Monday, 21 January 2013

Steve Grantley Interview

For years Steve Grantley was a familiar site manning the drum stool in Mikes solo band, Coloursound, Dead Men Walking and of course The Alarm as well as bringing his immense talents to Stiff Little Fingers. At the start of what promises to be a very busy year for Steve we catch up and talk about what we can expect from SLF and his own vehicle RT-Zed as well as talking all things Alarm. We also got a sneak preview of the upcoming RT-Zed album and can confirm it's going to be one for your collection, sounding vital and relevant with a punky edge. In what is at times a very candid interview we get a glimpse into the world of Mr Steve Grantley! 
SLF prepare for a busy year ahead!

What's the latest on the new SLF album and why has it taken so long?

There will actually be - praise the lord - a new studio SLF 2013! (Laughs)

There hasn't been a new album for various reasons really - we're a bunch of lazy bastards? (Laughs)

No, Jake moved to Chicago, which was obviously a big upheaval for him personally and we did scrap quite a few songs which we all agreed didn't really measure up. Also Jake went through a period of depression, which he has discussed openly so I'm not telling tales out of school and this didn't help the writing process either.

We now have enough "good" songs to make a SLF album; we didn't want to bash out a record just for the sake of it. SLF songs actually mean something and we wanted every song to count, to be really worthwhile. We do have a strict editing policy and songs only get on the record if we all feel they're good enough.

There's no point in making an album just for the sake of it. We didn't want to rehash anything or force material out just to have a new album on the racks. I think if you release too many tracks it devalues the songs - admittedly we have dragged our feet on this but there will be a new SLF record sometime in 2013 and it'll be worth the wait.

When did you first meet Mike Peters?

Many years ago. We first met in 1984 when Jake Burns And The Big Wheel supported The Alarm on 4 shows. They were very kind to us at the time and gave us an opportunity to play bigger venues.

How did you become a member of The Alarm?

I was already working with Mike as part of his solo band and it just followed on that I would be in The Alarm. It was simply a matter of a name change as far as I was concerned. It was James, Craig and myself in "The Electric Band" and then it changed overnight to The Alarm - same band, same guys.

Do you have a personal favourite Alarm album?

Yes, I like the first album, the naivety and bluster of it. It sounded pure and from the heart.

Mike & Steve
What were your favourite tracks to play live?

Superchannel, Sold Me Down The River, 45 RPM, The Drunk And The Disorderly. They were all tremendous tracks to play.

There was a mountain of material to choose from and I enjoyed playing the old stuff equally as much as the more recent material. "One Step Closer" - "Where Were You Hiding" - "Rain In The Summertime" - actually , I really liked that tune and remember singing along to it on the radio when it was a hit. All those great songs were fun to play right along side, "Coming Home" which I think is glorious - "Raindown" and "Be Still" all fine songs and a blast to play.

Were there any tracks you didn't like performing, either live or recorded?

Yeah, I didn't like "This Is The Way We Are" especially the line, "from my mothers womb to the delivery suite." That grated on me and I said so at the time but also, it was too close to "Spirit Of 76" for me. I didn't like "Love, Hope & Strength" as I thought it sounded a little too close to Paul Simons "Cecelia" - but that was purely personal. "New Home New Life" was lame; I preffered the rock n roll stuff, "Without A Fight" - "My Town" - "Trafficking" - "Cease And Desist". I liked playing them there tunes!

How did you approach playing the earlier material?

I just did my best to recreate what had been played originally. I wanted to stay true to the songs and respect the group's musical heritage. We did inject our own personalities into the performances and I felt we played the songs with an edge, with grit and gumption. It was always a muscular approach from us; me, Craig and James but we stayed true to the originals. The tempos were definitely faster but that suited the band at that time.

Things had moved on from the 80's and the laid back approach no longer suited the songs, it felt dreadfully old fashioned when we played the songs at some of the original tempos so we gave it all a kick up the arse.

The Alarm was about rock n roll; power and energy - not a middle of the road professional show band who played nicely. I think we made it raucous by stripping it back to the essentials - all the songs rocked with just James, Craig, Mikey and myself. That's all the instrumentation those songs needed.

