You may not know Becky Baldwin. She’s the bassist in the Midlands outfit Fury, former bassist with South Wales band Triaxis and much more besides. She’s a qualified music instructor and prolific user of Instagram with her own YouTube channel and website. In fact, she’s one of the most talented people I know. In 2022, she experienced one of the most incredible years, touring America with Mercyful Fate. Some might call it a fairy tale, a miracle perhaps. I call it a reward for years of dedication to her art and craft. I caught up with Becky at Fury’s headline gigs in Merthyr Tydfil and Bristol before Christmas and floated the idea of a chat about her year. This is the result.
Interview: Paul Hutchings
In April 2020, Fury released their fourth album, The Grand Prize. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Mere days before the UK and much of the World had plunged into the unprecedented lockdown, the hysterical response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Watching that virtual torpedo hit the good ship Fury full on, one could only feel for the band who had poured everything into the album. Like most musicians, Becky threw herself into her work, spending hours posting to her social media accounts, playing her signature Rickenbacker bass along with numerous classic rock and Metal tracks. Amongst them, Into the Coven by Mercyful Fate, the seminal ’80s band led by the legendary King Diamond. It seems that her army of fans were not the only people watching Becky Baldwin’s Instagram posts.
I caught up with Becky on a rainy Friday afternoon in early January. The week that follows Christmas and New Year can be a miserable time as things return to normal. Becky is well and in good form. She looks relaxed and in a good place. In fact, we talked for our entire 40 minutes (mandatory limit by Zoom) and probably could have spent another 40 minutes chatting.
We roll back to 22 December 2021. Fury played a Christmas show at The Exchange in Bristol. It was a strange evening with the shadow of Omicron lurking. Fans were reluctant to turn out, and many that did were masked up. It was a subdued atmosphere, but Fury made sure everyone was sent home with a smile (under the mask if necessary!).
A year later, Fury played at the same venue at almost the same time. The atmosphere was markedly different. A strange 12 months, I suggest. “Yeah, definitely, yeah. People are coming back to gigs now, and a lot of people who bought tickets for the show in 2021 weren’t showing up because the government gave them the ultimatum. Go out now, and you’re probably risking going to see your family at Christmas, and I understand that people aren’t gonna pick Fury over their Christmas dinners.”
In March 2022, Fury released their cracking album Born to Sin. It’s seriously good. It was an exciting time for Fury, with the hope that lightning didn’t strike twice. “It was a busy time,” Becky says. “We were working on some music videos. We did music videos for If You Get To Hell First and Nowhere To Be Seen. We ran quite a long pre-order because we wanted to start it when we released Hell Of A Night.
“I think it was back in October of the previous year, so it was quite a long, six, seven-month pre-order. So yeah, there was a lot to catch up with. Then you start thinking, oh, hang on, what were we thinking back in October? I’ve lost track of everything that’s going on. But we started getting things together then. The CDs and things started to arrive in late February or early March. We were still waiting on the vinyl for a long time, so we still couldn’t complete everyone’s full order.
“But we were getting the bundles out. We had special bundles for just 100 people, which took a while to get together. As a DIY band, we’re packing all our own orders and getting them shipped out and just hoping that the whole Brexit thing didn’t affect the European fans too much.
“We released the album in March and started some shows. We did a warmup show in Sheffield just before the official release and then started the tour in Swindon. I think you were there [indeed I was], and that was the official start of the tour.”
As you’d expect, the tour got better as it went on. “To be honest, that was probably the quietest gig of the whole run,” Becky says. “It started to really climb as we went through the rest of the year, which is great. Word of mouth was getting out that it’s a fun show, and maybe people were picking up on the album and wanting to come. So yeah, that was the start of the year, and it went really well.”
It may be something you’ve never thought about, and I admit it wasn’t at the front of my mind, but how does a band like Fury evaluate success? It’s a point Becky makes during our conversation. “I always think about albums, and you think okay, did it make it or was it a flop and for an independent band there is no real answer. Neither of these things really exists.
