Gripping With Style
CoC interviews Grip Inc.
by: David Rocher
It seems that three full years after the release of _Power of Inner Strength_, Grip Inc. are finally earning the recognition they so strongly deserve as a competent, determined four-piece band, and no longer as "Slayer's ex-drummer Dave Lombardo plus three unimportant guys who also play in this project of Slayer's ex-drummer Dave Lombardo". After _Nemesis_ managed to put great distance between Grip Inc. and the all-too-large ghost of Slayer's style, _Solidify_ ventures further into the orientation that _Nemesis_ announced, comforting the band's very personal touch. The following interview is composed of two parts. Firstly, a greatly talkative, very outspoken (and rather jolly) Gus Chambers answered my many interrogations relative to the band and their excellent latest output; then, the more introvert axeman Waldemar Sorychta -- who, if you recall, started out in the thrash metal outfit named Despair, alongside Century Media boss Rob Kampf -- phoned back to answer some questions relative to his very personal playing style and his career as a musician in Grip Inc., but also as the renowned sound engineer of the Woodhouse studio.

CoC: How's the tour going?

Gus Chambers: Very hectic. We've had like three days of heavy schedule, getting to bed at two or three and getting up at five, but that's okay -- we can do that. But a sad thing is that every time I come to Paris, I'm either very tired or very hung-over, and I can't enjoy it so much! <laughs> I wish I could come here and relax for a couple of days, and have a good time, but ah -- you know, I'm sure I will one day...

CoC: Hopefully! So, basically, what's gone on since the release of _Nemesis_?

GC: Well, we toured for about six months on _Nemesis_. We wanted to tour more, but the business is what it is, and we were supposed to go on a big tour -- I don't want to say who it was, but we didn't get the tour. We were waiting and waiting to do Europe again, and it didn't come through, and then we were supposed to go to Australia, and that fell through too. So, at the end of '97, we said "forget it, we're gonna start working on the new album", and well, we started working on that in January, I think. We recorded it and it was all complete in September this year, and now we're ready to go out and kick some ass! <laughs>

CoC: Where and how did the recording of _Solidify_ take place?

GC: Well, we recorded it in Hagen, Germany, again. You know, we've done our last three albums there, and we're quite happy with this place. Sometimes it's a lot to do with the budget too, and it makes good business sense to go there on the budget we get to record an album, and we get a good product from there, too -- we would go somewhere else if we had a bit more money, I think, but we like the Woodhouse, and the end result is good, and Waldemar works there a lot too, so he knows the board and he knows all the equipment, so we don't waste a lot of time.

CoC: The Woodhouse are the home recording studios for Century Media...

GC: Yeah, I think they go there a lot! <laughs>

CoC: You said you wanted to go and record somewhere else -- what studios were you thinking of?

GC: Well, I was thinking about going to Miami, maybe -- I can't remember their names, but we looked into them... Sometimes, recording in the same studio, you fall into the trap of sounding a bit the same, but hopefully we haven't done that, because we worked hard on the sound and stuff like that. I think next time we will go somewhere maybe like Toronto, where Fear Factory did their last album -- somewhere out the way, though, because I know if we go to a place like L.A., we'll get interrupted a lot, we'll have people coming and "hey, let's have a beer!" and stuff, and we like to really get down to business when we're in there, so we sort of go off to where no-one knows us that well! <laughs> But as far as the names of the studios are concerned, I really don't know any, I can't remember! <laughs again!>

CoC: What do the lyrics on the various songs of _Solidify_ deal with?

GC: Well, they're a very personal side of me, I always write about stuff that happens to me personally, or something that makes me angry and I feel like I should approach it in a creative way, or something that pisses me off. I usually sing about the darker and more depressive side of life, but I find that in a way good for me as a singer, to express myself, a good therapy to get it away from me. And I think a lot of bands don't go that deep sometimes, and I'm not the type of singer to sing about cars and dragons and whatever, all the shallow things, I like to really get into the song, and that means I have to sort of relate to the lyrical content, so I get quite personal with it. And it's from a wide spectrum of life, a lot of experiences that are basically from life.

CoC: You were talking about the darker side of things -- what do you think of all these bands that claim to be dark?

GC: I don't find that dark, actually, I find that quite silly! <laughs> I can't relate to that stuff, I'm not into that -- it's something I can't get into. I'm not dragging them down or slagging them off, or anything like that -- I mean, good luck to them --, but personally, I just don't understand that stuff.

CoC: On _Nemesis_, the song "Scream at the Sky" was about UFO sightings and the way they're denied. Are you into this?

GC: Yeah, I am, actually. When I went to America, I actually tried to get to Area 51, and I was turned away -- well, if there's nothing there, why the hell are [they] not letting people go there? That song really is more [about] frustration of certain governments or certain agencies that are obviously hiding something; obviously something's going on, but we don't know what it is, and for them to cover up something like that, then obviously something's there. But who knows what it is?