It was "a band" - the chemistry was right and that's hard to find. It takes time, energy and passion to get that level of musical understanding but it's beyond being a good player or having a professional attitude. It's about heart and soul! That's why I would beat myself up when I couldn't fulfill my Alarm commitments. I wanted to be there.

What are your favourite Alarm memories?

Playing San Siro - That was a superb! Just awe-inspiring. It was really thrilling and the first time I'd played to such a large crowd. I'd done amphitheatres in Italy with Eighth Wonder way back in the nineties and in the ninties with Horse but they were maximum 20,000 people or so. The San Siro and Rome Olympico stadium shows were 70,000 and up. Very exciting, looking out and there's 70,000 pairs of human eyes looking at ya!
Wicked. (Laughs)

Every single Gathering was always special. "The Alarm make a Stand in the USA" tour was knackering but mental and tons of fun. The Children Of The Rev gigs were always superb; there was lots of good stuff.

The Gathering circa 2000
What are you memories of the many Gatherings you played, what stands out the most for you?

I really looked forward to The Gathering. Every year was different and it was always exciting. Doing Friday nights in the round and then onto the big stage for the Saturday night plus all the after show stuff like The Children Of The Revolution - I had a ball. The False Alarm was a great laugh too. I must admit I miss it now.
Don't miss the chalets at Butlins though! (Laughs)

How was it playing live with The Alarm with Mike's ability to alter the set on the fly or even introduce a track like "One Guitar" into a gig without any previous rehearsal?

I enjoyed it; it kept me on my toes - things were fresh and uncertain. "One Guitar" was two chords I think so that was easy. I would watch Mike and I'd see him jump into the crowd and I'd think "right, here we go"!

He had lots of hand signals and I watched him all the time so that I would be "on it"! He would go into "Rockin' In The Free World" with no warning but we had all played together for so long we were able to follow him and it just worked. That's what happens when you've gigged together for years. You don't even need to look at each other - it's second nature and nothing freaks you out. Things just grew out of being on stage together so much.

It's like the middle bit of "The Drunk And The Disorderly". I started doing longer and longer drum breaks and it built up into a big explosive section. We never rehearsed it, it grew naturally on stage - you can't "make" that happen it just does. You become a machine and work together with a kind of musical telepathy - that sounds like bollocks doesn't it? But you get my meaning! (Laughs)

Can you talk us through the circumstances surrounding your departure from the band?

Yeah, sure.

With the busy careers and schedules of all those involved in The Alarm was it only a matter of time before the schedules clashed, do you think it was inevitable that it was going to happen? That you would leave the band?

This is old news but I never left the band. I was available to play as much as I ever was and my commitment had not altered in the slightest.

There were schedule clashes though weren't there?

Yes, there were. The thing is - schedules were always clashing! However, Mike said that he wanted me in the band no matter what - and that he was prepared to work around my SLF schedule, so that's what we did. I was grateful and honoured that Mike would do this for me... (Long pause) ... but I didn't ask him to do it, he suggested it. I never took it for granted - never!

I worked extremely hard to make it all work - and it did work for a good 10 or 11 years, actually longer. I felt extremely guilty when I couldn't fulfill my Alarm commitments and as I say, I worked hard to prevent clashes. I was always grateful to Mike, James and Craig for their patience.

What happened for the tour in 2010?

Mike had left that particular tour until April especially for me but SLF extended the March tour into April so I couldn't do the first 3 Alarm shows. A dep-drummer had been organised but he let us down at the last minute and that really fucked things up. But I only needed cover for 3 gigs - to get my breath back after 6 weeks on the road with Fingers, that was it.

Did you need time off to take stock of what was going on in your private life at that time?

No, not at all! You kidding?

I was going through some shit but I would never let it affect my work. Even when my Dad died in November 2009, I was still at the Gathering in 2010. Right through his two-year battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, which was tough going, I never missed a gig because of it.

At one point he was given a few days to live but I still went on the road - he told me to "go and do your job", and assured me he'd be alive when I got back; and he was. He did sadly pass away 3 days after my return.

Sorry to hear that Steve.

Yeah, goes on and all that.

Why wasn't there an official announcement?

Don't know!

I finally made my own announcement because people were coming up to me after SLF shows asking, "why don't you want to be in The Alarm any more?" That wasn't the case and it wasn't what happened. I just wasn't used any more. I didn't get the call - even when I was available!

