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Grip Inc.

February 10, 1999

Contemplating my forthcoming interview with GRIP INC. vocalist Gus Chambers, I wondered how this veteran of the 70's British punk scene would feel about sitting down and rapping about metal. Would the lead-singer of the virtual metal dream team, whose lineup has at various times included former members of Slayer, OverKill, Heathen, and Despair, be a metalhead? Would he understand the important role his various band mates have played in shaping the genre? Most importantly, would Gus feel comfortable categorizing the band as metal? If listening to the new album 'Solidify' was any indication, this band was metal, through and through. What did Gus think? We got our answers straight from the source.

Metal Update: You are in a band full of heavy metal heroes. Are you a metalhead, Gus Chambers?

Gus Chambers: It depends on what a metalhead is . . . I'm actually more of a social hard-rocker, punk-type. A hardcore guy. The definition of heavy metal has such a wide range nowadays. I mean you have a lot of different - you have black metal, you have doom metal, you have thrash metal, you have heavy metal, you have traditional metal . . . Heavy metal sort of covers a lot of different areas, so I suppose I do fit in there somewhere.

MU: What kind of background did you have coming into GRIP INC.?

GC: I come from basically a hardcore background. A hardcore punk background back in Britain.

MU: Give us some examples of bands you would put in that category.

GC: Exploited. U.K. Subs. G.B.H. American bands? D.R.I. You know, those types of bands.

MU: What bands were you actually in before joining GRIP INC.?

GC: I was involved in a band called the Squad. Which is really kinda like a traditional name back then, in the late seventies. In '77 we released our first single on vinyl, which was the thing to do back then. It was all independent, it was all underground, you know, you get no airplay or anything. It was all an underground network.

MU: Kind of like metal today, perhaps?

GC: Right. It's along the same lines. And we released four singles and two albums. We changed our name in '79 to Twenty-One Guns, and then that all kinda fizzled out around '81. And then that was kinda the first wave of British heavy metal started with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. But I got really, really upset with the British scene. 'Cause you had the new Romantics coming in and all that kinda stuff. Duran Duran, OK? Nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't my personal taste. So I came to the States, and I started being in bands in Hollywood, and trying out for different bands. I actually tried out for L.A. Guns and I refused. (laughs) I said, "No thank you!" Nothing against Tracy - sorry mate - but it just wasn't my cup of tea. No, I wasn't into any of that glam stuff. So I tried to keep bands together, which is like the hardest thing in L.A. to do, really, because of everybody jumping on everybody's bandwagon every five minutes up there.

MU: Were you consistently playing music professionally for all of that time?

GC: No, I mean I've done every job that you can imagine to survive, to be a musician. Struggling for years and years and years. But then I was in a band called Sons of Domination, which I'm still actually doing.

MU: You are?

GC: As a side thing, yes.

MU: Well tell us for a moment about that. Is there something out there now our readers can go check out? A latest project?

GC: Yeah. We will be releasing something later on this year. The members of the band, currently, are some old friends of mine. Paul Rayford, ex-Killing Joke and Prong, on the bass. William Tucker, the old guitar player from Ministry and Fetus, and actually, John Tempesta from . . .

MU: Exodus, right?

GC: Well, he played some . . .no, he played -- I think he played with Testament. [Tempesta did indeed play in Exodus - MU] 'Cause right now he's with Rob Zombie, doing that. But we're sort of like, dragging drummers off the street. We can't pay 'em! (laughs)

MU: Dave Lombardo's not available! (laughs)

GC: No, 'cause he's doin' his own thing. (laughs)

MU: How did GRIP INC. come together?

GC: What happened was, I was shopping this tape around, this demo I had of Sons of Domination. This was in '92. Then I got a call from Dave. He'd been out of Slayer, I think, three or four months maybe. He called me up, and he'd somehow gotten hold of the demo.

MU: How did you know Dave?

GC: I didn't. He contacted me. To tell you the truth, I wasn't into Dave. I wasn't into Slayer. I was into a different kind of thing.

MU: Did you affirmatively dislike Slayer?

GC: No, no.

