“Win Lose or Draw is our fourth album of the modern era. It will be instantly recognisable as a Salem UK album to our fans, the classic melodic rock element is still there, and of course we have the unmistakable lead vocals of Simon. Francis brings a harder, more modern edge to the music and has certainly dragged our songwriting into the modern era, so now, alongside the Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake and Sabbath influences, you might just catch a suggestion of Evanescence, Lacuna Coil and Alter Bridge in there too! We have worked our nuts off to make this album the best it can be, so that we can give the knowledgeable heavy metal/heavy rock community a slice of top-quality British rock. No stone has been left unturned in the recording of this album, we are immensely proud of it.”
Adrian Jenkinson, Salem UK press release
Salem originally came together at the tail end of 1979, founded by two ex-members of Ethel The Frog, vocalist and guitarist Paul Tognola and drummer Paul Conyers. With bassist Adrian Jenkinson and lead guitarist Paul Macnamara joining the ranks the band was complete by January 1980. Despite recording three demos and a well-received 7” ‘Reach For Eternity’ c/w ‘Cold As Steel’ Salem – by now featuring vocalist Simon Saxby, second guitarist Mark Allison and drummer Paul Mendham alongside Macnamara and Jenkinson – bowed to the inevitable and finally called it a day on 31 May 1983, after a home-town gig in Hull.
That should have been the end of the story, but in 2010 the line-up as it was on the day of their last gig got back together once more. “High Roller Records and Pure Steel approached us and asked if we had any old demos that could be released as an album,” recalls Adrian, “and, as it happened, we did! We arranged a meeting to discuss it between ourselves – it was the first time we had been in the same room in twenty-seven years – and at that meeting we decided to get back together to see what would happen. As it happened – quite a lot!” he laughs, and that’s no exaggeration, given that, alongside a lot of high-profile gigs, Salem released two EPs ‘New Tricks’ and ‘X-Rated’ and three full albums (‘Forgotten Dreams’, ‘Dark Days’ and ‘Attrition’) as well as the High Roller LP / Pure Steel CD early days’ anthology ‘In The Beginning’ which had kick-started the whole thing. Salem played their first reformation gig at the New Adelphi in Hull on 20 November 2010. It must have felt great to be back in business once more…
“Well, of course there were negatives, but the overriding memories are those of the amazing people we met, especially fans who would travel hundreds of miles to see us—a very humbling experience, especially when we frequently have queues at our merch table, and fans want photos and autographs,” says Adrian. “It was never like this in the Eighties! The other memories are just those of five blokes having fun, laughing and joking every step of the way as we travelled to and from gigs.”
“Plus,” Simon chips in, “there was the euphoria of playing a weekend in Dubai, and also at Headbangers’ Open Air. It was also great getting back to creating songs in the studio and getting a great working relationship going once again.”
By the time of the third album, ‘Attrition’, released in February 2018, Salem had signed to Dissonance. “We’d some problems with Pure Steel over publishing,” Adrian admits, “and we weren’t sure how it would turn out so we decided to hedge our bets, and see if there was another label that would want to sign us should the relationship with Pure Steel break down. Tom Doherty [Label Manager at Dissonance] came back to us very quickly – and very enthusiastically – so we decided to go with them regardless.” However, with the album ready to roll, things took a dramatic change. Back in the first issue of Echoes Simon had referred to the “sad and difficult end to 2017,” and in the same feature Adrian noted simply that “the beginning of  saw some ‘Dark Days’ indeed. I certainly considered swapping my guitar for pipe, slippers and a cup of Horlicks…” So, what happened?
Adrian pauses. “It’s difficult without hanging out our dirty washing in public, but we had musicianship differences,” he says, stressing the word, “which resulted in the band splitting. Ultimately Simon and I were were sacked via a written notice which happened to land on our respective doorsteps on the day that ‘Attrition’ was released. Legal proceedings ensued which resulted in the official winding up of Salem, and agreement between all of us that Simon and I would exclusively own the name Salem UK, plus the rights to all three studio albums. And that’s where we stand today.”
