There Will Be Blood

What’s in a name? Where do characters come from? Sometimes, the questions authors are asked are difficult to answer: ‘where did you get the idea from?’ is the perennial lump hammer of a question; virtually unanswerable.

But occasionally a question can be answered, and today I’ll tell you how I created Belarussian rock band There Will Be Blood.

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The Frustrations of Photo Libraries

Here’s a world exclusive for you. You have no idea how lucky you are to witness this, but I’m going to share with you an image from the latest Toten Herzen photoshoot.

And if you’re wondering, yes it is watermarked, so don’t go nicking it for your own blogs, bedroom posters etc.

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2016 Forecast and the Art of Aiming High

Looking back on 2015 I think the one word that best sums up my writing career would be underwhelming. Sales figures could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and not necessarily a healthy hand at that. But part of this could be down the fact that I did virtually no promotion.

Well, what do you expect, you moron, I hear you mutter. I’m hoping that 2016 will be a little more active, so read on to discover what I’m planning to do.

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Coming Soon. (No, honestly, it is…)

Alien-Noise-cover-issue-1You may remember I said something about a newsletter, collecting emails and all that dodgy sounding nonsense. Well, who wants a poxy newsletter, all black and white with Arial font and wingdings and clip art, when you can have a f*** off full colour magazine.

Yes, magazine. Content for the first issue is pretty much sorted, but there might be a few last minute tweeks – as is the nature of high end coffee table magazine publishing, you understand.

People will still have to subscribe to it, but it’s free, it mixes the real world with my my own bent perception of it, and should be worth every penny you’re not being asked to pay for it.

When it’s published it’ll be available as a PDF to download or an online Issuu magazine with that colossal turning page special effect! (Which means you’ll need an online coffee table to put it on when your friends come round for drinks.)

Details on how to sign up will come later, but for now, there it is. The Alien Noise ‘newsletter.’ Subject to alterations. I had to bully myself to get it done.

 

Blurb request – The One Rule of Magic

In a few weeks time I’ll be self-publishing another entry in the TotenUniverse. The One Rule of Magic is the first book in what I call the Reflections strand of novels following the new life of Bamberg witch Frieda Schoenhofer.

Frieda was first encountered in Who Among Us… (still doing the rounds with literary agents) and I thought she deserved her own series. And thanks to Au4 in Canada for the inspiration to get started on this novel.

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Agnetha Fältskog

Never rename a boat. I recently saw one for sale and it was named the John Thomas. Now, I don’t know where you live, but in Britain John Thomas is an alternative name for a gentleman’s wedding tackle. No one in their right mind would own a boat and keep the name John Thomas.

In the third Toten Herzen novel, There Will Be Blood, there’s a conversation between Rob Wallet and his new friend Barny Flowers. Admiring Wallet’s boat, Flowers chastises him for renaming it and asks ‘who the hell is Agnetha anyway?’ Wallet replies, ‘If you don’t know, you’ll never understand.’

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Vampires and The Bloodthirsty

Strictly speaking, one of them wasn’t a vampire and one of them is my own creation, but myths have to start somewhere. Contrary to what people will tell you vampires are not yesterday’s news, they’re still the top of the foodchain when it comes to folklore. Here are my top five bloodsuckers and bloodthirsty individuals.

5 . . . Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, tv series.)

vampires spikeIf you’ve ever seen Billy Idol you’ll probably recognise where James Marsters was coming from when he brought life to the undead in the form of Spike. Bad to the bone, Spike was a constant thorn in the side of Buffy, but over several seasons their love hate relationship brought a fascinating twist to the old theme of vampire and vampire hunter.

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The TotenUniverse

No one knows the true barycentre of the TotenUniverse. The band are only part of a wider growing European conspiracy. You can now explore further details of this conspiracy and Alien Noise Corporation’s future plans and releases.


Click the image to see the TotenUniverse in detail. As universes go the image is quite large, and best viewed in landscape mode…


And you can learn more about the future plans for Alien Noise and the different story lines and strands here:

The TotenUniverse

Plate Spinning

Men cannot multitask. Or so we’re told, but I have a simple method that allows me to multitask: I do one thing at a time. I call this serial multitasking, as opposed to parallel multitasking, which is what women do. (Allegedly.)

But even I am starting to come unstuck. Serial multitasking has one fundamental flaw: it takes ages to get anything done. It also relies on maintaining enthusiasm so that by the time you get around to doing task number B12-il09887 you still want to do it. (I still have the task of compiling a soundtrack onto CD from nine years ago. Just can’t find the enthusiasm to get on with it.)

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There Will Be Blood – Extracts: Raven’s Dilemma

In the third Toten Herzen story Raven has lost her mate, Rob Wallet, and suffered a second setback when Susan Bekker does the dirty on her promise to turn Raven into a vampire. After a brief meeting with an Interpol investigator Raven lets off steam in a phone call to a friend back in Britain.


