ONSLAUGHT – Steve Grice

October 11th, 2005
by Arto Lehtinen

 

Onslaught wasone of the first UK thrash/death outfits to unleash three mind blowing thrash metal outputs in the 80?s. The band?s second effort THE FORCE is considered their greatest album featuring the legendary Sy Keeler on the vocals. However due to several reasons Onslaught reached its final peak in the early 90?s when several other 80?s thrashers disappeared and split up at that time. In 2005 the reformation of Onslaught came out of blue to several old school thrash metal worshippers when the legendary UK thrashers from Bristol announced that they would perform some gigs and start working on new material. Therefore it was a ?must? to have an interview with the band?s drummer Steve Grice to find out more about the reformation and of course about the historical background of the band.


 

2005 ANNO DOMINI OF ONSLAUGHT

Good day, how?s it going there in Bristol and what?s up in the Onslaught camp at the moment ?!

Very good thank you. Nice of you to contact us and ask us to do this interview, which I hasten to add is our first interview since our reformation.

Onslaught?s return back from the afterlife definitely came out of the blue for several old school thrash metal freaks and even I was entirely blown away and didn?t know to expect to see Onslaught?s return some day . Therefore I can?t help asking why you decided to put this classic thrash metal band back together now and how did this happen after all ?!

Well, I suppose the main reason had to be the fact that our albums still are selling, to what extent were not really sure, but hard fast thing we do know is that we do not receive a single penny from it. So Nige and myself decided that the only way to rectify this was to re-form and write some new material, and here we are!

As far as I know the current line-up of  most of members who were involved you Steve Grice, Sy Keeler and Nige Rockett, but as for the second guitarist and the basslayer there has been various pieces of information available thru the net, could you politely clear up by telling cos as far as I know the guitarist is a new one whereas the bassist is said to be James Hinder ?!?

That?s correct – Full line up is myself drums, Nige Rockett guitar, Sy Keeler vocals, Jim Hinder bass and new lad Alan Jordan on guitar. We all knew Alan from his previous band. Alan is a very nice guy, easy going and a damn good guitarist.

Actually was Sy Keeler immediately thrilled about getting involved in the second coming of Onslaught because of he was replaced by Grimmet for several reasons in the mid 80?s ?!

Sy nearly shat himself when I went to see him and ask him if he was interested in reforming. After making a cup of coffee and walking up and down for several minutes he said, ?Of course I wanna join you twat.? So join he did.

In the wake of the reunion announcement you would be doing a gig in your hometown Bristol, is this your way to test the water if there is still an interest left toward Onslaught and do you view doing the first gig of the reunited Onslaught is extreme important for you in Bristol where you started the band and did the first gigs over 20 years ago ?!

Yes we will be playing Bristol on the 25th November at a small venue that goes by the name of the fleece. I don?t really think the attendance or reaction is extremely importance at this moment in time. What we think is really important is the way in which the new material will be accepted both live and when the new cd is released by the media and new blood.

And you are supposed to do some dates in Europe at X-Mas Festival !? Do you have more dates booked ?!

Yes, so far we are supposed to be playing Belgium and Holland but we are currently trying to get on the bill of a couple more.

According to several internet sources, you would have begun working on the new material for a new release. Ok, could you describe how these new songs sound, do they have the same pure recognizable so called Onslaught sounds where the band could be identified back, have you tried to adopt some so called new elements to the new stuff ?!

Well I would say a mixture of power from hell and the force but much much much more brutal. We are using 7 string guitars which in itself give the whole thing a lot more bollox, but the riffs are especially heavy it has to be said.

Could you unveil names of new songs ?!

I don?t really want to at this moment in time for the obvious reasons!

I read somewhere you would be putting an output within the next year, have some labels already showed their interest toward the reunited Onslaught or will you rather release the upcoming output on your own ?!?

We have been writing very hard now for just over 1 year. That has produced 6 or so tunes. We hope to be able to be in the position to record early next year and hopefully release in May – June time.

We have been speaking to a couple of record companies but will be funding this cd ourselves so we retain the rights to the songs ourselves.

 

METAL FORCES OF EARLY DAYS

Now I think it would be a good chance about going back on time to the 80?s to talk a little bit about the furious thrash years when Onslaught unleashed the power from hell. Onslaught started out as a punk/hard core oriented combo in the early 80?s, obviously you were more influenced by for example Discharge and other brutal crust hard core bands than these NWOBHM  bands at that time ?

Yes we liked Discharge and other suck classic punk bands, but we were also into stuff like Motorhead and such like.

When did the punk / hard core influenced style start venturing more into the metal, especially thrash metal direction, how did the local punk scene actually accept your slight move to the metal style ?!

We did take a bit of stick from the punks at the time, but on the whole they seemed to like our new style also and we kind of grew as a result of this.

