INTERVIEW WITH STEVE GRIMMETT AND NICK BOWCOTT
by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Grim Reaper gained a cult following and had their greatest success in the 80’s by touring and releasing three albums SEE YOU IN HELL, FEAR NO EVIL and ROCK YOU TO HELL. When legal matters occurred, the band was forced to call it quits and frontman Steve Grimmett joined the British thrash metal force, Onslaught. However, Grimmett has continued playing Grim Reaper material as Steve Grimmett and Grim Reaper. The legendary British metal band hplayed at Swede Rock in June 2015 with the original guitarist Nick Bowcott returning to their ranks. Metal-Rules.com had the pleasant task to sit down to talk with these two British gentlemen about Grim Reaper and several other topics.
Good morning Sir’s.
Steve Grimmett : Good morning.
When did you come here and how are you feeling now?
Steve : Tired. We came this morning, early hours of this morning.
Nick Bowcott : Yes, it was this morning.
You are wearing your former band t-shirt from your past – Lionheart ?
Steve : Yes. Yeah
You had that band in the 90’s, and I can remember that you had some great success in Japan?
Steve : Yes, yeah.
Years were rough for metal bands at the time in Europe, but you got some success in there. Japan was a really good place for many metal bands back in the day.
Steve : It was a good time actually, I can’t tell you why it happened but it did and it was pretty much an overnight success in Japan. Yeah, it was really well enjoyed.
NICK BOWCOTT’S RETURN
Going back to this day and Sweden Rock, this is actually the second time after the band originally split when you’re sharing the stage with Steve. How, when and why?
Nick : How, when and why? Chicago was circumstance, but that though I was in Americanism, but I happened to be on business in Chicago that weekend when they were playing and three songs became the whole set. Our rehearsal was at Soundcheck and it went really well, it was a lot of fun. The place was sold out and they mentioned this, I had never played in Sweden. I like playing with this guy. It’s just weird learning stuff we wrote 30 years ago. Going; shit, I can’t remember it.
So you had to reset your memory?
Nick : Yeah, exactly. Reset, I should have a reset button somewhere but I don’t. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It staggers me that 30 years later people still listen to the shit we wrote, God bless them.
Do you have plans to play more shows together in the future?
Nick : The band is really good, the guy who looks like Hugh Jackman, the drummer. He might be retarded but he’s a brilliant drummer. We rehearsed; I guess Tuesday, it was great. So who knows what the future will bring? To me the great thing about metal is Dimebag Darrell called it the invisible mole, it goes on the ground but it will always come back up. Like metal fans don’t die, they are loyal. It’s not like Justin Bieber or some other bullshit, this is nice. Was a nice kind of success, like when a metal band makes it they are fans and fans for life?
I have actually been saying this to many bands, if you think of bands which started metal (Purple, Sabbath), they are still doing it and never quit. It’s the same with the metal fans, they always keep following their favourite bands.
Nick : They are loyal.
Steve : They are, yeah. But we get a whole new audience as well, because we’ve seen ages 20, 30 year olds and we are older than that. I don’t really see a huge amount of people in the audience our age, so it’s…
Nick : They are in the wheelchairs at the back stage.
Steve : Yeah. So it’s a whole new audience, so that’s really cool.
Are you surprised that people, even the younger generation, keeps on still discovering your stuff from the past – Is it like the father to son thing?
Nick : I was in Download about six years ago. I was in backstage and there was a kid dressed like Eddie, he must have been nine and he was dressed like the true Eddie with the flag and he was with his dad. So I was working for Jackson at the time and we were working with Adrian Smith. So I wanted a picture, so I asked them if I could picture and they said yeah. So we got to talking and I said to the kid; how do you feel your dad dragging you to this metal concert? The dad goes; no, no. He dragged me. Sometimes it’s son and father, like the son gets into it and drags the father back into what he used to like. It’s a big cycle I think to a degree.
When you go to see Deep Purple, you can see three or four generations
Nick : Yeah.