Raven is questioned by Interpol investigator Pierre Dremba…

“Why are you called Raven if you have blue hair?”

“Because the only bird I know with blue hair or blue feathers is a peacock, and I’d sound a bit stupid calling meself Peacock, wouldn’t I.”

“I suppose so. . . .”

“Rob told me about blue tits, but that’s even worse.”

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There Will Be Blood – Extracts: Bad News for Rob Wallet

A 1st draft abridged extract from the third Toten Herzen novel There Will Be Blood v.2 (The novel will be published at the end of Toten Herzen’s Malandanti world tour, some time in 2016.)

The band take a fateful decision…


For as long as Wallet had been with the band, he thought he had an ally in Rene. A foolish presumption. Rene always remained detached, mentally detached from discussion as if he were the band’s pet dog. TotenherzenDog.

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TOUR NEWS: TOTEN HERZEN – BRAZIL

A 1st draft abridged extract from the third Toten Herzen novel There Will Be Blood v.2 (The novel will be published at the end of Toten Herzen’s Malandanti world tour, some time in 2016.)


 

Every time the main lights strafed the crowd Dee found a single member of the audience to focus on. In the sea of heads, the infinite pixellation of Rock in Rio, be it a man held aloft or a woman perched on a pair of shoulders, one individual received Dee’s exclusive attention.

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Toten Herzen Malandanti Extract – Rose Pursey

It’s summer, the female solo artists are coming into bud and causing the usual huffing and puffing as they struggle to maintain their relevence. I thought it an appropriate time to unleash an extract from Toten Herzen Malandanti featuring their litigious US nemesis Rose Pursey. In Malandanti, Pursey is suing Dee Vancent for libel and in this scene her attorney has some news for her.

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Some flowers grow quite happily in any soil, but roses require their roots to be firmly planted in a good deep layer of horseshit. And there was no shortage of rich humus as Clarke Rubenstein tip-toed into the Whitehouse Film Studio where Rose Pursey was filming her latest music video.

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Raven Rants – guide to the British general election

raven-rantsWith only days to go Toten Herzen’s number one fangirl Raven (real name [REDACTED]) gives you a guide to the British general election.


I hate my life. And a lot of it is because of politicians meddling and scheming and turning everything upside down. But give them credit, every five years they let us decide which bunch of no hopers and losers can replace the last lot of no hopers and losers. Rob (Wallet), determined to stop me getting bored, suggested I write something to mobilise all the young people who never bother voting. Like I’m some kind of Bodecea [Edit: Boudicca! Rob]

So, here’s the main parties. I’ve not included the nutters except for UKIP.

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Toten Herzen at Eurovision?

Official statement from Alien Noise Corporation.

Rotterdam, March 9th

Toten Herzen will not be performing at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Austria. Reports that the band would be representing Azerbaijan are incorrect and malicious.

Susan Bekker, speaking from Sao Paulo where the band are on world tour, described the rumours as vicious and vindictive. “The whole rumour thing has got out of hand and we think we know where it’s coming from.”

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When Marketing Goes Wrong

Some say marketing is how you sell books. Some swear by social media, others believe book signings are the way forward. Others take a more . . . unorthodox approach and get themselves arrested.


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Fleetwith Pike, the summit of my writing career to date.

What all these people have in common is that they never back up their bright ideas with real results. We’re never told Minnie Wrotchett’s heavily social media-ed 18th Century erotic police procedural followed all the guidelines and still only sold three copies. In this post I’m going to tell you what happened in the summer of 2014 when I tried to market Toten Herzen Malandanti in the real world!

First port of call was the local press. I had a contact, a name, the chief press officer no less, who rang me at home late one night. We spoke for a good forty-five minutes and he told me there would be an article and he’d let me know when it was going to print.

I got my hair cut and waited, checked the local papers every day and every week, ready to announce to the world my moment in the sun. One morning a letter arrived. Inside was a cutting from the local paper; my article had been published two nights previously. I had missed it and what’s more, it had appeared in the evening paper and therefore only available for twenty-four hours.

In retrospect the fickle hand of the press had at least touched my shoulder, unlike another arm of the marketing strategy which didn’t materialise at all. The novel is set in the English Lake District, a place popular with tourists, mountain climbers, fellwalkers and geocachers.

My novel idea to promote my novel was to have a geocache trail which took treasure hunters to various locations in the book. I knew what the treasure would be and where it would go, researched the dos and don’ts of geocaching and bought a Dremel.

(The Dremel was for engraving slate with the Toten Herzen logo, the Crest. These engraved slates would form part of the treasure, and I hauled myself up Fleetwith Pike – over two thousand feet – to find these little shards of rock.)

