Ten Questions, Ten Minutes with with Marquis de Sade
The stars that burn briefly burn brightest, and although London five-piece Marquis de Sade weren’t together that long their NWOBHM legacy was cemented by the release of their one single, ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ b/w ‘Black Angel’. “...their ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ single from 1981 is an extremely accomplished and well-produced piece of weighty prog/metal,” is how Malc Macmillan describes it in his ‘NWOBHM Encyclopedia’, and the highly collectable 7” fetches big money these days: at the time of writing there’s one up on Discogs going for £170. The band – vocalist Chris [sic] Gordelier, guitarist Kevin Pope, keyboard player and guitarist San Remo, bassist Pete Gordelier and drummer Gary Pope – spilt up around 1982 or so, but reformed a few years back with Kriss (to spell it correctly) and Pete Gordelier and Gary Pope joined by guitarist Pauly Gordelier and keyboard player Giles Holland; and they would have been a major draw at Brofest 2021 had the pandemic not put paid to the festival.
2022 saw the release of their band’s first full album, the captivating ‘Chapter II’ which, with all the points pretty much tallied, is beyond doubt my top album of the year. As such, Gary was invited to take the Ten Questions, Ten Minutes challenge, assisted at one point by Kriss and Giles.
Q1. As an original member, can you please give me a quick history of the band the first time around?
Gary: “I think it was around 1979/80. My brother Kevin and I had dissolved our previous band Mixdix and put an advert in Melody Maker for a singer and bass player to start a new band. Kriss and Pete turned up together – what a result that was! We got on straight away and started rehearsing once or twice a week. All rehearsals then were in London, generally in studios under the old railway arches.”
Q2. And how did the band’s name come about?
Gary: “This is how I remember it after forty-plus years… We were at a rehearsal and it was agreed to keep the ‘M’ logo that I designed for my Mixdix. We flicked through the M section of a dictionary and Marquis de Sade was agreed. It just sounded right.”
Q3. As you know, that one single from 1981 ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ is now highly collectable and fetches a high price. Does that surprise you?
Gary: “Here’s a brief history regarding the single: My father Ron Pope used to work for the entertainer Kenny Lynch. Ron told Kenny about the band and said that we intended to record ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ as a single. Kenny was already familiar with the song as he had previously sung on the chorus in his own studio when we recorded the demo with Mixdix a few years earlier. Having seen us perform live a few times, Kenny suggested that if we get the recording done he would then put us on his own record label, X-Pose. We gratefully agreed and recorded ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ at Majestic Studios in Clapham, London. We pressed a thousand copies. We collected the first five hundred copies and started selling them at gigs, but by the time the band dissolved the other five hundred were never collected and would have been destroyed. So five hundred copies were ever released. But people do pay silly prices for collectables. The record has a serial number and is now very rare which is why collectors want it; it does put a smile on my face though.”
Q4. What was the catalyst for the band’s reformation, and how did you put together the new line-up?
Kriss: “It was my late wife who was contacted by High Roller Records (as it was the only e-mail address that they found) to ask permission to put out the album of demos [also called ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ and released in 2012]. I contacted the boys and off it flew. Still there was no thought of getting back together again at that stage but then I was being contacted by festival promoters, the first one being Keep It True then Brofest and again my wife said ‘contact Gary’ so I did. We planned a reunion then sadly Kevin Pope passed away. My brother Paul then joined us on guitar then the amazing Giles ‘Doc’ Holland joined us on keyboards. We had our first rehearsal in 2020. Then Covid hit. The rest is history.”
Giles: “I think around the time of the High Roller release there were questions from various parties – labels, promoters, etc – as to whether the band would get back together. I was playing Hammond organ in a soul-funk trio with Gary at the time and he asked me at one point whether I would be interested in playing keys with the band as the original keyboardist San Remo was no longer in the picture. I brought the subject up a few times on and off but it wasn’t until I met Pete at a tribute gig for Kevin Pope that the idea started to gain momentum. We finally all got together for the first time in early 2020.”
Q5. Congratulations on ‘Chapter II’ – as I said in my review it’s my favourite album of the year and will be heading up my end-of-year Top 20. You must be very proud of it. What did you set out to achieve when you wrote and recorded it’?