THE CRAZY YEARS OF HEAVY METAL
As I said, the 90s was a rough period for a traditional band like Grim Reaper. But when we got to the 21st decade, the whole thing kind of changed.
Nick : Yeah, it’s weird. Like I said, it’s cyclical. Because you have the big New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, what they call the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s was the Grunge period really, with the exception of Pantera, who were anything but Grunge. But they were the only metal band that really emerged in the ’90s in my opinion that had an impact.
With some German and Finnish power metal bands?
Nick : Yeah, yeah. Like Children Of Bodom for example.
How about bands like Dream Theater? They were really huge in the ’90s.
Nick : That’s true; but they are more prog rock though. I wouldn’t call them metal. I like John Petrucci, John is a great guitar player.
Grim Reaper used to tour with bands like Helloween and Armored Saint back in the day
Nick : Yes we did.
If you think back to those times now, how were those years?
Steve : Crazy. Thank God I was young then, because I wouldn’t have be able to survive it I think. It was really hard, but great. It was good.
Nick : There was a different period back then, like the Internet didn’t exist. There was no YouTube. So if you wanted to see a band you couldn’t Google search them, you had to actually go see them. If you wanted to hear a band you had to buy the fucking CD, even the cassettes or the vinyl back then. You couldn’t just go to YouTube and press and listen to it for free and then steal it. So it was more exciting back then to a degree, because there was an element of adventure about it. Where else now if you want to know how to play a song by anybody, you can pretty much go on YouTube and find probably the guitar player who wrote the song, showing you how to play it. Which is cool, but it’s lazy. I kind of like the old days, when you had to go and discover something. It took research I suppose to just sort of going on Blabbermouth and go; I’ll check that out. You had to buy fanzines, you had to buy Kerrang, you had to buy Metal Hammer, you had to get fanzines. You had to listen to the right shows, and you had to go to shows hoping you would see someone you haven’t even heard of that was great and that was really cool.
WHEN PROBLEMS OCCURRED
It’s not a big secret that back in the days you had serious problems with your record label which actually ended your career then and…
Nick : It was record labels, yeah.
Steve : It was a record label, yeah. A massive difference of opinion.
Nick : He was a thief.
Steve : Yeah. He was a thieving bastard, he just had all our money and we were young, naive. We went to do the…
Nick : Attractive though.
Steve : Yeah, absolutely.
Nick : Young, naive and attractive. Sexy men, yeah. Just naive actually.
Steve : This guy was ripping us off and it was there for us to see it too and we just didn’t get it, and he had a lot of the money, all of it and then he did all sorts of shit to us too. Then finally tried to take us to court, so it wasn’t a very pleasant time.
It took a long time to get out of it, three years or something?
Nick : Three years before we got throughout the court, yeah. He put the ban in halt. The good thing is, not the good thing. It’s Karma, isn’t it? Like he went from what we could call a council house to a mansion in three years, and there was only one band on his record label that was selling and that’s not being disrespectful to the other bands, but we were that band. It’s like he didn’t win the Lotto. He did, he signed Grim Reaper. But the good thing was eventually what haunt him, which was like I said it’s karma was a BBC Two documentary exposed him and finished him over night, like literary finished him over night. Everyone stopped doing business with him. His whole distribution networks, all the show went; fuck you, we are not working with someone like you. So his revenue stream got cut, so I think he lost his house, lost his teeth, lost his hair, lost his wife. I’m really upset about those things as you can tell.
Yeah, I can see that. You felt bad for him. Maybe you send him SMS “I’m sorry”? “Laughs”
Nick : Sorry? No, he can’t afford a computer, but otherwise I would Facebook him.
Steve : Apparently he was living on the streets the last time.
Really? When did this happen?
Steve : I don’t know, I can’t remember.
Nick : It would have been the early ’90s when he was exposed, because he landlocked us from ’87 to ’92. Which is why Steve ultimately joined Onslaught, because Grim Reaper couldn’t do anything, we legally couldn’t do anything? We were stopped, but such is life.
Steve – Was joining Onslaught kind of good timing for you to do because Grim Reaper had all these problems?