I understood why people were constantly asking that question as we had worked so hard to establish the line-up as "a band" and then suddenly I'm not at the kit - people knew SLF weren't playing and that I was obviously available so where was I?

I wanted to play with the group, so I felt I had to set the record straight from my point of view. I felt that it was best to let everyone know.

How did the other members of the band react to your departure, did you discuss it much with them?

I mean as far as we all knew, James, Craig and myself, we were under the impression that I would be playing The Beautiful Days Festival only to be told that some other geezer was doing it. No one knew what was going on! It wasn't what happened (another long pause) but the way it was handled. James, Craig and myself have discussed this at length since.

How would you have liked it to have been handled?

I didn't think there should be a big fanfare or anything, just a brief, honest announcement explaining the situation; that I would no longer be on the drum seat for The Alarm. You know, a courteous announcement through the official channels. Not slowly bleached out of the picture like some dodgy relation in a family photograph! (Laughs)

It's all good now though. I still see Craig and James socially and all The Alarm Crew, Oli, Chris Webb, Karl, Liam and Vince, they're all still mates. You know, both James and Craig have solo projects at the moment; they're different styles, poles apart but both really cool - there was a lot of talent in the band - we looked good too! (Laughs)

Truth is I wouldn't have had the time to do RT-Zed if I was still in The Alarm so ultimately it was a blessing. I hold no malice and wish The Alarm well whoever is in the band at the moment. I'm grateful that I now have the opportunity to do other things!

Have you seen the band play since you left?


Did you ever run into animosity in the early days from die-hard fans of the original Alarm line up?

No: never! It was always cool with the fans when we spoke to them. Mostly it was promoters who seemed to be disappointed. I'm sure there were some fans who didn't come to gigs because of that but for the most part we were accepted. After about five years I think everyone realised that this was it - we were The Alarm now.

What was the feeling in the band when Mike did the VH-1 Bands Reunited gig and show?

Well, that was Mike's life - you know, so we were all OK with it, I didn't go to the filming though. It would've been like watching someone else shag your missus! (Laughs)

So many musicians now have more than one musical outlet, do you think this is for artistic reasons or is it becoming a financial necessity?

Both I suspect.

We all need to get paid for whatever it is we do, it's a financial necessity for all of us, we've got to live and pay bills. I enjoy enormously the creative process, the art of making music but the money is important and I do most definitely want to get paid.

With the increase in music piracy how do you combat it, or is it about offering fans a reason to buy legitimately?

There is nothing an artist can do other than write the songs, record them, put them out and hope that people will actually buy the CD or download legally. I think this is enough to inspire everyone to buy legitimately. If someone chooses to download music illegally that's for his or her own conscience to deal with.

RT-Zed 2012
If you don't pay for your music you are breaking the law and ultimately it will mean that musicians will not be able to continue to make their music. If you supply a service, it should be paid for. There's nothing anyone can do to make people pay, it's up to the individual.

I pay for music just like I pay for petrol, food and clothes etc...I don't steal!

Do you think that more and more bands will start using sites like Kickstarter or Pledge in order to beat the piracy issue?

Yes, I think they will; it's a great idea. Prince was doing it 10 years ago. It's good for the fans because their favourite band can make another album and it's a great way for artists to raise revenue to record.

What can you tell us about the status of RT-Zed, is the album nearly ready?

Yes, finally, it's all done, mixed, mastered, artwork sorted - I go into production in early 2013 and hope to have the record out for March / April. I'm very pleased with it. We're filming videos and stuff at present - and I'm mixing the audio for a "live" CD and DVD that'll be out towards the end of the year.

Why make RT-Zed records?

I write songs: always have. I've had publishing deals and record deals since I was a kid so it's just natural for me to write and record my own stuff: I've always done it. Much of the material I write is personal and not suitable for SLF or when I was in the band, for The Alarm either so I record it for my band.

Making RT-Zed records keeps me sane.

Why this record now?

All sorts of reasons. I had time for a start! Also, I made this record as I had a whole bunch of songs that I was really pleased with.

I'd had some bad things happen to me all at once that had inspired me to write. I went into a bit of a black hole so I poured my heart out into the songs. The new album "Zed Hed" is the result.

