Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good Day for Hard Rock News! Interview With Grifter's Ollie Stygall

Down, dirty, raunchy, in-your-face and take no prisoners, Grifter stomps onto the rock scene with a no-holds-barred attitude that brings rock back to it's rebellious and can't-stop-me attitude. 

Their recently released and critically hailed self-titled album has made The Soda Shop's Top 20 Best of 2011 Releases, and they've made my top list of Best New Hard Rock Bands to watch out for like your life depended on it.

Now, I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to pick Grifter's singer and guitarist, Ollie Stygall's brain. Here's what I dug up, hard rock fans:

Boogs: Ollie, thanks for taking the time out for this interview. I know things are getting busy with Grifter and your self-title release has made one of the top ten rock albums of this year by many critics. You've got to be ecstatic about all that's happening.

Ollie: Yeah it's pretty's been a long time in the making as we've been going 8 years now. It's amazing to find that stuff you write in the rehearsal room, cocooned away from the world, is starting to pick up some serious attention all over the world. It's hard to take it all seriously when you're getting up every day to do a mundane job, paying the mortgage...etc but it's great to get the recognition. It is getting to the point where I'm struggling to keep up with everything that's going on!!!

Boogs: Personally, I think mainstream rock of today has become too safe and a bit boring. Maybe it's just here in the U.S. Grifter really has this raunchy, bluesy  hard rock sound that I personally love and grew up with. It seems you guys are  bringing back that outlaw mentality and attitude that I think newer rock bands just aren't capturing. What's your view on the Rock N Roll of today, and what's Rock N' Roll all about for Grifter?

Ollie: Yeah, I tend to agree with you. There are a lot of bands who can make an approximate recreation of the sound and adopt the look but they're playing at being rock and roll. They're more concerned with playing the game to get the fame but don't have the attitude. Don't get me wrong, it's great to have people like what you do and being popular is awesome, but you have to get it on your own terms.

There are some amazing bands out there, though. I've just been introduced to Rival Sons who have nailed that vintage sound and style so authentically you can't doubt their passion for it, and also the Jim Jones Revue who kick out some killer raw 50's style rock and roll with the snarl and fury of punk rock.

Rock and roll to me is about a lot of things...passion, integrity, attitude, not giving a fuck what people think as long as you're true to yourselves. We play for ourselves first and if other people dig what we do then that's great. It's also an escape, whether as a listener wanting to escape normality for 40 minutes or for the players wanting to enter their little bubble and let off steam. It's all about escaping.

Boogs: Every musician has many influences, no doubt, but for me I can trace back to watching Tommy Lee in the video "Looks That Kill" and jumping up shouting, "I wanna do that!" Who was that musician or band influence that you can remember watching or listening to that made you want to rock out for real and take on the world?

Ollie: Initially it was Status Quo when I as 12 years old. I saw them on TV and was hooked. The real turning point for me though was getting a copy of Sabbath's "Live Evil" when I was 13. When "Neon Knights" kicked in, my jaw hit the floor, and at that moment, I totally sold my soul to Rock and Roll!!! Everything I've done since then over the last 29 years has been touched by the hand of Sabbath. That's when I was hit by the power of the riff!!!

Boogs: How do you guys typically write tunes? Do you guys jam it out more, or is it one or two guys writing songs on their own and then presenting them to the other members?

Ollie: There's no hard and fast rules. Sometimes, being the guy that sings and plays guitar, I'll come in with a verse/chorus idea, but I'll never develop it more than that as the way the other guys interpret it will put a whole different spin on how the track will work out rhythmically or structurally.

Other times, Phil may come in with ideas for bass lines. Sometimes an idea will grow from jamming. Sometimes Foz will leave the room for a cigarette then come back in and hum an intro riff to try. Every song is a full collaborative effort which is great as it means we have a pretty high bullshit filter.
Boogs: Good Day for Bad News, Alabama Hot Pocket, and Asshole Parade are my favorites on Grifter's self-titled album. I know that most song writers are proud of all their songs, but I also know that they are ones that they favor or are extremely proud of. Which songs are those for you?

