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Interview with Tony of Dirty Deeds by Shelly Harris - March, 2000

It has just been announced that Iron Maiden have designated Dirty Deeds as one of the support bands for most of the upcoming dates for the European leg of Maiden's upcoming, much anticipated Metal 2000 World Tour. Of course Deeds, who have just released both of their CDs in the US for the first time (finally! see CD reviews), are immensely excited about this, especially considering that - in some respects - the last few years have been "the best of times, the worst of times," all rolled into one. Despite some earlier set-backs with their former US distributor, the time may now be right for this London-based band, who are also in the initial stages of arranging a second tour in the US in 2000. Thus, after the announcement on the Maiden website on March 3, it seemed like an opportune time to talk to Dirty Deeds’ bassist, Tony Newton, who was understandably excited about the recent news:

Tony: Obviously, we are over the moon about doing some shows with Maiden again. Steve Harris e-mailed me to tell me the news on Friday. I knew he was looking to get us on some shows, but Steve never tells me anything unless it's definite, that way we don't get too disappointed if things change. It's great to be playing with Maiden this year for a number of reasons. They are great people and good friends with us, it's the biggest tour this year, their crew treat us brilliantly, and we have always got a fantastic reaction from Maiden fans. In fact, it was the response we initially got from Maiden fans that made people sit up and take notice of us. Steve has been so good to Dirty Deeds over the years; he is constantly doing things for us. When you consider who he is and how busy he is, it's beyond belief.

I must interject at this point, that it is undeniable that what Tony says about Harris’ extraordinary, ongoing support of Dirty Deeds is obviously true, down to the littlest things that can sometimes make a difference. In fact, the first time I encountered Dirty Deeds was after one of their summer of ‘98 Midwest gigs with Iron Maiden. Steve and I had been backstage chatting, when he suddenly asked, with an unmistakable urgency, "Do you want to go up and see the support band? They’re really good."

Privately, Steve Harris has always had eclectic and refined taste in rock, and a deep interest in what’s going on musically beyond his own band, but when he gets that excited about a new band, after all these years, who wouldn’t be intrigued? However, as I stood there behind one of the monitors, I mainly wished I was seeing Dirty Deeds from the front of the stage--there was so much going on! Certainly, despite the fact that Deeds' vocalist, Pete Franklin, also plays rhythm guitar (i.e., there's no "traditional" frontman), onstage activity and antics are not in the least restricted, as Pete, along with the rest of the band (Newton, lead guitarist Barry Fitzgibbon, and drummer Dave Cavill), is mad-dog rampant onstage (and offstage sometimes as well). Dirty Deeds live is, amongst other things, raw, wild, primal, energetic fun; it’s stripped-to-the-bone, yet melodically refined, the variety of heavy rock that lit the fire in the first place. It is a unique, cohesive marriage of the old with the new, but rest assured musicianship is not being sacrificed at the altar. So now, just as it seems Dirty Deeds might be on the brink of a breakthrough, I, of course, am happy to get more "dirt" on the Deeds from Tony "T Pot" Newton (better not to ask where the nickname comes from)

Rough Edge: Do you have any information yet on how the CDs are doing in the US thus far, or which songs they are playing? My guess would be "Hell on Earth" or "Judgment Day."

Tony: It's too early to get sales figures in yet, but I know that we are being played on loads of radio stations. The two most requested songs are "Welcome to the Real World" and "Kill the Pain."

Rough Edge: I know the story about how you met Steve (Harris)--he told me how you’re both really into the soccer, that he thinks you’re a fantastic player, and that you wound up both playing on the same team--but is what I’ve read true, that it was actually a long time before he first saw Dirty Deeds play?

Tony: Oh yeah! It was a long time. I didn’t even tell him anything about us lot, because I joined the team—and I didn’t really want him to think I was joining for an ulterior motive. So it was actually someone else who gave him a tape—I don’t know, many months down the line. And he just came to see us, eight to ten months after I met him, something like that.

Rough Edge: So, he didn’t find out from you that you were in a band, or that you played bass too?

Tony: No, I wouldn’t tell him.

Rough Edge: And at that time he was shopping around for a replacement vocalist (for Bruce Dickinson)?

Tony: Yeah, that’s right. That’s why I thought he was comin’ to see us, you see, because he’d mentioned to me that he liked Pete’s voice at the time. And I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to come down and see what he thinks of Pete, you see, and get ‘im in with them.’ But it didn’t work out that way. He was actually just coming to see us because he liked the tape that he’d heard.

Rough Edge: And it was after that that you wound up going on an earlier European tour with them?