CoC: The titles of your various albums seem interesting; the first one, _Power of Inner Strength_ is fairly straightforward, but _Nemesis_ is a word for "revenge" -- what was the idea behind this?

GC: Well, that was a kind of stab at the sceptics, because there were always a lot of rumors about Grip Inc.; first of all, it's like "we're trying to be Slayer, we're trying to copy;" there was basically a lot of negativity directed towards us in certain areas, so with _Nemesis_ we wanted to show we didn't rely on just one formula, a thrash formula, and so we started going a bit more melodic, we started using a lot of ambient sounds and stuff like this to get more depth. Really, _Nemesis_ was like a "this is your Nemesis, eat it all, leave us alone." And _Solidify_, well, people say "did you call it _Solidify_ to show that the band is one unit and everybody's solid?", and this kind of stuff, but that's actually not what I was trying to get at. We all come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different countries, different musical backgrounds, different musical tastes, and what we do, as musicians, when we work together, is draw from each background a piece of us, what we get influenced by. And then, we put it together and solidify it, basically, to make the good sound. So, hopefully, it sounds a bit unique, in a way, because when we do our songs, we don't want to sound like a "the flavor of the month" type of thing, we don't want to jump on any trend or any bandwagon -- we basically do what we feel and what's coming from inside of us, instead of being trendy.

CoC: It seems that since _Nemesis_ you've really found your own style, -the- Grip Inc. style, with which you're very comfortable; how would you define this style?

GC: It was a natural progression, actually, it wasn't forced; over the years, you either sort of fall to pieces, and it doesn't work, or you actually draw tighter as musicians, and learn how each of them is going to play, and how he can approach a type of thing; because no-one in this band actually wags a finger and says "right, this is the way we're gonna do it, and if you don't like it..."; there's none of that. It's just four creative guys and everybody has ideas, everybody has the chance to do what [he feels], and if it sounds good and everybody's into it, then we use it. As I said before, we don't like to use the same formulas of music; on this one, we wanted Dave to play different beats and different tempos and stuff like this, actually for him to challenge himself too, because Dave's well known for his thrash style, you know, "the double-bass guy". We just wanted to make it more challenging and interesting, and hopefully people will like it! <laughs>

CoC: Well -- I think _Solidify_ is good, I'm actually really into it.

GC: Okay, thank you very much, that's good news! <laughs again>

CoC: What is the cover going to be -- is it the photo of you there is on the cardboard promo?

GC: Yeah, it's going to be that, but it's going to be a digipak. We wanted to keep it kind of simple, we wanted to make it more organic and with a less computerized, cold feel; we did that on the _Nemesis_ album with the statues and stuff, and we wanted to make it more simple -- we've never been into it, but a lot of bands are into monsters and whatever... We wanted to keep it really simple, basic, and let the music do the talking. Someone said to me yesterday: "Hey, have you seen the new Metallica? It's near enough the same format!" -- it's got _Garage, Inc._ on top, with a picture! What a coincidence! I hope people don't think that we're trying to do what they did! <laughs>

CoC: What exactly was the meaning of the _Nemesis_ cover?

GC: It's very deep, I think it went over a lot of people's heads. There are three statues that represent certain Greek gods, and I don't want to get too deep into it, but... erm, hmm <definitely hesitant> -- I dunno, you'll have to ask the artist -- how about that?! I completely forgot! <laughs>

CoC: It seems Grip Inc. are now finally earning recognition as a band, and no longer as "Dave Lombardo plus three musicians". How do you feel about this?

GC: You know, there are always a lot of rumors going around about Grip Inc., "Dave's doing this, Dave's doing that, [Grip Inc.] is a project"... but it's not! Me and Waldemar are basically the main songwriters, and always have been; Dave does contribute to the songwriting process with his drumming style, of course, but well -- Dave's had a lot more success and a lot more notoriety than us, and of course people will hook into him before us, but hopefully the band does merit a little bit of [recognition? -- I absolutely can't make out what Gus said here... -- David] -- there isn't just one guy drumming, I think the music speaks for itself, now.

CoC: Sure. How is recognition globally going for the band?

GC: Ah... Tough. Japan -- good! America -- forget it; it's such a hard scene, there... England, FORGET IT! Oh man, they hate us, because we're not a part of whatever's going on -- you know, it's all fashion over there. Heavy music, or real music as I call it, is sort of cast aside for trendy bands, whatever's "in" at the time... I'm an Englishman, but I don't really have that much to do with these guys -- I'm really disgusted with the music scene now, I think it's terrible; there are some great musicians who are not being given the chance to do anything, it's horrible.

CoC: And in the rest of Europe?

GC: In Europe actually, France, for some reason I don't know, is great, they really like Grip Inc.. It's a big territory for us, every time we play we have a great time, the fans are real, they're there for the right reason. Germany also, but I think France is the main place in Europe for us -- I love it!

CoC: Last question: if you had the chance to write the soundtrack to a film, what film would you choose?