Problem is, to leave hidden treasure you need to record its location on a geocaching website and they have ‘gatekeepers’ who decide what can and can’t be geocached. Anything they deem commercial is banned. Promoting a book with a geocache hunt was in their eyes a commercial enterprise and their rules didn’t allow it. However, for a hefty fee they would allow a commercial geocache. In other words they permitted themselves to make money out of it, but no one else could.

But I still had another idea to use the Lake District locations as a promotional tool. A Lake District literature leaflet. There’s no shortage of literature up there, from Beatrix Potter to William Wordsworth. Toten Herzen were one more addition: Swallows and Amazons, vampires and witches.

What I didn’t know is that all those leaflet holders you see in shops, hotels, visitor centres are provided and managed by leaflet distribution companies and you can’t just put your own leaflets inside them. They also demand a fee!

Okay, I’ll walk down the street handing out the leaflets. Littering by-laws stop you from doing that. Fine, I’ll print flyers and leave them on windscreens in Lake District car parks. Littering by-laws and trespass stop you from doing that. Fine, I’ll get a shop mannequin dressed up like a vampire and hang it from a road bridge over the M6 motorway (I was getting desperate now. . . .) Traffic laws and a potential manslaughter charge following an inevitable two hundred vehicle pile up persuaded me not to go ahead with that one.

I had been thwarted. Not famous enough to get a slot on daytime telly, no bookshops to approach, not prepared to go to jail, I decided to move on and start another novel. When it’s ready to publish I shall stand by the shore of a large ocean and cast it adrift in the hope that one day an unshaven man trapped on a desert island will catch it in his home made fishing net. But he’ll probably look at the soggy blurb and say to himself quietly: ‘Vampires. Don’t read vampires.’

So what about you? Have you had any daft ideas for marketing that failed?

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The Three Phases of Lying

I am a liar. Always have been. There was a time when I was quite adept at conjuring up a whopper, but over the years I’ve learned to channel my lies into more productive outlets.

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(image Creative Commons, Tim and Selena Middleton)

But let’s face it we’ve all gone through the Three Phases of Lying.

Phase One – childhood. We fib. Our formative years are a maze of fibs and fibbing and I was the arch fibber. In my time, up to the age of about eleven, I had broken every bone in my body. And my friends believed me. They were amazed I hadn’t become some kind of human jelly with so many fractures.

When I wasn’t in plaster I was having my cartilages removed. A friend’s mother asked why I didn’t have any scars on my kneecaps and I concocted some hogwash about the surgeon using a new technique involving glue.

I was also the proud owner of a Zaire football kit complete with plastic shorts. (We didn’t understand modern materials and thought those shiny shorts from the 1974 World Cup finals were actually made out of plastic.)

Whoppers. Tall tales. I got away with it for years – unlike David Anders who got into trouble at school for writing an essay about going to America in his dad’s car. Some people just didn’t understand there were limits to how far you could go before the fib became preposterous rubbish.

Phase Two – youth. In youth, with hormones on the rampage and the need to impress the opposite sex you weren’t a liar, you were a bullshitter. It took me a while to build up momentum during this phase, but when I did, I reached terminal velocity. I became a student!

An undergraduate course in landscape architecture and the discovery of Deconstruction conspired to turn me into a monster. The more incomprehensible gobbledegook I came out with, the more intellectually impressive I sounded. I was in a sealed environment, we were all at it. At every project presentation we’d stand up and bullshit for England, tutors nodding sagely as we thundered on about intercontextual dialogue and spatial programming.

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The Imperial War Museum North. Daniel Libeskind’s exposition of experiential displacement and empathetic translocation. See, I haven’t lost it, have I? (Photo Creative Commons, Andrew Dunn.)

I reached my brilliant peak at 2 a.m. in a packed basement hotel bedroom in Barcelona. A fellow student asked me what Deconstruction was all about. I said I’d tell him in the morning, so he wandered off to another room and allegedly gave someone a blowjob in front of a large crowd of astonished ghouls. I didn’t see it myself, but I can only assume the promise of enlightenment had filled him with a new self confidence.

Phase Three – adulthood. Finally we enter a world of pain where the fibbers and bullshitters have grown up and consolidated a life of deceit into one of three disciplines: politics (the art of managing lies); business (the commercialisation of lies); and religion (the deification of lies).

We hear it every day. We’re all in this together. Sign the contract, there are no hidden fees. We abide by all applicable tax laws. It was only the once; she means nothing to me.

But amongst the filth and the filthy there is one group of adults who must lie and lie convincingly.

Storytellers.

