Grim Reaper Vocalist Steve Grimmett – The full in bloom Legacy Interview – See You in Hell
Interview with Grim Reaper Vocalist
full in bloom: What have you been up to?
Steve Grimmett: I’ve done several live recordings…..I hope……I haven’t listened to them yet…..We want to release a new live album from Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper, later 2011, sometime before summer. I’m not really doing anything with SG’s Grim Reaper, until later in the year, cause I’ve got to have a back operation, so I won’t be able to do much.
full in bloom: How long will it take to recover?
Steve: At least six weeks and then we’ll see how that goes. We’ve had to cancel a number of shows already, but I think we start either at the end of August or early September. We’ll play Greece…..we’re coming to America to do a show as well, I think we’ve got Brazil again, Bulgaria, a lot of places this year that I haven’t played before.
full in bloom: Can you give us a little background on how you became a musician?
Steve: I don’t really know; I just kind of fell into it. A girlfriend caught me singing in the bedroom. A couple of weeks later, she had gotten me a gig with a local band. It didn’t really last that long, to be fair. From there, several bands, Medusa being one of them. I suppose I got hooked in that respect, but I don’t know. I don’t think I ever thought of it as a career. Then obviously, we started to do some things in the States with Grim Reaper. It never really dawned on me that I would be doing it full time.
full in bloom: Was there something else you wanted to do for a career?
Steve: No….No….nothing at all, really. (laughs) I was going to go into the family business, so I never had to think about anything else. The actual business was my biggest hobby and still is.
full in bloom: What is it?
Steve: Radio controlled model aircraft. It’s been a lifelong passion for me. I suppose my father was one of the founding members of radio control equipment, back in the early 50’s.
full in bloom: Did your folks have their own shop?
Steve: Yeah, they did and that was basically what I was going to look after. I didn’t (laughs)……I got into this music stuff.
full in bloom: You became a rock star by accident.
Steve: It was, too. I’m not sure if you know how it all started.
full in bloom: Wasn’t there a battle of the bands?
Steve: Well, that wasn’t really it either. The battle of the bands was just something we entered into and then won. The prize was 24 hours in a 24-track studio. I had already worked for the band Chateaux; I had done a single for them. Then they asked if I would do the album with them because they didn’t have a singer. I was just a hired gun. In between the single and doing the album, Grim Reaper had won this competition and then recorded our demo….and I took it with me when I went to do the vocals on the Chateaux album and gave it to Ebony Records. Six or seven weeks later they signed us. Then a record store in New York, called Zig Zag, got a hold of the import and took it to Walter O’Brien (Concrete Management), who eventually became our manager. I think he owned Combat Records at the time. He got in touch with Ebony Records because he wanted to release it in the States. Ebony Records said they would only go with a major, so then Walter took it to RCA and that is how we got our deal in the States.
full in bloom: Anything stand out from those Chateaux recording sessions?
Steve: It was the first time I had recorded an album in a 24-track studio. It was the biggest studio I had ever been in….before that I had only been in demo studios. I did it all for the experience. I didn’t want to upset the apple cart with Grim Reaper. I had talked to Nick (Bowcott) about it and asked him what I should do about it and he said that I should do it for the experience and that’s exactly what I did.
full in bloom: Do you remember what the budget was for the Grim Reaper album, “See You in Hell?”
Steve: I don’t, because from the day we signed our deal, we were being ripped off. I have no idea what the album cost. The whole thing was recorded in four days. We were well rehearsed. It was pretty much recorded live with a few overdubs, then the vocals were redone and that was it. It was a pretty easy thing to do, but there was no real budget. Really, we didn’t have a real budget until we did the third and final album with RCA, “Rock You to Hell”. We had originally recorded that one with Ebony Records but the recording was so bad that RCA refused to release it. Then we got into the legal battle with Ebony Records and eventually signed over to RCA. That was when we recorded with Max Norman and that album cost well over $50,000, which wasn’t really a huge amount in the 80’s, but it was more than we had ever spent.
full in bloom: The money was well spent. The production was so much better on “Rock You to Hell” than the previous releases.
Steve: Yeah. Well the guy actually worked on our songs. He didn’t just sit on his ass and record us. He produced the songs, changed the songs for the better. He got the best out of us and made us work really hard….and I mean really hard. He made that album sound as good as it does because we played well on it. Plus, he was a mixing engineer as well, so he was there from day one to the last day. It was a vast difference because of the work that went into it. We spent three months recording that one and then another four days to mix it.
full in bloom: What’s the story with your first producer Darryl Johnston?
Steve: He ripped us off for money. He was getting huge advances from RCA, which obviously some of that was supposed to come our way and it never did. He kept us in the dark and we were stupid enough to have not taken it to a lawyer in the first place. We really only have ourselves to blame, at the end of the day. As much as we want to blame Darryl, we only have ourselves to blame. We did finally get away from him, but by the time we did, it was too late….the damage had been done.
full in bloom: Do you have any idea how many copies of “See You in Hell” sold?
Steve: I have no idea. I will find out shortly. I have lawyers working on it now because I have never received any money for it.
full in bloom: You never received a royalty payment for your work on that album?
Steve: Nope. It’s almost sorted out now. But I still don’t know how much I am owed, or how many records we sold.
full in bloom: What are some moments that stand out when you think about the “See You in Hell” recording sessions?
Steve: We had a real good laugh (laughs). We were up there for about five nights and we went out and got drunk for five nights. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t have a thought that the album was going to go anywhere.
full in bloom: You didn’t think that the title track was going to be a hit?
Steve: No, not at all. At the end of the day, it was just about us getting together twice a week and then we had written enough songs to put an album out. It was just a social event really. Then it got released and it did quite well in Europe, which I didn’t even know about until I went to Europe three years ago with SG’s Grim Reaper. Then a month or so later we signed with Ebony and did the deal with RCA. Next thing we are getting phone calls from RCA saying that they wanted us to come out and talk…we want you to do a video. Then we did the video and MTV says that they were only going to show it one time. So they put a questionnaire up after they played the video for the first time on air. They asked the audience if they wanted to see more of this sort of stuff and they were inundated with ‘yes they did’. So we ended up with maximum rotation, which was seven times a day, seven times a week, for about two months.
full in bloom: I remember. I figured you guys would have sold a ton of copies because I remember seeing that video all the time.
Steve: Absolutely. But at that time, we didn’t even think about that sort of of thing. We were out on tour and I know this is a really cliche thing to say, but it was really just sex, drugs and rock n roll. It really was. We had no money, but we didn’t care.
full in bloom: How old were you at that time?
Steve: I think I was twenty-two. We didn’t think we were going to make it and to be fair, we didn’t really. It wasn’t until two or three years ago, where I did this one show…..I was about ready to pack it in because I had just had enough of the music industry. I had done the stuff with Onslaught and Lionsheart, so I had never really been out of it. But I did this festival out in Germany called “Keep it True” and I just couldn’t believe how many people had turned out to see us. So much that it inspired me to write another album with the Steve Grimmett band.
full in bloom: Do you still tour at all?
Steve: No. I can’t tour England and I can’t tour Europe because there really isn’t enough money to support the tour, or make a living out of it. Nowadays, we go out and do a couple of festivals in Europe. They fly us out on Friday and fly us back home on Sunday afternoon. We have a thoroughly good time, we get looked after a bit and we get a little bit of money.
full in bloom: A lot of bands are doing that nowadays. Do they supply the band gear, or do you bring your own?
Steve: It’s all supplied for us, it’s part of the deal. They pay for the flights, they pay for the hospitality. They supply all the backline equipment and we just bring guitars and drum sticks. It’s good fun and you get to see far more people at a festival than a week of touring.
full in bloom: If you didn’t make any money in the early Grim Reaper days, how did you survive back then?
Steve: We all had jobs. I was lucky enough to be working with another part of the family. So I could take time off when I wanted and then I had a job to come back to when I finished touring. I was never really out of a job.
full in bloom: After touring the world, you would come home and work a regular job?
full in bloom: That must have been quite a shock to the system.
Steve: Sometimes it was difficult. One thing I can say, having a job to go back to kept my feet on the ground.
full in bloom: You were probably better prepared than some of the bands that came from the 80’s.
Steve: Exactly. You know, I’m not disappointed or upset. I would have liked to have the money, but maybe I’m resolving that situation now. I’m going to get it and maybe now I can appreciate it more than when I was in my early 20’s. I know what would have happened with it, it would have gone straight up my nose. So it’s better I get it now.
full in bloom: What was your inspiration for “See You in Hell?” Didn’t you write the lyrics?
Steve: Yes I did. Nick used to be a university student, so we sometimes wouldn’t rehearse for a number of weeks. One time he came back and said he thought “See You in Hell” would be a great title for a song. I thought it was good. Nick got the riff sorted out, then I was at home one afternoon thinking about it and I actually wrote “See You in Hell” while I was taking a dump. It was about the temptation of Christ, when the devil was trying to tempt him. Then Nick and I got together after a week or so and sorted out the rest of it.
full in bloom: Were there any negative reactions to it?
Steve: Not really; not here. I think in the States we did. They just misjudged us without listening to it. We were just about hammer and horror, none of us worshiped the devil. We weren’t like that at all. The thought of not being able to play some places because they thought we worshiped the devil, really upset us.
full in bloom: Do you remember hearing yourself on the radio for the first time,…..or seeing the video?
Steve: I remember seeing the video for the first time. We had received a rush copy from the record company. I got one on Betamax tape. I remember seeing it at home and thinking holy shit, I just couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden, it all happened so quickly.
full in bloom: Who were your influences?
Steve: Thin Lizzy is what got me into it because I wasn’t really into rock entirely, at all. Then I started listening to Judas Priest with Rob Halford, obviously with Rob Halford….that was something else….I thought his vocals were absolutely stunning. Then I tried it myself and found myself being able to do some of it. But those two bands were probably my biggest influences.
full in bloom: I am originally from Texas and used to go to the Texxas Jams back in the day. Grim Reaper played the 1985 Texxas Jam. What was that experience like?
Steve: Oh….out of this world (laughs). I liken it to the local garage band and then you’re placed in that situation…you just don’t believe it’s real. It was a task getting to the show that day because our chauffeur got us lost. I am really glad, in a way, because when we got there, we had twenty minutes to get changed and on stage. If we would have gotten there two hours before, I would have seen all those people and probably shit myself.
full in bloom: Did you get to meet all the other bands? Wasn’t it the one with Deep Purple and the Scorpions?
Steve: Yeah, we got to meet some of those guys….got to meet Bon Jovi. We couldn’t get to………..I can’t remember…..I think it was Deep Purple that we couldn’t get to, but we met everybody else. What can I say? It was a fantastic day.
full in bloom: What stands out when you think about the “See You in Hell” tour?
Steve: Every show was, in its own way, great. We always met with the fans after the show. We always made sure to get out and shake hands with the fans, sign stuff…and I still do it to this day. For us, the whole thing was a stand out because it was the first time we had been to the States. It was our first time to go to New York, see the Twin Towers, the Empire State Building…everywhere we went we would go see the local monument, so for us, we were always walking around with our mouths open because it was just awesome.
full in bloom: What was your initial impression of the United States?
Steve: Just how big it was because we were all country boys. I never really dwelled in big cities. We were just in awe all the time because people were coming to us wanting us to endorse their gear. By the second tour, we were endorsed by Peavey, Tama Drums, you name it…I think the only thing that we had to pay for were drumsticks, everything else was free. The whole thing was special, they welcomed us and took us in. It was great.
full in bloom: How long did the “See You in Hell” tour last?
Steve: About 3 1/2 months.
full in bloom: And then you start recording the next record, “Fear No Evil”?
Steve: Pretty much. I think we had about a month off. Then we started writing, we had most of it written anyway. Then we spent about six weeks getting everything ironed out. After that, we went into the studio and recorded for about three weeks.
full in bloom: Darryl Johnston busted out the big studio time, huh?
Steve: Oh Yeah (laughs). It was still being done by the same guy who really didn’t care to be quite honest. He was just waiting for the big paycheck, which we knew nothing about at the time.
full in bloom: It’s around this time that the legal stuff enters, right?
Steve: Pretty much…it had already started by then. But once the “Fear No Evil” tour was finished, we were back to writing and recording another album. It took a little longer this time because RCA asked us to write some different stuff. We ended up doing that, but not using it and ended up going back to Grim Reaper….to make a long story short. We recorded the third one again with Ebony Records….Darryl had gotten a new studio by then….with our money. He hadn’t sorted out the acoustics; he had just built this room. It sounded ok when you were in the room, but once you got it out anywhere else, it sounded like shit. We soon found out that he was receiving royalty checks, which he wasn’t passing on. So basically, we gave him thirty days to sort out the money, or we would sue him, which we did. RCA took us on and we re-recorded “Rock You to Hell” with Max Norman, which we did in Massachusetts.
full in bloom: Did he end up settling the lawsuit?
Steve: No. The whole thing went into courts. He sued us, we countered and it really never went further than that because he didn’t have any money. He had used all the money, including what was ours. He lost everything in the end. I think it was Channel 4 that did an expose on him because he had been telling other bands that if they gave him 250 pounds then he would put them on a compiliation album and do for them what he did for Grim Reaper, which was to get them signed to RCA. Of course he had nothing to do with that. The whole thing just fell into our laps and Darryl Johnston did absolutely nothing for our careers. So they did an expose on him and exposed him for the fraud he was.
full in bloom: When did that happen?
