SOLDIER were formed by Ian Dick during 1979 in Northampton, UK. Over the next 40 years, with various line-ups, the band would tour and record, split up and reform, all the time dealing with the usual sh*t that happens in bands!
So here is a little history that tells the SOLDIER story with all its twists, turns and traumas.
Formed in late 1979 by Ian Dick, SOLDIER’s first line-up was completed with the addition of vocalist Garry Philips in March 1980.
The bands music was more Heavy Rock than Heavy Metal at this early stage, reflecting Ian’s love of Pat Travers, Montrose,
Uriah Heep and other 70’s rock bands. The bands first demo was a track called MAGICIAN, recorded at Beck Studios in Wellingborough.
In late 1980, Ian and Garry decided to take the band in a heavier musical direction. Al Cannam, Steve Garner and Ram Tiwary were out,
and in came new rhythm section Ian Astrop and Steve Barlow. In March 1981, this line-up recorded the version of STORM OF STEEL that appeared on the Heavy Metal Records compilation HEAVY METAL HEROES.
A heavy period of gigging followed the release of Heavy Metal Heroes leading to the departure of Ian Astrop. His replacement was
Steve Taylor who, amongst several bands, had played in Urchin with Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden fame. Steve’s arrival marked a change
in the song writing dynamic, with the band taking on a slightly more commercial feel to some tracks. The band continued to
demo songs, one of which, called SILVER BULLET, can be found on the CHRONICLES 2CD anthology.
Soldier MKIV saw the band return to a 5 piece line-up with the addition of guitarist Nick Bicknell to help fill out the bands live sound.
As well as his guitar playing abilities, Nick could also write a tune and, crucially in the history of Soldier, he brought with him a song from his previous band (Alien Heat). That song was SHERALEE. The band signed a deal with Heavy Metal Records for one single and SHERALEE was chosen as the A side, with a Steve Taylor song, FORCE, as the B side. The single did well in the then new
KERRANG! magazine chart and got national air play via Tommy Vance on his Friday Rock Show. The band started more intensive
gigging to promote the single, picking up support slots with Budgie and Wishbone Ash.
By March 1982, Soldier the band had changed a lot musically, not least because of Steve Taylor's desire to write new songs, many of which were of a more “commercial” style. This started to cause issues and finally led to Ian Dick leaving the band he’d formed 3 years earlier. Ian’s replacement was a young guitarist called Nick Lashley. The band continued to push forward and demo’ed new material.
Like all the other hopeful acts of the time, all they needed was a record deal. It seemed like only a matter of time before that happened, and in order to keep up interest in the band they decided to record a number of shows and self release a cassette live album. This became the legendary LIVE FORCES tape which was released via the bands fan-club.
After the relative success of the Sheralee single it seemed inevitable that the band would record a studio album. Unfortunately, this final piece of the puzzle eluded them. Deals were offered but the band felt there was a better deal to be had and held off signing a contract. Steve Taylor was very much the driving force and main song writer in the band, and the ever more commercial sound led to tensions within the band, leading to the departure of Steve Barlow and Garry Philips.
In what turned out to be a final throw of the dice a new bassist and vocalist were hired in early 1984. Mark McKenzie came in on bass with the vocalist slot being filled by Phil Lewis, ex of Girl and future member of Torme and LA Guns. In August 1984 this line-up went into Matrix Studio’s in London to record demos for Music For Nations, with whom the band were trying to negotiate an album deal. Two songs were recorded, HEARTBREAK ZONE and CHARLOTTE RUSSE, both of which can be heard on the CHRONICLES 2CD anthology. Sadly the deal with MFN did not appear and Phil Lewis went on to other things. The band effectively ceased to exist.
Nick Bicknell and Nick Lashley continued to try and build a career in music. Nick Bicknell scored some UK chart success with pop band The Gems. Nick Lashley moved to America and eventually landed the guitar slot in Alanis Morrissette’s band. Soldier as a band would be inactive for the next 20 years.
soldier mkViI (reformed mkii)
Fast forward to 2003. With the internet driving a lot of interest in the NWOBHM Ian Dick and Steve Barlow decided to put the band back together. There had always been a feeling of unfinished business as the band had never been able to record a studio album back in the day. So the original MKII line-up reconvened. To test the water they initially decided to record an E.P. featuring a mix of old and new material. This resulted in the INFANTRYCIDE E.P. which featured a guest appearance by Nick Lashley on the song INFANTRYCIDE. The E.P. was well received but sadly, due to work and family commitments, Ian Astrop could not commit to any live work. The rest of the band wanted to continue, so the hunt was on for a new drummer.
The band eventually found a young drummer called Alex Smith. He brought a new energy and drive to the band so plans were made to record the first Soldier studio album, and even though Garry was based in the North of England (making rehearsals a little difficult) there were discussions about live dates as well. The band had already been contacted by some major European festivals and offered slots if they could get it together.