My childhood and youth has been a most excellent apprenticeship and when people ask me if Toten Herzen are a real rock band I can look them in the eye and say yes, they’re on the internet so they must be real. My latest writing project is based on actual events: what those ‘actual events’ are is up to you to decide when you eventually read it, but believe me . . . I’m not lying. We live in a funny old world.

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Photographs don’t lie. Toten Herzen’s Susan Bekker is a real person. Trust me.

Come to think of it, there are in fact, four phases to lying, but once you reach a certain age you can lie to your heart’s content because everyone just assumes you’ve gone bonkers. I’m not there yet, but I’m not far off. I’m quite looking forward to it.

By the way, did I ever tell you about the time I fought one of the lions at Chester Zoo. . . ?

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The Book Of Revelation

5 the book of revelation - v1

The final book of the Totenseries and all answers provided to explain Rob Wallet’s Toten phenomenon.

Finally, the answers to the mystery, for many the greatest hoax of the 21st century, revealed. Rob Wallet’s identity; Susan Bekker’s Big Lie; what really happened to Peter Miles; the fate of Raven; the significance of Elaine Daley’s tattoo and the true nature of the Malandanti.

The question so often asked, who are Toten Herzen, may finally be answered.

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No publication date yet.

Behind The Wall

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Events take a dark twist in the fourth book of the Totenseries.

Builders break through the wall of a basement in a London house and discover the remains of four people: three women and a man. The link to Toten Herzen emerges when the house turns out to have belonged to the owner of the band’s original record label in the 1970s.

Could the bodies be those of the original members of Toten Herzen?

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No publication date yet.

Toten Herzen Malandanti

2014-3d-malandanti____________________

TOTEN HERZEN MALANDANTI
Published 2014
(Alien Noise Corporation)

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The second book of the Totenseries, following on from the turmoil of We Are Toten Herzen.

After the disastrous events in the previous novel ‘We Are Toten Herzen,’ the band are forced to count the costs and the repercussions of their comeback tour. The focus turns to the safety of the recording studio and their first album in forty years. Things can’t get any worse.

But this is Toten Herzen, the dead rock band: murdered in 1977, discovered alive in 2013. Guitarist Susan Bekker wants to sing, antagonising lead singer Dee Vincent whose catastrophic interview in Hullaballoo magazine leads to a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Rob Wallet, the band’s publicist, flirts with insanity when he isn’t flirting with Lena, the seductive former terrorist and leader of a network of covens known as the Malandanti.

The story sets down amongst the isolated mountains of the English Lake District, with excursions to post-communist St. Petersburg and Bamberg in Germany, scene of the 17th century witch trials. Along the way the band are assaulted by an ever growing list of mysteries. Why has a Russian voice coach arrived uninvited at three in the morning? Why are the Malandanti searching for a book owned by Dee Vincent? What is Susan Bekker’s Big Lie? And is the valley pictured in a 14th century painting the source and home of the first European vampires?

Blue hair, black magic, talking sheep, murderous bushes, necromancy, alchemy and leather-clad litigation. It’s all captured on film by a deafening Dutch director in Chris Harrison’s paranormal dark comedy Toten Herzen Malandanti. Book two in the authorised account of the band’s astonishing and some would say unbelievable comeback.

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Available from the following

Barnes and Noble (Nook) – click here

Smashwords (all eformats) – click here

Amazon  (click your country)

UK     USA     Can     Germany     France     Spain     Italy     Netherlands  Australia     Brazil     Mexico     Japan     India

Scribd (epub – note Scribd is a subscription service) – click here

Oyster (epub – note Oyster is a subscription service) – click here

We Are Toten Herzen

2014-3d-wath____________________

WE ARE TOTEN HERZEN
Published 2013
(Alien Noise Corporation)

____________________

The first book of the Totenseries and where the whole unbelievable saga kicks off.

Between 1973 and 1976 Toten Herzen sold over eight million albums and toured the arenas of Europe and the US. In 1977 all four members of the band were murdered by crazed fan Lenny Harper. Harper was only charged with wasting police time and the bodies disappeared.

Thirty five years later, British music journalist Rob Wallet’s investigation into the incidents of 1977 led him to discover the band still alive in a remote village in southern Germany.

He persuaded them to make a comeback.

The paranormal dark comedy We Are Toten Herzen is the authorised story of one music journalist’s ambition to bring Toten Herzen back from the dead. From an isolated Dutch farmhouse to the teeming chaos of New York, via Suffolk and the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, fact and fiction blur as the ’70s most notorious rock band plan their return, outwitting the modern music industry and settling old scores in the only way they know how.