Ollie: Yeah, that's true. I'm pretty proud of everything, even the very early stuff we don't play anymore, as they're of their time and part of what got us to how we sound now...some of that stuff had some great riffs when I listen back to it now, even if the songs may not have had the focus we have now.

It's probably more accurate to talk about songs that I prefer...Good Day For Bad News, Bucktooth Woman, Unwelcome Guest, Alabama Hotpocket, Sweat Like Horses, Pendulum...all tracks that really give me a buzz to play. You'd probably get a different answer from each of us on this.

There are some lyrics I am proud of like Young Blood Old Veins, Unwelcome Guest, Asshole Parade...etc.

Boogs: Any funny Spinal Tap moments that Grifter has had yet?

Ollie: Phil has fallen off stage a couple of times...drink may have been involved but it's more the fact that he likes to get his head down and rock out...and as we're not playing the biggest venues, the stages aren't always too big or too high fortunately. He usually lands on his feet and rarely misses a note though.

I did find that red wine doesn't agree with me and went onstage once and proceeded to talk incomprehensible shit!!!! Usually it's a case of turn up at the venue, unload the van, drink Guinness, play, drink Guinness, eat a kebab, load the van and drive home through the night!!!

Boogs: How did the record label Ripple Music come into Grifter's life?

Ollie: Before the label Ripple were mainly a web blog so I sent them a copy of our 2nd EP, "The Simplicity Of The Riff Is Key", which came out in 2010 on Catacomb Records for review. They loved it and started asking how we were fixed label wise.

They then floated the idea of the Heavy Ripples split vinyl with Sun Gods In Exile, Stone Axe and Mighty High, as all the bands were connected. Stone Axe had done split vinyl with the Sun Gods guys and Mighty High, all three American bands had played together and we had toured with Sun Gods in the UK.

Obviously we were thrilled to have the chance to do some vinyl, especially with such incredible bands. We decided to record an album when we recorded the vinyl tracks and halfway through recording Ripple offered to put it out. We stopped looking for a label there and then as their enthusiasm was the label's roster was a big selling point...and I liked their packaging ;-) We haven't looked back.

Boogs: Hahaha. Thanks for the plug. I had a hell of a time designing the Heavy Ripples' vinyl packaging, but I wont get into that. 
Your songs are definitely rooted in that raw southern and blues based classic rock sound. Who were the influences that helped shape or mold your style of playing as well as influence Grifter's sound?

Ollie: For me Tony Iommi is an obvious one but The Reverend Billy Gibbons is right up there with him...the guy's tone and feel on guitar is out of this world!!! Also right up there I'd put Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, Fast Eddie Clarke, Jimmy Page, Steve Jones...etc.

We all have different influences...Foz is a huge John Bonham fan but also loves stuff like ska, reggae, punk...etc. Phil loves his 90's grunge, punk stuff like Fugazi as well as a lot of angular heavy stuff. We do have common ground though through Sabbath, Scissorfight, ZZ Top, AC/DC...etc. I remember when Phil and I introduced Foz to Clutch...he sat and nodded his head for 40 minutes and we knew we had the right guy!!!

Boogs: Brutha, I hear you got yourself a slot opening for Orange Goblin on their UK tour...
Much coongrats on that. How did that come about?

Ollie: I go back a long way with those guys. In the mid 90's, I was in a band called Nero Circus and our label Godhead Records (home of Acrimony) and Goblin's label Rise Above were affiliated. They put us on tour together as our first album had just come out and they were just about to record theirs.

We became very close over the course of a week and have stayed in touch over the years. They've been to see us a couple of times and we played with them a couple of years ago. When the album came out, I sent a package to Ben of all our stuff... a couple of days later I get a mail that says he loved it, and it'd be good to do some gigs...two weeks later, he mails again to ask how we're fixed for the tour!!! Ben then had to talk to all the promoters on the tour about including us, as they originally weren't going out with a support. Fortunately, they all agreed. Basically the tour is happening because Ben's an awesome fucking dude!!!!

