――Thank you for taking your time and welcome to Peckinpah mag! How’s going today?
Hello there. Thank you for taking the time to interview us. Things are very good thank you, we’re all just getting over our Christmas holidays and getting back to normal life now.
――Could you introduce us the member of Grifter?
We’re had the same line-up for 10 years now:
Foz – drums and backing vocals
Phil ? bass just bass nothing else
Ollie – guitar and lead vocals
――Could you describe Grifter’s sound to our readers who haven’t heard you yet?
We often seemed to get described as stoner or blues rock but I think the description that suits us best is dirty, heavy rock and roll. People are very keen to use genres and titles to describe bands but to us it all draws from rock and roll and the blues, we just play it heavier and nastier.
――Congrats on your first album(※1), Are you satisfied with the responses so far?
Thank you. The first album actually came out in 2011 and the response back then was amazing. We were mentioned in a lot of lists at the end of that year for one of the best albums of the year which was a great thing to see. The album also helped us move to getting bigger and better gigs such as a tour with Orange Goblin, the Freak Valley festival in Germany, Bloodstock and Hard Rock Hell. So far all responses to the first album have been very positive. We have a new album recorded and almost ready to release once we have the artwork. It’s called The Return Of The Bearded Brethren(※2) and will, once again be released on Ripple Music. The new album is a huge improvement in song writing, production, artwork etc. The first album was very much a case of us recording the songs we had available at the time that had been written over a number of years but for the new album we wrote it to be a great album with a good variety of songs and moods.
――Where was the album recorded and how was the recording process?
Both of our albums were recorded by a friend of ours called Rich Robinson who is a very good engineer and deserves a lot of credit. Rich has a recording set up that is mobile so he is able to move it to wherever the band wants to record. For the first album we recorded everything at the place we rehearse, a place called Big Red, as they have a very big live room with a great sound. For the new album we recorded all the guitars, bass and drums at Big Red again and recorded the vocals at Rich’s home as he has a small studio room there. Both times the recording went very quickly and easily. We have all the songs written, rehearsed and mostly played live before we record so once we go in the studio we are able to play everything very quickly. The recording for both albums was done in about 3 days then Rich takes the recordings away to mix. He send us mixes to listen to, we send back suggestions and work like that until everyone is happy with everything. It does take longer to mix this way but it is such an important part of the recording process that it can’t be rushed. We’re still very happy with the sound of the first album but the new album sounds so much better in every way.
――The album is released from Ripple Music, How did it come? And how was it?
At the time in 2010 Ripple was a website reviewing bands and were only just starting to become a label. I sent them a copy of our 2nd EP, The Simplicity Of The Riff Is Key” released on Catacomb Records, to review and they loved it. They asked us if we’d be interested in being on a split vinyl release called Heavy Ripples with Stone Axe, Sun Gods In Exile and Mighty High so we, of course, said yes. As we had to record songs for the release we decided to record all the songs we had that hadn’t yet been properly recorded with a view to putting them out as an album but didn’t really know how we would release it. While we were recording Ripple also offered to release the album and we have been with them ever since. Ripple are a great label run by two guys called Todd and John who are some of the nicest guys you could meet and absolutely passionate about the label, the bands on their label and music in general. We joined the label very early on and since then the label has gone from strength to strength with better distribution and promotion as well as getting a very strong reputation. Now I think Ripple is getting a reputation as good as labels such as Small Stone which is great for us and should work well for the new album. Ripple certainly has a great roster of bands such as Stone Axe, Mothership, Devil To pay, Poobah, Stubb, Ape Machine, Earthen Grave (featuring Ron Holzner from Trouble) and, of course, released the last Mos Generator album which was amazing.
――What is the songwriting process in the band?
Song writing is very much a group process. As the guitarist and vocalist I bring in a lot of riffs and partially formed song ideas which we then pull apart as a group and put together in the best format. Phil, our bass player, also comes up with a lot of amazing riff ideas which we work on, he’s also very good at hearing where a song should go half way through and the overall structure. Our drummer Foz is also very musical, he can sing and play guitar and bass and has a natural idea of how beats can affect the mood of a song. Once he finds the right beat for a song it can influence how the rest of the song will develop. It’s very rare that someone will bring in a fully complete song, and even if they do it usually gets ripped apart and changed beyond all recognition until everyone is happy with it.
――I saw the photo that you wearing Sir Lord Baltimore T-shirt, Do you like them? Are you big fan of 70s Hard Rock?
