JOHN ALTMAN

Hi John, and welcome to the Heavy Metal Kids line-up! So, how did it all start? You knew Gary Holton back in the '70s, yes?
That's right! I first met Gary around 1977/78. A group of us were all friends, including Donna, who was Gary's girlfriend, and we all used to hang around together in Maida Vale. We used to meet up at The Alfred, The Warrington, The Shirland Arms, The Windsor Castle - all the old haunts. We'd go and watch The Clash and loads of other punk bands when punk was just starting out. Gary and I both worked on the film Quadrophenia in 1979, and I went to Heavy Metal Kids gigs around the London area whenever I could - including one at the Music Machine in Camden, where I watched Gary climb up the red velvet stage curtain! Gary and I shared some really wild nights in Portobello Road and at his place in Maida Vale, on Sutherland Avenue. There was one time after Sid Vicious and Nancy had been having a row, and I sat talking to her. Sid thought I'd been chatting her up and came after me to give me a lashing with his studded belt. But he ended up going after the wrong man... My one and only Sex Pistols story and I missed all the action!

JOHN ALTMAN - HEAVY METAL KIDSWhen did you make contact again with Ronnie and Keith and how did this lead to joining the Heavy Metal Kids in 2010?
Robin Greatrex, who'd worked with HMK, knew they were looking for a frontman and he suggested me, and also Tony McHale from the BBC put my name forward.
We all met up at Cosmo's place. They gave me three songs to learn, and luckily they seemed to like what I did! Then we tried the songs out live, at a pub in Brentford, and it all went really well. So we put together a set of about ten songs, and everything just seemed to fall into place. We've been in the recording studio and have got two tracks down so far - Uncontrollable and Shake That Thing. We did a video shoot the other day, and also a photo shoot [for Classic Rock magazine with Ross Halfin], and we're ready to go!

Sounds like you're enjoying it so far!
Yes, we've been having a great time! And we're back in the studio soon, to work on the rest of the tracks. Being with the Kids is a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to what we can do with it, where we can take it.

Any feedback from the other bandmembers that the energy with you in the band seems very similar to when Gary was in the line-up?
Yes! Actually the director of Quadrophenia commented that Gary and I are quite similar. We'd both be about the same age now, and coincidentally, he was also up for the part of Nasty Nick back in 1985. But of course by that time Gary was having a lot of drug problems, and tragically he died in the October of that year.

JOHN ALTMAN - HEAVY METAL KIDSGary was an institution as Wayne Norris on Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and was much loved by HMK fans for his stage presence and crazy escapades. What reaction do you hope/expect to get from the old-school HMK fans?
Well, I hope they accept that I'm not Gary, and also that I'm not trying to be the same as Gary - but I think they'll feel that the spirit of the old HMK is still there. From the way it's been going so far, I'm sure it'll come across that we're having a lot
of fun onstage, and that it's done with respect for Gary.

What about from fans who are too young to remember Gary as HMK's frontman but who'll recognise you straight away as the bad boy from EastEnders?
Yes, I think we'll get some interest from that. For instance, with Uncontrollable I don't play it as Nasty Nick, but there are a lot of elements of the 'bad boy' in there. [At this point, John played me the track, and he's right, it could have been written for Nasty Nick. It's also a song that you could easily imagine Gary singing!]

When you hit the road you'll obviously be playing a lot of songs from the early albums. Which are your favourite HMK songs? (Probably not 'The Cops Are Coming', if we're just going by the titles!)
Yeh! She's No Angel was always a favourite of mine, but when we've rehearsed it we've done it heavier. All the HMK songs from that time were great. And Uncontrollable is gonna be wild! With Cosmo, Ronno and Keith, and the very talented Justin McConville on guitar and keyboards, there's a good solid rock feel to the songs.

Of course you're hugely well known on TV due to Nasty Nick Cotton's shenanigans on Eastenders (hard to believe that your first appearance as Nick Cotton was 25 years ago!) but fewer people will know that you're also a prolific film and stage performer. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
Being chosen to play George Harrison in The Birth Of The Beatles was a very early highlight for me, as was getting a part in Quadrophenia. I recently played the role of Billy Flynn in the West End production of Chicago, which I loved doing - and of course Nick Cotton has had some great storylines!

JOHN ALTMAN - HEAVY METAL KIDSAnd the lowpoints?
I don't dwell on the low points - we all have low points and you just have to put them behind you and move on.

Is being identified with such a strongly-written character as Nick Cotton a blessing or a curse? Do people get arsey with you when you're trying to have a quiet walk round the supermarket buying shepherd's pie and beer? Do they treat you as a villain who wants to poison old ladies?
Amazingly not! You'd think they would, but people are really very nice to me - they ask for autographs and seem happy to be speaking to someone who smiles back at them, haha. I suppose there are places where people might be aggressive towards me, but I try not to go to those kinda places!

What's the wisest advice you've ever been given, who gave it to you, and how has it affected the way you live and work?
This would have to be the advice that came from the great Ron Moody, who played Fagin in Oliver. Gary had played the Artful Dodger, and as a young actor I'd played the part of Noah Claypole and later on when I was older I'd played Bill Sykes. Ron Moody's advice to me was 'believe in what you do, believe you can do it, love what you're doing and go all out for it'.

Much as we'd all like HMK to be a full time job for a few years to come, I'm guessing that you plan to work the band duties around the acting. Any roles coming up?
A gangster film is on the cards, which I'll know more about soon, and I'm doing pantomime again this year. As for a return to EastEnders, well... Nick's not dead... so you never know, there's always a chance that he'll turn up again!

Any career ambitions - for instance, do you want to play James Bond? Dr. Who? Have your own cookery programme?
I'd love to tour the world with the HMK, hopefully tour America. I really think we could - it's going to be a very strong album, and the potential's there to tour it here and in America. I don't think there's much chance of me doing a cookery programme though, haha.

Please give us a message for the Heavy Metal Kids' fans.

Stand by.... and prepare to be blown away! And stay tuned for a Heavy Metal Kids gig soon - most likely in London. And hit the Play button below to get a taste of what you're in for!

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JOHN ALTMAN - HEAVY METAL KIDS



Get Ready To Roll - 7th September 2010
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