Boogs: What can hard rock fans expect when they hear Grifter for the first time ever?

Ollie: I'm so tempted to say they can expect to be pulling their pants out of their asses where they've had them kicked so hard!!!! We're never going to save the world, none of us are Bono...thank're just going to get some full on, heads down, dirty rock and roll with a cheeky glint in the eye, a bulge in the trousers and plenty of sweat!!!

Boogs: Another year's ended, bro. Happy Holidays to you guys and your families, as well as a
super-sized rockin' Happy New Year, too. What's in the works for Grifter in 2012?

Ollie: Obviously we have the Orange Goblin tour in April which is a real centre piece of the year for us. We're also making our first trip to mainland Europe in May to play the Freak Valley festival in Germany so we're planning some more Euro dates to coincide.

There's also talk of heading to Ireland to play with our new label mates Trucker Diablo, as well as trying to get some more festival appearances, more gigs and more writing/recording. We aim to keep can't keep a good band down!!!

Damn! Grifter and Trucker Diablo on the same bill? That would be one hell of a kick ass rock show! I truly hope that happens, and I envy any feckers out there who get to see that show!

Like Grifter, Trucker is another one of those bands who're bringing the nasty, primal, fun back to Rock N' Roll. I think it's about time. Special thanks to Ollie for taking the time out to answer these questions.

If you haven't yet heard their new cd, released by Ripple Music...what the hell's wrong with you? Just press play and listen to what you've been missing out on.


Yeah, I know you want the cd now. No worries. Visit the link to get Grifter's new album and get the classic hard rock fix you been feining for. Be sure to visit the link and learn more about these down and dirty rockers that call themselves - GRIFTER!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rock's Come Back of the Year - Interview With Jimmy Ronnie From Iron Claw

Being called Rock's "Come Back Bands of the Year" by Metal Odyssey, and having a string of great reviews from the likes of The Metal Minute, Rocktopia, and The Soda Shop just to name a few, I've been given the great pleasure to interview Iron Claw's guitarist and one of the band's original founding members, Jim Ronnie. As you'll find out, it's one hell of come back for these Proto Metal Pioneers indeed.

Boogs: As a musician myself that use to play in a band and have been out of the music scene for quite some time, what was the spark that ignited your desire to get the band back together after such a long time and start rockin' again? 

Jimmy Ronnie:  The last thing on my mind late 2009 was an Iron Claw reunion. I became aware of  Rockadrome's release of the band's self titled CD and must admit to giving that little attention either. However, it became clear that there was indeed a lot of interest out there for our 1970's recorded back catalog. That was the spark that ignited the possibility of a reunion in my mind. I arranged a meeting of the surviving former band members and that was it! Iron Claw was reborn! 

There wasn't much of a plan at that stage other than "let's record some new material and see how it goes". All that changed when Ripple Music got involved and suddenly we were now faced with the task of producing an album for world wide release on this new dynamic!

Boogs: That's amazing! How are some things better now with Iron Claw than they were back in the day when you guys first started out?

Jimmy Ronnie:  The internet is probably the biggest single change that has happened to music since 1979. Musicians now have a vehicle for getting their recorded music out to the world. 

That didn’t exist during our first time around and record companies were practically the only way to get recordings heard. There were no CDs of course and pressing your own vinyl records was not a practical option. Even if that could be overcome, how do you distribute them? 

On the negative side though, there are now a lot fewer live venues much less opportunity for bands to play. That’s a great shame. We need more live venues. That is how new young bands learn their craft and if they don’t get a chance to play live the standard of music will drop. Never mind TV talent shows. That’s not what it’s all about.

Boogs:  Once again congrats on A Different Game being praised as the "Come Back Album of the Year" in the world of rock and classic rock. How does that feel? It's gotta be an extremely gratifying feeling. Especially being labeled "Proto-metal Pioneers." That's gotta be honor being a part of that. 

