Steve Grantley is best known for being the power behind Stiff Little Fingers songs for over 20 years, he talks to Ten-Midnight.com about his life as a drummer extraordinaire.
After encouragement from your Dad and getting your first kit at age 11, what was your first experience like as a proper drummer getting up on stage? Did you know straight away that this was where you wanted to be or was it a terrifying experience? How good were the early bands you were involved in?
My first experience was at age 12 getting up with a bass player and pianist at our hotel on holiday with my Mum and Dad, we played a couple of standards and it went well. I played every night for the rest of the week. They said they would give me a job if I lived in the area. I had no expectations of what it would be like, I was a kid, I just got up and played. I always wanted to be a drummer and this felt natural and normal. I played in a lot of hotels after that and joined my first rock band when I was 14. We were called The Gatecrashers and we were aspiring muso’s. We could all play well for our age.
Although you are very well known by fans of The Alarm and Stiff Little Fingers, how important do you think playing other genres early on (Jazz, Soul & Pop music) helped the way you play today? Would you encourage other prospective drummers to try other genres to aid techniques?
It’s my opinion that to play other styles and genres is beneficial but not essential. Having said that, ‘good’ drummers can usually turn their hand to most styles. I would encourage all musicians to learn as much as they can and embrace everything.
Not many people can say they are good enough to be considered to play for The Clash, how do you look back on that experience now? Was it a case of being too young and inexperienced at that time, and have spoken to any of the band since then about your audition?
I knew it was a mega opportunity at the time but I wasn’t quite ready; I was fine with the playing but it was a big deal and I was overawed by it all, I mean it was THE CLASH!!!!!. I have since seen Mick Jones and we’ve discussed it – it was just one of those things.
Playing in The Alarm and Stiff Little Fingers, how would you say the bands differ from a drummers viewpoint? What would you say are the high points in each band set?
The Alarm gig is easier from a musical point of view and physically too. SLF is a high energy gig and the songs only work when everyone is giving 100% – that’s the only way those songs really happen. The Alarm was easier and more simple; far more relaxed but SLF won’t work if you’re ‘relaxed’. It’s got to be pushed to the maximum, right on the edge of everyone’s abilities. In the SLF set, Wasted Life, Alternative Ulster, Roots, Radicals, Rockers And Reggae and Johnny Was are part of the highlights. With The Alarm Superchannel, My Town, The Alarm Calling were among some of my favourites.
Play: The Alarm – Superchannel
Stiff Little Fingers have legendary status in Punk music with the classic tunes from their back catalogue, did it surprise you just how much of an influence this band has had on people’s lives when you first joined up? Did you need nerves of steel to take on your very first gig at the famous Glasgow Barrowland and how does it compare every year since?
People live their lives by the SLF ethos; the ethics of SLF are a good way to conduct your life, so you could do worse. It’s an honour for me to be part of SLF history and there are not many bands that have the kind of absolute and complete support of its audience like Fingers; it’s humbling – I love being in SLF. My first SLF gig was at Glasgow Barrowland and I did indeed need nerves of steel to get through it. Every year we stress over the Barras, It’s a very very important date for the band and we all rise to the occasion although this year I was so ill with the flu throughout the tour I’m not sure how the fuck I played and gave 100% on the night but just about managed not to pass out.
I have read when joining SLF you practiced alone to get the sound right for those classic tunes such as, “Suspect Device”, “Tin Soldier”, “Alternative Ulster” etc. How difficult was getting the intro to “Johnny Was” spot on with it being an isolated beat that goes on for some time, for me you always capture the sound of the record flawlessly. Would you agree?
It wasn’t really the sound I was trying to get, it was the essence of the parts i was after. I could only play them my way but I tried to stay true as much as possible to the original music. I love playing Johnny Was and I find it easy to play – what I do is a cross between what Brian played, what Jake wants and what I’m capable of. The middle section of the song has grown into something completely unique to this line-up. It’s all grown out of jamming on-stage, which is something SLF don’t usually do but Johnny has grown and grown – it’s a pleasure to play.
The “No Going Back” album was very well received with some great songs on it that will also stand the test of time, do you think the Pledge process has been good for music in general and what would you say are the Pros and Cons for any band considering going down this route?
The music industry is fucked and we are all doing our best to keep things going. The Pledge is a great idea because the audience and band have access to each other in a way they wouldn’t have done before. We don’t need record companies anymore and artists are still able to thrive, however, I think it’s tough if you don’t have an already established fan-base. If you’re a new band trying to ‘make it’ I don’t know what you do. I think the golden age of rock music was a 20th century phenomenon.
Play: RT-Zed – Funkpunk
Your own band RT-Zed have also successfully completed a pledge campaign in just over a week, any news on the new album “Funkpunk”, is there a released date? Any plans to get the album on the road after it is out?
The album is released on Pledge May 1st 2018 and will go to retail July 1st 2018. We reached 100% in 9 days which was great and very much a surprise. It’s a fantastic way to get attention and get some funding but the music industry is so fragmented I’m not sure how far you can go with it. There will be one-off shows to be announced.
If you could choose any band past/present to take over the drummer’s seat for one song, who would it be and which song would you want and why?
The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again because it’s a great song to show off with, it’s one of my favourite Who tunes and because Keith Moon is one of my all-time favourite players!!!!!
What is your favourite song of all time, and also the one you are most proud to have been involved in musically?
I really can’t answer that. But from the SLF album No Going Back I love the song ‘When We Were Young’ and from the new RT-Zed album FUNKPUNK I’m really proud of the track ‘Guilty’. That’s the best way I can answer your question.
What has 2018 got in store for Steve Grantley?
Who Knows. Health and happiness is my goal!