Steve : Yeah. It was a really good timing to be fair, and it gave me the opportunity to do stuff in my own country which we hadn’t done before and that’s all I can really say about that. I didn’t enjoy my time in Onslaught, so it gave me a stepping stone to do other things.
Nick : I still listen to the record actually.
In Search of Sanity?
Nick : Yeah.
Steve : It’s a good album.
Nick : I love it all, it’s apart from, no offense; “Let There Be Rock”, everything else is great.
Steve : That was record company decision.
Nick : You could tell that, yeah. Some bands shouldn’t cover and AC/DC is one of them, in my humble opinion. Pantera is another one; you shouldn’t cover Pantera, because you can’t. You can try but you’ll fail.
NICK’S FRIENDSHIP WITH PANTERA
Nick, like you’ve mentioned, you were always very close with Pantera and especially with Dimebag, and you knew them from the beginning. So the question is, how did you first learn of them?
Nick : They opened for Grim Reaper, that’s how I became friends with Darrell. Darrell gave me PROJECTS IN THE JUNGLE; that was ’85, we played in Forthood, Texas. Yeah, we played in Texas and Terry Glaze was still in the band then. Yeah, that was PROJECTS IN THE JUNGLE time. I still have the cassette he gave me, he was good back them, Darrell was. If you listen to the album, it’s like a very heavy rad, it’s weird stuff.
When you met Pantera for the first time in the mid ’80s, did you keep the contact with the guys when they became really huge?
Nick : What happened is they were managed by Walter O’Brien , which was Grim Reaper’s manager. COWBOYS FROM HELL was supposed to be produced by Max Norman who did ROCK YOU TO HELL, and I was living in New York at the time. Max said, you’ve got to hear this band. I know who they are, you can see they’ve got a new singer now. So I’ve known Darrell, I knew Darrell. We didn’t keep in touch, but we became friends again when COWBOYS FROM HELL came out, because we had the same management. They are an interesting band to watch, explode actually. Because Phil was probably one of the best front members on what to plan, when he’s straight.
It didn’t happen too often back then? “Laughs”
Nick : It happened a lot when I saw him, it was amazing.
When Steve joined Onslaught, what did the other guys think about it?
Nick : We had no choice really. We were in a legal situation. There was a lawsuit; we had legal aid because we were broke enough to get legal aid, which was great. So we didn’t have to pay for a lawyer, the English system paid for it. This is how stupid, the record label guy’s name, just in case it emerges and anyone is reading this; if you ever get contacted by a guy called Darryl Johnson, this guy is an asshole. He was so stupid; he sued us here in England. Everything is right about this, apart from the country’s wrong initials, say USA not UK and the thing about legal… Because the legal system is so different in America, you can just get white out or Tipp-ex and rub out the K and put SA on it and the idiot couldn’t afford to get an American lawyer to re-do the contract, like to do the lawsuit. So it became just this big mess.
THE PAST AND THE NAME GRIM REAPER
Regarding the name, currently it is “Steve Grimmett and Grim Reaper” and back then you used to be Grim Reaper. Is it because of the legal things that you had? Who actually owns the name now?
Steve : Nick does really.
Nick : I do really, yeah. My mother was smart not to register it, I guess back in the day everyone was scared of it. I don’t know. It’s weird. You look at all the bands name and you’ve got like, Satan Testicles, I think it’s a band. The Devil’s Anus, whatever. Back in the day, like people were fearful of that name. Weren’t they? It was kind of tempting fate. It’s like; don’t be stupid.
When you are now working together again, do you think that you could use the Grim Reaper name again?
Steve : We could do that, yeah.
Nick : It would be Grim Reaper there, it says Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper on the thing but you can get a marker pen and rub that out if you want. Only that if it sucks as Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper.
Steve : It’s just something that we came up with between us, a lot of people do ignore it.
How about the rest of the original guys, have you been in touch with them?
Steve : I’m still in touch with Lee and Mark Simon, the two drummers and Dave Wanklin, bass player, I’m still in touch with those guys.
Nick : Have you heard from Geoff?
