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History

For any connoisseur of late 1970s/early 1980s hard rock and heavy metal, V1 is a band that you need to know. With an impressive pedigree involving a shared history with a certain band named Iron Maiden, V1 was a rock n roll supernova. They burned bright but they burned fast, forming and imploding over the course of a few scorching months in 1978.

Having formative influence on the burgeoning NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), V1’s recorded legacy was a demo tape comprising a hat-trick of heads-down, fists in the air, pedal-to-the-metal anthems. This tape became a Holy Grail for collectors, finally receiving a release on vinyl and CD via the independent High Roller records in 2015.

Encouraged by response to the 2015 release, and with renewed interest in V1’s contribution to heavy metal history, the band is now re-born with a tweaked line-up to produce a new set of recordings – their best yet. With fresh impetus, V1 are riding on the wave of a creative peak.

“V1 rocket gonna rock your house down,
V1 rocket, gonna shock it!”

The Formative Years

Experiencing a degree of success in the London rock scene during the early/mid 1970s with hard-rockers Smiler, vocalist Dennis Willcock left that band in order to create something altogether “more progressive and adventurous”. This burning ambition was shared by Smiler’s rhythm section, two young guns by the names of Steve Harris (bass) and Doug Sampson (drums), who also quit soon after.

After a few months in the wilderness the inevitable happened and Dennis once again joined forces with Steve Harris in his new band, a promising twin-guitar combo known as ‘Iron Maiden’. According to Dennis: “I got a call from Steve to come to a rehearsal where they were auditioning for vocalists, he wanted to get my opinion…final result I was asked if I would consider joining!”

Influenced by melodic and progressive hard-rock, ‘Maiden rehearsed regularly to develop their own sound and to work on a set of original material. With Den-Ace (as he became known) behind the microphone, Iron Maiden had now a front-man with the stage presence to match the ambitious and exhilarating nature of the music.

Introducing a blend of vaudevillian showmanship and Hammer Horror shock-rock, Dennis helped Iron Maiden to shape its live-show, introducing theatrics such as sword-wielding, the use of blood capsules, face-paint and masks. The legacy is still apparent today in the arena shows ‘Maiden is now renowned for, albeit on a much larger scale!

Iron Maiden was at this time a volatile beast, and the London music scene a competitive place to be. For these reasons and also due to the determined and ambitious (perhaps single-minded) nature of both Steve and Dennis, ‘Maiden experienced a revolving door of musicians during this period.

The Maiden twin guitars were, for a while at least, replaced by one guitarist and a keyboardist, and it was this experimental line-up of Iron Maiden in which guitarist Terry Wapram would first join forces with Dennis, rehearsing and performing a set of ambitious original material including dynamic and hard-hitting numbers such as ‘Prowler’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

However, it was not long before more line-up changes ensued – firstly the twin guitar sound was re-introduced at the expense of the keyboards –Harris wanting his pal Dave Murray back in the fold to work alongside Terry Wapram. This approach would of course work well for ‘Maiden in the long-run, but at the time served to catalyze more disruption, according to Wapram “At this point I hadn’t played in two guitar line-ups and didn’t want to share the guitar work.”

New Directions: ‘V1 Rocket, Gonna Shock It!’

Wapram left Iron Maiden and almost immediately began putting together a new band ‘V1’ with bassist Charlie Borg with whom he forged a productive song-writing partnership. ‘Maiden meanwhile soldiered on, but differences in opinion as to how the music should evolve meant that the gap between Steve and Dennis’ ideas became wider. “I knew that we had to move forward a bit more with Maiden” reflects Willcock “I was looking for a fuller sound, almost like a rock AOR sound, with a bit more musical ability.” Resultantly, Dennis opted to reunite with Terry Wapram in V1 to pursue the “fuller” sound that he had envisaged.

Opting for a clean break from ‘Maiden, V1 resisted the temptation to carry over any of their previous band’s repertoire and instead constructed a set of brand new material. Whilst still very much a hard rock sound based on tough riffs and technical musicianship, the overall vibe was more upbeat. In the words of Terry Wapram:

“I took what I had experienced playing in Maiden and tried to push heavy rock in another direction. Charlie Borg and myself wrote the music and Dennis Willcock was in charge of the lyrics. We were looking for good riffs but with some extra flair and time changes.”

