A great hard rock album that you should not have missed is Fastway‘s 2012 release Eat Dog Eat (for Powerline‘s review, click here). Some may think of Fastway as strictly an ’80s band … if that’s the case, think again. Guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke (far left in photo) brings Fastway back to disprove that notion. Clarke, one of the main power sources behind classic-era Motörhead, always had the knack for creating memorable, driving riffs — and he continues that legacy with Eat Dog Eat. The extra bonus of the album are the powerful vocals of Toby Jepson (Little Angels, Gun). What a damn good hard rock singer, and him and Clarke produce quite a powerful punch together.
Unfortunately, this may be Fastway’s swan song. Jepson has reunited with his old band Little Angels, leaving Clarke a bit empty-handed and the future of Fastway once again uncertain.
The following is a recent Powerline chat with “Fast” Eddie Clarke:
Eat Dog Eat kind of re-establishes Fastway as a great bluesy hard rock band. This is the way the band was intended to be, wasn’t it?
“Fast” Eddie Clarke: Yeah, this is what Fastway always should have been. We lost our way after the 2nd album [1984's All Fired Up] and things for me just went from bad to worse. To me Eat Dog Eat would have made a great 3rd album and would have kept the Blues Rock thing going.
There really isn’t a meaning behind the album title, is there?
Clarke: The album title actually came from Toby. A bit of a singer thing. I think it has meaning for him. I just liked the way it confused me, so I thought it must be cool (laughs).
Here’s an obvious question: why the wait for a new Fastway release?
Clarke: Fastway was dead and buried at the end of the ’90s. It was only after an old drummer friend of mine Steve Strange suggested in 2007 we do a few shows. Well, he is now a very successful agent — Coldplay amongst his roster. I said if all I have to do is turn up with my guitar, I am in. He used his connections and set up some great shows and then after getting John McManus on bass, he suggested we give Toby a try on vocals and it worked out really well. Toby decided to write an album in summer 2008 to try and keep the vibe going, unfortunately while Toby and I were writing the songs John quit the project, and Steve was also too busy to continue. Toby and I continued a little longer and finished writing the 11 tracks. Then Toby had a better offer and nothing more was done. The amazing was that we worked so well together. We only had three writing sessions of three days each, so you can see we were on fire and it was a shame we couldn’t continue at the time.
After meeting up with Toby in 2010 I suggested we record the songs as I felt they were too good to waste. He agreed and we set about organizing the recording. We decided to do it at Chapel Studio’s in Lincoln where we had both worked before. I would take care of the finance and I suggested Toby produce it as he had been doing a couple of bands earlier in the year, so he had an engineer he had worked with who was shit hot and he also had a drummer, Matt Eldridge, who fitted in perfectly.
Are you satisfied with the response Eat Dog Eat has received?
Clarke: I have been knocked out from the response for the album both in Europe and in the USA. I realize that the scene has changed a lot since the old days but it is great that Fastway should make one more great album after the bad times in the ’80s. It is a shame we were unable to tour the album due to Toby putting his old band back together, Little Angels. I never seem to have much luck with singers. I sometime feel Fastway was jinxed — maybe it was never really meant to be.
How does a song come to you? Is it immediate or does it take time to evolve?
Clarke: The songs in these sessions were pretty immediate. I had a lot of riffs and ideas in my head that had built up through the years when I did very little, so they were just bursting out. Toby was also fully tuned and together it just all fell in to place. A really wonderful experience.
In the song “Leave A Light On” the lyrics state: “Am I king who’s half undressed, dirty tricks I can’t confess/ found a beat but lost the vibe, had to crawl to stay alive…” Do these lyrics express a man’s struggle with creativity?
Clarke: These are Toby’s lyrics. Since the acrimonious break up of the Little Angels, Toby has had a cross to bear and he went through some tough times. I think these lyrics are more about putting food on the table for his family. He has three girls.
Toby Jepson really was a perfect match for Fastway.
Clarke: I agree, he was a perfect match until the old ‘singer thing’ kicked in. Suddenly the commitment was gone in true singer fashion. I would add that guitarists have their bad traits too — even me.
And Jepson did a good job producing the album — it is one of your best sounding albums.
Clarke: Yes, this album and the first album are definitely the best sounding Fastway records. We went for a live studio sound and deliberately went for the old ’70s sound — you know, warts and all. I do think we succeeded and I am very proud of this album.
Some may say Jepson is a better fit than even Dave King?
Clarke: I think he is a more mature singer than Dave. He is, after all, much older. But for raw talent — Dave was pretty special. The singing on the first album is still outstanding.
Do you still keep in touch with Dave?
Clarke: Unfortunately, not. We kept in touch until about 1992 and then we just lost touch. I think he wanted to start fresh and got fed up with always being asked about Fastway.
Were you surprised when you first heard he was the driving force in the celtic punk band Flogging Molly? I often wonder if that’s the same Dave King.
