Garry Bowler / “I had spoken to Bernie and he agreed right away”

16 April 2021

Garry Bowler [Magpie] will release his reinvention of the Rock Classic ‘Dance With The Devil’. Titled ‘Dancing With The Devil’, this fantastic version also includes performances by Neil Murray, David Stone, Frankie Aiello and Bernie Tormé.

The 1974 track was written by Phil Dennys and Michael Hayes, taking inspiration from Sandy Nelson’s instrumental track ‘Let There Be Drums’ along with the melody line from Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’.

MetalTalk spoke with Garry to find out more.

Cozy’s ‘Dance With The Devil’ was a No.3 smash in the ’74 UK Singles chart. Some 47 years later, you are about to release your fresh and exciting version of the classic. Can you talk about where the idea for this project came about?

Garry Bowler: “The idea came from a drum intro for a track on the Satan’s Empire album ‘Rising’. The track starts with an improvised drum fill. The first intro take did not feel right, so I insisted on a retake and I decided to incorporate a reference to the track ‘Dance With The Devil’ – Satan’s Empire…you get the link?

“I thought nothing of it and did not really think that it would be noticed…but it was. Paul Madden, who was engineering the album, contacted me months later and suggested I covered the original track. I wasn’t really interested, as the track had been done many times, as the original and I didn’t see the point.

“Strangely, whilst on holiday sitting poolside, the melody [Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’] came into my head and I began to wonder if words could fit the melody. I dashed out to the nearest shop, bought a notepad and pen and began to work on a potential new drum arrangement and lyric ideas.”

With Neil, David, Frankie and Bernie joining you, that is quite a mouth watering lineup. Did they all jump at the chance to perform?

“The first thing I needed to do was to record the drums, so as to give potential collaborators an idea of the standard of drumming they would commit to. I arranged a session at a studio in London operated by the 3MS Music label and recorded the drum arrangement as a solo piece , pretty much in one take.

“I enlisted the help of Satan’s Empire guitarist Paul Lewis, who recorded a guide guitar part for me to work from as we recorded the drums. Once the drum track was completed, an initial mix was done and the first person I contacted was Neil Murray. I sent him the drum track and he agreed to put down his bass part.

“I then had a great foundation to work from, as well as a name on board, which would help in the process of approaching other players for the track.

“I had spoken to Bernie and he agreed right away. I had worked with him previously over the years.
I have always liked Frankie Aiello’s vocal delivery on Cozy’s track ‘Na Na Na’ and through a mutual friend, I arranged to meet up with him on the Isle Of White where he lives.

“Once he heard the track development, he agreed to add his vocals and so I arranged a studio over there and went over to oversee his session.

“David Stone lives in Canada. He was interested in the track, so I arranged a studio for him out there to use. He was the last piece of the musical jigsaw and I had to wait a while before he was in a position to record.”

And it is a touching tribute to have Bernie with his last recording (RIP). What was he like to work with?

“Bernie was a fabulous person to work with. I spent a few hours with him on the day of the recording at his studio. We talked about music a lot, his then recent meet up with Ozzy and his plans for his ‘Final Fling’ tour.

“In his hallway he had all the equipment and merchandise ready for the tour. He loved my drum sound and complimented me on my playing. In the track arrangement there is a musical bridge which leads into the middle section. “I f**king hate funk!, I just can’t get that groove!”…he nailed it though.

“His solo outro he worked on for a while, trying ideas, until he was happy with his playing. A very unique player, which was exactly why I asked him to play on the track. I’m so very glad I did…”

Was it a collaborative effort to get the track over the line, or did you always have in your mind what you wanted to achieve?

“I had a clear idea from the initial jotting down the ideas in the notepad. As far as the performances were concerned, I let the musicians play how they wished. The only guidance that was needed was Frankie in the studio, as to how the vocals would sit within the track, as it was originally an instrumental.

“I worked with producer Stephen Loveday throughout the process, who did a brilliant job peicing together and mixing the track.”