“You’re self-funding it and you must do everything within your own means. There’s no expectation, no putting a load of money into this and then it doesn’t make money back. You only do what you know you can afford to do. It would have been nice to have been picked up by more magazines, get more reviews, more features, and more radio airplay. But we did what we could, and the fans are liking it, so I think that’s all we can really do until the next album cycle.
“I would say it was a success, and it was great just to be back touring again because we couldn’t tour the previous album when it came out. It was nice to have the merch stand fully equipped with all the CDs and get back to doing an album like we used to do. Not just live streams online, actually seeing the fans and playing it together, not virtually.”
Becky’s 2022 journey then rolled on to the Download Festival. Amazingly, Fury had been sitting on it for some time. “We actually knew about that in 2020,” she explains. “I can’t remember at what point of the year we were offered the slot, but I think it was early 2020, and we knew we’d been shortlisted before the lockdown.
“Then, after the lockdown, they were still going through the process. They still decided to pick the bands that were going to play Download in 2020, but there was a little online thing promoting them. We were thinking, that’s pretty good, but we still want to play Download. We weren’t sure if it would roll over to the next year or if they would do a whole new competition. I’d understand if they wanted to do that because some bands that were relevant in 2020 hadn’t survived into the next year. The lockdown was the end for a lot of bands.
“We hoped they’d roll it over and they did. But, of course, 2021 was just the pilot. So, it was finally 2022 when we got to do it. So, we’d known about it for two years.”
Becky’s played numerous festivals in her career, Amplified, Bloodstock and Steelhouse, to name but three. I wondered if there was much difference between the Download experience in comparison to smaller festivals. She explains that apart from the size of Download, which is a maze with a crazy layout, it mainly depends on the stage that the band play on.
“They’ve moved the unsigned stage that we were on,” Becky says. “They’ve moved it from an indoor tent to a smaller outdoor one, so there could be a lot more people watching, but the stage itself was quite a bit smaller. I don’t know whether maybe the previous ones had a rolling drum riser where you could set up your own drum kit and stuff, but that was out of the question for our thing. So it was like a lot of the smaller festivals.”
Becky explains the difference between festivals is often how much you can call the shots. “If you’re playing a smaller festival, but you’re on one of the bigger stages at the festival, they will be like, ‘okay, we’re accommodating you.’ Whereas if you’re playing a big festival on a small stage, you have to work with them and do what you’re told.”
As for the day itself, Becky says it was fantastic. “We were a bit concerned that it was forecast for a lot of rain that weekend. At first, we said, great, we’re in a tent, and everyone’s gonna come inside the tent to shelter. And then we’re like, oh no, it’s been moved outside. Luckily the rain held off while we played, and it was just a really nice day.
“We had one of the best responses on the day. People didn’t know who we were, but they were up for it. It was the first day, the Wednesday. People had put their tents up, opened their first beers, and you have a high-energy band. It felt right and everyone was in the right frame of mind. It’s their first Download in two years for a lot of them. So it was a cool party, and it went down well.”
We reach the point in the interview when the discussion turns to Mercyful Fate. For those who don’t know, it was at Bloodstock Festival in August that Becky was approached by King Diamond’s wife and management and asked to step into the large shoes of Joey Vera for the North American leg of Mercyful Fate’s tour.
This leads us full circle to those Instagram and social media posts during lockdown. We discussed how Becky’s own self-doubt threatened her health during 2022.
“You’re thinking, what can I do,” Becky says. “Sometimes you know you’ve already done enough and it’s just the right time and the right place, and you don’t know where it’s [opportunity] is going to come from. The opportunity with Mercyful Fate came from videos I was posting on Instagram and stuff.
“When they were looking for a bassist, they started thinking, ‘oh, we’ve been given this list of guys. Does it have to be a guy because I don’t really want any of these people to play?’ Then they start thinking, maybe we should look for a girl.