Jimmy Ronnie: The reviews for “A Different Game” have been astounding. Almost universal acclaim which is about is good as it gets. A couple of Doom sites don’t seem to like us but we’re not a Doom band so that’s fine. 

It is extremely gratifying as you say. It’s always nice to get applause for a performance and the music press has thrown themselves behind us 100%. 

As for “Proto-metal Pioneers”, I guess that’s what we were but that’s not something that was ever considered at the time. I never thought about breaking new ground. We just did what we did and had a great time doing it. 

It was obvious then though that the music was not mainstream and we didn’t always go down well. “Play something we know!” being a common cry from the unsuspecting audience. The response was usually “Fuck off, you’re getting hard rock whether you like it or not!” Ah… the arrogance of youth!

Boogs: Your new album A Different Game is quite different than your first album. What was the experience recording A Different Game as opposed to your first album? What was your guys' focus on this album, or was it just this music beast within just itching to get out and rock shit again? 

Jimmy Ronnie: The main difference is that this is an album produced as a single project, in one studio, with a single line-up of musicians. It was all done in a relatively short period of time as well. 

The Rockadrome album is a compilation of recorded work done during our first lifetime (1969 to 1974). As such it is a good mixture of styles and production techniques and shows the bands evolution through the first 5 years of our existence. 

The focus on “A Different Game” was clear from the start. We wanted to produce a record that was pure Iron Claw and that was about capturing the live spirit of the band on record. This was about returning to our roots as a band rather than writing and recording about where we may find ourselves as changed individuals today. 

Iron Claw is what was called for and Iron Claw is what was given. The end result is that we have produced an album for today. The spirit of the record is 40 years old but the sound is now. I’m very pleased with it as you can probably tell!

Boogs: Absolutely, and you have every reason to be! I definitely have my favorite tunes on A Different Game, one of them being the album's title track. What would you say is your definite song favorites writing as well as recording?

Jimmy Ronnie: I, too, like the title track which, together with “It’s Easy”, comes from a mid-90’s solo recording project of mine. A couple of the songs had been part of our 1970’s live set but never recorded in the studio. Some were recorded first time round in 1970 but never released. 

This was actually our very first album recorded in Luton near London with Mike Waller on vocals. Some of the songs are brand new and written in the studio for this album. So some of the songs are old, some are new but all of them have been stripped bare and reworked for the album. 

I don’t know if I’ve got any real favourites. It depends what kind of mood I’m in. “What Love Left” is definitely the right choice for the opener and single….straight to the point rock n roll! I like the Youtube promo video too (not everyone shares my opinion on that though!)

Boogs: I know you all played The Barlinnie Prison last October for charity. What else is in the works for Iron Claw?

Jimmy Ronnie: Yes. The official album launce was at Scotland’s largest prison in Glasgow. That was a very special night for us. A few hundred very sober prisoners gave us a frosty welcome to the stage. By the end of our set they were rockin' full on! That was immensely satisfying for us and hopefully we managed to plant a few seeds that night. 

As we speak we are rehearsing with our new vocalist and hopefully it shouldn’t be long before we’re back on the road. Looking forward to that. 

Ripple Music have offered us the chance to make another album. Their only stipulation being that it’s as “kick ass” as this one! That is some time away but we’re really looking forward to that as well. 

It has been two years since we decided to reform. Two very intense, busy, yet satisfying years. Personally, up until Ripple Music came along I had given up all hope of fulfilling my dream and securing a recording and publishing deal. Just goes to show that you never know what's around the corner! As long as there is an audience for Iron Claw and we can still do it then it continues…..Here’s to the future!

Yes, indeed, you never know what's around the corner, and as this year almost closes in, I can only suspect great things for the Iron Claw boys. There's is a great story, a very cool story that's not often told in rock. I personally love it. It takes courage and a big brass set of kahones to make a come back like Iron Claw has.

Once again, I'd like to thank Jimmy Ronnie for being gracious enough to take the time out to answer a few questions for this hard rock fan. 

For more information on the Iron Claw band, visit the link to read their biography and get a healthy taste of some of their tunes featured on the their new cd release A Different Game!