I worked on the demos with my mate Jonesy and it went well. We decided to get in the studio and do it properly. We went in whenever we had a gap in our other commitments and laid down the tracks - we had a ball and as I said, it kept me sane. I owe my sanity to Jonesy.

What does this new album sound like?

It's a dirty rock n roll record.

The first two albums were rock n roll but more industrial with distortion, drum machines mixed in with "live" drums and mental sounds; this record is different, it's back to basics. Bass, guitar, drums, vocal and that's it. I wanted a four-piece rock n roll band to be able to reproduce it all on stage so I kept it simple.

We did a gig in September and it does actually work. We will tour sometime in 2013 - and I can't wait.

Will you be playing drums or singing?

I will be up front singing and playing guitar. There's some footage on youtube of the RT-Zed September gig, check it out. I don't have a problem being up front. I used to do it back in the day and it feels natural to me - even if it is a bit of a shock to other people. Being the singer is just another job in the band - easier actually! (Laughs)

Would it be fair to say that RT-Zed haven't been blessed with the best of luck when it comes to the first two albums?

Well, the records sound great, I have to make that point but yeah things haven't run smoothly.

The masters for the first album "Return To Zero" were accidentally destroyed so it can never be remixed. That's kind of OK though as now, it is what it is - and can never be messed about with. All I can do is re-master but no remixing.

The second album "Honour The Barbarian" was really just an experiment. We had been asked to do a track for a Clash tribute album so we chose "Guns Of Brixton". The record company really liked our version and asked us to do a whole album of our favourite punk tracks. We weren't keen but John Magner (guitar player, engineer) and I had just taken delivery of some new equipment so we decided to do the album to test out the new stuff we had bought.

By the time we'd finished the record the company had gone broke so the album remained unreleased. It will come out sometime later in 2013 through my Hypermania Music Company label as I own the master tapes. In fact the first album "Return To Zero" will also be out sometime later in 2013 plus the brand new album Zed Hed. It's a big year for both RT-ZED and SLF.

Did you co-write any songs?

No. Not on this album, I wrote all of the tunes for Zed Hed but I'm looking forward to writing with Jonesy and Simon Turner our bass player as they both have some killer ideas.

Who's producing?

I am. I've been making records all my life.

Where will the new album be available from?

From the RT-Zed website ( ) , i-Tunes, retail outlets, Amazon and at RT-Zed gigs - all over!

Would you like to play at The Gathering again either with RT-Zed or SLF?

Can't see Jake being up for that! (Laughs)

As for RT-Zed, who knows? Never say never! (Laughs)

I think the Gathering has kinda grown in stature, not only because of the "all day festival" feel it has now with the support acts and guests but largely because of the Love, Hope Strength charity. It's great that Mike can promote his charity selling LHS merchandise over the entire weekend creating a lot of revenue for his charity - plus raising awareness.

You were part of the Coloursound touring band with Mike, Craig and Billy Duffy yet you weren't on the album, why not?

(Long pause)....Ahhh, fuck knows! (Laughs) Yeah...another old story but - not being used on the Coloursound album was a shock to me. I was under the impression that I would be on the album, it was a band, or so I thought - but I was wrong.

How did you find out that you weren't going to be used on the album?

I only found out that they were using another drummer when I phoned up Craig Adams to invite him to a SLF gig in Leeds and someone at the MPO informed me that they were already in the studio recording the album. I couldn't believe it!

How did you feel about this?

Well it sounds girly but I was hurt and confused. I was under the impression that we were going to record together after my SLF tour: that's what I had been told. If that wasn't the case I would've been fine with it, as long as I was informed, that's all I wanted; for them to be straight with me.

Again, it wasn't what happened but the WAY it happened. It was underhand - doing it behind my back was pretty cheap but that's rock n roll. Allegedly, part of the reason (I was told many years later) was, they listened to some live tapes and decided to use the other guy as in their opinion he played the songs better than me. That's fine, I can handle that.

Ironically, they did ask me to play the one and only show they performed to promote the album AFTER the record was released - which I agreed to do; it was at the LA2 downstairs at the Astoria. It was a storming gig and the film I've seen of it proved to me that we really did work as a tough, raucous rock n roll unit.

What did you think of the Coloursound album when it was released?