Gary: “Thanks for that John, it means a lot to us. I do get very emotional sometimes thinking of Kevin, he would have loved what we’re doing right now. I think I speak for Kriss and Pete in that we are very honoured to have Pauly and Giles on board: both are adding a new dimension to the old and new songs. With all the great reviews that the album has received I think we are all very proud of what we have achieved. When old fans and family found out we were back together, we didn’t want to let them down. We used the lockdown period to our advantage to arrange new and old material. To finally make the album and hold it in my hands after all that time was a dream come true for me and I can’t thank the guys enough for all their time and effort that went into making it.”
Q6. The album is a mixture of old and new material, but it’s seamless – there’s no real way to identify the age of the material. How easy was it to slip back into writing songs the Marquis de Sade way?
Gary: “No problem at all - it’s in our DNA! Pauly did a grand job with the production, and I think that holds the new and old songs together. I wrote the lyrics to ‘Belvedere’ during lockdown. I’ve always been inspired by the work of M.C. Escher. I didn’t plan to write the song initially, it just came about as we were all in lockdown. I just put myself ‘in the frame’ looking at the picture of Belvedere and the lyrics just came quite quickly. I gave the lyrics to Giles and he worked his magic – the great chorus was initially supposed to be the play out but I’m glad he switched it. During lockdown the ideas were coming thick and fast. Not all lyrics/ideas get to go through but 'The Moon’s Glow’ really started to take shape after Pauly started working on it. Based on the classic Hammer film, I just wanted the lyrics to project the hurt and torment of Leon who was ‘cursed at birth’… A very similar story with ‘Last Survivor’ – the lyrics are inspired by one of my favourite films, ‘Alien’. I just wanted the on-board computer ‘Mother’ to take some of the blame for waking the crew and for the horror to come. Again, during lockdown, we were all having the usual zoom meeting and it just came to me whilst we were all in conversation: ‘Guys, I’m gonna write a follow up to ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’. I just felt that the time was right. I thought that after forty years what would have happened to the guy in the original song. I thought it would be good to give it a conclusion. So, he achieved his ambition, he has his family and friends and is now very happy and just looks at the world from his ‘Fortress’. Kriss, Pete and Pauly also write great material – I love ‘Border Wall’ – so it’s nice for me to get involved and make my contributions. Giles made a big contribution with his musical arrangements and the whole package came together brilliantly. What an honour it is to work with these fine musicians.”
Q7. I know you’re responsible for it, but the artwork is amazing. Can you tell me a bit about the main theme – the imprisoned woman – and some of the other images?
Gary: “I created the original ‘Marquis de Sade’ logos back in 1979/80. Giles suggested that we should keep the same lettering. So I had to redraw the logo for the computer as the original was done in pen and ink on a drawing board. I then designed all the new visuals. I sent a few ideas through to the boys and they all gave the visuals a big thumbs-up. The main album images are all loosely based on the Marquis de Sade history and the ‘frightened girl’ was chosen to reflect this. Once the cover image was chosen I then reimagined the ‘M’ and type logos to blend in and fit accordingly. The ‘M’ logo was particularly tricky in trying to achieve the stone effect. I then created various images to reflect each song on the album. I’m very proud of how the album turned out. The big problem, of course, is what to do for our next album, but I won’t dwell on that at the moment!”
Q8. What’s next for the band?
Gary: “We’re currently working on new material for a possible new album. Pauly has also done a great arrangement on an old number that we wrote back in the day, ‘Cloning’ which we also intend to include. Looking at possible new gigs and hopefully, getting back out to Europe – can’t believe the great response that we got out there! Last year when we played The Abyss Festival in Sweden everyone was singing along to ‘Somewhere Up In The Mountains’ and Kriss turned around to me and said ’What the f*ck’s going on!’! Can you imagine how we all felt? Some of the fans weren’t even born when we recorded that over forty years ago. We’ve had such a great positive reaction, and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone that believed in us. Our music has obviously hit the spot with so many great reviews. That’s the positive energy that keeps us all going. I’m sure that Kevin and Jenni [Kriss’s wife] are looking down with a smile – it’s for them!”
Q9. OK, so if you were a superhero, what would your superpower be, and why?
Gary: “Captain Marvel (1941 serial) was a great favourite of mine. Shazam’s name (when spoken) was an acronym derived from the six immortal elders who granted Captain Marvel his superpowers: Solomon (Wisdom), Hercules (Strength), Atlas (Stamina), Zeus (Power), Achilles (Courage), and Mercury (Speed). So I’d play faster and get to gigs quicker!”
Q10. If you drove an ice cream van, what tune would it play?
Gary: “The Laurel and Hardy theme ‘Dance of The Cuckoos’. Laurel and Hardy: never bettered. The best! Period!”
© John Tucker December 2023