Cloven Hoof

Genre: Heavy/Power metal

Origin: UK

Current label:
Elemental Media Music

Current line-up:
Lee Payne - Bass
Russ North - Vocals

Cloven Hoof - 1984
Dominator - 1988
A Sultan's Ransom - 1989 
Eye of the Sun - 2006
Throne of Damnation - EP 2010

Official Site:

1. When was CLOVEN HOOF created? How did you come up with the band's name?

    Right from the start I didn't want the band to be a standard rock act with an obvious name and music. I wanted to break new ground and be original, the music had to be epic and thought provoking and the name had to reflect this too. To show the cloven hoof means to reveal your evil side, to let it take over. The church of Satan call their church, followers of the cloven hoof, in short disciples who worship at the feet of the devil.
    I had always had a fascination with the occult and horror movies, so I wanted to reflect this in the name and material of the band. The moniker of a rock group needs to be memorable and powerful, that a crowd could chant out easily, so I began by writing down all the things I could think of with occult word associations. The name that really grabbed me immediately was... CLOVEN HOOF!
2. Which are your main influences as a bassist and as a composer? Tell us about the time when you founded CLOVEN HOOF and the days before the release of your first demo. Please also talk about your two demos which were released back in 1982.
    The musicians I admire today are pretty much the same as I always...
    Guitar - Ritchie Blackmore, Alex Lifeson, Michael Schenker, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen. Drums - Niel Peart, John Bonham, Bill Bruford. Vocals - Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Tori Amos.
    As a bass player I have always been influenced by players such as Chris Squire and Geddy Lee because they have a melodic approach, and they combine it with drive and growl. As a composer I love Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio’s work. They produced amazing metal music full of passion and imagination. I was gutted when Ronnie passed away; he was a great loss to the world of music and had the greatest ever metal voice.
    My musical development is constantly expanding as I think apathy and stagnation is a modern curse. Someone said CLOVEN HOOF's bandwidth is colossal and I am proud of that. Every album had to count, that is why the material is so strong. We had no financial security net like other groups who churn out one good song per album, with the rest filler dross. HOOF has had to fight tooth and nail for acceptance and the battle rages on today stronger than ever!
    The band material for the opening ritual was written during the first New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, but it took a hell of a time to get musicians who were good enough to play the songs. the material was a little ahead of it's time so most players did not get the multi time changes and progressions. Some musicians were prog rock influenced and could handle the technical riggours of the music, but lacked aggression and attitude. Others played heavy but were too basic and could only play run of the mill 4/4 tunes. So in the end finding Steve Rounds and Kevin Poutney was a blessing.
    There was a thriving rock club scene in England in the 1980's, and bands could cut there teeth by gaining valuble live experience on a regular basis.
    The thing I remember most about those "Ritual" sessions was one morning, I was coming in to do some bass parts at the studio, and the most beautiful woman I had ever seen came down the corridor to the control room topless! She was wearing stockings and suspenders and I thought I must be dreaming! It turned out she was very real and a Penthouse pet. Joanna Lathem was her name and WITCHFINDER GENERAL were shooting some photos of her for the cover of there first album! Trouble was I couldn't keep my mind on playing.
    The demo’s along with "The Opening Ritual" EP was recorded at Metro sound studios in the heart of the industrial west midlands. The guy who owned it heard the band and then wanted to manage us. Raymond Frogget was his name and he really helped start our carrier. BLACK SABBATH used to support his band when they were first called EARTH. He saw our potential early on and gave us free studio time.
    The first demo with David Potter is very sought after; even I do not have a good copy now!!! It contained "That’s the Way it Goes", "A Piece of the Action", "Return of the Passover" and "Road of Eagles". Two of those songs never made it onto record. I wish I could get a copy of that demo because everyone wants me to release it. If anyone out there has one let me know by an e-mail to the official website.