Shite! In my opinion the Coloursound album didn't live up to it's potential at all; something went wrong somewhere - plus the production massively let down a set of brilliant songs. It was a wasted opportunity.

What was it like being in a band with Billy Duffy?

It was cool! Billy is a great rock n roll guitar player, one of the UK's finest I reckon. I always go and check out The Cult when they play over here (UK) and go backstage and say hello. I like the latest album "Weapon Of Choice" - much better than the "Born Into This" record they released a few years ago.

Actually, I still listen to the Coloursound demos; they're pure and far superior to the album in my opinion. I always thought Johnny Donnelly was the best drummer for Coloursound anyway!

SLF have toured a few times with Spear Of Destiny, is there an affinity between the bands and when did you first meet Kirk Brandon?

We all get on well and of course Liam Feekery who manages Spear managed The Alarm for quite some time so it's all friends together. I rate Kirk as a songwriter and singer - great voice; he's really got something to say too.

It's a good night out, Spear and SLF on the same bill - it's a value for money ticket and in these times of recession that's got to be a good thing!

I met Kirk in 2000 when Spear and The Alarm toured together with Peter Wylie. I played drums with that line-up of the Dead Men Walking actually, with Glen Matlock and all that.

How was it touring again with Craig on these shows?

Mad as ever! He's a great bass player and a superb drinking buddy. We were on the road together for over 10 years, we know each other well - we're mates.

When Jake Burns reformed SLF and brought an end to The Big Wheel did you keep in touch and how did you feel when he invited you to join the band?

Well, Jake didn't bring the band to an end, it just fizzled out and came to a slow grinding halt. I had already joined Eighth Wonder by that point. Jake reformed SLF sometime later after that.

Jake and I are friends and we remained in touch. In fact, I played on sessions with him and Bruce (Foxton) when they needed a drummer for a project outside SLF. When Dolph left the group Jake called me and said do you want to join SLF? Of course I said I did, so that was it, I was in!

You have done your fair share of session work over the years and some may surprise fans such as your work with Oleta Adams and Eighth Wonder, how different is being in a band to being a session musician?

I was a member of Eighth Wonder so that really wasn't on a session basis. That was a brilliant time. The band had No. 1's in Italy, France and Japan: I had three years of pure fun.

When I worked with Julian Lennon, Horse and Oleta Adams I just did my job to the best of my ability and behaved the best of my ability! (Laughs) I did what I was asked to do.

It's all drumming and that's what I love. It's my passion so I just get on with it. Not being in the band doesn't mean that much apart from you don't have to make decisions or get up early for the photo sessions! (Laughs)

What are your memories of The Saturday Gigs tour?

They made sense, as touring wasn't really possible with Mike's health so we did those one-offs. I enjoyed them.

Steve & Mike
How did the band react when Mike was diagnosed and did anything change?

He was very brave and nothing changed with the band, he insisted we carry on as normal as possible - so we did. We were all worried about him but he ploughed through it - I was amazed. It didn't seem to phase him at all. I'm sure it did, in his more private moments but he never let it show. We still played long sets on stage and he continued to write songs. He was inspiring and I admired his guts and determination tremendously.

Mike is a remarkable man.

You have co-authored two books to date with Alan G Parker telling the stories of The Who and Slade, how did you come to be involved in these and are there any more books planned?

I knew Alan because he is a massive SLF fan.

Originally, I had come up with an idea for a drummers book, which Helter Skelter wanted us to do, however this project fell by the way side for various reasons. They asked us if we would be interested in writing a book about The Who instead. I'm a massive fan, even more than Alan, so we of course agreed.

The Slade book was Alan's idea. I liked the band back in the day but not as much as he did. We had taken a break from writing The Who book, as our commissioning editor was ill and the book looked like it was in jeopardy. So Alan got the deal with Carlton Books for the Slade project and I wrote the book.

The Who book eventually took, on and off, 6 years to finish and during that time, Alan's father, our commissioning editor Sean and my father, all passed away. It was a helluva time.

SLF Backstage - Alan G Parker far right
What was it that drew you to those two bands, The Who and Slade?

The Who were the first band I ever saw play live and I worshipped them. Also, most drummers want to be Keith Moon and I'm no exception so to write about him and his band was a pleasure. I love The Who: it was an honour.