Onslaught did the three demo tapes all in all, if I am not totally mistaken ?! As far as I know you planned on publishing the ?FOXHOLE? recording as an Ep, which never happened and the MY GENERATION Ep came out in 1985 via a small independent record label. Could you firstly tell about those demo releases, what songs appeared on them and of course about FOXHOLE and MY GENERATION releases?!

Well, I?m not really sure what the ?MY GENERATION? demo is. Is it the other Onslaught from the UK because it certainly wasn?t us. The FOXHOLE demo was just 4 or 5 songs that we was going to release and to be honest with you I?m not really sure why they were not released.

Some of songs off from those were on the debut album POWER FROM HELL for example ?Thermonuclear Devastation?; ?Skull Crusher?, ?Steel Meets Steel? as far as I know, but the others one were obviously left out from the first album. Why were a plenty of other songs from your demo-releases dropped ?! Did they sound too punkish compared to more metallic approach ?!

I suppose they did sound rather punky, as you put it. We just seemed to write stuff really quick in those days and churned out song after song. I suppose there must be in the region of 20 or so unreleased songs floating about somewhere.

However POWER FROM HELL included or includes a plenty of killer tunes like Angels Of Death, Devils Legion, Onslaught? And lyrics were mostly based on darker things, occult, Satanism ?! How much were you keen on reading, studying the Satanism, occult issues, did your for example countrymates Venom have an impact on how you had to sound and what kinds of lyrics you used to pen ?!

Nige was the lyricist in the band and he was kind of into all that occult stuff. Thinking back I don?t think anything that Venom ever released influenced us in any way shape or form. And probably never will!

I can?t help asking where you came up a song title ?Death Metal?, cos Possessed and Vulcano had the same song title on their own debut albums that also came out in 1985 ?! Just a pure coincidence ?! But did you consider Onslaught a more death metal band than a thrash combo ?!

Well, we were never really into tags. That is something that the media like to do. Every band had to have its own little label then put into a box with all the other bands that fitted that tag. We just wrote songs as heavy as possible the rest was down to the media, death, thrash, black, power metal call it what you will.

The debut album came out via the Children Of Revolution Records? What kind of label were they and how did you end getting signed by them and weren?t so called bigger independent metal labels interested in signing Onslaught at that time like Noise, Metal Blade ?!

The guy that ran COR records used to come to the local punk venue to watch the bands. We just got chatting to him and he mentioned that he was putting together a compilation album and would we like to be included on it. It seemed like a good idea at the time but never took off. So we went the whole hog and done POWER FROM HELL with him. He was a genuine guy that done this for the love of the music and never ripped us off. More than what could be said about Polygram and MFN! Bigger labels are some what more apprehensive about signing new bands. They tend to wait until you have a decent following and then pounce. Tim, COR that is, just produced small amounts of vinyl and enjoyed the job.

I remember having read the selling figures of POWER FROM HELL weren?t that huge, app 10.000 copies were sold ?!?

Well that?s down to the record companies I?m afraid to give us information like that, and you guessed it, they wont. We recon PFH sold around 70-80,000 worldwide but again it?s all guess work.

The second album and even legendary classic Onslaught, judging by several school thrash metal freaks? opinions, came out in 1986 being the year when several other so called the most classic speed/thrash/death releases came out like REING IN BLOOD, DARKNESS DESCENDS, BEYOND THE GATES, PLEASURE TO KILL, ETERNAL DEVASTATION,  but THE FORCE can easily be ranked to the same category along with those outputs, but obviously THE FORCE is still the best effort ever done in your own history books ?!

Well I?m very grateful for those kind words and I have to agree that THE FORCE probably was our favourite out of the 3. The new stuff is about as close as you will get to THE FORCE but far more brutal.

THE FORCE was came out on a sub label of Music For Nations called Under One Flag as that same label put out tons of killer classic thrash metal releases in the 80?s. But how did you end up having a deal with them ?!

Mark Palmer from MFN just called me at home one night and said they wanted to sign us and rest is history. To sign to a label along side bands like Exodus, Metallica and Slayer was just great. We were all very excited and couldn?t wait to record.

Was the deal with Under One Flag based on the only one album and why or how did Polydor get interested in you ?! I can?t help asking how much the money played an important role when signing a deal with Polydor ?!

Well strangely enough the guy from PolyGram was in Bristol visiting his girlfriend the same night that we headlined the Colston Hall. That show was mental, all the front seats got ripped out and Bristol sulked for weeks after, and he was blown away. At the time of signing we had 3 or 4 labels queuing up for us which if you think about it now is fucking mind blowing. We literally hand picked the one that we thought was right for us. How wrong we were!

You also released a single version of ?Let There Be Rock?? Hmm? I did some homework here and found out there would be three different versions available of this single featuring ?Let There Be Rock?, am I right or badly mistaken ?!

