Scotland’s Medusa Touch is another NWOBHM band I wasn’t aware of until recently. But Internet can be a big help in terms of discovering new names and thanks to Strappado’s Heavy Metal Rarities Forum I finally got a chance to listen to the band’s music. So I contacted Gordon “Gogsy” Sinclair and here we are talking about what it was like to be a heavy metal band in Edinburgh in the late 70’s — mid 80’s.
Hi, Gogsy! When did you start to listen to heavy music? What bands were your favourites?
From 1979 to 1982 I played in punk band called Threats. I still do to this day. But that came to an end in 1982. I had a friend called Joe who was a good guitar player who used to come round to Threats band practices. I started to go round his house and he's let me hear lots of rock I hadn't heard before. The ones I really remember were MSG, Iron Maiden and the Scorpions.
What was the metal scene in Edinburgh like back in the late 70’s? Were you friends with the guys Holocaust or The Exploited?
I was still in the punk scene in the late 70's but we played with the Exploited a few times back then. Much later on in 2003 Threats had a bass player who used to play in Holocaust. It’s a small world.
Were there plenty of clubs and venues which supported rock/metal bands with original songs? Which clubs in the city were as cult and famous as the “Marquee” was? Do you remember magazines, fanzines, radios or DJs who supported metal and helped the metal scene in Edinburgh to develop?
There were two main clubs that bands played at in Edinburgh. One was the Nite Club and the other was the Venue (Metallica turned up there one time).They were the mainstay of small band venues. There was another venue called Preservation Hall that had all different types of band play there. Medusa Touch played there loads of times. There was a great DJ in Edinburgh who used to do his stuff at the Nite Club called Mike Sword, real name too. Mike was great at bringing out the new tunes. He is still about to this day. I don’t remember many fanzines back then. Most people read "Kerrang!" and "Metal Hammer" for their Metal fix.
Who came up with the name Medusa Touch? Were you influenced by the movie with the same name?
Yes that's exactly where the name came from. All the guys in the band wanted a different name, so we put all the names in a hat with first choice and second choice names. Every voted for a different first choice but we all wanted Medusa Touch as the second choice. Real democracy, everybody gets what nobody wants (chuckles).
Who was in the original line-up? Could you give a short overview of the line-up changes (including full names of the musicians) in Medusa Touch from 1982 to 1990?
OK here goes.
First Line Up (1982) was a 5 piece (Maiden style): Colin Milne — vocals, Gogsy (Gordon Sinclair) — guitar, Joe Gardner — guitar (that's Joe from question 1), Mike Murray — bass, John Allison — drums.
Line Up 2 swapped Joe out with a new guitarist called Colin Stewart, and drummer John Alison out and replaced with Craig Robertson.
Line Up 3 say quite a drastic change down to a 3 Piece. Gogsy moved onto main vocal and guitar, Colin voved onto bass and Craig was the drummer. I think this was our best line up.
Line Up 4 was a change to the drummer and another guitarist, Michael Hunter was the new drummer and John (Snoddy) Snodgrass joined as a second guitar.
What can you recall from the early days of the band? Was it easy to find a place for rehearsals? What covers did you play at first? What were your first originals songs?
We had a rehearsal room at the local school it was a classroom. It was great. Later on we moved into a proposer rehearsal room that had really bad damp. I much preferred the school. Early covers were most of the tracks from “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden, some Whitesnake, AC/DC, Sabbath, we tried some Rush but just weren't capable at that time (laughs). The first original songs were “Medusa Touch”, there was another couple I can’t remember there name of, but I can still play them. After that there were “Incubus”, “I Can't Leave Her”, “Twice as Nice”, “Craze Amazing”, “Savage Circle”, there were demo tapes done but they are a looooong time lost.
Tell me please about your studio recordings. How many demos did you record? Where and when were they recorded? What songs were on each demo? Were the demos popular in the tape-trading circuit? Did you have proper singles or EP?
All together we did 2 studio demo's we recorded them in a studio in Edinburgh called Wilf's Planet. The chap who run it is called Wilf Smarties, he is famous for discovering Wet Wet Wet (remember them, pop band). We used to sell audio cassettes of the demos at gigs.
Did you shop the demos to labels? Why didn’t you get any deal with any label back then?
We never really got anywhere with the cassettes and getting them into record companies. I think there were better bands than us around and they never got signed either. To be honest I can’t really remember any of the local Edinburgh bands getting signed by a big label, or even an indie label.
What was the reaction on your songs from press? Did you do interviews or something for local or national magazines or radio stations?
We didn't get any radio play at all. At the time metal was massive and there was a real glut of bands from everywhere. Trying to get noticed was really difficult.
Did you play enough shows? Tell me everything you can recall about the gig you played. Did you have a chance to play outside Scotland or support some well known band? Which shows of Medusa Touch would you mark as most memorable or biggest?