GC: Oh God... <laughs> That's a hard one, because I haven't been to the pictures for ages! Erm... well... I'll tell you what it would be -- you know the Tellytubbies from England?

CoC: Erm... yeah?

GC: If they made a film, I think we'd do the soundtrack for that, how about that?! <laughs>

CoC: <bewildered> Tellytubbies? <dubious> Right...

GC: Nah, I hate them! <laughs> No, actually, I think it would be a horror film like "Hellraiser" or something like that, or something with a lot of suspense in it, maybe... Yeah, something like that -- I don't really know! That's a good question, because I've never been asked that before! I know Waldemar is really into soundtracks and making music like that -- I'm going to tell him to call you back!

CoC: Last words?

GC: To everybody that did buy the album, I just want to say thank you. We will be here, in some way, shape or form, and we really do appreciate the fans and we'll see you in the new year. Thank you very much! Keep rocking!

[Shortly after, Waldemar Sorychta calls back.]

CoC: So, you and Gus are the main songwriters in Grip Inc....

Waldemar Sorychta: Yeah, Gus writes all the lyrics...

CoC: ... And you deal with the music, so what are your musical influences?

WS: Actually from everywhere, I listen to a lot of different styles, and it is not just one style which gives me ideas; but I'm not a person who is picking from [music] -- if there's something I like, I absolutely don't try to do it the same way; it just gives me some impressions. I'll just tell you, for example, about the guitar style; I'm a guitar player who is known for playing this hard kind of music, but my biggest influences are actually in Spanish flamenco guitars, they are my biggest actual influences for guitar, because I think that flamenco guitar is the most aggressive and emotional, and also rhythmical guitar style of all different styles when you take rock, or blues, or jazz. Flamenco is the most aggressive and living guitar, I'm really into it; I don't have idols like other guitar players have in Ritchie Blackmoore or whoever in metal or hardrock guitar players. I like to listen to a lot of different things, but they don't actually give me that thing that flamenco guitar does. It's the same with songwriting -- it's not like "I listen to different styles, they influence me and I sit down to do the same thing"; it's just that everyday I go through different moods, everyday you're at least one day older, and you're constantly moving forward, at least that is the supposed to be the way you are, as a human being, moving forward, and not back -- and that gives me enough influences for my songs. When I'm really pissed off about something, I come with ideas that are very aggressive; when I'm sad about something, then songs like _Human?_ come out.

CoC: When you play a solo, you're not backed up by a rhythm guitar, which I guess is the way you sound live. Have you ever considered having a second/rhythm guitar?

WS: Actually, when the band started to exist, we had another guitar player, Bobby Gustafsson, who was an ex-Overkill [member]. I've all my life been used to play with two guitar players, and after the split with him, we started practicing with just three people, and I started getting used to it, it gives me a kind of freedom. Everyone is individual -- guitar, bass, drums, vocals -- and everyone is doing this very well, 100%. Sometimes, with two guitar players, you may have kind of conflicts in your band, about who is better, who writes better songs and stuff like that. So, that gives us freedom to do what we want, as a band -- we've got used to it, and it actually feels very good.

CoC: Gus told me you're pretty much into soundtracks...

WS: Yeah, I listen to soundtracks, and I'm a guy who is constantly making music; I've been playing the accordion and the piano since I was six years old, so it depends on the mood which I'm in, I don't come home and tell myself "OK, now I'll do a song for Grip Inc., which will be fast and aggressive." That way, it won't work; I come home, and get influence from what happened to me, and put my emotions into music. Depending on the day, I'll sit down and write a piano song or a song which is actually meant for an orchestra -- but I don't have an orchestra at home, so I get close to that by just using keyboard sounds. Sometimes, I'll just write a rock song using a clean acoustic guitar, and sometimes I'll be in the mood to grab my electric guitar and play some aggressive songs.

CoC: You're as renowned for your participation in Grip Inc. as for your work in the Woodhouse studios; do you and Gus share the same opinion on the black metal question? On the whole, what do you think of the bands you produce?

WS: The black metal acts I've produced so far are Samael and Alastis. I see big potential behind those people, although in the beginning, I didn't agree with this image they were giving themselves; but then I met them, and saw that they're very nice people -- because your personality is the most important point. I don't care what you believe in, as long as you don't hurt other people with your beliefs and respect others', so I don't care about what they believe in -- Satan, God, or whatever. The worst belief is what all the western countries are getting into, that's believing only in money, that's the worst belief you can have.

CoC: That's all from me; the last words are yours...

WS: Thank you very much!

(article submitted 16/1/1999)


CHATS
4/9/1997 A Bromley Grip Inc.: Dave Dishes It Out Again
ALBUMS
3/14/1999 D Rocher 9.5 Grip Inc. - Solidify
2/4/1997 A Bromley 7 Grip Inc. - Nemesis
GIGS
8/12/1995 A Gaudrault Morbid Angel / Grip Inc. Morbid Angel's Mayhem Unleashed!
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