But is Wallet’s story a hoax or strange reality? As he uncovers more of the band’s past new questions begin to emerge. Was lead guitarist Susan Bekker hospitalised in 1974 with Rabies? Was the band’s first manager Micky Redwall killed by his own dogs in 1977? What happened to an original ‘fifth member’ of the band Peter Miles? And after all this time why haven’t Susan Bekker, singer Dee Vincent, bassist Elaine Daley and drummer Rene van Voors grown old? Find out in the only official account of Toten Herzen’s long awaited reappearance.

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Available in ebook format from the following.

Barnes and Noble (Nook) – click here

Smashwords (all eformats) – click here

Amazon  (click your country)

UK     USA     Can     Germany     France     Spain     Italy     Netherlands  Australia     Brazil     Mexico     Japan     India

Scribd (epub – note: Scribd is a subscription service) – click here

MetalMonth – Delain

Elsewhere, in my feature on Nemesea, I recalled how close I came to losing two of my hands. The threat, the near miss came from Delain’s album, April Rain. Was it better than Nemesea’s The Quiet Resistance? My hands survived thanks to the release dates and a technicality.

For the kind of metalheads who like their music to sound as if it was recorded in a tin shack Delain are probably a bit too polished, a bit too musical. Keyboards! Strings. Songwriting. (They write music, for fuck’s sake. . . . Can’t be heavy metal if it’s musical!!!!!!)

One of the problems with a lot of contemporary metal is that the bands have forgotten how to write a decent song. Afraid they’ll be accused of being a pop group. Well, the fact is you can still write a decent song and be as heavy as fuck.

Delain’s roots lay in symphonic metal. What they did that a number of other symphonic metal bands should have done, was tone down the pomp and work on arrangements; forget how Wagnerian they could sound after the Korg plug-ins went through Pro Tools.

On April Rain they hit a glorious sweet spot and produced one of those rare albums: filler free. Every track a gem. On the third album We Are The Others they actually defied expectations and went one better. WATO was a slow burner. Where April Rain danced around the palate, WATO had all sorts of mysterious aftertastes that lingered.

Key to Delain’s sound is lead singer Charlotte Wessels. Her voice wraps itself around every word and phrase like warm mead, or honey. Hers is an extraordinary richness of delivery that holds the attention, lures you siren-like before the rest of the band turn up and take your head off. See, they’re at it again. Threatening to lop off limbs and what have you.

Their fourth album, The Human Contradiction came out earlier this year. On it is a song called Your Body is a Battleground. It’s a big song, it has the Goblin King himself, Marco Hietala from Nightwish, providing guest vocals. It’s an enormous song. It’s the Grand Canyon of rock music. And when your prickles are still crackling they hit you with the stomping riffs of Stardust. And in Lullaby they’ve written one of the eeriest rock songs of all time. What is it about? ‘We are sinking the ship now. . .’ This from a band who have performed on a cruise liner; not the kind of song I’d want to hear in the middle of the North Sea. (Alissa White-Gluz also made a guest appearance on the album and was rumoured to have been paid in throat lozenges.)

They’re in America, in theatres supporting Nightwish, but in an ideal world Delain would be part of a triple headlining bill alongside Nightwish and Nemesea in an arena with a big light show and perfect sound. Maybe throw in an orchestra a la Within Temptation Black Symphony. Five hours of thrilling, challenging, interesting, crafted rock written by musicians, performed by musicians. Bands who don’t read the Heavy Metal Handbook with its diagrams on how to stand, correct facial expressions and places where you can jump on the latest bandwagon.

And as if the best album of 2014 isn’t enough they have the ‘Official Greatest Guitarist in the World.’ Yes, official. Timo Somers is leading the Metal Month guitarists poll, ahead of Hendrix, ahead of Blackmore, ahead of van Halen. (Okay, There was no Bert Weedon), but he’s in the lead which makes him the man.

And The Human Contradiction is the business. Go and buy it (directly from the band or the label, not those tax-avoiding tossers at Amazon) and listen to some real music.

Official site Delain

MetalMonth – Toten Herzen, fact or fiction? Pt. 2

In 1977 four members of the rock band Toten Herzen were murdered in London by Lenny Harper. Harper was only charged with wasting police time and the bodies disappeared. The killing of Toten Herzen is now one of the forgotten events of the decade, which is why in 2012 UK music journalist Rob Wallet decided to find out what actually happened.

This is the second part of his two part article on how he solved the riddle and finally revealed the truth behind one of the great mysteries of rock music.

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Nobody was killed, no one held to account, the band were obviously not going to come forward and confess, so putting it all together you have only one conclusion…

ii – a disappearance due to unpublicised difficulties

If the band had come to the end of its natural life what might have prompted the four of them to split? ‘Musical differences’ is the usual culprit. If the five albums are examined they were becoming more complex and the shifting time signatures was a prelude of what would become an important ingredient of thrash metal in years to come.

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Close up of Rene van Voors.