Looking for the cd? Click the link to go to Ripple Music's store and grab your copy of Iron Claw: A Different Game released on Ripple Music now! 

Tribute To One Of The Best Female Hard Rock Bands Ever - L7

Okay, it's no secret that I love rock chicks, but female rockers that dish it out as good as the guys? Fugged-aboud-id! In the 90s, no other all female hard rock act served it up better than L7, and this is why I'm showing much love to the ladies for being one of the best female hard rock bands ever!

I don't remember when I first heard of L7. I can't remember if it was before or after 1994's highly disturbing movie Natural Born Killers, in which L7's song Shit List was on the album's soundtrack. I don't know if I first heard them after seeing their video for Pretend We're Dead. 

All I remember is that I loved their sound, and I believe Bricks Are Heavy was the first album I bought from them. And it wasn't an L7 cd I owned. I was still rocking cassettes even close to the mid 90s. 

I loved their punk-driven songs, tainted with a bit of sloppy guitar fuzz, that dripped with cynicism of society and a rebellious attitude that I seem to identify so much with.

With the band's well-known line up of Donita Sparks on electric guitar and vocals, Suzi Gardner on electric guitar and vocals, Jennifer Finch on bass, and Demetra Plakas on drums, L7 songs were not only great for the 90s, they're just great songs period. 

Songs like Wargasm, Pretend We're Dead, and Shit List weren't just the only good tunes on that L7 album. Scrap, Everglade, and Monster were also favorites of mine. Don't get me wrong here. As great as Bricks Are Heavy was, L7 is not a one-album wonder. L7 albums thereafter still held  a lot of really kick ass songs to get your heart racing and raise your nose up at the masses.

Songs on Hungry for Stink that got my testosterone blazing in full throttle were The Bomb, Shirley (About the 1st kick ass Lady of Drag Racing - Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney), Andres, and Freak Magnet. 

However, the song I absolutely loved on the Hungry for Stink album was Can I Run, a brooding song sprinkled with just a tad of pop sensibility that didn't ruin it's thick, heavy, haunting sound.

L7's 5th album The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum saw another band line up change when Jennifer Finch on bass left, and Donita Sparks and Greta Brinkman shared bass duties on the album. Out of all the L7 albums, I have to say The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum is by far my most favorite.

Why? Three reasons: the songs Drama, Masses Are Asses, and Non-Existent Patricia. The song writing for three songs really seemed to come together on The Beauty Process. 

The song Masses Are Asses is a great song with an unbelievable chorus that you cannot help but chant a long too. With the same pop sense of Pretend We're Dead, the song Masses Are Asses is one of the most under-rated and unknown songs by L7. I think it's one of the best L7 songs ever.

The lyrics are quite simple, but even in it's simplicity, they're beautifully creative and clever. I'm a lyricist, and I still wish I could've written the lyrics to that song. Hell, I'd be happy with just coming up with that catchy song title.

Non-Existent Patricia off The Beauty Process is by far my favorite L7 song. It's a beautiful, haunting song about alienation and displays just damn good song writing period. It's not easy giving heavy music a great melody without it becoming too poppy. It's a very thin line to be wary of. L7 pulls this off remarkably on this song.

There's still something about L7 that I hold dear to my heart. Whether it's the tunes or that attitude that said, "Hey, we rock it just as good as the guys. Maybe better," L7 is still the heaviest and one of the best female hard rock bands to grace my ears. 

I still think they should've been bigger than what they were in the 90s. Even after a decade and close to two, their songs still transcends and bring back those old, rebellious feelings towards the status quo.

I guess it doesn't help that I've always had a crush on Donita Sparks, either. Even her solo album, Transmiticate, released in 2008 is full of great songs...a little more mellowed out, but still a great album.

If you've never heard of L7 but love punk-influenced hard rock, it's time you yourself a favor and did so. Visit the link to listen to all the great L7 albums.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trucker Diablo Rocks & Rolls Right Over You With The Devil Rhythm!

