(This was initially commissioned by Ishani Jasmin to appear in her magazine issue about music.)

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My friend Alex friend mentions that a guy he knows through Facebook is putting a band together, and he suggests I audition to play drums. He thinks the opportunity might appeal because the bandleader is Dennis Willcock, original singer from Iron Maiden, and the guitarist is former Maiden axe-wielder Terry Wapram: the band is called V1. I am insanely busy already but Alex seems really excited for me, so I figure the worst that can happen is I’ll have one rehearsal, they’ll says ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and I can tell friends I briefly jammed with some guys who were once in a band that became massively famous a short while after they left.

I message Dennis through Facebook and he asks for examples of my playing, so I forward a dozen videos and audio tracks from the rocking-est projects I’ve been involved with. He gets back to me a few days later, saying he’s shown the guitarist and they’d be happy to audition me. We set a date, I fly to south-east Asia for a work trip, and upon my return I meet the guys on an industrial estate in Welwyn Garden City. One of the first things I learn upon arrival is that I’m auditioning primarily because I am local; the other applicants mostly live in the Netherlands and Brazil – hardly convenient for a band based in north London. I set up my drums (Dennis was sure I’d feel more comfortable playing my own kit), greet Terry and Chas (bass player), and listen to the story of the band.

V1 formed in 1977 (the year I was born), after Terry and Dennis left Iron Maiden – Dennis thought Maiden were going nowhere fast and Terry didn’t rate the other guitarist who’d just joined. V1 played all over London and recorded demos for an album with a drummer the name of whom no one can remember. Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris loved the band and the demos, and took Maiden to record in the same studio. V1 were offered a record deal, their management told them not to accept it and their career stalled. Iron Maiden soon took off (allegedly with a bunch of lyrics stolen from Dennis, but that’s a whole other story), Dennis became an antique dealer, Chas worked for the council and smoked copious amounts of weed, and Terry played guitar in obscure rock bands, while earning a living as a tradesman. They all have kids my age now, and Chas is even a grandfather. Due to significant interest on Facebook they are awakening V1 from a 37-year hiatus and plan to record the album they demoed in ’78 before touring the world at last. Lest I question their commitment to the rock and roll cause, Dennis tells me that, following his exertions on a one-off comeback gig with a stand-in drummer last year to test the water for the project, he needed throat surgery. His voice is back now and the only thing missing is a reliable drummer.

We set about playing the four songs I’ve practised much less than I would have preferred, and I remember I always hate and fail auditions, though I’m grateful that at least this one is loud. We play the songs ok, no better than that, then stop for a leisurely cup of tea. Chas insists on buying a round of Snickers as well. Caffeinated and sugared we play the songs again, and this time I feel able to stretch out more. Terry grins a few times in my direction and Chas and I lock in pretty tight. I pack up, resoundingly underwhelmed by my performance, and contemplate the late-Sunday traffic back to London and the fact I’ve just wasted another afternoon hitting things when I could have put my time to better use as a dad, husband or academic. When my stuff’s in the car Dennis tells me they’ve all had a chat and they’d like to offer me the job. I can’t believe my ears! I tell them immediately I accept, text Alex to thank him for the heads-up, and drive home feeling like a teenager in love: I HAVE THE GIG PLAYING DRUMS FOR V1!!! So, just eight more songs to nail, an album to record, and a touring schedule to figure around my full-time job and family responsibilities. Marvellous.

The band starts meeting for regular practices in Storm Studios on Holloway Road. Magdalena who runs the place is perpetually grumpy, and seems irked we show up to rehearse, but I can get there easily on the bus in under an hour, the price is reasonable, and – uncharacteristically for affordable rehearsal spaces – the rooms don’t smell as if people have been left for dead in there in pools of their own beer-induced vomit. Sometimes it’s managed by Eddie, who is more welcoming but constantly stoned, with a frustrating tendency to send each member of the band to a different room. Rehearsals go increasingly well, especially with the arrival of Dwight who will be performing bass duties live. The sound we make as a four-piece in that 30” x 10” room is phenomenal. The late-70s guitar riffs and rock-funk bass lines with the double bass drum pedal I dusted off specially for this make for a Very Rock Sound indeed. There are no click tracks, Autotune or backing tracks. This is raw, analogue classic rock. When the public eventually hears us (or even if they don’t) “V1 rocket’s gonna rock your house down!”

The members of my new rock family say to me everything I most want to hear. Things like “this song needs plenty of cowbell” (this applies to more than one song), “we’re not going to tell you what to play – drums is your department”, and “where would you like your drum solo?” I have long maintained I was born 30 years too late; the music I most love to play – with big drums, lots of fills, badass riffs, awesome solos, and unashamed lyrics about sex and how great rock is – is unfortunately unfashionable these days. But V1 doesn’t care. They’re here to right the wrongs of 37 years ago, allowing me to play some fantastic music with three awesome guys who had a foretaste of fame and a powerful sense of purpose at a time when the music industry told the public that rock was righteous and drum solos were cool. To paraphrase Miles Davis, this might just be the best feeling I’ve ever had with my clothes on.

 

 

 

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