I know your first band was Medusa, and although it was fairly short lived, you go from that straight into Grim Reaper. I know you’re technically not the original lead singer of Grim Reaper-
Yes, technically I’m not.
How do you go from Medusa to Grim Reaper? Do they find you or do you go to an audition or what?
No, I got a phone call from Nick, the original guitarist. The first phone call I had was totally drunk on his part, he didn’t say anything. I got a sober phone call the next day saying that what he really phoned me for was that he wanted to team up. We got together and basically he got rid of everyone but himself, he got Lee Harris who was the drummer and the bass player- apparently they had played with him before. But anyway, the rest is history, really.
In 1983 you release ‘See You In Hell’ which is, looking back on it now, one of the most iconic New Wave of British Heavy Metal albums ever. When you release it, do you think ‘this is gonna be big’ or is it kind of like rolling the dice?
We didn’t know. Ebony Records were pleased with the sales in Europe and the album got to a record store in New York called Zig Zag Records. It was under import and then they told a guy called Walter O’Brien who was the owner of Combat Records. He got in touch with Ebony Records and they said ‘no we won’t be dealing with any independents; we want to deal with the major’. So he took it to RCA- they took it on. Then we did a video and that went pretty well, nowadays you’d call it viral.
The follow up to that was 1985’s ‘Fear No Evil’ and I’m kind of wondering the same thing. Was this the height of Grim Reaper because people were anticipating this record and new music? Was it as successful as the first record?
No, I don’t think it ever was, really. It was still deemed as a success but I don’t think it was as good as ‘See You In Hell’. When we play ‘See You In Hell’ the song, it’s everybody’s favorite.
And it’s probably the most known out of your repertoire of songs.
Yeah. Although they know the title track to every album, too.
‘Rock You To Hell’ was the final album in the original Grim Reaper trilogy, it was the first to be released solely on RCA Records. What happened?
Well basically we found out that Ebony Records wasn’t paying us money that they should have been paying us. So we ditched them, basically. We redid the album with RCA and Max Norman and put that out. That was a great album, a stunning album- the best of the three, really. And then maybe six months into that we got a writ from Ebony Records that stopped us from working basically. Grim Reaper came to an end. It’s a bit of a shame.
I was going to ask about the end of Grim Reaper because I know following ‘Rock You To Hell’ the band was over for the time being. Did you want to continue and you just couldn’t do anything about it?
We couldn’t do anything about it. It was taken to court and sorted out there. We didn’t have the money; Ebony Records didn’t have the money- they came up with the money just to do that. It must have been 1995 when I took it to court and got it waivered. But that has nothing to do with this lineup and this album, it was just to get rid of it and draw a line under it.
Almost immediately after Grim Reaper ends you wind up in Onslaught. How did that happen?
That was basically a phone call I got from their management, they had been in the studio and recorded ‘In Search of Sanity’ and it had gotten rejected by the label because the vocals weren’t up to it. So I got contacted by their manager, I asked them for four tracks for me to have a go at. They gave me some guidelines but not really too many, so I did what I thought was right for it. And I got a resounding yes. I gave everybody in the Grim Reaper lineup at the time 48 hours to decide where they wanted to go with the Grim Reaper thing and I never heard anything back.
Right, like okay- bye bye!
That’s a good mentality to have about that! And I know you left Onslaught around 1990 and the internet tells me for personal reasons or whatever. Why’d you leave?
I just didn’t get on with Nige Rockett. And nobody’s does really, he’s a bit of an asshole. But anyways, I’d been working on a project on the side which started to take off and that was Lionsheart.
Which I’m so glad you brought up because I’m totally obsessed with Lionsheart. I listened to ‘Can’t Believe’ probably twenty times last night. And I was going to ask you about it because Lionsheart’s sound is very different than Grim Reaper or Onslaught. Was that a personal thing that you wanted to try out?
Yeah. Yes it was. Because I love Whitesnake and that kind of bluesy based rock and I wanted to have a go at it. And I think that the album was a really good album. It was well written, musicianship was stunning on it. It did okay in Europe but I don’t think it was ever released over here.
Yeah because I didn’t know about it until I was researching for this interview and I heard that song and I was like- what is this?! I couldn’t believe I had never heard it.
It got to number one in the Japanese charts. For a non-Japanese band we literally couldn’t walk the streets, it was crazy. That was a great album.
And Lionsheart had a very lengthy run, like twelve years or something which was even longer than Grim Reaper. In the mid-2000’s Grim Reaper kind of starts popping up again and I’m wondering about that because like you mentioned earlier things took a long time to start up again, why?
Nobody was interested in doing it. And to be honest with you, I wasn’t either. We did the Lionsheart stuff, Ian was with me- my guitarist. We came up with an album, a Steve Grimmett album. And after that we had done a few shows, we got asked to do a big festival in Germany called Wacken. And we did that, but we got misrepresented. Basically the guy who booked us told the guys at Wacken that it was a Grim Reaper reunion- which it was not. And time and time again I told this guy it’s not a reunion, this is what I’m doing now, but I will play some Reaper songs. So we did that. After that work started coming in and I was being asked to do festivals all over Europe and basically we did that, and some of that work dried up and I couldn’t understand why. It came up that it was because we hadn’t got any new material which is why we started the new album. Through one thing or another it took us years to do, three years, but we got it done and I’m really pleased with the way things are going.
‘Walking the Shadows’ is still pretty new right now, give me the run down.
We got rid of a drummer, so we had to redo the drums with our new guy and the bass player was kind of the same thing. Life got in the way.
As it does.
Yes, as it does. It took us around three years but we got it done and a label got in touch, Dissonance, which is who we signed with, and they said look, we want to sign this. And that’s it. We want it. We’ve had a few offers; there was one company in the states that wanted to work with us too. I was really keen on working with Dissonance because they’ve been going for a long time as Plastic Head Distribution, and so it was just convincing the rest of the guys that this is the way we should go. It’s been a great partnership so far.
And you’re touring it out right now, how’s the tour been going?
The tour’s been going really well. I didn’t expect to do this place-
Neither did I! I walked in and was like…oh?
Yeah I know, I did too. Apart from that it’s going really good. We’ve sold out of merch three times and we’re only a month into it.
How much longer is left?
We’ve got another nearly four weeks to do. It’s crazy. We finish here in the states on the 23rd, fly home and we’ve got two shows in the UK- two festivals. Got the rest of December off, and the third of January we’re flying out to South America to do four weeks there.
I was going to ask what’s next for you but it seems like you’re gonna be touring!
Yeah, pretty much! On the road touring. Once we finish that we’re going to Japan and Australia.
So you’re really going all over.
Oh yeah. That’s one difference, major difference, from Grim Reaper. In the 80’s we only ever toured the states, but now it’s awesome. It’s great, I love it.