Zal Cleminson

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Zal Cleminson
Background information
Birth nameAlistair Macdonald Cleminson
Born (1949-05-04) 4 May 1949 (age 69)
Glasgow, Scotland
GenresHard rock, blues rock, glam rock, heavy metal
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1965–2008
Associated actsSin Dogs, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth, Tear Gas, The Party Boys, Bo-Weavels, Mitzie & The Brotherhood, Z Suicide, Oskura, The Zal Band, Elkie Brooks, Midge Ure, Bonnie Tyler, Tandoori Cassette

Alistair Macdonald "Zal" Cleminson (born 4 May 1949, Glasgow, Scotland) is a Scottish guitarist, best known for his prominent role in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band between 1972 and 1978. In 2017, he put together a new rock band - /sin'dogs/, which recorded and released a 4 song CD and toured Scotland and England at the end of the year.


A self-taught guitarist, at the start of the 1970s he played and recorded with the Glasgow-based band Tear Gas. The musicians in that band then provided the backing for Alex Harvey in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB). Cleminson was an extremely distinctive stage presence with SAHB owing to his white-face mime makeup. He started wearing the mime makeup when the band started playing larger venues, so they could see what he was doing on stage easier. Cleminson has said "The mime face came about with bigger gigs - more people could see what I was up to".[1]

When SAHB split up in 1978, they decided to tour as the Zal Band, recruited The Tubes' vocalist Leroi Jones and 19-year-old Billy Rankin on guitar who later played with Nazareth. In 1979, Cleminson joined Nazareth[2] and recorded two albums with them, 1979's No Mean City and 1980's Malice in Wonderland. He also worked with Tandoori Cassette, who toured (several live recordings exist) and released a single; no album was released. He was a regular guitarist with singer Elkie Brooks on many of her tours throughout the 1980s. He wrote and played on Brooks' album Minutes as well as one track on No More The Fool. Cleminson has also toured with Midge Ure on his Gift World Tour 1985 and Bonnie Tyler.

During the 1990s, Cleminson played with The Party Boys, a casual band that at various times featured Marillion's Fish and Nazareth's Dan McCafferty and Billy Rankin as vocalists. This band became a reformed SAHB (Sensational Alex Harvey Band) in 1993 with Zero Zero vocalist Stevie Doherty, and it recorded a live album titled Live in Glasgow 93.

In 2004, SAHB reunited alongside The Shamen frontman Max Maxwell and performed various tours and festivals between 2004 and 2008, releasing their first album since 1978's Rock Drill which was entitled Zalvation: Live in the 21st Century.

As well as performing with SAHB, Cleminson was a member of the now-disbanded outfits Ze Suicide and Oskura.

In 2006, he appeared in his début acting role as Wilson in the western film A Shot in the West, for which he wrote the theme music. In early 2008 he announced his retirement from the music industry and stated he would never perform live again.

Cleminson also spent a few years living in Cyprus with partner Rachel, and it was there that he had a vision to begin writing new material which would become his latest and potentially his 'final' music project...his own band...SIN DOGS.

Cleminson decided to come out of retirement in 2017 and form his own band /sin'dogs/ with keyboardist David Cowan as he approached him to co-write and collaborate on early demos of what is now their debut album. Cleminson knew Cowan from performing with SAHB tribute The Sensational Alex Harvey Experience and who has also worked with SAHB bassist Chris Glen with his band The Outfit.

The band performed a UK Tour at the end of that year. This will be followed by an extensive UK Tour, Festivals, and releasing a studio album in 2018.

Cleminson selected three members of a SAHB tribute band called The Sensational Alex Harvey Experience from Glasgow to be in his band.

These members are William McGonagle (ex Clyde) (Guitar), David Cowan (ex Chris Glen Band)(Keyboards), and Nelson McFarlane (Bass). The band also features Scott Cowie (ex complete stone roses) on drums.

Cleminson came across the SAHB tribute band in 2014 and has gone on record to say that they are the closest anyone will get to the original SAHB for their musicianship, stage theatrics, and ability to capture the SAHB music in blinding fashion. The SAHB Experience are also currently performing throughout the UK.

Sin Dogs released their first CD titled "Vol 1" in 2018. The Trueloves drummer Louie Malvessi replaced Scott Cowie in August 2018 and is now a permanent member of the band and will perform with the band at all their live shows and future recordings.

Cleminson is referenced in the novel The Sacred Art of Stealing by the Scottish author Christopher Brookmyre as the basis of the disguises worn by bank robbers during a heist, and inspired the name of the character Zal Innez.

Guthrie Govan has cited Cleminson as one of his most important influences and considers him to have been "his Jimmy Page" in his early guitar development.[3]


  1. ^ "Zal Cleminson". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  2. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Biography: Nazareth". AMG. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  3. ^ "The Players' Player Interview". Total Guitar. Retrieved 1 December 2013.