Slade were one of the first bands I was aware of as a little kid, with all of their Top Of The Pops appearances and the film "Slade In Flame". Mostly it was Alan's enthusiasm for the band that led to us getting the deal but I always felt they were a great live band with timeless tunes and was happy to write about them.

Are there any more books in the pipeline, will we see an autobiography any time soon?

Autobiography? I've barely started! (Laughs) No, there's lot's more I want to do so, no Autobiography from me - not for a long time brother!

 I am, however, writing a drum book. It's coming together quite nicely. It's not a "rudiment" book as there are plenty of those kinds of books out there already - mine will be different, kind of alternative.

I have written a couple of book proposals for people that have got them book deals, so I have been writing. I plan on releasing my drummer book sometime in 2013. Like I said, it's not an instructional thing, more of an overall approach to playing drums in a rock n roll band - something different. Things your drum teacher won't tell you. (Laughs) That's about it - I do get asked to do projects but I'm busy with SLF and RT-Zed so there's no time.

SLF have recorded some of their most commercially approachable albums since you joined yet you don't seem to find a voice on commercial radio or coverage in the music press, why do you think this is?

I have no idea. We ain't on X Factor?!

What do you believe is the best SLF album that you have appeared on?

Guitar And Drum.

Have you managed to see any previews of the "Vinyl" film?

No. I'd like to see it, as it's part of my life. I think the rest of the band have seen it?! There's a Premier in March I believe, my invite must have got lost in the post. (Laughs) I'm the road with SLF anyway (Laughs)

What are your memories of the Poppy Fields time and how the media reacted to 45RPM before they knew it's origin?

Good song 45 RPM but the media thing was all a bit of a circus. Long term I think it backfired. Who knows?! It seemed like a good idea at the time. I enjoyed the recording process but the media stuff was all bullshit to me.

As for "The Poppy Fields Project" I think we released too much material. It's great to write lots of songs - but I believe it's best only to release the really good ones. It is my feeling that, if you release too much material people reach overload and then...switch off. There's too much to take in, also - it's fair to say that ultimately, the quality of the material suffers.

Have you heard any of the new mixes Mike has prepared for the "In The Poppy Fields : Collected Works" set?

Of course not! I didn't hear the mixes until they were released when I was actually in the band so I'm hardly going to hear them now!

The only album we wrote, recorded and mixed together as a band was the "Under Attack" record and that's why to my ears it's the best record we ever made. We battled over the tracks and agreed and disagreed but finally made something that was a real band effort. I mean, we were all at the mastering session at Abbey Road - we did it together. Listening to that album now, it really stands up.

That period was my favourite time in the group because it was a band. You know what though? The producer Pete Walsh did a couple of remixes on his own that made it onto the album and he was so good I would of happily left the whole album to him to mix without any of us being there. He's that good, he was someone I trusted at the controls.

What about "Guerilla Tactics" and "Direct Action"?

What about em? (Laughs)

(Long pause) I was not at the mixing sessions for "Guerilla Tactics" or "Direct Action" as they were done in L.A. I believe. These albums as a result sound like Mike Peters solo records to me. I'm sure Mike had very good reasons for doing it this way but the results speak for themselves.

There were some great songs on those records like "Alarm Calling" and it sounds OK, don't get me wrong but I think if we had taken a bit more time over the whole thing and worked together as the band we were at the time the result would've been vastly improved.

I know there were financial constraints on the recordings but having the whole band recording together and at the mixing sessions would've been beneficial. By the time we made "Direct Action" I felt the way had been totally lost, and in terms of production - sonically, to my ears - that record sounds awful. There were level problems, drum computer sound replacements for my drums, after I'd spent time getting good sounds at source and overall compression issues - just awful.

You endorse Natal drums which isn't one of the "usual suspects" when it comes to drum makers although they have a rich musical heritage, what is it about them that you like?

Natal are famous for making percussion instruments. It is now owned by Marshall Amplifiers. Jim Marshall who sadly passed away last year, THE Jim Marshall who built all those early amps for Townshend, Hendrix and Clapton was in fact a drummer. He'd always wanted to own his own drum company so when the opportunity came up he bought Natal. But now, they make drum kits.

