An Interview with Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett


By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

In the late 70s and early 80s, the U.K. was a literal breeding ground for heavy metal, specifically, a movement which would come to be known as the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM),” and at the forefront of that movement, along with a few others, was Grim Reaper.

Led by vocalist, Steve Grimmett, and guitarist, Nick Bowcott, Grim Reaper rose from the ashes of short-lived act, Medusa. Ever eager, and knowing what he had in hand, Grimmett, began shopping Grim Reapers demo around, and it wasn’t long before Ebony Records bit and subsequently signed the band in short order.

As the 80s wore on, Grim Reaper’s first three records, See You In Hell, Fear No Evil, and Rock You To Hell, achieved a certain level of mainstream success and even garnered attention via MTV, but still, the members of Grim Reaper remained in obscurity.

Ebony Records underhanded dealings dogged Grim Reaper throughout the decade, eventually leading to the band’s demise in 1988, leaving the members of Grim Reaper in the position of never having received any of the fruits of their success.

As for Grimmett, he continued to imbibe himself within the scene of metal, joining thrash outfit, Onslaught, and eventually, forming the criminally underexposed, Lionsheart.

These days, Grimmett fronts a reformed Grim Reaper, though legal issues keep him from formally labeling it as such, and while Grimmett is open to an onstage reunion with his former partner in crime, Nick Bowcott, he remains firm on the decision to push Grim Reaper forward as a recording outfit on his own, with his new tribe.

In this career-spanning interview, Steve Grimmett and I, among other things, discuss his early origins in metal, the formation of Grim Reaper, the recording and unexpected success of See You In Hell, the turbulence experienced by the band in the 80s, joining Onslaught, forming Lionsheart, new Grim Reaper music, and a whole lot more.

Andrew:
Steve, as a young musician, and as a vocalist, who were some of your earliest influences that informed your style most?

Steve:
As a young musician, a whole new world opened up in front of my eyes, and everything was new to me, so it was a very steep learning curve. My early influences were David Coverdale, Dio, and of course, Rob Halford, but the reason I sing is Elton John. I loved his stuff and still do.

Andrew:
Before joining Grim Reaper, you fronted a band called Medusa. If you can, dive into the formation of that band.

Steve:
I was asked by Lance Perkins to join Medusa. We at the start were a five-piece, but very soon became a four-piece, and were seen by a few record companies, but never picked up.

Andrew:
After Medusa, you were fronting Chateaux. Given that, how did you come to front Grim Reaper in 1982?

Steve:
Ok, I need to set the record straight here, I was never officially in Chateaux. I just did the recording for them, as they had no singer, and I did their first album for them while I was in Grim Reaper. I used the experience because, at that time, I hadn’t recorded in a 24-track studio, and of course, I took the Grim Reaper demo to Ebony Records, and six weeks later we were signed.

Andrew:
Grim Reaper was an early player in the scene which became known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Paint a picture of that scene for us.

Steve:
At the time, we didn’t know what the NWOBHM was, and always thought it was pigeonholing, but it was just an era, and we were happy to be a part of it.

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew:
In 1983, Grim Reaper recorded the seminal record, See You In Hell. Take me through the writing, recording, and reception of that record.

Steve:
The songs for See You In Hell were already written before we went into the studio, as we were already playing live. The whole process only took four days to record, and I think it was mixed in a further five days, but never in a million years did I ever think it would take off as it did. It was already a big seller in the U.K. and Europe, and within a few weeks, it went massive in the states.

Andrew:
See You In Hell was a success, and Fear No Evil did even better and garnered a fair amount of attention from MTV. The band seemed on the doorstep of major mainstream stardom. What led to the delays in recording your follow-up?

Steve:
The delay was that Ebony Records tried to take us to court over the fact we had claimed breach of contract against them. The label had received large amounts of money from RCA Records, and we didn’t see a penny of it. In fact, I still haven’t had a penny from the records to this day. We had recorded the third album with Ebony, but with all the money they bought a mansion and set up a studio in that, and it turned out that it had very bad acoustics, so what sounded good in the studio, was shit outside, so RCA stepped in, and we recorded Rock You To Hell in the States with Max Norman.