Clarke: No, I was not surprised. Dave always wanted to do the Irish thing. I did think he was going to do something like it when he first quit Fastway but he did Katmandu. His Flogging Molly band sounds good and has been well received I wish him all the best.
Some people still get confused about Pete Way not being in the band — even though he is part of the branding. Do you ever regret that it never worked out with Pete Way?
Clarke: I was devastated when Pete left Fastway to join Ozzy Osbourne. It was after all our band and it was never the same after his departure. I blame his old UFO record company. They refused to let him go even after I offered them the Fastway deal. They were just bloody minded record company idiots. Unfortunately, Pete could not take the stress and thought Ozzy was an easy out. He did not show for rehearsals one day and I did not see him again for six years. We are now good friends again and I hope he is doing okay.
His quick departure kind of took the wind out of your sails, huh?
Clarke: Yeah. Like I said It never felt right after Pete left. It really did spoil the whole thing. I did think we were going all the ‘way’ – excuse the pun. It certainly took all the fun out of it.
So you still keep in touch with Pete?
Clarke: We are back in touch now — although he has been hard to get hold of lately. Last I heard he was doing something with Michael Schenker. I like to stay in touch. He is a genuinely nice guy. Too nice for this business.
What about Lemmy? I sense that til this day Motörhead still has an influence on your songwriting.
Clarke: Of course. They were the golden years and I have many fond memories of the Motörhead era. I was the main songwriter in Motörhead, so, of course, there are times when it shows through. For instance, “Sick as a Dog” (off the new album) is one that springs to mind. I see Lemmy when he is in town, although I have not seen him for the last two years. We remain close. I have always thought of him as brother. We did go through deep shit together and wrote some great albums.
“Ace of Spades” may be one of the best rock songs ever written.
Clarke: You said it! But it is great to have a song that has become a classic. I feel really lucky to have a classic like “Ace of Spades.” It’s worth so much more than money.
Do you keep in touch with Girlschool? They have a new album out as well.
Clarke: Funny, I spoke to Kim [McAuliffe] last week. Yeah, we stay in touch but our paths have not crossed for a couple of years. I am hoping to see them in the not-too-distant future. I knew they have an new album but I have not heard it yet. I am sure it is up to there usual standard. They always made good records.
Do you think Fastway was received well enough in the States?
Clarke: I always thought Fastway was really well received in the US. Much better than Motörhead ever was when I was with them. I have many great memories of shows Fastway did in the States. In fact, it was one of the highlights of my career — touring in the US the audiences are fantastic and really loved Fastway. I doubt I will ever tour there again. The business has changed so much. Many things just do not seem possible anymore. But I have great memories of the U.S. — the home of Fastway.
I’ve heard you remark that the ’80s were a bad time. Can you explain?
Clarke: Everything started to go wrong after the first record. I felt the production on All Fired Up was not as good as it should have been. Fastway started to go backwards and after the All Fired Up tour in ’84 the band broke up. I later joined Dave in Ireland with his old band and we did Waiting for the Roar, which was a producer/record company/ management led album which Dave had a lot of faith in. And when it bombed, he had had enough. I managed to persuade him to do Trick or Treat, which he did and for me was a highlight but then we parted company. From then it was downhill. I was not on the planet and [singer] Lea Hart made two Fastway albums that I had very little to do with [1988's On Target and 1990's Bad Bad Girls]. The ’80s, for me, were not great. I really think the ’80s was a bad period for rock music. It turned into the era of the producer and spandex, which really killed it.
Do you think the album-oriented rock approach on Waiting For the Roar is what sidetracked the band back in the ’80s? Some think it may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Clarke: I can honestly say I never liked the album. This was the moment I lost control of Fastway and for me Fastway did not return until Eat Dog Eat.
What is your favorite Fastway work then — what do you think represents the band best?
Clarke: Difficult, but I can say with hand on heart the first album and Eat Dog Eat stand out to me as classic albums — and I am proud to be associated with both. Funny, they are 27 years apart. It certainly is a funny old game.
BTW, I love this comment from Dee Snider of Twisted Sister: “Fast Eddie Clarke really impressed the hell out of me with how down to earth he was. It is hard to find that in an industry full of egos.”
Clarke: I’ve always loved Twisted Sister. Real gentleman. It was privilege to appear on there first album. They were great days back then.
Are there any regrets?
Clarke: Well, in this business you can’t really have regrets. I just feel I have been very lucky to have had such a long and interesting career playing guitar and making music. So, no regrets, just lots of thanks to all the people who’ve enjoyed my music.
What are immediate plans and goals for Fastway?
Clarke: Well, it is all a bit up in the air with Toby doing Little Angels. Once again I am left wondering what will happen next. Fastway does seem to have Gremlins in the machine. I am sorry to say we will just have to wait and see.
For Fastway vintage vinyl / memorabilia go to eBay. For instance, click here to get a vintage 7″ of “Easy Livin’”