The guy who designed and coordinated the making of the drums, Craig Glover was someone I knew originally through the drumming community. I did some clinics for him, we became friends and he asked me to have a look at the new kits Natal were building. When I saw the drums I was impressed. They really have gone top notch with the quality and I agreed there and then to use their equipment.

Steve with Natal kit
They're first class drums and the atmosphere at the factory and all who work there is one of community. You do feel part of the family. Paul Marshall (son of Jim) who is the artist liaison guy there has been very good to me too, they're nice people.

Actually, they're building me a red acrylic (Perspex see-through) kit for the "Up A Gear" SLF tour in March. It's gonna look the bollocks!

Was there much difference in your kit set up between SLF and The Alarm?

No, none at all...apart from when I did the Gathering one year (2009 I think it was) with a massive two bass drum five tom tom, Keith Moon style kit. (Laughs) I just fancied doing something different that year - but usually, on the road and recording I stick to the same set up. That way, I know where everything is and I don't have to tax my tub-thumping brain with "where's the cymbal" issues! (Laughs)

Do you have any more drum clinics lined up and where can fans find out more about them?

No clinics, not at the moment as I'm really busy but if I get the opportunity I'll do it. Craig Glover (Natal) used to organise The Drumfest (big drum clinic) and if he puts one of those on again I'd like to play that. You can always check out for any news if you're interested.

What was the last album you bought?

The Led Zeppelin box set "Celebration Day" with the video and live album of their O2 performance. Jason's playing is flawless - no one on the planet could've done a better job, he played amazingly well under tremendous pressure and expectation - respect. I'm a big Zep fan so that's getting played a lot at the moment. Just before that I bought James Browns "Funk Power" from 1973 - I'm a big funk fan - groovy baby! (Laughs)

What, if push comes to shove, is your favourite album of all time?

Ahhhhhhh, you can't do that to me! (Laughs)

That's a tough one, mmmmmm - it's impossible really. It depends on my mood. I can do a top 10 for ya? In no particular order:

Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks
Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
Floyd - Wish You Were Here
The Clash - London's Calling
Prince - The Gold Experience
Abba - Gold
Bowie - Aladdin Sane
Ian Dury - New Boots And Panties
The Who - Quadrophenia
James Brown - Dead On The Heavy Funk 74 - 76

That's the best I can do I'm afraid!

You've said in previous interviews that John Bonham tops your favourite drummer list. To me Bonham defines the sound of Zeppelin more than anything else and his drum sound sounds like no one else. Was this his playing style or his tuning?

It was everything! His tuning, the way he hit the drums and the drums he chose.

He came out of that 60's period and was listening to big band jazz as well as folk and pop. That's why he swings as well as rocks. Zeppelin would listen to James Brown and as a consequence John's also very funky - an astonishing talent and all over and out by 32 - tragic. I never tire of listening to John Bonham.

For me, he wrote the rock n roll rulebook of drumming - Keith Moon was astonishing but his style was very idiosyncratic. Ginger was great too but he was a jazz drummer: John's playing was the blueprint for every single rock n roll drummer who followed. There is not a modern player who is not in some way influenced by JB whether they know it or not!

Do Alarm fans still make themselves known to you at SLF gigs?

Yeah, of course they do - all the time and I'm glad they do. I used to like talking to everyone after The Gatherings and at gigs. There's a big cross over of fans between SLF and The Alarm anyway and it's always good to see people and chat.

There are quite a few Alarm fans on my Facebook page too. You know, I like seeing all The Alarm folk - they're mates now a lot of them, you get to know people. I would like to say "Hello" to all the people I met at Alarm shows down through the years and wish them well.

What does 2013 hold for Steve Grantley?

Lots of stuff.

I'm really looking forward to getting back on the road with me ol' band mates SLF and going into the studio to make the new album - really excited about that. We may well record in the US so that should be fun. We have new management and the feeling in the camp is the most positive it's been for years.

So yeah:

New SLF album.
New RT-Zed album out in March/April.
SLF tour the world.
RT-Zed gigs throughout the year.
SLF, finally playing at the summer festivals.
A new drumming book for release later this year.
RT-Zed videos released throughout the year.
A new Natal acrylic kit in red for SLF.
That's just for starters.

Think I better have a lie down!

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