Armed with a canon of quality material and a knack for entertaining the crowd, V1 soon stormed ahead, gaining an incredible following around the London circuit – including a loyal audience at famed East London venue The Ruskin Arms. Terry Wapram remembers it well: “We had many memorable gigs. Our residency at the Ruskin, which we did a year before Iron Maiden, was a good example. The place was rammed full of bikers every week.” Other V1 hotspots included the Band Wagon in North London, where DJ/promoter Neal Kaye ran his famous and influential Soundhouse rock night.

With growing momentum, the next logical step in V1’s rocket-like trajectory was to capture their music on tape. On the recommendation of a friend who worked in the music business, V1 booked into Spaceward studios in Cambridge, a university city at the centre of the UK’s tech industry. Self-produced, the band recorded three original numbers, and the results were strong (in fact so strong that an impressed Steve Harris took his new Iron Maiden line-up to the same studio a few months later, to record their own demo tape, which became the much heralded Soundhouse EP).

With a growing fanbase the future looked bright. Unfortunately though, for V1 things did not go entirely according to plan. Encouraged by advisors to resist pub gigs and hold out for bigger things, V1 lost momentum and split-up within the year. Willcock’s next move was to keep doing what he did best, by joining another band Gibraltar with which he was able to continue for a few more years in a similar musical vein as he had with V1: Hard-hitting but colourful heavy rock music that stands up proudly against pretty much anything else from the NWOBHM era (check out the track ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ to hear the evidence, but don’t blame me if you can’t get it out of your head for the next few weeks!).

Onwards and Upwards……to the End of the beginning

Over the next few decades little was heard of from Willcock or Wapram. For a while, Wapram teamed up with ex-Iron Maiden drummer Ron Rebel in the band Space Chickens which played regularly around London, but apart from the obligatory mention in biographies about the NWOBHM and Iron Maiden, the end of the 1970s seemingly marked the end of the road for all things V1. Until recently, that is.

In 2014, Dennis Willcock and former bandmates from Iron Maiden, Gibraltar and V1 re-established contact. A few exchanges via social media eventually led to a live gig in 2015 by Gibraltar V1 (an amalgamation of the both bands) at London’s 12 Bar Club, with Terry Wapram’s latest project Buffalo Fish also on the bill. There were other social reunions involving ex-members of 1970s Iron Maiden line-ups, most widely reported of which was at another London gig by Buffalo Fish. Realizing the interest in Dennis and Terry, and in V1, amongst rock and metal fans all over the world, High Roller records released a ‘split’ album featuring the combined demo recordings made by V1 and Gibraltar under the title ‘Spaceward Super Sessions’. In 2016 Dennis and Terry put together a new line-up of V1 to record and perform live the V1 material. Their objective, to get the music out to the fans around the world longing to hear it:

“We want to take the band where it should have got to first time round. The songs deserve to be heard – each one has a real story attached. We will stay true to the origins but of course bring them into the now. It is a real pleasure to revisit the songs from 1978 and fully develop and record with all the experience gained in the intervening years.”
– Terry Wapram, guitarist

“After 35 years out of the music scene I met with Terry again who had, unknown to me, recorded songs we had made in 1978/79. Listening to them inspired us to reform and update these tracks and record them again with modern technology.”
– Dennis Willcock, vocals
For its latest incarnation, V1 is proud to introduce its hungry young rhythm section Dwight Wharton (from Buffalo Fish) on bass and powerhouse drummer Gareth Dylan Smith (whose recording credits include albums with acts as diverse as The Eruptors and the Gillian Glover Band).

“We have a brilliant rhythm section in Dwight and Gareth, helping Dennis and I to do justice to the material. We want to tour this band. It will be very powerful live and I can’t wait for the full Dennis Willcock experience to hit the crowds.”
– Terry Wapram, guitarist
The new V1 album, “ARMAGEDDON END OF THE BEGINNING”, marks a new chapter in the book of rock! …The rest will be history…..

 
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