Steve : Yeah, I do from time to time. Yeah, I’m still in touch with the original guys.
Are they still playing?
Steve : Lee is playing in a cover band and Dave is just doing recording stuff.
Steve, you also worked with Lea Hart in the ’90s
Steve : Lea Hart, yeah.
How was the working with him for you because some people only say negative things about him?
Steve : I’ve got nothing bad to say about the guy, because I haven’t had any bad treatment about him.
You got your money?
Steve : Yeah. I always did, yeah. To be fair, I had a really good time working with him. We had a really good laughs and I got paid.
Hart was (and still is) working on numerous covers/tribute albums and Steve was a part of many of those.
Nick : Yeah. He did like the Maiden stuff.
Steve : Yeah, I did two Maiden, Whitesnake, Nazareth and a few others. It was really good time, yeah. When we were doing Thin Lizzy, Paul Di’Anno was in the studio with me and we had such a great laugh. It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But then I did get to see the real Paul Di’Anno as well. We gave him a lift back to the train station and he was begging money from us to buy cigarettes.
Nick : I still like that first Maiden album.
The first two Maiden albums were great.
Nick : Yeah. The first one especially, like “Remember Tomorrow” I think is one of the best songs on the album.
Have you still been in touch with Dennis Stratton?
Steve : I have actually, I saw him in Greece in November. I spent some time with Dennis, he’s a great guy. I really like Dennis.
It’s sad that he’s so stuck in that one album that you know, he always keep on playing special show first Iron Maiden from start to finish.
Nick : Really? To this day?
Nick : That’s crazy.
Steve : It’s a shame for him, but he’s a good guy. I like him, I like him a lot.
THE MOST RECENT PROJECTS
Steve, you started working with the former Onslaught guys as The Sanity days. How this happened?
Steve : Basically Steve Grice, the drummer, he got offered a show in Dubai and basically gave me a call and said; do you want to do it? I was; yeah, absolutely. That would be great. But the gig never came off actually, but we’ve done. I don’t know, about a dozen shows and we’ve recorded an album that’s out now. But I don’t think will be touring this year at all, because of Al, he’s got cancer. He’s still recovering in hospital at the moment, so I doubt will be doing anything without his shit. But that’s okay, that’s good.
Nick : We’ve been talking about that, nothing has happened yet.
Have you ever been thinking about re-recording the old albums and then you can get the rights back like Ozzy Osbourne has done?
Nick : The new versions is the same as the old, I wouldn’t mind recording a couple actually. I’d like to redo “All Hell Let Loose” and “Run For Your Life” for that matter, so we’ve got some a bit old. But some I think can be left alone. But I’m on the fence on that one, because I think what Ozzy did was sacrilege. They’ve actually gone back to the old version now, because there was a such native backlash, because they removed Daisley and Lee Kerslake, and Tony from the first two albums. He had better players, did it allegedly but didn’t sound as good. I heard them, it doesn’t sound the same. As good as Robert is, Robert is an amazing bass player. There was something about those first two albums that you can’t, there are some things you can’t successfully revisit if that makes sense. So there are some things, I just think like I would hate for Van Halen to redo VAN HALEN I. I would hate for Pantera to try and do FAR BEYOND DRIVEN again, they shouldn’t. There are certain things I don’t think you can, you might play it the same but it won’t have the same vibe. The great thing about our first album, it’s got mistakes on it. They are not deliberate, but it was recorded in like two and a half days. The whole thing.
And with the old school analog technique which is quite different to pro-tools and stuff like that?
Nick : Yeah. Because we actually recorded, like the initial guitar track, bass track and drum track were all recorded together. If we start and finish together, it was tech. People wanted this and we said; no, we’ve been playing the shit for five years. If we couldn’t go in the studio and get it right within two takes and publish and be a band.
If and when you start writing a new Grim Reaper album, what would be the biggest challenge? Because you have the legacy from the past.
