Grifter are another band I’ve only recently been aware of, hailing from the southern depths of erm…. Plymouth, they’ve been around since 2003 churning out (in their own words) a potent mix of thunderous grooves, extreme volume and a very dark, twisted sense of humour. After exchanging a few emails and building a good friendship with Ollie (guitar/vocals), he agreed to answer a few questions for The Sleeping Shaman, which were conducted via email during March 2005.
Hey Ollie, how’s tricks? We might as well get the ball rolling by getting the biography bit out of the way, so if you could give us a brief outline as to the background of Grifter and it’s current members?
Hey Lee, Grifter are basically me (Ollie) on guitar and vocals, Phil on bass and Foz on drums. We got together in October 2003 with a different singer but have been doing the business with this line-up since January 2004, which is when the band really started. We’ve all been doing bands for way too long now but this is by far the best for all of us, everything we did in the past pales into insignificance compared to this so it’s hardly worth mentioning…the way is forward!
You obviously draw a lot of inspiration from bands such as Clutch, Kyuss, Nebula and the likes, but nice to see such old faves like MC5, Budgie & AC/DC being name dropped as an influence, but how in your own words, would you like to describe the music of Grifter?
HEAVY ASSED ROCK DUDE!!!!!! We kind of get labelled stoner, which is cool, don’t have a problem with that but we don’t really think of ourselves as a stoner band, more a straight up heavy rock band with a big 70’s influence and some fat grooves. It’s just convenient to use the stoner tag sometimes. We all listen to loads of stuff from Indie like The Wonderstuff and PJ Harvey through to Slayer and Napalm Death…but we are all obsessed with Clutch!!!!
In your early days, you were originally a 4 piece but after your very first gig your (then) vocalist Nev called it a day & quit. In your infinite wisdom you took up vocal duties so can you tell us how you found the switch? Did it feel a natural move for you to pick up where Nev left off? And do you think it’s helped the band as a whole, making you gel & flow a lot better as a 3 piece?
It was a piece of piss to be honest. I already sang and played guitar in my previous band so it was no problem. I’d been in bands with Phil previously and always wanted to do stuff with him again, it just so happened that when the chance arose Nev was part of the deal so I went with it. It was pretty clear from the first jam we had that Phil, Foz and I had something going on even before Nev showed up the three of us had half a song written in half an hour! Nev is good at what he does but he has this whole Mike Patton thing going on and the rest of us just wanted to do filthy, fat assed rock. The 3 of us now are tight as mates and as a band, Nev never quite fitted in with the whole humour thing we’ve got going on and musically it’s all way tighter. We basically say that this band didn’t really start till after Nev left.
You took your name ‘Grifter’ from the cult overweight BMX kids bike, but can you elaborate on Foz’s fascination with them, was it the colour co-ordinated twist grip gears, the mud flap which handily folded over to create an ‘authentic’ motocross fx sound (ooh the memories) or something even more dark and sinister?
I asked Foz about this as I wasn’t too sure, I know that Foz loves mechanical stuff and machinery and has a lot of nostalgia for the things from his childhood and the Grifter looms large in that! Foz basically says that the Grifter was the ultimate indestructible kids bike before the BMX. His argument is that only 4 things will survive a nuclear war; rats, cockroaches, Grifter bikes and Eastenders!
You don’t have an official release available as yet, but with the tinternet at hand, peeps are able to download a few of your MP3’s to get a taster of what’s to come. Do you think this has helped build up an interest in Grifter in readiness of your debut release and what kind of feedback have you had on the tracks currently available?
The feedback has been really positive and we’ve had plenty of downloads and streams of the tracks at our Vitaminic page. No-one’s said anything bad yet. That stuff is all pretty old now, which is why we didn’t release it properly. By the time we finished recording, we’d written a shit load of better stuff but we had it recorded anyway so decided to just stick it online to see what people think and they seem to love it so far. Hopefully if they like this stuff they’ll shit their kecks when they hear the new stuff! It’s been handy to give people a taster of what we do and it’ll give people a chance to see how we’ve progressed in the last 6 months or so.
Your currently in the middle of recording a few tracks for your yet untitled debut release, I know your keeping this a DIY affair by laying down your tracks with Foz’s very own 8 track recorder, I’d imagine it must be a difficult to record this way so what process do you use & how have you found it’s gone so far?
The only difficult part about the recording really is finding the time to do it, we’ve all got jobs and lives and we keep getting offered gigs. The recording side of things is ok. The first recording gave us the chance to figure out how to use the machine and it came out pretty good, this time we actually know what we’re doing a lot more. The way we look at it, Foz spent £300 on the 8 track, we’d get 3 days in a studio for that! We can do better recordings on this thing and take our time to get things right, there’s no clock ticking. If you spend an hour trying to record a track and keep fucking it up it hasn’t cost you £15! There are limitations to recording on an 8 track like this but it makes you more creative to work round it. Plus on an 8 track, if the songs are shit you ain’t got loads of tracks to try and cover up your inadequacies with overdubs!