3. Tell us some things about the other members (past and present) of CLOVEN HOOF and about the other bands that they have played in like TREDEGAR, H-BOMB, TRAPEZE, BUDGIE, CHAIN REACTION, CHAIN LIGHTNING, etc. Tell us with details about all the bands that you have played in except CLOVEN HOOF, if there are any.
    I have only ever played in CLOVEN HOOF it is the only band I am interested in.
    Russ North, Andy Wood and Lee Jones joined us from TREDEGAR, the other two guys used to be in heavy metal pioneers BUDGIE. I was a big fan of BUDGIE and thought Ray Phillips was a teriffic drummer and Tony Bordge a brilliant guitar player. Burke Shelly had a wonderfully distinctive voice and played solid bass, "Never Turn your Back on a Friend" and "Bandolier" were classic albums. I had always been a fan of BUDGIE so they had great credentials. Russ was a huge fan of the first CLOVEN HOOF album so he was thrilled to be in the hoof right from the start.
    Rob Kendrick had also been in BUDGIE and he joined us on lead vocals for the “Fighting Back album”. He had also been in TRAPEZE with Mel Galley (WHITESNAKE), Dave Holland (JUDAS PRIEST) and Glen Hughes (DEEP PURPLE).
    Derek Hodd an old mate of mine was in a band called CHAIN REACTION and he rehearsed with us for a time before we made the “Dominator” album. He helped out by doing a live gig in London last year on lead vocals, because Russ was ill and we didn’t want to pull the show. He did well and remains one of the most reliable guys you could ever meet. Rock on Dell!
4. Tell us about the magnificent new EP! How did you manage to create such a really good sound? In how many copies was “Throne of Damnation” released? Will you release more copies if it is sold out?
    Thank you for the nice words my friend. The “Throne of Damnation” EP was only ever going to be a limited edition for the die hard fans. We wanted them to own a special release that was bound to be a sought after CD; it was a way of rewarding their die hard loyalty.
    We recorded it at Mad Hat studios where we did “A Sultans Ransom” and we had a great time. Mark Stuart is a great engineer and is really into our music so it was a very pleasurable experience. Matt Moreton did the lead vocals and he sang brilliantly as always. Russ was going through personal problems so he left the band for a while and Matt was the natural choice. Unfortunately just after the recording session he developed a kidney illness that was potentially life threatening. So he was unable to tour due to ill health.
    All the copies for Throne sold out in a matter of two weeks! So we were very pleased by the production and the way the fans snapped up all the CDs. Their loyalty is truly amazing!
5. Which stuff of CLOVEN HOOF is commercially available? Why did you decide to release “Throne of Damnation” on your own? Will there be a “The Definitive Part 2” or is there any chance of having each of your past releases separately re-released?
    Because we now have the rights back for “Dominator” and “A Sultan's Ransom”, we plan to re-release them later in the year with bonus tracks. Because of this there seems little point of doing “The Definitive Part Two” because the original albums will be available.
    As a best of album “The Definitive Part One” is a great compilation and we did it because the re-recorded songs benefited due to better modern production. It was also a testimony to the band line up we had at the time.
    We plan to release a live album and DVD at some point too because the fans are demanding it through polls on the official website. I get countless e-mails requesting live releases, so we are committed to give the fans what they want. They matter above all else!
6. Compare all the releases of CLOVEN HOOF including your magnificent new EP.
    I guess “A Sultan's Ransom” is the yard stick by which all our releases are compared and judged. I suppose that is because it was such a rewarding album to make, and it highlighted and defined the CLOVEN HOOF sound.
    "A Sultan's Ransom" was recently voted one of the best power metal album of all time along with "Rainbow Rising" and "Painkiller" by JUDAS PRIEST, that was the biggest honour ever. For many this album is our finest work and in many ways. 
    I think each each of our albums have a unique identity. The first EP “The Opening Ritual” and the self titled debut album had a brooding doom laden menace, that echoed perfectly the occult leanings of my writing at the time. “Dominator” fused prog rock with pure power, in a concept album that was a metaphor about the dangers inherent in genetic engineering. I think it was pivotal in providing the blue print for power metal. “Eye of the Sun” was an eclectic mixture of songs celebrating our fusing of metal and varied musical styles, from Arabian influenced time signatures to hard hitting thrash.
    I think “The Throne of Damnation” EP took off where “A Sultan's Ransom” left off. It showed off our broad bandwidth and inventiveness, “Running Man” was typical hard hitting hoof metal, whilst “Prime Time” and “Freak Show” pushed boarders and showed the epic parameters of our sound. They provide a taster as to what to expect from the new concept album.
7. Tell us in details about the legal reasons that kept CLOVEN HOOF out of the scene for so many years. What did you do for a living during that stressful time of your life?
    I worked as a Graphic designer / Illustrator while we rode out the legal nightmare stuff. The dodgy contractual terms had to expire and not be renewed before I could write and perform again and CLOVEN HOOF to be free of all ties. It was hell but we are free agents now thank goodness.
8. Tell us about the reasons (apart from the legal ones) that led to the CLOVEN HOOF break-up then. Why do you think you didn’t have the success you should have had?
    I think many factors effect a band progressing and it not getting the recognition it deserved. Bad luck has certainly played its part along with the bad contracts. If we had the right management who would let us play the music without interference then we could have been a huge global act … No question about it. But we never compromise and will not change our musical style or direction. Not selling out may of cost us financially, but money is not what I am in it for. I will only ever write and play music I love… True Metal!
    Other band members were in it for the money and fame, so they eventually fell by the way side. Wives and girlfriends got in the way and they became less dedicated, so I had to replace them.
    These days the cult band status makes me proud because it implies we have dedicated faithful followers who are not into us because of hype. Our reputation was gained by word of mouth, so that means much more than overblown success built on artiface and a brainless media machine. Here today and gone tomorrow is meaningless trash for the unthinking masses and not for an uncompromising metal band such as CLOVEN HOOF.
9. Do you believe that the somehow complicated material of your albums is easy to be played live? Can Matt Moreton reach these high pitched vocals that the songs have? 
    Unfortunately Matt’s illness meant that he can’t play live with us, it is a great pity. But he can certainly hit high notes in fact his voice is pitched perfectly to cope with higher register material. But Russ North is back in the band now so the high pitched vocals are not an issue.
    The hoof catalogue is very technical live for most musicians, so I am currently auditioning some really great players. The musicianship has to be top notch for CLOVEN HOOF especially as the new album will be very technical indeed. Jon Brown and Ben Reed the ex drummer and guitarist were simply not good enough to play the new songs so they had to go. They jumped ship before they were pushed I guess! But that’s all water under the bridge now.
10. Talk to us about the new singer. Why did Russ North leave the band again? Is it true that the EP was recorded first with North’s vocals? Do you plan to write new material (a full length album maybe?) with CLOVEN HOOF? If yes when should we expect your next release? 
    Matt is a wonderful vocalist and a fantastic easy going guy to work with that is why it was such a blow him having kidney trouble. I am eternally grateful to him for making a great job of the last EP. Hope he makes a good recovery because he is a fantastic talent.
    As Russ is back as lead vocalist firing on all cylinders the new album will be a concept album very epic and operatically layered. There is an overall progressive rock feel to it, and will be our most ambitious release ever. “Dominator” was a good concept album but this will be very technical with multi time changes. Russ says the fans of Rush will go crazy when they hear it, that can’t be bad can it? 
    It will take about a year or so to complete so sometime in 2012 looks like being the likely release date.
11. Tell us some things about the CLOVEN HOOF covers, the really nice band logo and the lyrics of your songs. I really like your cover artwork on “Throne of Damnation”!
    I am really honored you like the cover of Throne. When we last played in Greece in fact the fans said how they loved comic book artwork in heavy metal. It really suited CLOVEN HOOF with its sci fi and fantasy brand of subject matter, so I wanted a return to the original ethos of the band starting with the artwork. I designed the original logo so I thought why not take it a stage further and design the covers again?
    The fans in Greece also were the inspiration for me working on the comic book concept that seems a great success of late. It has tripled the traffic on the bands official website. People come back every week to read the latest storyline. So that is very pleasing indeed from a marketing point of view.
