Leeds goth rock band Salvation enjoying a revival 40 years after smashing into the music scene

They were one of the original Leeds goth bands, and now Salvation are enjoying a revival as they prepare to release their first live album. Abbey Maclure catches up with vocalist Danny Mass and guitarist Ben Farvak.

Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 4:45 pm

Salvation came up during a post-punk revolution.

It was the early 1980s, when Leeds bands were carving out an alternative music scene - earning it the nickname 'gothic city'.

The band toured the length and breadth of the country, followed by loyal supporters at every turn.

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Guitarist Ben Farvak and vocalist Danny Mass, of Salvation, the Leeds goth band enjoying a revival (Photo: James Hardisty)

Now back together after a 17-year hiatus, and preparing to release their first live album, vocalist Danny Mass and guitarist Ben Farvak fondly recall how their journey started.

“There was a good punk scene in Leeds with the F Club and the Faversham," Danny told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"It was where all the ‘weirdos’ and musician-types used to hang out and then started forming bands.

“Back in the early 80s, there were either pubs or nightclubs. There was no such thing as a ‘cool bar’ and there were only about two or three safe pubs for all the punks to go to - the rest were just old men's pubs.

The band, which found success in the 1980s, reunited in 2007 after more than 17 years apart (Photo: James Hardisty)

“Anyone who went in with straight trousers and spiky hair either got chased or beat up.”

“It could be quite dangerous for ‘the alternatives’ at night,” Ben added.

With one guitarist, a bass player and Danny on synths, Salvation was formed in 1983 as gothic and post-punk bands began to find underground fame in Leeds.

There was a camaraderie among artists in the city's alternative music scene, Danny said, with pioneering bands such as The Sisters of Mercy bringing in others to support them at gigs.

Salvation will release their first live album, We Gave You Diamonds... Live at De Casino, in early November (Photo: James Hardisty)

Danny added: “Salvation started with us making weird noises in our bedrooms and, really organically, those noises turned into riffs and songs.

“We got a set together of about six or seven songs, and that’s when we found out the guitarist we had didn’t want to do live gigs.”

After a band reshuffle, Salvation performed their first gig at the University of Leeds' Tartan bar in 1995 - with Danny turning to vocals.

Ben, who moved to Leeds from France in the early 1980s, joined Salvation as a guitarist in 1987 as the band began to build its live following.

Ben said: “I liked the idea that Salvation had songs, any of their songs could be played on an acoustic guitar. They were like a 70s glam band, very melodic and song-based.

“That’s why I joined the band and it turned out that I was quite good at coming up with those catchy riffs.”

“It’s all about the riffs,” Danny added.

“Our music used to be described as catchy pop with b******s. I think that’s why we can relate to the glam bands of the 1970s - they were quite heavy, but they still had songs."

After Ben joined the band, the lads went straight into the studio to record their album Diamonds Are Forever.

There was an appetite for an alternative sound and "something new", the pair said, and the album broke into the independent charts.

“Other bands were doing exactly the same,” Ben added.

“Bands like Salvation, Sisters, the Mission and promoters such as John Keenan [of F Club, Duchess of York] created the original alternative music scene in Leeds.

"They paved the way for the current crop of great bands such as the Kaiser Chiefs and Pigeon Detectives.”

The pair teased of untold tales of debauchery on "the tour that never ended", performing more than 300 gigs up and down the country.

After tensions flared between the group, the band disbanded in the early 1990s for more than 17 years. Danny worked at Hellraiser record shop, and Ben as a DJ and translator.

But reuniting was never far from their minds.

In 2007, gothic rock band The March Violets invited Salvation to open their gig at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Beckett).

They didn't have an active band, but said yes anyway - and Danny and Ben, now in their sixties, are enjoying a Salvation revival with Paul Lavender on guitar, Nic Bate on bass and Stuart Owen on drums.

Danny added: "When we broke up we obviously got on each other’s nerves, but we’d been away from each other for long enough. It was a ‘cooling off’ period.

"And we grew up, I suppose. And stopped drinking as much!”

Salvation are now preparing to hit the road once again. They'll open for The Chameleons at a gig in Manchester in December, before supporting Leeds band, and close friends, The Mission on their 2022 tour.

They say they approach their gigs with a little more professionalism, and less booze, than 30 years ago - but the buzz of being on stage is something that has never gone away.

"There is a hardcore base of people who were there in the 80s," Danny said.

"Because we don’t do many gigs, it’s more of an occasion. People make a whole weekend of it, getting in babysitters and booking hotels.

"To us, that’s amazing. It means so much to us - just as much as when, back in the day, people would hitch 300 miles to see us.”

New album captures Salvation dynamic like never before

Salvation will release their first live album, We Gave You Diamonds… Live at De Casino, in early November.

It’s a recording from their first European tour in March 2020, where they supported The Mission at gigs in France and Belgium.

When lockdown was announced four days later, the band narrowly made it back to the UK with the recording of the final night in their bags.

Danny said: “We recorded the last gig of the tour for us to listen back to, purely for our own benefit.

“When we had a listen, we thought ‘wow, this is pretty good’. It captured what we’re all about and the dynamic of a live gig, which we’ve never been able to do before.

“We took our time to put it together as a nice package.”

The band had time in bucket loads and spent lockdowns mixing, remastering and perfecting the album.

“It should be nostalgic for fans and remind them of what they used to come and see,” Danny added.

“They will know the set, it’s songs we’ve been playing for a while, but it’s never been available live.

“I think it perfectly captures our sound.”

We Gave You Diamonds… Live at De Casino will be available to buy on Bandcamp in early November. The first 100 purchases will come with a set of free gifts.

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