Legend from the British Channel Island Jersey is one of the most innovative bands of the glorious New Wave Of British Heavy Metal period. Pete Haworth (guitar) formed the group way back in the summer of 1980. Along with similar acts such as Shiva, Omega or Bleak House Jersey's Legend plays a progressive yet very heavy style of Metal.
Not being able to secure a record deal Mike Lezala (vocals), Marco Morosino (guitar), Eggy Aubert (bass), Dave Whitley (drums) and the mentioned Peter Haworth formed their own label Workshop Records and issued three very collectible records: ?Legend? (1981), ?Death In The Nursery? (1982) and a limited edition 12" EP including four tracks (1982). By 1984, however, they had called it quits after a final live appearance at London's legendary Marquee club, where a pretty well-known musician was in attendance. Pete Haworth recalls: "We didn?t play very well, however, Lemmy did buy a copy of ?Death In The Nursery? and asked me to sign it. Then he took me and my brother Neil to some club in Soho and I can?t remember much after that!"
In 1998, a compilation entitled ?Retroshock 1981-1984? was issued on CD. This rekindled the interest in Legend and the band reformed to release their fantastic ?Still Screaming? record in 2003. (The album was later re-issued on vinyl via High Roller Records with new artwork.) Pete Haworth comments: "When the band split in 1984 we all continued to do our own thing. I did a
lot of solo recording, Mike continued to play and write and Neil did an
album that I wrote a couple of songs for. We all played live in a few bands
and I kept writing and recording, but I'm sure we didn't think that Legend
would ever return. It was only when the internet became widely available that I realised how our music had travelled the globe and seemed to be so well appreciated. I worked with Dennis from 'Rockadrome' on the Legend anthology in 2001-2002 and really got the buzz back to do something serious. The songs where there and my fingers still worked so I contacted Mike and we embarked on the 'Haworth Lezala' project. Over the course of many months, sharing ideas and working on parts of the songs at our own studios, the album ?Still Screaming? slowly came together. I guess we could not deny that it sounded like Legend, so decided to release it under the 'Legend' name, even though it was just the two of us. I did all the music and Mike did all the vocals. It is an album I'm very proud of and the subject matter of the songs stayed true to what Legend has always been. So I guess it was a comeback album ... but deep down I don't think we ever went away .. just took a long time between albums."
?The Dark Place? is the band's fourth full-length album and does feature some of their best ever material. Songs such as "Halls Of The Dead" or "Burn With Your Demons" do sound surprisingly contemporary without Legend turning their backs on the classic N.W.O.B.H.M. style. The record includes a new recording of "Taste Of Life" (from the debut album) as well as an alternative take on "Questions And Answers" (originally off their 1983 demo tape). Pete Haworth: "We wanted to make the best album we could and play
songs about things that we consider important. I wanted to approach ?The Dark Place? in the same way as the old days. Play every song live and then do any overdubs that were needed. Mike recorded all the vocals and then, just as he did 30 years ago, he sang the double track vocal and then the harmonies. We did not want to use the current fashionable 'vocaliser' where people sound like they are singing even if they can't sing. The contemporary sound is probably due to the fact that it was not recorded on tape in an old 16 track studio where everything had to be 'bounced down', it was a full digital studio. I miss the old tape studios. At the end of 'Prologue' on our ?Death in the Nursery? album the sudden slow down and stop of the track was me putting my hand on the tape reels! Happy days. But on ?The Dark Place? we were lucky to have access to the best studio in Jersey so we gave it our best shot. When we recorded ?Still Screaming? we did a new version of 'Hiroshima' from the first album. I wanted to play the song as originally intended which at
the time (1980) was not possible due to the limitations of time on a vinyl
album. After we released ?Still Screaming? I wanted to pick old songs and re-record them on future albums. 'Questions And Answers' was a cassette tape demo which was such a good song it deserved to be recorded properly and 'Taste of Life' was the first song that ever got radio airplay (Tommy Vance's BBC Friday Rock Show) so it seemed right that we tried to give them an update."
"Too late to be a Hero" sounds like an autobiographical song but according to Pete Haworth it isn't: "No, not at all ? we wrote the song 30 years ago and played it live many times to end our gigs. When we recorded ?Death in the Nursery? it was a choice between 'Too Late' and 'Lazy Woman'. 'Lazy Woman' ended up on the album and 'Too Late' got lost in time. It was only when I was going through old cassette recordings of rehearsals that I decided to bring it back to life. The song is about someone who goes to war and has a family who wants them back ? before it's too late."
My two favourite songs on the album are the title song because of its
rather progressive changes and "Paragon" because it is really accessible
showing almost a hymn-like quality - both are typical Legend songs. Which
are the songs of the album getting the best reactions so far? Pete Haworth explains: "The title song, 'Paragon' and 'Halls of the Dead' seem to be getting the most attention but 'Red' is by far the most popular for the prog-metal fans. It's weird, as the feedback I've had is that there isn't a bad track on the album
... which I find hard to believe!"
Legend has often described as a progressive N.W.O.B.H.M. band, so was the band actually aware of progressively-inclined contemporaries like
Bleak House, Omega or Shiva back in the early 1980s? Or was Jersey too far
removed for Legend to make a connection at all? There used to be a Record and Tape Exchange on Jersey in the 1980s, so Pete Haworth was able to buy all those records on Jersey ? "No, no connection," is his honest answer. "I listened to a whole world of different music. I was influenced initially by Jimi Hendrix and then Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Budgie ... all that late 1960's early 1970's stuff. We could buy the records in Jersey but had to order them as imports based on what we read in the music press. I listened to a lot of Zappa (still do) and King Crimson but I was always into Hard Rock. I remember ordering the early Rush albums, Kim Mitchell and Frank Marino from Canada. But I also listened to Chopin and Mozart so I guess the influences have had their effect. We never intended to be part of any movement, or copy anyone. We just did what we did. Mike's vocals are the crucial key to our music. He delivers the words in such a beautiful way, even when they are dark. And because his influences are totally different to mine then maybe that's how the 'Legend sound' is created."