MU: Were you aware of them?

GC: I was aware of them, it just really wasn't my scene. It wasn't what I was into. I didn't like, say "Nah, they suck, fuck that" and things like that. But, you know, I was just into a totally different thing. So, you know, I met with Dave, and he asked if I would be interested, and I said yeah, but let's make one thing clear, that I don't want to do anything that resembles, or tries to or pretends to be anything like Slayer. A lot of people say that we try to copy them, duplicate them on the first album.

MU: 'Power of Inner Strength' does have a bit of that same vibe.

GC: Right, but, you see, you've got to understand, Dave was in Slayer for ten years. So that was his style of playing. And at the time, we had all been bounced around by this industry, and we were very angry at the whole thing. So we wanted to just make a really high-powered, kind of thrashy, in-your-face album. And it wasn't intentionally meant to sound like Slayer. But it was just natural for us to do that.

MU: But I think that, to the extent that the album does sound a bit like Slayer, that is just as easily attributable to both records' coming from the same general sub-genre. There are lots of other bands which sound a hell of a lot more like Slayer than you guys.

GC: Yeah, I mean, the comparison is purely coincidental. People have actually said to me, "You try to sing like Tom." I'm like, no, no. (laughs) Nothing against Tom, but I'm totally different than what he does. So we did that. Then we started jamming, in 1993, with Bobby Gustafson, from Overkill. He was the first guitar player.

MU: You hooked up with all of these metal guys.

GC: Yeah. Because I wanted a heavy feel to it. We wanted to start branching out later in our careers.

MU: You said Dave contacted you, right? What kind of awareness did he have of what you had been doing with some of your old bands? Dave's a real punk fan, right?

GC: Yeah. He actually enjoys like, G.B.H. and Exploited and all that, he liked the power it generated. Actually, I think Slayer fed off that. And actually transposed it into their own sound. Put lead guitar over the top of it, and the blood and the Satan thing, and all that kinda stuff. So there was a connection there.

MU: So you were playing with Bobby Gustafson. Tell us what happened from there.

GC: What happened there was that Bobby had a certain style which was already starting to sound dated. And we didn't want to go into that area. We wanted to, later on in our careers as I said, we wanted to start branching out into different areas and I don't think Bobby could come through with that, but what happened was Dave went to Germany to do an album with a guy called Phillip Boa. Who is kinda like a German David Bowie-type guy. But he did a metal album and asked Dave to play on it. And Chuck from - what's his name - Chuck from Death . . .

MU: Chuck Schuldiner.

GC: Yeah, he played guitar.

MU: Is that album available in the states?

GC: I really don't know. I don't think so, I'm not sure. It came out, I think, in 1993 or '94.

MU: And the name of the band again is?

GC: Phillip Boa and the Voodoo Cult. He has another dance band called Voodoo Club which he is well known for, and he did this metal thing. Anyway, that's how Dave met Waldemar. And he was impressed with Waldemar's playing. So he said "come to Los Angeles and jam with me, Gus and Bobby." And what happened is, there was starting to be a conflict there between the two styles, and Bobby didn't like the direction we were trying to get into, and so he left.

MU: At the time, were you jamming on the material that wound up becoming 'Power of Inner Strength'?

GC: No actually. We made like five or six songs which have never even been released. Stuff that were demos and stuff like that.

MU: It would be interesting to find out that Bobby listened to a record like 'Power of Inner Strength' and concluded that wasn't the direction he wanted to go.

GC: Right. He didn't actually want to play with another guitar player and stuff. A little bit of insecurity.

MU: Politics.

GC: Yeah. Ego stroking. This band is not about that at all. It wouldn't work. Anyway, then we started writing 'Power of Inner Strength'. Jason Viebrooks came along, who used to be in Heathen. He played on the first album, and then he played on the second album. Then there was a little bit of politics there between a couple members of the band and him. Jason's a great guy but he was just a little bit too . . .there was another couple of episodes, personal stuff that didn't work out at all. So he left. And then we started auditioning bass players and we got a call from Devin Townsend. You know who he is, right?

MU: Absolutely. Devy Metal.