12. Do you have any unreleased demo material or any live appearances on VHS from the old days? If yes do you plan to re-release any of it someday remixed and remastered? 
    That is a fantastic question and we are working right now in fact to provide the fans with previously unreleased demos and live DVD material.
13. Would you like to play live someday again in Europe in general or in Greece ? Why did your live shows last only about an hour? Tell us your opinion about the live shows you gave in Greece .
    It is no secret that I love Greece and the wonderful metal maniacs over there, it has been a constant source of inspiration to me all my life. The mythology and the kick ass attitude of the people is awesome and I will definitely play there with CLOVEN HOOF as soon as I can, that’s a promise!
    Our comeback show in Athens at the AN club was very moving indeed, I felt in many ways like I had returned to my spiritual home. Awesome, moving and humbling, these are the only words I can find to describe it. We never expected such over the top hero worship from the fans, it was hard to compose myself, seeing them all at last and being able to play for them after all this time. Everyone went crazy including us!
14. Have you listened to any new good releases in the classic hard rock/heavy metal genre? If yes give us some basic info about these bands including their musical style. 
    I tend to not listen to too many bands these days in case they influence or change my writing style. In CLOVEN HOOF I try to write as a fan so as not to abandon our strong musical direction and identity.
    I like FIREWIND, DRAGONFORCE and KAMELOT, they are good bands. They are very technical bands, packed with good inventive players. But I still love classic groups like BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, QUEEN and THIN LIZZY. Their music is timeless and inspiring.
15. Do you think that the Internet has helped the bands make their name better known by "offering" samples of their music or has it harmed them because of the free downloading of whole albums? If it is true that both happen, where does the balance hang out more?
    Another great question! It is a double edged sword because bands can get known easier on a worldwide level, but most bands fall apart because they earn nothing for their hard work via product. Every band member gets bills and has to earn money to live, so free downloading is killing a lot of groups.
    Sure it gets music to a wide audience much quicker than in the old days; however the internet is being flooded by loads of crap music on the downside made by people who should never be in the business. It is difficult to wade through the crap to get to the good bands. But such is life, everyone has the right to run their music up the flag pole to see who salutes it. That is what freedom of thought and choice is all about.
    Maybe the cream will rises to the surface and be successful no matter what! Like the old maxim says... you can’t keep a good band down!
16. Tell us about your free time activities. I know that you like reading book of the sword and sorcery literature so tell us a bit about that.
    A steady diet of Greek, and Norse mythology, old horror and sci-fi films and Marvel comic books. I suppose this amalgamation of things that fueled my imagination is mixed up and synthesized into our songs. I have pretty vivid nightmares too, and many of our riffs are playing as a background track to these. I keep a tape recorder by the bed and I hum song ideas into it sometimes in the middle of the night. This drives my girlfriends crazy; they must think I am insane singing away into a tape machine in the middle of the night. No wonder they always end up walking out! It is true to say I am married to CLOVEN HOOF… nothing else really matters to me.
    Robert E Howard who wrote Conan is a big hero of mine I am glad they made Solomon Kane into a film at last. A very beautiful lady from Greece brought me the book as a matter of fact!
17. Thank you for the interview. Leave a comment to our readers.
    I would just like to express my profound thanks Ioannis to you and Behind The Veil in allowing me the chance to give the fans more information about CLOVEN HOOF and spread the power metal message across the world.
    Thanks a million to all the fans in Greece who have shown the band love and support all these years, we truly value your opinions and well wishes. Russ and I will continue to bring you CLOVEN HOOF epic metal for many years to come, and we will always stay faithful to true metal no matter what. We love all you metal maniacs, so keep on playing that metal till your ears bleed!
Ioannis  "Knight of the Light"  Kaskamanidis