“The break-up was heart-breaking for us,” adds Simon, “but it did serve to strengthen the bond between Adrian and me, so ultimately it was probably for the best.”
After a period of contemplation the pair recruited guitarist Francis Gill and drummer Dave Megginson. I wondered what they had brought to the band. “Dave has now left – c’mon, John, keep up!” laughs the bassist again – “nothing acrimonious, it’s just that real life got in the way of his participation in the band. But it has been amazing to work with Francis. I have worked with him on numerous projects in the past in my studio so it was a no-brainer to ask him to join Salem UK. We all get along so well you would think Francis had been with us from the start, which,” he adds, “would have been a truly amazing feat since he wasn’t even born then!”
“Francis is a breath of fresh air, who has raised the bar for me and Adrian,” confirms Simon. “And that’s resulted in an air of optimism and positivity for us all.”
After all this upheaval, the newly-branded Salem UK are opening their account with ‘Win Lose Or Draw’, which is set for release by Dissonance in October. “I have never been involved in such a free-flowing, good-feeling project,” is how Adrian describes it, while Simon nods his agreement. “The songs flowed, as did the recording. What a revelation!”
“For me,” the bass player continues, “‘Win Lose Or Draw’ is better than ‘Attrition’ on most levels – especially the musicianship. Everyone who has heard it so far has made that point,” and to be fair, he’s on the money there. ‘Attrition’ is a great album – no doubt about it – but ‘Win Lose Or Draw’ takes things one step further, especially on songs like the hard-nosed opener ‘The Wraith’ (check out Francis’ guitar work!), the more melodic but amazingly catchy title track and the true grit of ‘Sentinel’. As Adrian noted in the press release, the band have brought a wider range of influences to bear to create a well-rounded and truly exciting album. As for its title, the idea came from the notion that, in Simon’s words, “as a ‘new’ band we’re dealing our cards out. They will fall wherever they fall, but we will stand by them – win, lose or draw.”
Asked what they consider to be their strengths as a band, both Simon and Adrian agree on “the mutual respect and friendship, plus the quality of the songwriting and musicianship.” The band opt for a collaborative approach to songwriting, pooling their skills to come up with the best material possible. “Well, occasionally one of us writes a complete song,” replies Adrian, “but usually it starts with the guitar parts for a song, normally from Francis or me. Then we put it together as an arrangement for a full song. Finally, Simon and I move in to write the lyrics and vocal melodies together.”
The artwork for ‘Attrition’ was extremely eye-catching, and I wondered what fans could expect this time around. “Another young lady, of course!” jokes Adrian. In fact, the first album to be released under the Salem UK name features a striking image of the band’s guardian angel throwing dice. “We’ve gone for even more ‘eye-catching-ness’ this time,” he continues, “so hopefully it will turn a few heads.”
As it’s time to wrap things up, I wondered how they would describe Salem UK in three words. “Well, currently, that would be Simon, Francis and Adrian, but that is about to change in the next couple of weeks…” suggests Adrian.
OK then, it’s trivia time! Tell us two things the average fan might not know about Salem UK. “Well, starts Simon, “we’re actually very publicity-shy. In fact we’ve hired a publicity agent to let everyone know about this, but we haven’t made much headway so far…”
“And,” adds Adrian, “if all the members of Salem UK were placed end-to-end horizontally in a line, the chances are they’d probably be drunk at the time!”
And finally, the Desert Island Challenge: if the band were marooned on a desert island, and things got desperate, who would you eat first, and why?
“As a bass player,” says Adrian, “I am quite often described as a fish out of water so I guess I’d probably eat myself…”
“But there would be no need,” interjects Simon. “We wouldn’t have to eat each other because we would soon find a boat, and then break it up and make a raft!”
‘Win Lose Or Draw’ is set for release on 11 October
To buy or stream ‘Attrition’ please click the link below