GC: Right, right. (laughs) He recommended Stuart Carruthers, who we have now. And actually he brings a great element to this new album, cause his playing style, and his attack, his riffing and stuff . . .

MU: "Griefless" is a nice example.

GC: Yeah, you know, it grooves. He's got a lot of groove. He's a great guy, he's a great player, and he's really grounded - no ego.

MU: Does he have a pre-GRIP INC. musical background?

GC: Nothing really to speak of. You know, he was in local Vancouver bands, you know, but he's been struggling for a lot of years too. And so its like, c'mon, get on board bro', let's do it!

MU: So would you say the lineup has solidified for now, no pun intended?

GC: (laughs) Absolutely. I think this is the strongest lineup we've had so far. I think Stuart was actually like the missing link we've been looking for for quite a while. And it actually speaks for itself, I think, on the new album.

MU: How did things change, artistically, from 'Power of Inner Strength' to 'Solidify'?

GC: The first album . . . What we do, when we write songs, is try to reflect how we feel at the time. We want to make it a personal thing. And we were all kinda pissed off. So we said, let's do a thrashy, kind of hardcore, maybe thrashy, a lot of drums, a lot of anger, drums mixed up front and stuff like this on the first album. Just to get it out of us, and say "Rrrrrr. Let's do it", you know. The second album, we wanted to get into some more ambient sounds, go into areas where I think a lot bands at the time wouldn't go into. And we took some chances with that and some of it worked, some of it didn't. It was just a testing period.

MU: When you go back and listen to 'Nemesis' today, are you happy with that record?

GC: Yeah. I'm the type of person that, when I do something, I'm like, that was done then, and I can't change it, so you accept what it is. I mean of course, sometimes you want to change it, but you can't. So why waste energy on thinking, "I could have done it like that." It doesn't make any sense.

MU: What songs do you think really stand out from 'Nemesis'?

GC: "Rusty Nail", "Empress (of Rancor)" I think is a good song. A bit strange. And then you've got . . .wow . . ."Portrait of Henry", which is real thrashy . . .I can't remember the rest! (laughs)

MU: Well what about "Scream at the Sky"?BR>
GC: That was a strange song, because everyone was thinking that I was - its about the cover up - well, lyrically, right, obviously there's something going on out there . . .

MU: It's like the X-Files.

GC: Right. Yeah, really, yeah. It's more of a frustrating thing. It's not like scream at the sky, "come and get me," to aliens. It's more, screamin' at the sky because you're frustrated, because you're not being told the truth. There's a lot of cover-up between certain agencies in whatever country you're at. Where they're coverin' this stuff up and actually denying a lot of actually proven stuff that had happened. And I just wrote it about the frustration of not being told what the truth is.

MU: Are you an American citizen?

GC: No.

MU: Do you follow American politics?

GC: Not very much. I try not to get too political or too religious with songwriting because then, that categorizes you. I mean, if you really read into my lyrics you can see what side of the wall I stand on.

MU: Certainly to the left, my friend.

GC: Right, absolutely. (laughs) But I don't preach or try to shout my face off over stuff like that. Anyway, what kind of politics are going on, other than the Monica Lewinsky case? (laughs)

MU: Do you have a take on that, Gus?

GC: It's a joke. It's absolute disgusting. I can't believe how the president of the most powerful country in the world can be absolutely drug through the mud. Of course he did something wrong, but he didn't do anything politically wrong. I think it's disgusting.

MU: You're from England, right? How would this have played out there?

GC: That wouldn't even get to that point. That wouldn't get exposed deeply. He'd either, like, quit, or someone would be hushed up. (laughs) And that's the way it is, in any country I think. And I hate it, because I' ve been over in Europe, and I hate to say this, but America's becoming a laughingstock. Because of the way this thing's being handled.

MU: Are they laughing at Bill Clinton or the country's reaction to Bill Clinton?

GC: Well, they're laughing at the way your politics are handled. They're like, my god, how Hollywood! I mean people are dying on the streets of L.A., 30 or 40 people in a weekend. They're not doing a thing about that, but they're spending 50 million dollars on this independent inquest on somebody? That's ridiculous. There's got to be some lines drawn somewhere.