Bogdan Misic of the NME described the band as being musically ahead of their time. “The only ones doing that kind of complexity were the prog rockers such as Yes and ELP and, god forbid, Toten Herzen never wanted to be taken seriously musically.” They were a contradiction; hell bent on shocking people with their monstrous looks and bad behaviour, but at the same time very accomplished musicians with Dee Vincent’s hypnotic vocals out on top of it all.

I asked Lance Beauly if they ever talked about the music writing. “Bekker was serious about the music. Of the two bands that Toten Herzen came out of, After Sunset were the better band musically. Bekker and van Voors actually practised. I think they enjoyed the music. Vincent and Daley were more prototype punks.

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Elaine Daley looking worse for wear in 1975. Daley was considered the most private (or reclusive) member of the band and never conducted interviews. As a result, very little is known about Daley’s life prior to Cat’s Cradle. (photo Adam Crijzek)

Vincent was quite wild at times which exasperated Bekker. I saw them arguing a few times, but it never looked like anything that would split the band. It wasn’t like Blackmore and Gillan or Don Dokken and George Lynch who could barely sit in the same room together.”

So as the music became more accomplished it would have been increasingly at odds with their ridiculous image. The logical conclusion would have seen Toten Herzen morphing into a heavy prog rock band. Sort of Genesis meets Metallica!

Dee Vincent and Elaine Daley, the prototype punks, as Beauly describes them, would have suited the punk explosion that was just around the corner, whilst Bekker and van Voors would have been two Dutch musicians equally at home with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that was on the way. The band had options. Without the make up they could have continued knowing that there was a place for whatever musical style they wanted to play.

But life without the make up? “It was fucking convincing make up,” says Lemmy from Motorhead, on a crackly phone line from Bucharest. “I met them at Hammersmith and they looked like they needed a good meal inside them. I used to think if they drank as much blood as they claimed they’d be a bit more rosy cheeked than they were.”

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Dee Vincent on tour to promote Black Rose in 1976.

They never drank from his jugular, he confirms. Did Izzy Starling think they could continue without the make up, a la Kiss? “I think it was part of them personally, not a musical act. When Micky exploited the image of the band it was more to do with their actions rather than the looks. They just thought they looked natural. It wasn’t an act.”

Starting in 1973 would have seen them pitched into the middle of the glam rock scene. If you looked normal you were a rock band, if you looked abnormal you were glam, and in the glam spectrum there was Abba at one end and Sweet at the other. Toten Herzen were never comfortable in the make up contests, going out of their way to be anything but glam. That’s why in 1974 they careered recklessly off the spectrum to make sure their name was never uttered in the same breath as Roxy Music or David Bowie.

The warning signs were there; as the decade wore on Sweet shed the eyeliner and watched their record sales nose dive. If only Bekker had owned a crystal ball she would have seen punk come and go, followed by goth and the new romantics; a myriad of looks that could have been adapted if they wanted to remain behind their masks.

And they probably had the money to hang on. According to John Whiggs at Backman Rogers Financial Consultants, totting up record sales and other 360 degree deals (although not a term that was in use at the time) the band probably had enough money to last ten years and that’s not counting money from any material reissued in that time.

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Susan Bekker in a publicity shot from early 1977 just weeks before the assault by Lenny Harper. Bekker’s ambition to make Toten Herzen more than a freak show would strain her relationship with manager Micky Redwall.

The question wouldn’t have been ‘how’ but ‘where?’ Publicist Izzy Starling recalls the band moving all over the place. She now lives in a cul de sac in Great Yarmouth, but remembers the band living in hotels, other people’s flats and occasionally houses in Holland where Bekker and van Voors originally came from. “They always travelled at night so the press didn’t follow them.”

Was it true that they once kept awake an entire floor of guests at a hotel in Brussels?

“Yes. There was howling and screams all night, but when hotel staff checked the rooms everyone was asleep with the lights off. Then the noises would start again. I didn’t sleep all night, and the next morning the band didn’t remember anything. They obviously had a big laugh at everyone’s expense. I don’t believe they were charged. The hotel was glad to see the back of them.”

When was that?

“Late 76. Towards the end.”

Without anything directly from the band it’s hard to truly figure out what they were thinking. Anecdotal evidence isn’t given much weight in a court of law for obvious reasons and the best you can do is put the pieces together and hope a picture is formed. My theory is this: some or all of the members of the band were ill and faced with shifting styles in music that had no place for monster rockers, decided to take a break. Being the nutters that they were a quiet exit was never on the cards so they faked a murder and cleared off leaving Lenny Harper to face the wrath of the authorities and a charge of wasting police time. Now, they have been overtaken by changing times and musical tastes and decided they’re better off where they are. Wherever they are!

The only thing we can be sure about… they were not murdered by Lenny Harper in a tragic publicity stunt. Far from it. It all seems to have been rather effective!