Nick : We are going to talk after this actually; I’ve got a funny feeling. We might do some stuff, yeah. Grim Reaper, like people ask me to describe Grim Reaper, I call it melodic metal. It’s from the Priest era, its hooky metal with a great singer. But we couldn’t find one, so we got… Because I’m one of those guys, I don’t care how good the riff is. If the vocal was not good, I’m not interested. Average vocals don’t do it for me; the vocals got to be special. To me, that’s why I love Diamond Head, Judas Priest, back in the days. Especially British Steel, they were kind of quite essential, bands like Budgie. You know Andy Sneap from Hell. His is one of the best producers out there. He understands the importance of hook solos. I’d like to hear solos again, solos that mean something. Not like; look how many notes I can fit in this five seconds. Who gives a shit? A monkey can do that.
Steve : I agree entirely with you. One note played with solo means far more than anything else.
Nick : The same applies to singing, it’s the same. If it catches you… How I write from the same scene, it’s vey selfish. If I don’t like it I’m not going to do it, like I actually have to like it.
I guess that you’re both big Judas Priest fans?
Nick : Yeah.
What do you think about the new album by these British legends and without K.K Downing?
Nick : Yeah. I wanted so badly to like it; I bought it on the way. I actually downloaded the day it came out, so I’m a huge fan. Richie Faulkner is a great guitar player too. But K.K added something; there is something to be said about a formula. Richie is an amazing guitar player, but Judas Priest to me is K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton.
Their previous album NOSTRADAMUS was really horrible actually…
Nick : You think so?
To be honest, it was really boring album..
Nick : I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like NOSTRADAMUS at all; I thought they lost the flow. But they have every right to do that, their history up to then was genius. Everyone slips, everyone makes a mistake.
They did their first slip with TURBO back in the day.
Nick : I’m going to stand on that one, but I saw Priest at; they played Rock on the Range a month ago, unbelievable. It really was, like Halford. He can still sing his ass off, and they played great. Richie is amazing on the stage, like he brings new life into the band. But I still miss K.K. though.
Steve : I saw them, I played with them actually in Mexico some months ago and I was really and surely disappointed. But I saw them on BRITISH STEEL days, and that blew me away.
Nick : But they were still very good, they were great.
Steve : There was a lot of electronics going on and you can hear it.
Nick : What they do in the States and if they did it, like it’s the greatest hits. If you’re playing a festival, they feel electric now, they play the greatest hits and it was great. Like Beyond the Realms, all the usual suspects come out.
Maybe it’s time to conclude the interview; maybe it’s about the last question. You are now doing this new album, but how overall as everybody knows nobody is buying records anymore. So how important for you is to create and have new music out or be a nostalgia band? Because many bands say it’s not worth to do any new music.
Nick : I would disagree with that.
Steve : Yeah, me too.
Nick : The thing is you can’t, if you are Judas Priest you can do that. Because you’ve got 30 years of heritage, or if you are Iron Maiden or if you are Rush. You can rely on your back catalog. Even like a one day icon like say Machine Head. I think are one of the best live bands ever, and Lamb of God. They can’t rest on their past albums; they have to make new music to keep their fans interest. Because they are still relatively a young band and you want to grow your audience. Like if you just play the old stuff, you are not going to grow your audience. If that makes sense, I don’t think. Unless you are Iron Maiden, because dad will bring his son or a son will bring his dad. Because if played every Iron Maiden album back to back, you’ve got like three days worth of music. We’ve got two and a half hours. You need new shit. I think it’s sad what’s happened to the record industry, but it’s great in a way because they had a monopoly. The only thing that I find a little bit disturbing is now; anyone who’s got a Facebook page and got a large fan on his computer thinks he’s a fucking artist. The reason that great bands exist is because they’ve given out there and they’ve worked their assess off. Overnight success doesn’t exist, it does after about 10 years. It’s on over night when the bad become something, but you don’t get that on day one. So you need new music to get the fans coming out, like a lot of bands have to make record money off merchandising and touring. But you need music to do that, unless you are Maiden or Slayer. But Slayer are still making new records.
We thank you for your time.
Steve : Thank you.
Nick : Thanks gentlemen.
The official GRIM REAPER sites :