Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper – Evil Walks AgainFriday, 4th November 2016
Gaining a second chance to make a first impression thanks to the historical value of the metal genre, vocalist Steve Grimmett is quite content to take advantage of global touring demand for Grim Reaper these days. Now known as Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper out of respect for the original lineup (and given the blessing of founding guitarist Nick Bowcott, content to make guest appearances when possible), this band set the world on fire right out of the gate with their 1983 debut album See You in Hell. This scribe remembers videotaping one Halloween night on MTV’s Headbangers Ball dedicated to the Hell on Wheels tour, where Grim Reaper headlined at First Avenue in Minnesota with support from Armored Saint and an upstart German power metal band named Helloween.
The new album Walking in the Shadows doesn’t reinvent the Grim Reaper formula so much as stay the course – a series of metal anthems with proper emphasis on catchy choruses and riffs that you can hum and sing along with for days on end. In the middle of a two-month touring run across North America in support of said record, I took the time to interview Steve before a killer set at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY. In this delightful half-hour talk, you’ll learn more about the old-school recording vibe for the new record, the unfortunate stolen equipment incident that took place a week prior in San Antonio, Texas, career highlights during the 1980’s Grim Reaper run, as well as a little discussion about social media, barbeque/chili sauce, and of course his work on the Onslaught record, In Search of Sanity.
Dead Rhetoric: Walking in the Shadows is the latest Grim Reaper record. How did the songs come together and did you have any fears about this being up to the standards of the 80’s discography, given the long break?
Steve Grimmett: Yes we did. Obviously, it has to be the fourth album. (Guitarist) Ian (Nash) and I have been writing together for 30 odd years together. It was a question of going backwards rather than using all the stuff that we normally use to write music. So we had that in mind- also we have to get the songs the same so it’s more of a continuation. We did a few shows where we took everything in – okay, what do we need to write and what we ended up with was writing anthemic rock, that’s basically how we wrote the songs. Recording was the old-school way too- Paul (White) set up his drums up and I recorded that in my studio, we did Martin’s bass in my studio, Ian’s guitar- so what you are hearing has no samples, it’s all real, an all acoustic kit with real guitar and bass.
Dead Rhetoric: So you enjoyed jamming the songs out rather than taking a cut and paste approach?
Grimmett: No, no cut and pasting. And I know I could do that because my studio has the modern capabilities. There’s none of that at all.
Dead Rhetoric: Who designed the cover art for the new record, and how do you feel about the importance of cover art and imagery for the band in the heavy metal realm?
Grimmett: Grim Reaper is a great name to be able to do all of this stuff. The guy that did (the cover)… Billy Yorke is a friend of mine and he’s an artist. I told him what we wanted, the title of the album, here is the other sleeves. He came up with three ideas for us and this is the one that Ian and I liked – I liked the blue colors in it and he incorporated the lyrics of the song into it as well. There’s stuff in there that the lyrics mention as well. That was a real good one. It’s important to keep everything going on the same way. In the past we’ve never really done anything with the Grim Reaper, so it’s time to start now.
Dead Rhetoric: Now unfortunately in San Antonio, Texas on this tour run you had some gear stolen. Have you been able to track down the items with the help of the police?
Grimmett: No, and we probably aren’t going to either. The reason being, Ian had a pedal gear stolen and it was my wireless gear and inner ear stuff. The worst bit for the guy that took it was, the only thing that’s going to be of any use to him is the actual case that it was in- because I’ve still got all the transmitters to the opposite stuff. And he managed to steal a brand new coat that I bought because we are going into Canada and we are told it’s snowing so I bought a coat that day, and that’s been stolen. I never even got to wear it. It pisses me off that people have got to do that, at the end of the day we do earn money and yes we are a professional outfit but it’s like stealing all my tools and then I can’t do my job properly. That’s daily life, so we leave nothing in the truck now. So as you are reading this interview in the future, there’s nothing left in our truck, we are bringing things inside our hotels.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you ever been in any perilous or dangerous situations on tour or on stage?