We all love 70s rock though out of everyone in the band I’m probably the biggest fan. I値l look for obscure bands to listen to as well as being a huge fan of bands such as Mountain, Cactus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Budgie, Leaf Hound (who we are now label mates with), Captain Beyond etc. 70s rock had a real vibe to it and was heavily rooted in the blues which I love. It seems the bands back then were less interested in falling into small genres and had an open mind and experimental attitude to their music. I have a collection of compilations that I found on the internet as downloads called Heavy 70s, that are great. There are 8 volumes of around 20 tracks each that feature bigger names such as Status Quo, The Groundhogs, Hawkwind・tc but have also introduced me to some really obscure stuff like Granicus who I love.
――Which bands and artists influenced you?
Between the three of us we have a huge range of musical tastes that cover metal, punk, thrash, ska, reggae, hip hop, blues, folk, funk, soul, grunge etc and small bits of these may influence us and creep in, maybe as a drum beat or a riff. As a group though we do have bands that influence us such as Black Sabbath, early ZZ Top, AC/DC, Motorhead, Clutch, Dead Kennedys. Led Zeppelin etc. Personally I’m a huge fan of Mountain, Lynyrd Skynyrd (who our drummer really dislikes!), The Who, The Rolling Stones etc that influence the way I approach playing guitar and writing riffs even if it may not be obvious.
――A stupid question, Do you like hotpocket? (Alabama Hotpocket has great riff!)
Do you mean those horrible looking snacks that you put in a toaster that come out with a red hot filling? I can honestly say I’ve never tried one as they really don’t look that nice! That was a hard song to write as I heard the title but when I found out what it meant (it’s a very disgusting sexual act), I realised I had to make the lyrics very vague so they don’t actually say too much. It was too good a title not to use though and no I’ve never tried the sexual act!
――How would you describe the local music scene there?
Is there any local scene in your town and if so please name a few artists you like
This is a hard question to answer as we all live in different towns now all spread out about an hour apart. When we started out we all lived in the same town, Plymouth on the south coast of England. There were a few good bands round here then that we used to play with and some good venues but over times things have changed. A lot of the bands have split up and a lot of the venues have closed down. There are a few but we don’t play Plymouth very often anymore as we get to travel around the country a lot now. I think all three of us are a bit out of touch with what is happening musically in Plymouth and the towns where we live. The UK does have a lot of great bands though such as our label mates Stubb plus Suns Of Thunder, Widows, Lifer, Line Of Fire, Trippy Wicked, Enos, Desert Storm, Gonga, Alunah, Tricorn, Goat Leaf, Asomvel, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Slabdragger, Druganaut and a whole lot that I’ve probably forgotten to mention but are worthy of checking out.
――I’m sure about that you love to drink lot of beer. Where is the best place for Japanese traveler to get drunk in your home town?
We’re been known to drink a few pints of beer in our time for certain. The new album actually has a song called Black Gold which is a tribute to one of our favourite drinks Guinness. In Plymouth we used to have a great venue called The Phoenix which was very friendly but a bit scruffy. Unfortunately it’s closed down now. I don’t go out in Plymouth much but our drummer still lives there and goes to a pub called The Nowhere which a lot of the alternative and metallers in Plymouth go to. There’s also The Junction which attracts a lot of bikers and has bands on. I live in a very small town called Chudleigh that has 5 pubs, the one I go to is called The Bishop Lacey and it’s a great place. They always have beers from small breweries, they do good food, you will always meet interesting and sometimes weird people to talk to and they don’t mind when I put Slayer on the jukebox!
――You played on Hard Rock Hell Fest 2013, How was it?
Hard Rock Hell was a lot of fun for us as we spent the whole weekend there just drinking and watching bands. Our set went very well, we had a really good sized crowd to play to who seemed very into what we were doing which was a real buzz. Overall it is a funny festival. They have 2 stages, one for the bigger bands and a much smaller one for the up and coming bands. It seemed that most people preferred to go and watch the bands on the bigger stage than check out the less known bands so some of the crowds for the smaller bands were pretty small which is a shame as some of those bands were better than the bigger bands. We had a great time though and got to meet and hang out with a lot of very cool people as well as a lot of friends who were also playing that we had not seen in a while. We also played the Bloodstock festival which was headlined by Slayer on the day we played and featured Anthrax, Exodus, Devildriver etc. We had a huge crowd for that and got an amazing response. That was a really big thrill.
――Do you do a lot of touring? Do you enjoy touring?
We all have jobs, families and bills to pay so we have to work gigs and touring around our home lives but we do as much as we can. We’re been lucky as we got offered the chance to tour with Orange Goblin as they’re old friends which was an amazing experience and we’ve been over to Europe to play in Belgium and Holland. We tend to do weekend tours more if we do any touring, maybe a Thursday to Saturday as people here are more likely to go to gigs on those days than earlier in the week. We all love touring. The three of us get on incredibly well and are pretty much best friends so we have a lot of laughs, we love playing live and we get to travel around seeing some very cool things that we wouldn’t see just sitting doing our jobs every day and we get to meet amazing people along the way who have become really good friends.
――Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live performances or tours?
I’m sure there are some. There was the time when we played a venue in London that had a very small stage, Phil was rocking out so hard that he fell off the stage into a projector that was set up in front of the stage to show films on a backdrop behind the bands. I think he managed to carry on playing though. Some of the funniest things are the conversations we have in the van as we’re travelling round sometimes we’re laughing until we’re almost crying.
――You keep playing Rock & Roll almost 10 years, Was it passed like the blink of an eye or slow as doom?
Yes we’re just reached our 10th anniversary as a band. When I think back to some of the things we’re done in the last 10 years some of it does seem like such a long time ago. So much has happened for the band and also personally that our lives have changed drastically but the band has remained constant throughout and we still get as much excitement and fun from doing it as we ever did more in some way as things have become easier for us in terms of having a label behind us and getting gigs…etc. Our approach to doing the band has definitely changed over the years as we’re got older, had other commitments..etc but in some ways it’s intensified our focus on the band when we are doing stuff.
――If you could give advice to someone want to start a band. What advice would you give them?
Firstly have fun, don’t do it because you have ideas of becoming famous or getting a record deal. Just enjoy what you do and make sure you get on with the people you’re in a band with and are good friends with them. If it takes off you will be spending a lot of time with those people in a van and sleeping in the same room. You also need to know when to give people space and let them do their own thing. We’re survived by knowing when one of us needs a break so they can come back refreshed. Secondly don’t follow trends, don’t try to sound like this band or that band, just play what feels natural and enjoyable. People will pick up on things that have more honesty to them than something that is forced because a band thinks that’s what people want to hear. Thirdly, even if you’re not getting paid act professionally. Be on time, treat the people you meet with respect whether they’re fans, bands, promoters, journalists, label people etc. A good reputation is essential as people do talk to each other and a bad reputation will get around and you won’t get any more work. Fourth, don’t play live or record until you’re ready, there is no rush to do anything. If you play live before you’re ready and sound rubbish people will remember and won’t bother coming back to watch you again even if you’re improved. The same goes for getting your social media such as Facebook on the go People won’t be interested until they can listen to good recordings of you so work towards small local shows first and a decent quality demo. No band should ever be making t-shirts before a demo It does happen!!! Lastly make sure you have decent quality gear. You need to sound good for starters and poor quality gear just doesn’t sound good and won’t sound good even through a decent PA system. Secondly a good way to get known is to do gig swaps with bands from other areas and this often involves lending gear when they come to your town make sure you have good gear to offer.
――Do you know any Japanese band?
Obviously everyone knows Church Of Misery. I’m a huge fan of that band and we got to play with them on one date of the Orange Goblin tour a couple of years ago. They seemed like good guys and really seemed to enjoy our set which was great. I also like an old 70s band called Flied Egg who I think released a couple of albums. Other than that I’m sorry to say I don’t really know any Japanese bands that are around today. I’ve heard of a few but never really heard any. I did used to listen to a lot of hardcore many years ago and did get into bands such as Lipcream, Rose Rose, Gauze, Outo etc. Japan had a great hardcore scene in the 80s. If you have any Japanese bands to recommend I’d love to check them out. I have a real interest in Japanese culture and it’s the country I most interested in visiting in fact we would love to come a play in Japan if anyone knows any good promoters!
――If you could play a show with any band, who would that band be?
Obviously there are bigger bands that we would love to play with such as Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Clutch, ZZ Top, Iron Maiden etc but these are mostly just dreams that will probably never happen. There are some UK bands that I’m quite keen to play with such as Goat Leaf, Asomvel, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell etc. In fact we are playing with the last two in Leeds at a small festival later in the year which will be amazing.
――Finally, would you like to send a message to Japanese fans & drinkers?
Thank you to everyone in Japan who takes the time out to check out the band and get hold of our stuff・ realise it isn’t easy as I don’t think our label has distribution over there as yet if anyone can help out please let Ripple Music know (http://www.ripple-music.com this is also the place to check out other Ripple bands and buy stuff). Keep enjoying the rock and roll, look out for our new album coming soon・opefully one day we’ll be able to come over there and play for you and drink with you.
In the meantime please keep up with the band on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/grifterrock) or our website (http://www.grifterrock.co.uk) and say hello as we love to hear from people and have conversations. Also please feel free to download our older music, EPs and demo from our Bandcamp page for free (http://grifterrock.bandcamp.com http://grifterrock.bandcamp.com) and spread the word.
Big thanks to Trip Thru Records for the interview and to you guys out there for reading it. Stay happy and peaceful!