And let’s not forget, there was the third rumour…

iii – they really were vampires!

It’s hard to pin down exactly when this rumour started, but it may have been a novel by London based occult writer Jonathan Knight. He was an author of several gothic horror books and in 1977, seven months after the band’s grisly demise, published ‘The Dead Heart Weeps’ in which a fictitious vampire rock band are hunted down and killed by a descendant of Van Helsing.

‘The din of the storm outside failed to raise the sleeping ghouls. Their faces red and healthy with the evening’s feast, their bodies bloated. Each gazed into infinity with all the calm and peace of satisfied devils. I feared they would catch my eye and reach for the stake, but they remained motionless and oblivious to my intentions. I looked upon the pretty face of evil one last time. The singer, for she would be the first to perish, would utter no more melodies. She had beguiled and enchanted her final audience. I placed the stake on her breast, gathered myself for the ear shattering scream and with a terrible blow of the hammer drove the stake deep into the wretched monster’s dead heart…’

The Dead Heart Weeps, Jonathan Knight (Stone Lion Books 1977)

Knight insists the band in the novel was based on Toten Herzen and that he wrote the book to alert people to the truth. He claims the band regularly visited the gothic scene in London and always claimed to be vampires. He could identify witnesses, people sworn to secrecy and members of the band’s ‘inner circle.’ He says this was a euphemism for other vampires.

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Rob Wallet often suspected Jonathan Knight knew more than he let on. He would later play a key role in identifying the band’s ‘hiding place’. (photo Pedro Ribeiro Simoes)

In an interview in Fortean Times in 1983 he revealed that Lenny Harper was not a crazed fan, but the son of a Presbyterian minister called Arthur Harper. Lenny found out where the band stayed during the day and killed them by staking them while they slept.

I exchanged emails with Knight in November and he claimed to have some information, not known to him in 1983. Lenny didn’t act alone. He was helped by a friend called Eric Mortimer who is still alive and works as a librarian in Norwich.

Knight is absolutely convinced the band were real vampires, but the problem with his story is that he’s obviously never spoken to PC Barry Bush, the first officer to arrive at the crime scene. Knight would have been aware of Lenny’s vampire-hunting incompetence and the fact that the band were staked through the lungs. The worst thing Lenny could have inflicted on them was a seriously bad cough.

I think it’s time to find out once and for all where they really are.

You can read Rob Wallet’s blog and how he eventually solved the mystery at the official Toten Herzen website. >Discover the truth…

And the official Toten Herzen biographies are available from Smashwords by clicking on the covers:

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cover-THM 1st ed

MetalMonth – Ronnie James Dio

Ronaldo Padavona does not play for Real Madrid. Ronaldo Padavona is better know as Ronnie James Dio. Where the name Dio came from is open to speculation, but he became one of the most admired and respected vocalists in rock music.

I could have written a ‘How I Discovered’ post on Ronnie Dio, except how I discovered him was weird. I didn’t actually know it was him. In 1974 he sang vocals on three songs for Roger Glover’s The Butterfly Ball and The Grasshopper’s Feast.

I heard one of them as a child; Love Is All. I saw the cartoon frog leading a disturbing array of animals towards some bachanalian carry on and thought ‘what a fantastic singer.’ I only found out about three years ago that the singing frog was Ronnie Dio.

Of course it was. Providing the vocals for a cartoon frog was all in a day’s work for a man brought up playing the trumpet. Dio had a band called The Electric Elves, later shortened to The Elves and eventually just Elf. (Had the band survived they would have become E and then probably dispensed with using any letters at all.)

But greater things were to come and the greater part of Elf became the greater part of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in 1975. Ronnie Dio sang for three albums before joining Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne left/died/got kicked out.

I must have come across Ronnie Dio when he went seriously solo and released Holy Diver. Surrounded by polystyrene castles and a fire breathing animatronic dragon he made Yngwie J Malmsteen look like Arthur C Clarke. The dungeons and dragons persona was perfect for an ex-trumpet player who used to be in a band called Elf.

I know, it sounds like I’m taking the piss, but it’s a light hearted piss-take towards a man who was one of the most honest and straight talking members of the rock community in the 1980s. Dio delivered. He gave you your money’s worth and presented it all in a larger than life setting that he would have been the first to admit was pure theatre.

Read any article, watch him interviewed on Youtube and listen to his common sense and common decency. He was instrumental in organising Hear ‘n Aid, the rock response to Geldof’s Live Aid initiative. He believed in honesty and integrity and never took his audience for granted.

And everyone who ever made the devil’s horns symbol probably has Dio to thank for either introducing it to rock, or at least making it part of the visual vocabulary.