MU: Let's talk about the new album, 'Solidify'. The cover art has a much more stripped down look than your previous two records.


GC: We wanted to make it a little bit organic, a bit more human. And strip down the artwork and make it sort of minimal. And let the people focus actually on the music, and not some kind of computerized dragon, or computerized artwork on the cover. We wanted to put our faces on there, because we think a lot of bands don't do that anymore. We wanted to bring it back to the reality of being a band, and not an entity.

MU: In the photo art, are you standing in front of some sort of microprocessor or something?

GC: Well, (laughs) it was a kinda take on like, the crossover into the millennium thing. It was kinda strange, but we went with it because it was like, wow that was kinda weird. We were in a tunnel, when we took the picture. It came out pretty good. It came out a bit grainy, and it didn't show us in very good light. We're not trying to sell any image or anything, we don't care what we look like, we're just us. And so we thought . . .we were messing around with it, and this guy sort of enhanced it and put a computer chip on the back of it. And we were gonna put "fuck Bill Gates" in there or something like that. (laughs) We just did that just to make it kinda strange somehow.

MU: You're totally not a computer person, are you?

GC: No, I would be, if I had the time and I had, actually, the money to do it. I'm totally into getting into it. But I just don't have the bloody time to do it. I think they're great. I think they're a great invention. I think they actually can be very dangerous. That's why I wrote "Foresight" . Because I think technology is great when it is used properly, but of course you're gonna get good and bad in everything. And I don't like the idea of my son, who's seven, goin' in and login' on and getting blasted with a bunch of kiddie porn. Or someone using the power of the internet to lure girls into certain areas and raping them. That's not good. Now I'm not saying it should be governed in a fascist type of way, or a Nazi type of way, but there's gotta be some boundaries.

MU: Congress has recently attempted to pass legislation like the Communications Decency Act. Many left-thinking and libertarian-minded people raged against it.

GC: Well I'm a lefty, but I'm not a pervert. (laughs)

MU: I wasn't sure there was a distinction. (laughter)

MU: Moving back to the title, what does 'Solidify' stand for?

GC: Well, a lot of people think, and it is a bit of - I can't say - the band has actually sucked together. We actually have solidified as musicians even stronger than the first two albums, and I think it speaks for itself. But the reason I wanted the word "solidify" basically is, we all come from different parts of the globe. I'm English; Stuart, the bass player, is Canadian; Dave is Cuban-American; Waldemar is German. So, that means we were all brought up in different cultures, with different influences.

MU: Do you all live in L.A. right now?

GC: No, no. We all live in our own places. (laughs) Strange. But what happens there, is that we're really lucky to find each other, because we have the same focus. And even if we don't speak the same language - we do, we all speak English - but we still have the same goal. Because our backgrounds are so diverse; what we listen to, what we do, what we look at; we drag, and actually take from each area of what each of us lives and what we've experienced, and solidify it into the GRIP sound. And that pulls from all kinds of different influences and backgrounds.

MU: What kind of asset is it to have a producer in the band?

GC: You know, I've got to clarify this. Waldemar always separates himself when we make a GRIP record. He's a producer, but when we're doing GRIP, he' s actually the guitar player. Obviously he does have a little bit more in-depth, a little bit more foresight into what we can do on a finished product. But everyone has hands on to do this in GRIP. So it's really actually a collaboration with everybody. But because we want to make our profit really good we put his name on it. (laughs)

MU: The production on this new record is fantastic. It sounds really good. The opening chords over the bass riff on "Griefless" fill the room. That's the product of a total team effort?

GC: Sure. Absolutely. And I want to go on to this point too. We did this again in Woodhouse Studios, our third album we did at Woodhouse in Germany. Now, sometimes a lot of bands keep going into the same studio, but then it starts kinda sounding the same. Because you start getting the same tones, the same frequencies, you're playing in the same rooms. So you actually sometimes are mimicking the sound of the studio. So I really want to look into the next one, if the budget is available, to go into another studio. With, maybe, another engineer, to see what happens with that. Because sometimes you do start to kinda like, sound the same. And I don't want to do that. I really want to move on and refresh everything. And be fresh.

