Good Grief
An interview with Boston's Grief
by: Zena Tsarfin
The members of Boston-based Grief are not exactly happy campers. While the doomy quartet that specializes in slow, heavy sludge-core have gotten slightly more upbeat since their first two full-lengths, _Dismal_ (Common Cause) and _Come to Grief_ (Century Media), Grief still tend to look for the cloud behind the silver lining, most recently on _Miserably Ever After_ (Pessimiser/Theologian). While the core of the band started out as Disrupt, Grief soon became the favored outlet for vocalist Jeff, drummer Rick, bassist Randy, and guitarist Terry. With their misanthropic lyrics and credo "If it's too slow, you're too happy," Grief have become a favorite of other extreme bands such as Soilent Green, 16, Dystopia, and Corrupted - all of whom have done split recordings with the band. I recently got a chance to speak to their guitarist, Terry Savastano about Grief's new record, plans for the future and cynical outlook on life.

CoC: Will we ever see a happy album from Grief?

Terry Savastano: Probably not happy, but we're getting away from the depression thing and more into the anger and loathing thing. But happy? Never.

CoC: When and how did Grief come about?

TS: Three of the members were in Disrupt, and we played in that band for a number of years but wanted to do something else. We did both bands for a while then Disrupt broke up and we're just doing Grief now. It's been that way ever since about '90 or '91. I'd say five years and going strong.

CoC: How is Grief different from Disrupt?

TS: It's a different form of music; Disrupt was just charging full of hardcore and politics and Grief is really slow, monotonous dirge. I try not to use the word metal, but I guess we are a metal band.

CoC: Face it, you're a metal band.

TS: Yeah, you'd have to say that.

CoC: Sorry about that, but I have to quote Anal Cunt every chance I get.

TS: It's alright.

CoC: Who are some of your influences?

TS: The usual: Black Sabbath, Trouble, St. Vitus, and the Melvins.

CoC: How did the Grief sound develop?

TS: Just fucking around; just screwing around with certain shit trying to turn up everything as loud as it will go, tuning things down and smoking a lot of grass. Plus being bored and bummed out.

CoC: Do you think there's a certain sound that comes out of smoking pot?

TS: Definitely, that slow churning stuff. We just get really baked and it comes out. For rehearsal we smoke as much pot as possible and just get down and make music.

CoC: How do you feel about people associating Grief as a drug band?

TS: As long as they just associate us with grass and drinking booze, we pretty much frown on everything else.

CoC: How would you describe the Grief sound to someone who has never heard the band?

TS: Like explosions... really slow, fuckin' funereal dirge music with a singer who sounds like he got his arms cut off. <laughs>

CoC: How has your sound progressed over the years?

TS: It's gotten a lot more melodic, a tiny bit faster, more involving and a little more technical - but still true to form.

CoC: Tell me about some of the lyrics on the new record. Was "Low Life" based on personal experience?

TS: Jeff [vocalist/lyricist] wrote the words to that song and they were definitely based on personal experiences - just numerous individuals that will find out sooner or later.

CoC: I also noticed anti-straight edge lyrics in "Straight Edge-Closed Mind", what prompted that?

TS: We've just taken so much shit from people. People will pretty much do whatever the hell they want, I don't care - but I hate people that preach. These militant straight-edge kids can just fuckin' stick it up their ass. When they stop preaching to me and telling me what to do, then I'm going to write a song about it. If you're straight, that's cool; live your own life, make your own rules. We've actually met people like 'Oh, you're a fuckin' loser, what the fuck are you doing smoking that shit?' Fuck off!

CoC: The song "Why Should You Care" puts down bands that try to promote ideas through their music. Do you really believe that?

TS: That's another song that Jeff wrote, you'd have to ask him about that one! <laughs>. I'm not PC or a veggie and I'd love to take drugs until the day I die. It doesn't really matter, it's just music. If people are going to take it really seriously, then they definitely haven't got it. Everything is so negative because it just comes right out in the music, a little bit of it is tongue in cheek.

CoC: You've used the slogan "I Hate the Human Race" for a while, now the song finally appears on the new record. What took so long?

TS: We had that on the back of our shirt for over a year, it was just something to put on the back and offend people. When we wrote music to a song in the studio that didn't have any words we just used that and now I know people [for which] that's their favorite song. It cracks me up.