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew:
Rock You To Hell landed during the time of thrash and hair metal. Do you feel it was given a fair shake?

Steve:
It was unfortunately plagued by Ebony Records, and the legal shit, so it wasn’t as well pushed as the first two, so no, it wasn’t given a fair shake.

Andrew:
It’s been rumored that Grim Reaper was in sessions to record a fourth record, but more legal battles delayed the sessions. Ultimately, what caused that fracture in the band, which led to its initial end? Will the spoils of those sessions ever be released?

Steve:
There was a fourth album being written, but it was written by Nick [Bowcott], and others not in the band. What the hell that was all about, I will never know. This is where a label gets involved and just fucks things up. It wasn’t Grim Reaper in any shape or form, and no, it will never be released. At least, not while I’m alive.

Andrew:
In the wake of Grim Reaper’s end, you joined thrash metal band, Onslaught, and recorded In Search Of Sanity in 1989. How did you get the gig with Onslaught?

Steve:
They got in touch with me, and basically, saw something in a magazine about me. They had their album rejected by London Records because of poor vocal performance, and they asked me to join them. I did a four-track demo of their album in my garage with a four-track recording machine, which I sent down to them to listen to, and they ask me to join.

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew:
Your time with Onslaught ended up being relatively short. You seemed to bring a more polished, and melodic edge to the band. Would you agree? Ultimately, were the differences in style what led to you moving on?

Steve:
Yes, my time in Onslaught was short. It was down to the fact that promises that were made to me, when I first joined them, would never be kept, and I used the experience for my own good because we were touring Europe, which I had never done at all with Grim Reaper. Although I gotta say that I did get on with most of the members, who I still talk with to this day, it was differences that are unresolved to this day. It’s a shame, really, but there you go, that’s what happens with bands.

Andrew:
The 90s was a tumultuous time for 70s and 80s rockers, but you seemed to settle in nicely with Lionsheart. Take me through the formation of that band. 

Steve:
I thought Lionsheart was a great band. We came up with some fantastic songs, and it looked like we could have gone all the way. We did in Japan, and we became Japan’s number one for a few weeks, which is unheard of for a non-Japanese band. it looked good, but as always, someone had to ruin it. The guitarist, Mark Owers, and bass player, Steve Owers, were twins, and to be quite honest, they screwed things up from day one. They wouldn’t get on a tour bus. They wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t do that, and basically, I fired them because they were useless. They were great at writing songs, but absolutely useless playing live, and there you have it. It’s really that in a nutshell. Such a bloody shame.

Andrew:
Lionheart’s 1992 debut and subsequent albums have proved to stand the test of time. Retrospectively, what are your thoughts on those records? There’s been no music from Lionheart since 2004, is that something that might be on your radar moving forward?

Steve:
The records were great. I gotta say they were really great, especially the first one, the self-titled album. No, there’s been nothing since 2004, but it’s off on the back burner because I always thought the band was worth more than it ever got, so yeah, that’s on the back burner. As soon as I find the right people to do what I intended to do with Lionsheart in the first place, I’ll bring it back to life. Why not?

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew:
Take me through the events which led to the reformation of Grim Reaper.

Steve:
The reformation of Grim Reaper was because everywhere we played, we were asked to play Grim Reaper stuff, so we decided that we’d play a full set of Grim Reaper stuff. We talked to Nick Bowcott about it to start off with, and he said, “I don’t want to do it, better to let sleeping dogs lie,” and all the rest of it. So, I said, “Well, I’m being asked to do it, fifty percent of these are my songs, so I’m going to carry on and do it.” I had to change the name slightly to Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper, and so, that’s why it’s billed like that. I’ve been rapped on the knuckles by Nick where promoters have not advertised it as such, and instead just put “Grim Reaper” on the posters, and stuff. Then, people say to Nick, “Oh, are you playing?” I have to say, that’s caused a few upsets at times, but it’s not my fault. I’ve stuck to my agreement with Nick about doing that, so he now knows that if that’s ever done, it’s not me that’s done it.

Andrew:
Your partnership with Nick Bowcott is well documented. Given your chemistry, ultimately, why did Nick choose to not participate in the reunion? Will we see him take the stage with Grim Reaper or record with the band in the future?

