Classic Rock

Zal Cleminson’s /Sin’Dogs/

Guitarist goes back to his pre-SAHB heavy roots, with the focus on songs rather than make-up and guitar flash.

- Zal Cleminson’s /Sin’Dogs/’s debut album Vol 1 is out now, self-released.

After starting out in The Bo-Weavles (“the best-looking beat group in Scotland”), Glaswegian guitarist Zal Cleminson graduated through hard-edged progressiv­e rockers Tear Gas before making his name as the half-clown/halfPierro­t co-focal point of mid-70s chartbuste­rs the Sensationa­l Alex Harvey Band. Following SAHB’s split in 1977, Cleminson joined Nazareth and worked with Elkie Brooks, Midge Ure, Bonnie Tyler and Fish. After a brief post-Alex SAHB reunion, Cleminson ’retired’ in ’08. But, as his metal-driven /Sin’Dogs/ project proves, you can’t keep a good clown down.

What prompted your retirement ten years ago? When we re-formed SAHB we tried a couple of singers before bumping into Max Maxwell, who had a great personalit­y and gave the songs his own spin. When we started rehearsing with Max I got the bug again: let’s get dressed up, put the make-up back on, put on the full show. So we did some touring.

It all went sweetly, but I was keen to move forward. I was writing songs, getting new ideas, looking to progress, but I didn’t get an awful lot of support. The rest of the band were quite happy to come along and dance to Delilah. I felt like a tribute to myself. So I pulled the plug, moved to Cyprus and took ten years off.

What inspired your return?

I was in Cyprus for four years, but went through a bad spell with depression and anxiety. I realised I had to do something. My first and only thought was to pick up the guitar, mainly as a form of therapy. And, lo and behold, here’s a song.

Songs started coming quickly. I got in touch with our keyboard player, David Cowan, to do some recording, and material just kept coming. So I ended up putting /Sin’Dogs/ together, to get the music out there.

/Sin’Dogs/ are significan­tly heavier than SAHB.

I’ve returned to my roots. Tear Gas were a heavy rock band, so I’ve gone full circle. I’m back to playing the guitar the way I prefer to play it. With SAHB it was very diverse, lots of different styles, a little bit over-indulgent for me. This is me getting back to playing a more basic heavy rock where you look straight at an audience and give them exactly what they want.

And the reaction’s been great.

“This is me getting back to playing a more basic heavy rock.”

You haven’t replicated Tear

Gas, though; the /Sin’Dogs/ sound is unmistakab­ly contempora­ry. That’s my aim. I’m a big fan of bands with progressiv­e originalit­y. Radiohead, for example, who are head and shoulders above everyone else when it comes to delivering difference, orchestrat­ing their songs, presenting their music as a soundtrack. Soundgarde­n too: very polished, powerful songs. That’s where my head’s at in terms of writing.

And you’re clearly having fun.

You’re right. I get an adrenaline buzz every time I get dressed up to go on stage. I put out that energy at every performanc­e, and when you give it out, you get it back. In SAHB we enjoyed being a nice ensemble band who could play, and play well, but at the same time we wanted to have fun. And I still do. IF

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