great the way he used to bounce off the octaves with cool bass lines and I think ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ is my 2nd favourite album of all time.
I love melody too and I think the 2 greatest singers are Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford, Judas Priest. Ronnie is a massive loss and it broke my heart when he died.
Where drummers are concerned John Bonham was in a league of his own and there is the incredible Neil Peart of Rush.
Another big influence must be the late great Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy. They really turned me on to guitar harmonies.
Are you interested in the occult?
Yes most definitely! The only trouble is I wanted to use the occult subject matter for purely entertainment reasons. I was so naive and thought it was bullshit and only the gullible would be believe in Hocus Pocus and magic. Horror and mysticism lends itself perfectly to doom laden riffs that categorises Heavy Metal – the music that I love. Because of this an ex girlfriend of mine, who worked at a library, got me The Book of Shadows that was used by Alastair Crowley etc. I thought if I’m going to write songs about Black Magic, why not use the real thing, what harm could it do?
As fate would have it I wrote the song ‘Cloven Hoof’ on Beltane Night, a Witches Sabbath. I came up with a spooky finger picking guitar piece that I got our guitarist to play whilst I started reciting passages from The Book of Shadows. Then what happened next was really strange! My Fender Stratocaster that was on a stand suddenly of its own volition, seemed to get flung across the room. The guitarist nearly shit himself and ran from my house all the way home! There was a really eerie atmosphere for a couple of days afterwards and I had a few sleepless nights in there I can tell you!
When we got our first vocalist I didn’t tell him anything about this incident because he might think we were crazy, but when I gave him the song ‘Cloven Hoof’ to learn, he rang me up the next day and said he felt like some invisible hands were holding his legs and that he couldn’t move. He refused to sing the song unless I changed the witches rune part.
When we were recording the debut album for Neat Records, I told the producer about this stuff and he said that Venom had had some similar experiences. Imagine his surprise when we played the ‘Cloven Hoof’ song and all the gear in the studio stopped working when we got to the Witches Chant! They sent us home for 2 weeks while they traced what was wrong, they didn’t find anything wrong with the gear, so I chopped out some more of the witches rune to be on the safe side.
Over the years numerous strange coincidences have happened whilst performing the ‘Cloven Hoof’ song so we stopped performing it live for 20 years because everybody thought it bought bad luck. It is only now that it is in the set because the fans love it and I love it too!
In conclusion I think there is more in heaven than can be explained and if you believe in God then you must believe in the Devil. I think you should leave the occult alone because you are messing with something that cannot be explained. Things that have happened to this band cannot be explained away as mere coincidence, the name of the band, Cloven Hoof, is the ultimate blasphemy, worshippers at the feet of the Devil but I loved that name the minute I thought of it. It has 3 syllables that the fans can chant. CLO – VEN – HOOF! I feel very proud and privileged that I can hear them chanting for us before a gig. There is no feeling on earth like it!
What are the future plans for Cloven Hoof?
I have been finishing off the bass on the new album, recorded in the UK and the US. The eagerly awaited new studio album, as yet untitled, is sounding amazing. Without doubt it will be Cloven Hoof’s best ever album. All the rhythm and lead guitars have been completed and the vocals are the greatest in the band’s history. The drums are shortly due to be recorded in the USA so expect a 100% Metal Masterpiece.
High Roller are releasing ‘Eye of the Sun’ for the first time on vinyl. The much acclaimed album was previously available only on CD but now it will be available on both formats and downloads.
The album featured a fantastic line up of musicians containing some classic songs such as ‘Inquisitor’ , ‘Angels in Hell’, ‘Golgotha’ and ‘Whore of Babylon’. Tom Galley’s production was superb and he had previously worked with such greats as Brian May, Queen; Scott Gorman, Thin Lizzy and Glenn Hughes as well as other numerous Rock legends.
We will be touring America for the first time next year so 2016 will be a very exciting year in the bands history… the best is yet to come!