RAK Publishing were happy to authorize the release… was that easy to arrange? Did they jump on the idea straight away?

“In 2018, my initial talks with the label were positive. It took a while to get the paperwork sorted, something I felt needed to be done before the release. I would like to thank Sarah Munro from the 3MS label for helping to complete this process.

“RAK insisted on changing the track title so as not to confuse it with the original, hence the track is now ‘Dancing with the Devil’ and not ‘Dance…’.”

It is great to be able to have a fresh look at the track. Where did the inspiration for the lyrics come from?

“The inspiration came from Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’ and the words ‘Magic Sticks’. The lyrics, I felt, needed to have a story and as it is only two verses had to have a purpose. The ‘Devil’ figure using his influence to gain control.

“Incidentally, Santana uses the melody line from ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ often in a song arrangement.”

Cozy is still seen as an iconic drummer. Personally, I love the Rainbow Live in ’76 CD – the capture of the whole performance is stunning and his drums really underpin the ‘massive’ sound they had live. I guess he must have been an inspiration for you….?

“As an 11 year old watching Top Of The Pops and seeing Cozy on the TV promoting his solo single releases, gave me the confidence to take my playing seriously. I only saw him play live once with Rainbow, but he was such a bombastic player, you could not fail to be impressed with his power and driving of the band.

“Again, an inspiration and he gave me the desire to push myself as a player and to drive, influence and support anyone I play with musically.”

The 2017 lunch for Cozy you attended, can you talk about that? Was it this room full of Metal glitterati?

“The lunch was a lower key affair, which was a celebration a year after the commemorative plaque unveiling. I met up once again with Neil Murray, Don Airey, Tony Martin etc. The plaque event saw the likes of Tony Iommi, Brian May and Suzi Quatro in attendance.”

Is your track the only track which will come from this, or are there others planned?

“This track took around five years to put together, from notebook scribble to release date, including supporting video. The video is unique in itself in that it only features me.

“I didn’t want to put together a ‘lockdown’ type of remote performances and it would not have been possible to put anything together without Bernie anyway.

“As far as other plans, I do have ideas, which may develop…”

Do you have any other plans for solo work?

“I would like to pursue my own ideas further. Collaborating on the level I have has been a fantastic experience. It would only really work if I can get the right people involved to work together as a team.

“The instrumental aspect has been covered incredibly well by the likes of Cozy Powell, so I would not look at that as an option. Vocal ideas and arrangements with great drum and percussion parts is something that appeals to me, hence why I saw value in reworking the original instrumental track into a song.”

Satans Empire – How is the new album shaping up? It must have been fantastic to have Derek back after his illness and it is really great to read that he is back and healthy.

“The new album material is coming together really well. It has diversity and will make a great addition to any live sets. Derek’s health took another nose dive recently, he damaged his chest in a fall and is recovering again at home. The band are working without him until he is back to full health.

“Derek is a fantastic vocalist and a strong front person, a rare talent indeed. Maybe bubble wrap and his own padded flight case to travel in will help him stay safe and out of harm…the band are really looking forward to getting out to the live environment once again.”

With the enforced break of Covid, how much are you looking forward to getting back into the swing of things? Any news on the first gig yet?

“Like many others, this is what we are meant to do…perform in front of people. We are chomping at the bit to play live, but we have to be realistic about how and where we are able to play. We are looking into maybe a handful of live events this year in order to knock the cobwebs off and get us back out in front of an audience.”

Any message for the fans?

“For any supporters of the arts…please continue to attend events and support the work of these talented, creative and unique people…without you, we would not exist.

“Thank you to all those people who have made my release possible, not least my other half Alison Metcalfe, who has encouraged and supported all I have done over the years and continues to support my musical journey.

“And thanks for the money to buy the notepad and pen!”

To pre-order the single, please visit orcd.co/7r08ox4

There will also be a 12” format (Coloured Sleeve & Black Vinyl, 3MS026LP) exclusively for Record Store Day 2021 on 17 July. 

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