So if you haven't yet figured it out, I'm the main graphic designer for Ripple Music. Also known to Ripple's dynamic duo - Pope and Racer - as "Boogs." I've seen them put out releases since the beginning...some I've done graphics for...some I haven't.

However, the releases Ripple puts out keep getting better and better, and Trucker Diablo's rockin' cd The Devil Rhythm is just a rock n' roll juggernaut! 

If you've been reading some of my posts, you'd know that I think Rock N' Roll has become a grungy, self-aware, and tired monster that has become a bore. 

Do I wanna fucking think when I'm listening to music? 


Do I want some singer whining about social issues and how shitty everything is? 


If I wanted to hear about that shit, I'd turn on the tube and watch the news.

I listen music to have a good get my mind off the bullshit that life throws at me. Trucker Diablo brings back the fun in rock with a hard-hitting, bluesy sound that's heavy but with a great pop sense. To put it bluntly, they have mad hooks in their choruses that are extremely catchy and hard not to sing a long too.

That's the essence of good song writing. There's gotta be something to reel you in and then take you's gotta hook you and Trucker Diablo does this beautifully.

However, when Pope first told me about them...actually it was to do some web creatives for Trucker Diablo on Ripple's website...I went to their myspace to find out more what this band was about.

The first song I listened to was Drink Beer, Destroy, and to say that I was blown away is an understatement. That song floored me and brought me back to the rock n' roll I love. The rock that just says I want to have a good time, fight, fuck, get crazy, run through anything that gets in my way, and not in that order. 

Wreckless abandon! Brazen attitude! What happened to that in rock n' roll today? Well, I'll tell you what happened. Trucker Diablo is running over all the wussy, whining, sensitive rock n' rollers and shipping great, octane-fueled, rock that drips with mischievous attitude.

My ears was then run over by the song Big Truck. Needless to say, the song brought me back to my freshman year fighting a junior right in the middle of Math class while a poor substitute teacher, clueless about what to do, watched in horror.

Big Truck reminded me of the attitude I had back in the good days (some say I still have it) when I stomped through life with the attitude of "You don't want to get in my way!" Despite the song having a brazen attitude that I can identify with, it's the extremely catchy chorus that makes this a great rock song. 

Actually all their songs have great choruses. If you have no desire to sing a long to them, I'll be the first to let you know there's something wrong with your ears.

I immediately became a fan. Actually, I'm listening to their cd right now.  I just received it in the mail today and immediately popped it in. I can't say that about too many albums I've gotten, and some of the ones I did open right away was only because I've done graphic work for the album packaging. 

Not to say those albums or bands weren't good. I'm proud to have been a part of their albums. However,  I had nothing to do with Trucker's album packaging, but I wish I had. 

Trucker delivers the rock n' roll I love. Their music isn't just wake the fuck up. It's wake the fuck up and get that strut on. It's music that says, 

"Let's bring back the fun in rock n' roll, and God forbid if you even think of getting in my way. Actually, if you even dream of it, you better wake up and apologize."

The Devil Rhythm hits hard with great grooves, heavy guitars,  great driving hard rock that brings you to a good place with great sing-a-long choruses. The stand out tracks for me are Drink Beer, Destroy; Big Truck; Stand Up and Fight; and Dirty Love. These are just my favorites on the album, but almost all the songs are guaranteed to rock you good and proper.


And to answer the asshats who keep asking me why I put myself so much into my reviews: 

It's because music is personal. It's about how it makes one feel, where it takes the listener, how the tunes get under the skin and find that place where one can call it your own. I'll leave all the cold, non-personal reviews to the others. 

Much like Grifter's recent self-titled release, it seems Ripple has done it again and found another hard rock band to remind us how good hard rock is suppose to sound.

Trucker Diablo's The Devil Rhythm cd brings back the wreckless, brazen attitude of blues-based rock that will rock n' roll right over you and leave tire tracks you won't mind.

Click the link to learn more about Trucker Diablo.

Looking for the CD? Visit the link to get Trucker Diablo: The Devil Rhythm. Your ears won't regret it.