In 2009 his stomach cancer was made public and a year later it took his life. But like all heroes his legacy lived on. You don’t have to like his brand of hard rock or his ‘scary’ videos, but you have to admire the little guy from New Hampshire who deservedly became a big presence in the world of rock.

MetalMonth – Wild Wimmin

Next week I’ll write about Mad Men, but today, as it’s Sunday. . . .

I’m not sure which female singer first caught my attention. Back in the late neolithic period I can remember Suzi Quatro appearing on Top of the Pops singing Can the Can and being christened Tin Tin Suzi by my sister. (Very droll.)

In the intervening years there were the occasional nutters coming and going, but none of them were rock singers. It wasn’t until Doro appeared in the pages of Kerrang that female fronted bands, on my radar at least, stepped up a notch. (See How I Discovered . . . Doro for the full story.) The blue eyed whispy haired blonde from Dusseldorf had a shriek that could set off car alarms.

In the eighties there were tons of female artists knocking the balls off the men. Some of them glowed like supernovae for a criminally short period, one of whom was Sandi Saraya. Why she gave up, I don’t know. She never reappeared thirty years later in any of those weird MTV reunion shows where ex-famous people are found in barns in Wyoming and brought out for one last gig.

Saraya released two albums: Saraya and When the Blackbird Sings. They weren’t exactly groundbreaking; more a product of the times, but something about them touched a neural network and I still listen to those songs to this day.

One artist from the 80s who did make a comeback, after a period singing jazz – and singing it very well, it has to be said – is Lee Aaron. Cheeky faced Aaron slowly evolved from big-sword wieldy metal queen to melodic rock imp, surrounded by hair-metally men. I suppose she hit her peak at a period in rock’s history when everyone was hitting their peak. Inevitably, some superb artists would be lost in the babble. Lee Aaron’s voice was always one of the best.

Her Canadian contemporary, Ann Wilson, enjoyed something of a second coming in the 80s when Heart went all glam, stopped playing Barracuda and instead bothered the charts with a string of hits written by the likes of Dianne Warren. If there was a note Ann Wilson couldn’t hit it probably couldn’t be heard by the human ear. Whilst sister Nancy threw herself about on guitar, big sister Ann delivered the goods to such an extent even Lemmy was moved. (Describing her as Morticia in one interview.)

Honourable 80s mentions to Pat Benatar, Terri Nunn (Berlin) and Andrea Schwarz in Rosy Vista.

And while were on the subject of female vocalists in the 80s, was there ever an answer to the Alexa Anastasia controversy? Did Paul Sabu fake his own vocals to record that Alexa album in 1988? We may never know.

I don’t remember the nineties so I probably wasn’t there, but when I started to recover I found a rock scene awash with extraordinary singers. If I were to write an article called How I Discovered . . . Symphonic Metal it might start with William Orbit!

You see, William Orbit’s remix of a classical song sent me down the trance road which ultimately arrived at Armin van Buuren’s collaboration with Sharon den Adel. In and Out of Love was a cracker in it’s own right, but van Adel’s work with Within Temptation guided me towards a casket of artefacts that included Nightwish and Nemesea and Delain and Lacuna Coil and the contagion spread from there.

Tarja was up next, via Anette Olzon who was the Nightwish singer when I discovered them. (Tarja along with Nemesea and Delain have their own articles.)

Nemesea article

Tarja article

From Nightwish and the Showtime, Storytime dvd came the voice, or should that be the floor scraping growl of Alissa White-Gluz. Now I have to say I just don’t get this growling business, and a female growler perplexes me even more, but when I saw the film Please Learn the Setlist in 48 Hours, the way White-Gluz and Elize Ryd stepped up to the challenge of performing with Nightwish at such short notice brought home the difference between a professional and the millions of pub bands who never quite make it off the amateur circuit.

In terms of sheer vocal richness few come close to Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia. If her voice was haute cuisine it would be something cooked in red wine. And how clever to team up alongside the grainy voice of Andrea Ferro to produce the distinctive Lacuna sound.

Honourable mentions to Charlotte Wessels, Manda Ophuis, Simone Simons. Leave a comment if you want to add others to the list.

I can’t finish this piece without a nod to four women who are possibly nutters in the true sense of the word. God bless Crucified Barbara. Two of them play Gibson Flying Vs and Explorers, just like Toten Herzen’s front two. Crucified Barbara don’t use their real names, unless Mia Coldheart, Klara Force, Ida Evileye and Nicki Wicked are their real names. They play superheated classic rock with lead vocals that sound like Lee Aaron after a night drinking caustic soda. I wouldn’t like to be trapped in a lift with them, but they seem a fitting way to round off this quick exploration of women who step up to the mic and scare the vicar.

Take it away ladies. A one, a two, a one two three four. . . .