Steve:
Nick is always welcome to join us on stage. I think that’s a very special moment for him, for me, and for the audience, so that’s great. We won’t be recording again anytime soon. I have too much to do to write more stuff with Nick, and not only that, we could never tour it, so that’s the way it will be for now.

Andrew:
In the ensuing years, Grim Reaper has put out two additional albums, Walking In The Shadows, and At The Gates. How does the band’s songwriting process compare to its earlier days?
 

Steve:
The recording is exactly the same as we used to do back in the day. It is real drums, and everything else is played to the drums, and not a click track, so that’s why you get that special vibe, and that special feel. I think that is invaluable, and I think that’s when bands these days record albums in there in their bedrooms to a click track, or to a drum machine, it just kills the life of a song. If there are lessons to be learned in there, it is right there and I can’t say anymore.

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew:
It’s been said that “legacy acts” struggle to get their newer music heard when compared to their classic albums. Is this something with which you agree, or do you feel your new music stacks up mightily against your earlier efforts?

Steve:
Look, it’s down to you these days, and you have all of the tools right in your hands. If you use social media, it’s the best way to do things. I wish I had had social media back in the day, it was just down to advertising in magazines, which I suppose was the social media of the day, but everybody bought magazines, so you’d see the adverts. Nobody buys magazines much now, it’s all done on social media, and I think if you use that, it will do good for you. It’s got to. It gets music out to far more people than any magazine I know.

Andrew:
It’s been rumored that Grim Reaper is in the studio working on a new album for 2022. Is there any truth to that? If so, what can you tell us about Grim Reapers’ next studio effort?

Steve:
Yes, I am writing a new Reaper album, and I’m writing it with people who have come to me, and said, “Look, I would love to write a new Reaper album with you,” and so, that’s the way it is. I’m not gonna say any more about the album because I want it to be a surprise for everybody, and believe you me, it will be. It’s cool, you know? It’ll be out later this year.

Andrew:
Looking back, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was a scene that was loaded with talent from top to bottom. In retrospect, what do you feel the legacy of Grim Reaper is within that scene? How integral was the band to moving it forward?

Steve:
I can’t be sure how influential Grim Reaper has been but I do know that watching a program that Nikki Sixx did, he mentioned the fact that, “We all used to sit down and play through the Grim Reaper riffs,” and if that says enough about what we did, then that’ll do for me. I’ll take that.

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew:
The duality of Grim Reaper is such that while the band put forth three classic, if not essential records, it could be said that legal troubles and bad luck derailed the band’s initial run to glory in the 80s. With that said, do you have any regrets in regards to the band’s 80s heyday? 

Steve:
No, I have no regrets whatsoever. I should by rights be a millionaire, but I haven’t got a penny to my name. I’m on welfare at the moment because of COVID, and a lot of people do think that I am a millionaire, but I can tell you now, I’m not. I’ve never received a penny – not one penny – from Grim Reaper, so that says it all, doesn’t it? But still, no regrets. I still love getting up there and playing. I still love watching the smiling faces in front of me. That says it all and does it all for me.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next for you in all lanes, Steve?

Steve:
This year, in 2022, I will be back touring. I’m just doing some deals at the moment in regards to doing a tour in America, and then, we’ll be doing a tour in South America and Europe. All of these need my people to come together, sort dates out, and just get on, book it, and go for it. There will be lots more releases as well from Grim Reaper, apparently, so just watch out for those on my website, and have a great time. I just wanna say thank you to my fans for the loyal support that you show me and give me. I can’t wait to come and see you for real, face to face. Take care, and stay safe.

All images courtesy of Steve Grimmett

Andrew Daly (@vwmusicrocks) is the Editor-in-Chief for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at andrew@vinylwriter.com

33 thoughts on “An Interview with Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper

  1. When he says Bowcott wrote a fourth album, does he mean back in the day? Or recently? I saw Nick Bowcott sent Grimmett a message of support in a YouTube video after Grimmett’s amputation, wishing him well and saying he had songs written, was ready to record an album… I’m assuming Grimmett just didn’t care?1

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