Grimmett: No, not at all- and we’ve travelled through some pretty dangerous places. We’ve been to Ecuador, Santiago Chile – where it’s all supposed to be kidnap city. But then we do take precautions, the guys that take us out there look after us, you know? Don’t go out here, don’t do this or that- so you take notice of that and that’s the way it is. We haven’t ever seen any problems as a result.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you think Grim Reaper fit into the healthy NWOBHM scene during the 1980’s, and did you have any special relationships with other bands from that scene?
Grimmett: No, not really. And to be fair, we didn’t know the scene was going on at that time. All of a sudden we were labelled with this New Wave of British Heavy Metal tag, and we would take that. It’s probably slightly more important now because there is a resurgence – and people are saying this is a NWOBHM part 2. Everywhere we go in the world, including the United States, there is a younger audience. We are still getting our diehards, but we are gaining a lot of younger people- you can look out at the crowd tonight and at least 50% of it will be teenagers and people in their twenties. And this has been going on for quite some time- especially in South America. It’s incredible, I like it.
Dead Rhetoric: The album See You in Hell is considered a classic- especially with the impact the title track and video made gaining heavy rotation on MTV. How many takes did the final scream on the title track take, and did you have the confidence to be able to belt that scream out in the studio?
Grimmett: Oh.. in the studio, the end of that was all trickery. I can belt out that scream, and that is me. It’s repeated, and repeated. I can reach the note and hold it for about 5 seconds, because it is a belter. It comes from way down.
Dead Rhetoric: What special memories of those three 80’s albums stand out to you, either as benchmarks from a recording or touring perspective?
Grimmett: Recording the first two was with Darryl Johnston from Ebony Records, that was okay. We started to learn our craft there. When we did Rock You To Hell with Max Norman, that was a whole different ball game. We were properly produced, pushed to the absolutely limits. I remember (guitarist) Nick (Bowcott) coming to me and saying he didn’t think he’d be able to do this, he’s making me do shit that I just can’t do. And I told him not to worry about it, the guy knows what he is doing, he’s produced Ozzy Osbourne before – just go with it. So he did and then I went to him with the same problems (laughs). The guy would tell me I was singing out of tune, who the hell does he think he is? But of course, he was right. And it was lots of other things too, but it was a pivotal time in my recording career that I started to really learn stuff and take notice of what was going on.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think the Hell on Wheels tour in support of that record was another benchmark?
Grimmett: Yeah, that was a great tour. I’ve been thinking about somehow putting something like that tour back together. We will see, because Armored Saint are probably doing a lot better now than they were back in that time. It might be a co-headline thing, I just have to speak with them and get things sorted.
Dead Rhetoric: It was a pinnacle time because Helloween was breaking through on Keeper of the Seven Keys, Armored Saint was touring for Raising Fear, and you guys were on tour for Rock You to Hell. I remember seeing the Headbangers Ball show with the tour in Minnesota… how was the video shoot for that?
Grimmett: That was great. A really good day. The engineer spent most of the time in the filming unit that they had outside. It was a really good show to boot. I can’t say that things were really better in the 80’s, it was a different era.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you adapted to the changing music business/consumption model? Are you active on social media, and do you enjoy the instant communication with the fans versus the old snail mail, tape trading, and fanzine days?
Grimmett: Yeah, I do. I still think that there is a need for magazines and fanzines. I do our own Facebook contact, and when fans ask me questions, it’s me answering. They often wonder how do they know it’s me though. I get that, but it is me. Especially for the fans, without those guys we wouldn’t be here doing this interview. It’s those guys that are keeping us going, they pay for us to come here and play. To us and to me they are very, very important in the whole scheme of things. I look after them, and any questions I get through Facebook I do my best to answer them. We always do a signing session after the show, so we do a meet and greet thing with them, take pictures and sign stuff, we always do that.
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