I?m afraid you are right. NEXT QUESTION QUICK !

?IN SEARCH OF SANITY? was definitely the most successful Onslaught album as far as the selling figures are concerned, but on the other hand the hard core thrash fans weren?t that much thrilled about the direction and style on IN SEARCH OF SANITY, or what kind of reaction and feedback did you receive about the album ?!

Mixed. The press seemed to love it. But a mixture of no Sy Keeler and the directional change did get us some grief from the fans. In hindsight it wasn?t a good move but a mixture of youth and naivety played a major part of these actions.

Now afterwards and several years later what do you honestly think of the album, well this may sound a little bit narrow minded speculation, but was the change between THE FORCE and IN SEARCH OF SANITY a little bit too radical ?!

It doesn?t seem it at the time. What really pissed people off was the highly polished sound created on ISOS. The songs when played live are just as heavy as anything off THE FORCE.

Hmm cos Sy Keeler is in the rank now, will you however do any tracks off from the third album ?!

Oh yes, Sy was almost insistent on that. He gives them a real edge and Sy?s voice is so fucking powerful now it scares!

When Grimmet left out and got O?Hara in (later more about it) But were you supposed to record the fourth full length album called ?WHEN REASONS SLEEP? with Tony O?Hara,  how many songs did you write for that output anyway ?!

I think this interview would have been slightly different to this should that album ever came out. We had 7 or 8 songs completed for that album none of which hold a place in my heart!

Would Polydor however have released it or were you dropped when Grimmet left ?!

No they did want to release it but couldn?t be fuckin bothered to move their fat fuckin asses and do it. They were expecting sanity to sell 250,000 + I think and that was never gonna happen. The songs that were written for that album was very week and probably finished us off anyway.

Do you have any plans on re-writing and re-arranging songs for an upcoming release ?!

We were thinking about perhaps revamping Sanity and Shellshock as some kind of bonus tracks. I suppose everyone will say we ripped Anthrax off though. Maybe.

If and when you are going to do a new release shall you pick up those previously unreleased demo tracks from the early days of the career of Onslaught for the album ?

NO!

LINE UPS CHANGES

As far these line up things are concerned, Paul Mahoney handled all the vocal duties on the debut album, did you really to try to look for a real singer/frontman to do the vocals on the album, cos Mahoney did the bass lines for the output as far as I am able to remember ?! Did Paul also sing on those demo releases ?!

No, none of them. We wanted to expand more vocally and Sy gave us that extra dimension.

Well how did you find Sy Keeler then ?!

Sy was a mate of my drum roadie Steve, who thought that Sy might just be the man for the vocal job. We gave Sy an audition and he was just what we needed, loud good vocal range and looked the part.

After the classic THE FORCE had seen the light of day, problems with the line-up started as guys came and went quite a few, cos during 1986 bassist Paul Mahoney pulled out and Jason Stallard switched to the bass, then came Rob Trotman as the second guitarist?.Actually I am kinda lost now  ?So who actually left and switched to what??!

Mo did leave. Now I?m scratching my head?.Jim came in as the new bassist and Jase did move to guitar. Jase moved on and Rob came in.

As for Sy Keeler?s departure from Onslaught, as far as I know the producer Stefan Galfas wanted to get rid of Keeler, when you were working on the follow up to THE FORCE, how did this then happen ?!

Well these are the questions I dred. Polygram did have a say in all of this and yes so did Galfas.

But presumably you couldn?t sack the producer because of the record label had wanted him to produce the third album, right ?!

We could have sacked him should we have chose, but the whole thing seems like a blur now.

How did the former Grim Reaper vocalist Steve Grimmet get hooked up to Onslaught ? Was it your record label of that time behind the idea about recruiting him to the rank, did you just find him as a suitable and right replacement fitting to the newer Onslaught stuff ?!

No, we advertised and auditioned about 5 different singers and Steve was the one who impressed us the most. The guy is a real genius with his voice you have to admit, even though it wasn?t a popular assignment in lot of people?s opinions.

How did you along with Grimmet after all, did he ever have problems to deal with the older deadly and more satanic based stuff of the first two albums, was he more willing to stick to the material of the third album ?IN SEARCH OF SANITY? ?

We got on very well with him, he?s a very genuine sort of guy with no ego what so ever. I don?t think he really enjoyed our style of music though; he is after all a more mainstream sort of guy.

Why did Grimmet leave Onslaught, did you have personal problems or conflicts on the personal level with him causing his departure from the band or was he more willing to focus on more traditional hard rock stuff as he still fronts LionsHeart ?!

I think the later of your question really says it all. Although I do recall a manager with had dealings with having something to do with the whole thing by offering him a vocalist job with Malmsteen or something along those lines.