We could always have played more. The gigs at the Presevation Hall in Edinburgh were great. (This was the 3 piece band). When we started on stage we would play the theme song from the Smurfs as our intro music and Craig the drummer would be on stage all by himself. He'd count in the band with 4 Hi Hats then, Boom, we would all come in. Colin (bass) and myself (guitar) would be hiding in the kitchen and would run out through the crowd and run along the bar onto the stage. We would always start with “Twice as Nice”, great opener. Another good gig was at the Venue in Edinburgh. The odd thing about this gig was there was a structural column right in the middle of the stage at the front. One time we were booked to support Madame X, a metal band from America. The singer of that band was an unknown Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) and bass and drums were the two Petrucci sisters. BUT, the gig was cancelled at the last moment, I think because of a family bereavement from one of the Madame X band members.
Tell me about your approach to songwriting at the time. Who was the main songwriter? Did the band members write alone or was it a collective process?
Most songs were written either by me and Mike Murray (bass player) and then by me and Colin (bass player). Writing usually started out as a jam at band practices and a few riffs would pop out. We recorded all these on cassette recorders and then would take them home to work on them. We were very good at writing songs actually, we became very proficient at it. It really didn’t take very long to get the bones of a good song and melody.
Why did the band split-up in 1990? Did you tired of being in the band or was it because of lack of interest in the band from fans?
We never really split up we just drifted apart.
What you’ve been doing musically since 1990?
Threats got back together in 1997 and I rejoined in 2002. I had done nothing in metal music between 1990 and 2002. I did however play in a pipe band as a drummer. You know what a pipe band is, right? I started off as a drummer and went back to it in these years. I have been with Threats ever since. However, me and some friends from the 80's metal scene got together in 2014 and put together a 80's metal cover band called Mooseknuckle. This band is also the current Medusa Touch.
A year ago the bass played Mike lost his battle with cancer which is really sad. Tell us a bit about him. What stories or memories come to your mind when you think about the man?
Mike moved away to London in about 1984 (ish). I really lost contact with him in all that time. I was actually due to see him about 4 months before he passed away but he didn’t make it to Scotland. That was a real shame. Mike was a great person, he was kind but was massive, I am 6'2” but he towered over me. He really reminded me of Joey Ramone. Memories from then aren't just one or two it’s a whole load of great times, I just remember us all laughing and drinking and having loads of fun. We used to call him NANA because of his long hair because he was like Nana Mouskouri, he really hated that (laughs).
Do you still stay in touch with other ex-members of Medusa Touch? What they are doing now?
We all got together at Mike's Funeral. That was good. Craig (drummer) I see time to time , he even helped Mooseknuckle out when our drummer was ill. Colin hasn't picked up a bass since 1990 I don't think. No one else is still playing. I think Michael Hunter still plays from time to time but he emigrated to USA many years ago.
As far as I can understand you decided to resurrect the band around 2010. What caused the reunion? Do you think that the band has some unfinished business? What have you done since then?
I recorded a lot of Medusa Touch material in 2010, but that was all just me. In 2014, Mooseknuckle got together and that will be the Medusa Touch band if we decide to play again. It looks like we will though people are taking an interest.
Can you comment on the songs which are uploaded to your Reverbnation page? Is it original recordings or did you re-recorded them with the new line-up?
There are two new songs on there, “RBS” and “Ball Breaker”. All the others are from back in the day. There are others still to record or finish recording that I will post up. I have a home studio now and the chaps from Mooseknuckle come here to lay down their parts.
Are you aware of Medusa Touch from Coventry? Isn’t it a problem for you that someone uses the same name?
I did come across the band on Myspace a while back (remember that?). I don't know them though.
As far as I can understand you are working on some new stuff at the moment. Can you tell us a bit about it? Will it be a bunch of songs or will it be a full-length release? Please introduce the new line-up, by the way.
The new band is the same line up as Mooseknuckle: Gordon Sinclair — guitar and vocals, Ian Dempster — bass, Nigel Robinson — guitar, Bruce McInnes — drums. We have about four tracks that we could play at the moment the rest would be from the old sets (songs on Reverbnation). We could always write more if people were keen/ interested.
Have you ever been approached by labels who would like to re-issue your stuff? Don’t you want to put out an anthology of your back catalogue?
No interest from any labels although I did get an enquiry from someone the other day and I lost the name, aaaaargh. Typical. I need to try and get it back. If you know of anyone let us know. Certainly interested to put out the material.
What are your plans for the future? Feel free to add here some words for heavy metal fans over the world.
To keep playing as long as I can. Metal never leaves you it’s always in your blood and that feels great. I still listen to it every day and have a very wide taste. I want to try and play for as long as I can before I can’t do it justice anymore. Then I'll just listen.
Medusa Touch on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/medusatouch/