MU: Are you familiar with the work Waldemar has done producing other bands.

GC: Yes. I don't like it. (laughs) No, I'm very familiar with what he does.

MU: But Gus, don't hold back. People are interested in your opinion.

GC: I find some of it boring. Some of it.

MU: Is it the music, the production . . .

GC: No, no, not the production. I think the production's usually quite good. It's, sometimes the music just doesn't groove me, it doesn't hold me. And I think sometimes the bands . . .they need a kick up the ass. A bit of adrenaline. That's my own personal opinion. I'm not gonna say any names.

MU: A lot of the work he does is for Century Media. Did GRIP INC. ever consider working with that label?

GC: Yeah, actually Century Media's owner is a guy named Robert Kampf. He used to be the singer in Waldemar's band.

MU: In Despair?

GC: Yeah. He used to be their singer. And that's where the connection is. So really, they're good friends.

MU: What's the relationship like with Metal Blade right now?

GC: They're good. I like being on this label. 'Cause they do it because they like what you do. They wouldn't sign you if they didn't like you.

MU: Is GRIP INC. a metal band?

GC: Yeah. I mean, yeah. I'd say so. But I think it's . . .I would like to say it's new metal. Because, sometimes if you talk to people who don't really know the ins and outs of this type of music, when you say you're heavy metal, obviously they are going to judge you to be mid-eighties maybe. Judas Priest. Or Metallica. I shouldn't say Metallica. They're just very popular. They would actually pigeon-hole you with heavy metal as traditional heavy metal. And what we want to try to do is, we want to keep it metal and hard and heavy, but direct it to make it push the boundaries, to keep regenerating, to keep it fresh.

MU: You said you wanted this album to be more organic. Did it work?

GC: Yes. I spent a lot more time on the vocal approach, to give it a lot more emotion, and not just a monotone kind of sound . . .one key . . .I wanted to sing a little bit more. Put a lot more aggression into it maybe, in some songs, and then get a bit more emotional, and make it feel more human.

MU: Which tracks are your favorites?

GC: That's a hard one. Because they're all a piece of what I am. I get very personal with my lyrical writing. Because the songs reflect actual real-life, what I go through. Life isn't a bag of roses, or whatever they say. And so sometimes I'm in a sad mood, and I like the melancholy songs, or the deeper, emotional songs. Or I could be up one day and I'll put "Amped" on and be like, "Yeah! Right on! Rock and roll!" It's a very personal thing.

MU: What about a song like "Human?"?

GC: Well, "Human?" . . .someone asked me "what are you doing singing a ballad?" That's actually the complete opposite of a ballad. It's actually a sad song about bias and prejudice directed at certain people that are born - let me use this as an example - if a person is born with a physical defect, say he' s got a mangled-up face, or he's got . . .

MU: The Elephant Man or something?

GC: Yeah, yeah, or he's got hump on his back, or one eye is in the middle of his head. People automatically judge them, and they treat them in a different way.

MU: I think that it's often just that people have a fear of what they don't understand.

GC: Yeah, but you see, those people are still human. They still have feelings themselves. So that's why sometimes you can walk down the street with ten thousand people in that street and still feel alone. And I think human society has actually segregated itself to really being unsocial.

MU: I was walking down the street in New York today and saw a woman shivering to death, dressed only in a garbage bag, lying in the middle of the sidewalk, and there are thousands of people walking by who don't even blink.

GC: Of course. And I would put myself in her shoes, if she had any shoes, and say "Am I human? Why is this happening to me? Am I a freak? I'm not a freak, I'm human." So that's where I'm coming from. Its like you walking down the street - you would hear a penny drop, but you wouldn't hear a cricket chirping.

MU: Hmmm. That might be true. (laughs) That's very profound.

GC: You know what I mean. We're getting really deep here, aren't we?

MU: Its great stuff. But let's take a turn. What kind of tour plans do you have for this record?

GC: The States is actually like a work in progress right now. We really don't know which way the chips will fall.