CoC: You also covered "Angry Man" by St. Vitus. Are you big fans?

TS: Absolutely, we love St. Vitus. I've been into them since high school and turned the other guys onto it. We have all their records, especially the stuff with Wino.

CoC: With such long, dirge-inspired songs, was there ever a fear that people just wouldn't get it?

TS: Yeah, that's a constant fear and an everyday occurrence. Most people don't get it, we have to travel four hours to play in front of people that like us; no one likes us in Boston at all.

CoC: What caused you guys to become so misanthropic?

TS: I've been that way my whole life, I'm sure the other guys in the band... well, Randy's half Jewish, so he's kind of... <laughs>. It's the environment and just life in general.

CoC: I'm a New Yorker, that's my excuse, but was it hard to find three other people that felt the same way you did about the world?

TS: In the beginning it was kind of hard, I had Grief in my mind for a long, long time... years, and then finally I met these guys in Disrupt and they had similar interests and [we] gave it a shot. It took off from there, but it took a while.

CoC: Are you planning on touring in support of the new record?

TS: Come springtime, we're going to go down South and do a bunch of weekends. We want to go to California again, we went there in '93 and it was good, 80% of our audience is there. We'd like to hit the Midwest again, but we've got to work around our jobs.

CoC: Is playing cathartic for you?

TS: It's a release, everything comes out. Everything that's pissed me off during the day, I get out at night through my music. If it wasn't for my music, more than likely I'd be a serious dope addict, in prison, or just a total fuckin' loser.

CoC: How do people react to the band in a live situation? There's no clear or defined mosh parts.

TS: No, not at all. Most people just stand there with their jaws open, a lot of people just frown and walk out, and some people actually kind of laugh. Other people, the people that like it - they just stand in awe, mesmerized.

CoC: Any weird fans come out to the shows?

TS: This one guy carved a big upside-down cross in his chest and dripped blood all over the place, we've gotten some fuckin' beauties. We've seen some seriously freaky people at our gigs, but it's nothing really - no one pulls out a gun or anything like that. Not yet anyway.

CoC: Your last album, _Come to Grief_ was issued on Century Media. What happened to your deal with them?

TS: They dropped us, they let us go. It's actually worked out good because I didn't want to work with them any more, it was really bad. I'm a musician, I just want to play my guitar and sing. Dealing with labels and people that have a control on what I do, I don't dig that at all. With Pessimiser, it's just give them a call and [Chris Elder] does whatever we want or we do whatever he wants. He's a friend, it works out much better.

CoC: I noticed you had some changes in the line-up, what happened?

TS: Our old drummer, Rick, left. Randy, the bass player, moved over to drums and our friend [and Grief's artist], Eric is playing bass for us now. Randy's originally a drummer, he drummed in Disrupt. When we started Grief, he was actually our singer for one of the first rehearsals and his voice couldn't take it so he went out and bought a bass and he's been playing that ever since. Then Rick left and Randy moved back over to drums and it's working good.

CoC: If you guys are so miserable, how come you're all smiling on the back of the record?

TS: Life's basically been going pretty good for all of us. When we started the band, especially me, I was a miserable little bastard. I lived at home, always bummed out, getting drunk, getting into accidents with my truck. I moved out, and just realized it ain't that bad, you just got to stick it out and try to think positive. All my negative aspects in life, I just save 'em all up and when I get to rehearsal, or get to a gig, then I let them out through the music. It works great, it's such therapy. I just try to save it up instead of being a little baby and whining about it.

CoC: How has that worked out?

TS: Works fuckin' great, my life's definitely improved and that's probably why we're smiling on the back [of the record]. It's an outlet and I hope a lot of people are looking at our music as an outlet too, instead of just 'Oh these guys are wicked sick' or just run of the mill. It means a lot to us, and hopefully to certain individuals it will mean a lot to them, too.

CoC: What's the biggest misconception about Grief?

TS: That's a good question... that we're bland, that we have no substance. I think we're one of those bands that tend to grow on people.

CoC: Like mould?

TS: Yeah, possibly or skin cancer. We're not internal, we're like something you brush off, but we'll always come back.

Contact: GRIEF, c/o Pessimiser/Theologian PO Box 1070, Hermosa Beach, CA, 90254, USA

(article submitted 13/5/1997)


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