The album SINS OF THE WARRIOR was recorded and the band contacted Heavy Metal Records who duly released it to the world in 2005. Finally the band had a stable line-up and an album to push. Things were looking good. But Soldier were never the luckiest band in the world and change was once again just round the corner……..
As the band rehearsed for a local come-back gig at The Roadmender in Northampton it became clear that Garry was having some health issues that were affecting his breathing, making it difficult to sing. He and the rest of the band tried to work through it but it became clear things were not going to work out. So sadly, Garry had to bow out. Ian, Steve and Alex continued to rehearse but without a singer you can only go so far. So after placing an advert on a local musicians website they got a response in early 2007 from Richard Frost, a local singer who had not only seen the band back in the early 1980’s but had also played in a local covers band with original Solider drummer Steve Garner. Rehearsals began and things looked good once again. Some of the sessions were recorded and a few tracks can be found on the 2CD CHRONICLES anthology.
However, the timing was not great. Ian, Steve and Richard were all running their own businesses and Richard had a young family and, try as they might, the demands of life and work meant it just wasn’t going to happen. So once again the band was put on pause. There are no pictures of this line-up of the band.
Fast forward 2011. By complete chance Ian meets Miles Goodman, a local guitarist and complete NWOBHM anorak! As they chat Ian mentions that he was in a band called Soldier and within a very short space of time Miles had his picture sleeve of Sheralee signed by Ian and Steve and the band was back in action again, all be it without a singer. A few auditions were held but no one fitted the bill and the band had been offered a slot at the 2012 British Steel Festival in London. As they considered their options Ian found Richard’s phone number. So Ian called him and asked if he could help them out with the British Steel gig. He said “yes” and after some rehearsals the band played at British Steel and things went so well that Ian offered Richard the gig full time.
Ian had also written an albums worth of songs so the band went straight into rehearsals for that. These songs would become the bands second studio album, DOGS OF WAR, which would be released in 2013. The band had also been offered a slot at the 2012 Hard Rock Hell festival in Wales. Things were definitely coming together, but then “life” reared its ugly head again………….
Work and home life commitments meant that Steve was unable to rehearse and gig, but he did agree to complete the up coming studio album. However, as a key component in the sound of the band Steve’s absence could leave a big hole, so it was crucial to find the right replacement, especially with the HRH date looming large. Enter Pete Gordelier. A well known face on the local music scene, Pete also had some very big NWOBHM credentials, having been the bass player in Angel Witch for many years, touring the US and Europe, and was also in early NWOBHM band Marquis De Sade. The band rehearsed hard and fulfilled the outstanding gigs, one warm-up date at a local rock venue in preparation for HRH, HRH itself and a support slot with Skinny Molly at another local venue.
The last of the 3 dates is of some interest as Ian was unable to play that night and so the band was back to a 4 piece, but with no original members!
Unfortunately, Pete had his own band at the time and could not commit long term to Solider, but his efforts were greatly appreciated by the band. So the hunt for a new bass player began.
As the search for a live bass player continued, work also progressed on the recordings that would become the DOGS OF WAR album. This album would finally be released in 2013 and featured Steve Barlow on bass. However, when the band had the opportunity to film a video for the track I CAN’T BREATHE the band had luckily found some one to handle live bass duties in the shape of Dave Harrison, and Dave is featured in the video.
During this period the band started to play more gigs and were becoming a formidable live act, but after the sudden departure of drummer Alex Smith (due to work commitments) things were in the balance again…….
Luckily the band quickly found a replacement for Alex in the form of man-mountain Tim Churchman. This was very good timing as the band had now secured slots at Brofest and Headbangers Open Air during 2014. This line-up gigged regularly, and whilst no studio recordings were made, there are several live videos on Youtube.
During this period Ian and Steve Barlow pulled out all the old band recordings they had from back in the 1980’s which resulted in the two historical releases, LIVE @ THE HEATHERY 1983 featuring the MKV line-up, and the 2CD anthology CHRONICLES which featured unreleased recordings from all of the first 6 band line-up’s from the 1980’s plus a number of rehearsal recordings from Richard Frost’s first time with the band and demo’s of old MKV songs recorded by Ian, Steve and Richard. Ian also began writing songs for a new studio album.
After the release of the bands third studio album, DEFIANT, in 2015, the opportunity to have Steve Barlow back on bass for live work came up, and whilst Dave had done a sterling job, the chance to have Steve’s signature sound and drive back in the band was too good to ignore, and so the Barlow Bottom End was back!
So, in 2016, the current line-up of the band has several gigs booked, including the Very ‘Eavy Festival in Holland, Garage Daze Re-Visited in London and The Wildfire Festival in Scotland. There are several recording projects planned, some Soldier and some of a slightly different nature. And whilst the bands gigging schedule may slow down over the next few years, there will be plenty of time and effort put into keeping the bands name and music alive.
SOLDIER - THE FUTURE
In 2019 SOLDIER ceased playing live, but there will be new SOLDIER music in the future as well as other projects featuring members of the band. You can keep up to date by checking the NEWS section on the website and our Facebook page.