MU: Could you tease us with some possibilities of who might be hooking up with?

GC: I really can't say.

MU: Other acts have mentioned to us the possibility if touring with GRIP, INC. this year.

GC: If I knew, I would tell you. But our manager is a pretty cagey guy. He won't tell me anything until it is right on paper! (laughs)

MU: You guys are seasoned musicians. What is the band's attitude toward touring in 1999?

GC: Very positive.

MU: Do you guys have decent touring conditions?

GC: Yes.

MU: Have you guys grown accustomed to a certain amount of the "spoils of success"?

GC: Well, actually, the "spoils of success" is kinda . . .I don't agree with that because you could work your ass off for twenty-three years and sacrifice a lot of stuff. Obviously sometimes it's nice to get into the tour bus and go to sleep. And when you're spending six weeks on the road, all you see is either the inside of the tour bus, the inside of the club, or the dressing room, or the inside of the petrol station. You know, so, that' s a pretty hard life. (laughs) What I'm saying is, you know, we try to make it as comfortable as the budget allows us to. But let me get on to the touring part. Everyone's gonna come to L.A. in March, and we're going to do pre-production for the live tour, we're going to do some West Coast club shows . . .

MU: What does that mean, pre-production for the live tour?

GC: Well, that means practice. Shake out the cobwebs. Get rid of the love handles. (laughs) Stop eating burritos at twelve o'clock at night and go to sleep. No, you know, actually work out the set, practice the set, and get ready for the live situation.

MU: Are you expecting the set will be an equal balance of all three records?

GC: I think so. Yeah, I think its gonna be . . .we're gonna play for three hours. (laughs) No, I think its gonna be mixture, because a lot of people do like certain songs off each album. So there are traditional songs that we have to - not have to play, but we like to play. Yeah. So we're gonna do that, we're gonna do four or five West Coast club dates to warm up, basically. And then we're gonna go to Europe, to tour Europe for about six weeks.

MU: Have the European tour plans solidified?

GC: Well, that's still up in the air too. We are going there, but we don't know who with yet.

MU: Will you participate in any of the summer metal festivals?

GC: We are doing the Dynamo. We're doing that for sure. That's gonna happen at the end of the tour. A couple of other one's we've been offered to do, like Wacken, and Grasspop, I think. It's all in the summer metal meetings around Europe. After that is finished we're going to Japan for about nine days. And then, by the time June rolls around, we'll be ready for the American leg of the tour. We'll start touring here in some way, shape, or form. (laughs)

MU: Do you have a sense that this new album opens any new doors for you?

GC: I think it does. I think, with some of the songs on there, it will expose us to areas we haven't been into before. I think it can actually widen the range of our fan base. And then again, we don't want to keep the hardcore guys away, because we are a rippin' band and live we like to tear it up. So my expectations are actually - I just want to get on the road and see what . . .I'm not the type of person to say like, I want to be a pop star, I want to make a million dollars.

MU: You would have given this up a long time ago if that's what you were all about.

GC: Yeah. Right. I'm not into that. I'd like to make enough money so I can feed my family and keep myself fit, but I don't have any illusions of drivin' a Ferrari and living in a six million dollar house.

MU: What are the goals for like GRIP INC. in 1999?

GC: I can only speak for me, personally. You see, I can't - I'm not Moses or whatever - I can't say what's gonna happen, 'cause I don't know. Its all down to sales, you know, it's all down to, does it hit?

MU: Did 'Nemesis' sell more or less than 'Power of Inner Strength'?

GC: In Europe it sold more. Because of bad promotion or whatever happened here, it flopped. I think actually it equaled. But we'll make sure that doesn't happen this time. As far as I'm concerned, personally, my goals are actually achieved already. I made an album. I did it from my heart. I can get up and look myself in the mirror and I haven't sold out, and I haven't done anything that's not within my range, or within my character and my personality. If ten people like this record, then that's a goal for me. 'Cause if I can relate to somebody - if they can relate to what I do - that' s a great goal for me. It really is.

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Interview: Eric German
Editor: Brant Wintersteen
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