“Hank Sherman [Mercyful Fate guitarist] said, ‘maybe we should check out this girl Becky from England. She plays Metal bass, and these are all her covers and things on YouTube.’
“All those times that I was saying, this is a waste of time, posting on YouTube. Because I want to be a real musician, I wanna get out and play. Trying to balance those two things was hard. But it was all worth it because someone saw it. I think he first found my videos quite a few years ago, and he was just kind of waiting for the right time.”
Saturday, 13 August 2022, will live long in the memory of many. Mercyful Fate’s headline set at Bloodstock was magnificent, and I for one was lost in those two seminal albums from my teens that formed the basis of the band’s set.
But my memories will pale in comparison with Becky’s. As she has acknowledged on social media, she wasn’t having the best of days. Becky tells the tale. “I’d had a few drinks,” she says. “I was there to enjoy the festival. I’m quite a pessimistic person in a lot of ways. So, if I get an opportunity to do something, I don’t always expect a lot from it.
“I was approached by Sophie from Painkiller clothing, and she says, ‘there’s someone who wants to meet you. Her name’s Olivia.’ I’m like, okay, yeah, I’ll meet her. But then I’m told to wait here, and Sophie will come back and get me, so don’t leave the VIP bar. I wanted to get back to my tent and charge my phone.
“But I wait, and she comes back. I don’t know who Olivia is, but it turns out that she’s King’s wife and assistant for the band. So, she was organising a lot of this. She brought me through to the backstage, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going backstage.'”
At this time, Dimmu Borgir were finishing their special guest slot, and the next band was obviously Mercyful Fate.
“I’m wondering, maybe I’ll be meeting Mercyful Fate,” Becky says, “and there was some waiting around, and Sophie didn’t really know anything. Someone, who I later found out was from the band’s management, asks me, ‘Do you know what you’re doing here?’ And I’m like, no, I’m excited about whatever it is.” Becky was hoping she might meet the band.
“They said they want me to come to America.”
At this point, Becky tells me the penny still hasn’t dropped. Laughing, she says that she wondered if it was to be an extra in the show. Or maybe run the merch!
“I didn’t want to let my imagination run too wild,” Becky says, “but I have no idea what I’m doing there. Then the management person says they need a bass player for the tour. I’m like, what? I’ve had a few drinks beforehand, and I’m trying to focus on what’s going on. I’m telling myself, this is important. You need to be cool. You need to be normal and not lose your shit!”
Becky was taken along to meet King Diamond, who was in his full stage gear and face paint. “They filmed an interview with King and me,” she says, “just chatting. It felt so weird because I was put on the spot, meeting someone I’ve always looked up to as an artist, and I was being filmed while doing it. I’ve been given this crazy news, and I’m thinking this footage might be used to introduce me to Mercyful Fate fans. So I’m saying to myself, don’t say something stupid, don’t get a date wrong on which album was released when or something. Just be vague.”
With King in his full-face paint, it’s quite challenging to determine how they respond. “You’re trying to figure out what they are expressing as they’ve just got this dark makeup. Are they happy? [laughs] Thankfully, it went well. It was a nice chat, and he said he watched my videos and was really impressed. I also met Joey [Vera], who I was replacing because he was touring with Armored Saint, who were supporting W.A.S.P at the same time.”
One of my long-time camping buddies at Bloodstock is Krissie Kirby, vocalist at Rites To Ruin and long-time bandmate of Becky in Triaxis. It was Krissie who broke the news to me shortly after the Mercyful Fate set.
Becky explains that she was in some state of shock after that experience. “I didn’t really have any battery on my phone because I was meant to go back to the campsite and charge it. But I didn’t tell anyone that I was there, and it turned out most of my friends didn’t watch Mercyful Fate in the end and were in the campsite, hanging out.
“I didn’t tell them anything until I rolled back to the campsite at 2:00 am. I said, ‘you’ll never guess what just happened.'”
In part two, Becky talks about the Mercyful Fate American tour. You can read that here.