Tony: Yeah, well I can’t really remember what year it was—I think it was ’97, we really weren’t up to much, and the X-factor tour was just getting under way. Then, in December, Steve rang me up from Germany, and said, "What are you doing in January? Would you fancy coming out to Italy, France, Slovenia, and Ireland with us?" I said, "You've got to be joking, of course I'll go!" He said, "What about the others, hadn't you better ask them first?" I said (laughs), "Bloody 'ell! If they don't want to do it, I'll get someone else to do it, I'll get another band together, don't worry about it!"

Rough Edge: How did you like playing with UFO? (On the UK leg of their reunion tour in Feb. of ‘98.) Of course, I ask because they’re one of my all time favorites!

Tony: Oh, I loved it! UFO were one of me favorite bands when I was growing up, Michael Schenker especially--I love it; I've got all his albums and stuff ... Plus Simon Wright was drumming for them, and I was a big fan of AC/DC years ago. They were all really nice people, that was the really good thing. Sometimes you can be a bit worried about meeting them, people who you looked up to, but they were great, really nice to us ...

Rough Edge: What did you think of your last/first US tour? I must say, the reaction was really good when I saw you play in the Midwest, even though most of the audience didn’t even know who you were, since the first record wasn’t out over here at that time.

Tony: There were so many highlights; I'll never forget it. It was just fantastic! Steve always said to us, 'Don't get too excited when you go there, because the reaction from the crowd might not be what you're used to in Europe.' He said they might be a little more reserved in America. And we got down to Chicago, and the reaction was absolutely amazing, we couldn’t believe it; it was as if people knew who we were. It was a great welcoming for your first night in America. From then on, every gig was brilliant; we didn't want to come home!

Rough Edge: Do you have plans for a US tour again this summer?

Tony: We have agents looking out right now, and we know it’s important for us to get over there, not only for playing, but to do more press as well. What we’re known as is a live band anyway, so it’s important for us to get over there and get live reviews, and just get our name in over there again. Steve, he’s looking out for us as well.

Rough Edge: I want to ask a little about the songwriting. I read somewhere previously that you kind of write around the riffs, so do you basically come up with the music first?

Tony: Yeah, that’s right, exactly. We always do that, that sort of thing gives us the direction for the lyrics, really. You can get feedback off of the music, and the vibe of what it should be about.

Rough Edge: Who does write the lyrics?

Tony: Pete mainly does it, and I do choruses and stuff with him on the lyric side. But as for the main verses, Pete generally does most of that himself. 

Rough Edge: It’s a little different with Pete because he plays the rhythm guitar, too, so that’s not the traditional frontman thing. So, it might restrict his movement a little, but (as I know from seeing him before) not much!

Tony: NO! (laughs) Not much, no!

Rough Edge: He’s got a great voice—it’s powerful! But rough in the right places.

Tony: Yeah, he has; he’s very good. He’s actually improved over the years, as well, which I think is a bit unusual. He’s worked on that over the years, actually, to get more sort of "gruff" in his voice. He used to have more of a thin voice, whereas now it’s quite fat. When you record, it takes up a lot of space when you have to mix!

Rough Edge: I must say that I remember that Pete and Barry—are crazy! They were so hilarious when I met them that my sides were aching. Are they always like that?

Tony: Oh, Yeah! (laughs) They’re mad! They’re always like it. People think they’re drunk or on something, but it’s nothing like that at all. It’s just the way they are. They’re just so funny the pair of them. (more laughs)

Rough Edge: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I read that you don’t really care for the label "heavy metal."

Tony: They're trying to bring it 'round again--the term 'heavy metal," but to me, heavy metal is like an '80's used genre. I know journalists have to use pigeonholes and stuff, but to me it's more like '80's type bands, that sort of vibe, with searing high vocals, like Priest, Maiden, I suppose ... Dio, Dokken, and stuff like that. To me, we're just a rock band ...

Rough Edge: It’s pretty obvious that you aren’t an easy band to "pigeonhole," anyway. I’ve seen you described as being like other bands as diverse as Judas Priest and Rage Against The Machine, etc. It goes on and on ...

Tony: Yeah, everyone has a different opinion; they call us everything. There always seem to be different bands that they compare us to, but that's good!

Rough Edge: To wrap things up, the last thing I must ask is whether you all have any particular "vision" for the band?

Tony: Well, we’re all realistic, and we know we'll never be hugely popular playing this kind of music.  I haven't got any visions of taking over the world or anything like that--I don't want to say anything that ridiculous! We just want to do well enough to continue to make albums maybe once every year or two, and tour. That's what it's all about.

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Copyright © 2000 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:12 -0400