What the establishment has never understood about heavy metal is that it’s not about promoting the death, demise, and degradation of the human race. In fact, I can think of a few cultural institutions that are far more in tune with that agenda than metal ever could be, but listening to reason has never been the political machine’s forte.
Those who listen and attend shows regularly do so, because it’s reassuring to discover that there are others out there feeling the same way that they’re feeling. At a time when society is trending in an increasingly impersonal direction, there are few things more personal than sharing a space with an army of fans whose love for the movement runs as deeply as your own.
When Steve Grimmett lost his leg due to an infection in 2017, members of the heavy metal community came together to raise $16,000 to help mitigate medical costs. If such a selfless gesture is truly the mark of deplorables, consider me just that.
Grimmett and his band Grim Reaper are set to release their fifth full-length studio album, “At the Gates,” on Oct. 11, but, first, he was kind enough to grant me some time to discuss how the music motivated him throughout his recovery. If you lost touch with the band following the NWOBHM’s late ’80s heyday, here’s your chance to get re-acquainted.
MNOD: How did it feel to be back in the studio once again after everything you went through health-wise?
Grimmett: It felt pretty good. This is our second release under the name Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper and I still get so much enjoyment out of the process. We’re playing and sounding as good as ever, because we’re still able to do what we love for the fans. I still love being in the studio, because I love the challenge of capturing being able to capture what we do live on record.
MNOD: How did the creative process for “At the Gates” compare to your past work?
Grimmett: It was very similar, but I wasn’t as involved in the writing as much as I normally am due to some mental health issues I was dealing with. My anxiety attacks put a freeze on the writing for a bit, but, thankfully, the rest of the guys came together to make up for that.
MNOD: When your leg was amputated in 2017, what role did music play in your recovery?
Grimmett: When I was lying in bed in Ecuador, all I thought about was how I would get back up to what I love again. The hospital allowed me 30 minutes of Internet each day, so half of that time would be devoted to corresponding with family and the other half was dedicated to figuring out how I was going to walk again. I was determined to not let the situation beat me. I didn’t want to let the fans down, because we wouldn’t be still doing this if it weren’t for them. Six months after I lost my leg, we were playing a festival in Germany and the crowd was very supportive.
MNOD: What was the support of the heavy metal community like once you returned to the stage?
Grimmett: We were playing a show in which the stage had two levels and I wanted to get out to the crowd during “See You in Hell.” My wife helped me down the stairs and everyone was shouting and screaming. The crowd was deafening. It was really cool. I had fans come up to me and ask how I was doing as well as the former members of Grim Reaper reaching out, so the support was widespread. I went through some really tough times, but that was what I needed.
MNOD: What are your feelings about the current lineup compared to the one that old-school fans remember?
Grimmett: I think it’s as strong as it’s ever been. We all get on really well with each other and have no falling out moments. Sure, we get into heated arguments from time to time, but they’re over and done with quickly. Being out on the road with each other isn’t an easy task, but I believe we’ll still be together years down the line.
MNOD: How do you feel about the presence of social media in today’s musical climate?
Grimmett: It’s the only way, really. Magazines don’t play a significant role anymore, so social media is the best way to relay what we’re doing to our fans. Bands would be mad not to do it. Of course, there are some negatives, because we’ll post our tour dates and then have people commenting about how we’re not coming to their town. They don’t understand that booking a tour is more in the hands of local promoters than us, so that part can be frustrating. I log in every day to keep the fans updated on what’s going on and we’ll also do it once we finish a show.
MNOD: What is touring like for you nowadays?
Grimmett: Wherever we’re playing, I still love it. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing to 600 or 6000, because the passion is the same. I remember we played a show in Brazil for about 60 people and it was great, because the people who were there wanted to be there. The audiences are pretty similar to what they’ve always been, because it’s still mostly made up of teenagers or younger people.
MNOD: 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Onslaught’s “In Search of Sanity,” which you recorded vocals for. Does that album still hold up for you?
Grimmett: It’s still really good. It’s the best album they ever did from both a creative and commercial perspective. It represented a departure from what they were doing, but it was what the record company wanted. I’d say it definitely holds up to anything.
MNOD: Is there anything that you enjoy doing when you’re not on stage?
Grimmett: I build radio-controlled model aircraft. I’ve been doing that for years, but there’s not really much besides that.
Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper has no Buffalo date on the horizon, but Aug. 29 at The Rockpile in Toronto would make a hell of an end-of-summer road trip.
“At the Gates” will be released on Oct. 11
See https://www.facebook.com/grimreaperofficial/ for details.