Steve: Probably about 1987/1988. Of course after that, he wasn’t going to get anyone to record with him. The whole thing fell around his ears and he ended up going bust. I have a lawyer friend of mine and he ended up getting the rift, between us and Ebony Records, thrown out. That all got sorted out about 10 to 12 years ago.
full in bloom: Did RCA pay you royalties?
Steve: To be fair, RCA has done that……..I have found out that they have paid them but they are still with RCA. That’s all part of the stuff that I am sorting out now. I’ve got no bones to pick with RCA because they have done everything they should have. They didn’t send us the money because they didn’t know how to send us the money. I just have to do a couple of things on my end and I should be able to go back to them and get the money.
full in bloom: You had mentioned that you guys spent about 3 months recording “Rock You to Hell”.
Steve: Absolutely. Again it was a big learning curve for us because working with Max Norman, we did everything properly. We just sat there in amazement and watched each other lay down tracks and just thought, ‘holy shit, we are totally different players now’. We came back to England because we used to play some local places and we were just totally different. I remember Ian Nash, the guitarist I have now, came up to me, at the time, and said he couldn’t believe it….’you had gone to the States and recorded that album and then you came back and it was a completely different band’…it was local band makes it big….’the playing and musicianship was absolutely stunning’. He was right….we had become great musicians because of Max Norman.
full in bloom: Why did Grim Reaper break up?
Steve: I had another offer from Onslaught. I had gotten in touch with RCA and management and said these guys aren’t giving me much of a time frame. What are we doing? No one gave me an answer. RCA had lost interest because of all the legal stuff. They were finding it more difficult to get our music on air. Nick was in the States and I really didn’t hear from anybody. It was a real shame because up to that point we had been a really happy family. The whole thing just grounded to a halt and it was a forgone conclusion that we weren’t going to be doing anymore, so I left to join Onslaught.
full in bloom: How long did the “Rock You to Hell” tour last?
Steve: About three months in the States again. We did a thing called the “Hell on Wheels” tour. It was with Armored Saint and Helloween. We played to a lot more people that time, probably around 5 to 7 thousand people a night. A lot of great memories from that tour. I guess you could say we went out on an up.
full in bloom: When will Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper be coming to the States?
Steve: We will be playing in Baltimore at the beginning of October 2011….I believe the 6th of October, there’s a festival out there and we are headlining it.
full in bloom: What is Nick doing now?
Steve: He still lives in the States. He was working for Marshall for some time and now I heard that he’s working for Fender guitars. I haven’t spoken to Nick in probably a good 18 months. I don’t really know what he is up to at the moment. Ian Nash was one of Nick’s students and he plays in my band. He sounds just like him. It’s great to have him in the band. Nick was fine with me going out as Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper provided that I don’t go out as Grim Reaper.
full in bloom: Is there any chance of you two working together again?
Steve: You never know. I work on songs with people in the States, but haven’t sat in a studio with them. I worked with Stu Marshall in Australia, I just lay down my parts, send them back and he mixes them in. He’s got a project he did called Pain Division where he worked with several singers. The internet is a beautiful thing.
full in bloom: What kind of job does Nick do for Fender?
Steve: I don’t know because I haven’t talked to him so long. He was Product Manager for Marshall, but I’m not sure what he is doing for Fender.
full in bloom: How would you describe Nick Bowcott? How was it to work with him?
Steve: He was great…..he really was……we were really good mates and still are, but we just don’t stay in touch. If he knocked on my door tomorrow it would be as if no time had passed. The things we used to get into. Do you remember the “See You in Hell” video with the big Grim Reaper in the background, over the drums?
full in bloom: Sure.
Steve: Well, we decided that we were going to make that, so we went into town to get some wire, but we ended up in the pub, getting drunk and not doing it. We did that kind of stuff all the time. He’s a great guy.
The Fast 5
full in bloom: What’s you most disgusting habit?
full in bloom: What’s the most feminine thing you do?
Steve: Cry, I suppose.
full in bloom: If there is a God what’s the first question you ask?
Steve: Why me?
full in bloom: Greatest rock band of all time?
Steve: Judas Priest
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before this interview?
Steve: Farting…..no (laughs). Actually I just got back from the pub. We’ve got a pub we go to that’s about one minute away from the house. We went over there for a meal and a drink.