When Grimmet (was?) dismissed from Onslaught and was replaced by a new vocalist guy called Tony O?hara, but his job didn?t last that long? Hmm.. Had Onslaught reached the end of the road in the early 90?s ?! But was Sy Keeler ever asked to rejoin the band again ?!

No sy wasn?t asked until now, I think we were trying to beat the world record for the most vocalists ever to sing with one band. I believe we broke as well! And just for the record, Grimmet left on his own accord.

Was Sy Keeler ever asked to rejoin the band again instead of Tony O?Hara ?!

No

TOURING AND GIGGING

How much did you gig with other punk bands in the early 80?s and how did the punk audience accept and what kind of receive did you get from them ?!

We used to play every week in a venue called the trinity. We played along side bands like Uk Subs, The Exploited, One Way System, Chaos Uk, Broken Bones and so the list goes on. We went down fairly well but obviously in those days we didn?t have any albums out so you tend to expect a subdued reaction from the crowd.

In 1986 you played at the Dynamo festival, with whom did you play and in general how was it ?!

Angel Witch played, some mob called Joshua headlined. That day was a very memorable gig for us. Believe it or that is the only ever outdoor festival Onslaught has ever played. The crowd went fuckin mental.

How many times did you play with other UK speed/thrash metal combos like Atomkraft, Acid Reign, Re-Animator ?! Any cool stories to tell ?!

We played with Xentrix, Acid Reign, AtomKraft and a few others that pass me by. I always remember a gig we done with band called Slammer when the bas guitarist walked into a steel girder on stage and knocked himself clean out. Poor old fucker.
In terms of favourite gigs though it has to be 20 dates out with Motorhead. That was sheer fuckin brilliance.

Onslaught also supported Anthrax at Hammersmith, it has been told to be very brutal show as there was a lot of violence on the show? I guess the audience went beserk and in general it was a kick ass show !? And how was the one with Agent Steel and Nuclear Assault ?!

Agent Steel took a lot of stick over the orange boiler suites they all decided to wear. They also had the longest intro tape in living history that went on and on and on?..

You also did a tour with CrumbSuckers, how was it anyway ?!

Very funny guys. We had a real laugh with that lot. They broke into the hotel kitchen about 4 in the morning and stole all the ice cream. After they gorged themselves they set about spreading the remainder all of the fuckin hotel corridors walls. They were also a very good live and seemed to go down with the crowd well.

When Tony O?Hara was in the band, you however teamed up with Mirror Mirror fronted by Sy Keeler, apparently your relationship wasn?t in-flamed, right ?!

We always got on well with Sy. Sy did bear some resentment towards after his dismissal and he had rights to. But as the time went by he held his head up high and cracked on with his own project.

 

AFTERLIFE AFTER ONSLAUGHT

When Onslaught ceased to exist in 1991, however you continued with Rockett with an entire new band called Frankenstein, apparently the style wasn?t that much thrash whipping, actually could you tell a little bit more about Frankenstein and who were involved in the line-up ?!

Well the other guitarist in that band, Mr Alan Jordan esq is the new boy in the onslaught camp. Yes, he is the new axe man and he is a truly nice guy who can play the fuck out of his axe! The whole Frankenstein thing was a bit murky in my mind. I wasn?t really that comfortable with any of the songs and just went along with the whole thing with my tongue wedged firmly in my cheek. That?s not to say I didn?t enjoy playing live with them though and we were very tight live.

Frankstein did a tour with the long time British metal squad Saxon, but apparently the whole tour was poorly received ?!

Hardly surprising, look at the bill!

Rockett was also involved in a group called Hora Kane as far as I know Tony O?Hara was involved in too and recorded one album. What kind of stuff did they play ?!

You know more about us than I do! he only helped out for a while as I believe it.

And Sy Keeler had Mirror Mirror in the early 90?s and as stated above opened up for Onslaught? But obviously the band didn?t last that long ?!

Not sure about that. They did sound an awful lot like Queensryche though.

What have you done during these years before crawling back now ?! But have you kept your ears opens on what?s up in the metal genre during all these years however?. ?!

I have never stopped listening to Slayer etc and never will. I did loose touch with the scene though it has to be said. I have two children now, one 7 and little girl who is 3. Been living in Bristol all this time and I run my own marketing company as I have done for 6 years or so.

All right I think it would be about time to put the period to this interview. But I for one thank you for this interview and of course the last words are yours?.

As I mentioned, thank you Arto for taking time to make this interesting. You obviously did your homework on us. Just one last thing, we can?t wait to get out and gig, these new songs are going blow heads off live and mixed in with songs from all 3 previous albums should be for a very eventful gig. Look forward to seeing all the thrashing nut bags out there and check us out on www.onslaughtfromhell.com  for all the latest goings on in the Onslaught camp.


Remember to visit The Official Onslaught site

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