How many songs will the new recording feature and how does the new material compare to your older tracks?
We’re going to record 8 or 9 tracks in total and put 4 or 5 on the CD, which currently has the provisional title of “70’s Bush”. The title stems from a conversation we had about the halcyon days of pubic topiary in the 70’s when women didn’t go for the whole paedo Brazilian look…let it fucking grow girls!!!! Anyway, the new material shits on the older stuff from a massive height. The old stuff is cool and I still like to listen to it but the newer stuff has stronger melodies, more groove and generally rocks a lot harder. Basically the new stuff will make you wanna drink and rock out like fuck…and fuck!!!!
Once the recording is out of the way, you’ll be unleashing this onto the unsuspecting public in the form of a self financed CD, will this be a demo only affair with the cheap and cheerful convenience of a basic sleeve & slip wallet or are you planning to put a little more money into the project with pro-copied CD’s and inlay?
We don’t know to be honest. I think we’re going to make a bit of an effort. It’s probably going to have printed colour covers (designed by Jack from Cornish rock gods Kamajor and Hedge Dweller) with a suitably 70’s porno influence but will come in a clear plastic wallet. This will help to keep the costs down for postage when we send stuff out, and for people buying it from us by mail order. We may get pro-copied copies for sale but use CD-Rs to send out to press and labels, simply because we’re planning to send out so fucking many…everyone is getting a copy…it’ll prove way too expensive to get that many pro-copied. I think for the copies you’re flogging people should expect a bit more. Having said that, it’s be nice to be able to sell them at a low price.
And when is it likely to be available?
Fuck knows!! Soon hopefully. What we’re not going to do is rush it just to get it out. We’ve got the luxury to make sure it’s spot on before we release it. Trust me, it’s going to be worth the wait!!!!!
Your also very keen to play live, so what opportunities do you get for gigs in Plymouth and the surrounding area? Are there many decent venues to play? Are they well supported? And lastly is there much chance to grab a support slot for touring bands?
Plymouth is fucking shit!!!! It’s embarrassing for bands coming down having to play to literally no-one! There are plenty of bands I would love to bring down here to play and maybe do gig swaps but I think I’d be fucking embarrassed for them to be honest. Mendeed came down from Scotland the other week and played to 3 people!! Granted they’re shite but you’d have thought someone would have shown up. People in Plymouth are stuck up their own arses trying to be cool…fuck ’em!!!! We do have venues that are ok but it’s pointless if they’re empty. We’re starting to get further a field and play in Exeter ad Cornwall and have had amazing responses…so fuck Plymouth!!!!
Speaking of tours, you’ve been making noises at playing with Italy’s most excellent El-Thule on a few dates within the UK this summer, is there anything set in concrete yet, if not are there any other offers in the pipeline to gig Up North or any other parts of the UK?
It’d be awesome and I’m definitely up for doing some gigs with them but again it’s the whole Plymouth thing ain’t it! If it’s a Saturday it’d be ok. It depends when they’re over, they mentioned June and we’re out of action for the first half of June as Phil is on his Honeymoon, (I’m the single one if there are any nice ladies out there!). You’ve reminded me though, I should get in touch and see what the score is there! As for playing further a field, we’re definitely up for it, though it’s best for us to wait till we’ve got the CD out as we’re going to try and promote it to buggery…and also Phil and Foz are both planning to get vans which will make things a lot easier. As long as we can work it round work and make our petrol money back we’ll do it. We’ll even kip in the van if we have to! There is talk of getting out and doing stuff…more gigs in Cornwall and Devon and getting out to Bristol (with the mighty Thee Orphans and Gonga hopefully), Birmingham (Foz’s home town…well Walsall but it’s close), and Manchester (courtesy of your good self) and anywhere else that’s up for some Grifter action.
OK Ollie, I’ll draw this interview to a close, thanks again for taking time out to answer these questions and please use this space to say anything you want about Grifter, Life it’s self or any other ramblings…
Cheers for the interview Lee, really appreciate your support and it’s good to see Sleeping Shaman start to wake up! All I can say is check out our web site, listen to our shit, give us gigs, come see us play and don’t be afraid to get in touch…I’m a friendly kind of guy! Keep listening to the good stuff, keep drinking the good stuff and remember…porn is good for!!!! …oh and fuck emo!!!!!!!!!
Check out all the latest goings on with Grifter at: www.grifterrock.co.uk
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards