Saturday, December 17, 2011

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

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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 cool...it'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 incredible...plus 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 fuck...you'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 busy...you can't keep a good band down!!!
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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.

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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!

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