For many years, “And The Dead Shall Rise” has been one of our most prized possessions in our vinyl collection. Not because it’s so valuable money wise, but the great music and horror image of the band uplift this album to a true heavy metal classic. When Rob Graves, frontman/guitarist of the band, got in touch with me through the email, I was quite astonished and flabbergasted at the same time. This was really unbelievable and beyond our wildest dreams! Unfortunately, Rob lost contact with the other band members ages ago, but he was more than willing to do this exclusive interview. He emptied his box of memories for us and even looked into his crystal ball to see what the future has in store for him. Ladies and gents, here’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about RIPPER – a cult horror metal band from the 80’s, hailing from Texas, USA.
When did RIPPER get together as a band?
Rob Graves: “RIPPER was formed in the mid-70's by Sadie Paine (bass), Animal Axeman (drums) and Dennis Smith (guitar). Sadie and Animal were big ALICE COOPER fans and the dark side of things really appealed them. Then KISS came along and inspired them on even further. According to Sadie, as soon as she discovered ALICE COOPER and KISS, it was all over for her. She then knew how she wanted to make her mark on the world. She and Animal were just high school friends at the time. They weren’t even musicians at that point. They pooled their money together and bought their first equipment, locked themselves away and began the task. Both of them were naturals and extremely talented musicians, completely self-taught. Incredible!”
Who was in the original line-up and can you tell us about any line-up changes over the years?
RG: “Dennis Smith was eventually replaced by someone else, whose name escapes me. He came back again for a brief period and then was relieved of duty for good. Sadie had very strict and rigid policies concerning RIPPER and she was not the least bit flexible, if you got on her bad side. She laid down the guidelines for RIPPER and expected them to be followed. I don’t blame her. If you give an inch, they take a foot. It was around that time that they met Michael Emerson, a bona-fide MICHAEL SCHENKER freak. He had the look, the ability, the Marshall's and the Gibson Flying V. They then went into the studio to start recording demos. Things with Michael didn’t work out, but they remained very good friends, just in different bands. Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Remember when Peter Criss quit KISS? Well, Animal actually tried out for KISS, and almost made it. He was actually the third runner-up after Eric Carr, who got the gig. How’s that for a self-taught drummer? Sadie agreed that he should try, and if accepted, they would put RIPPER on hold. They had to create a makeup design, a costume and a resume. They also had to create a story of how he could be introduced in the new KISS comic book. They were required to go into the studio and record two KISS songs with Animal singing. They recorded "Deuce" and "Shock Me". Sadie played the bass parts and Michael Emerson did the guitar parts. Pretty cool, huh?!? So after that, it was full steam ahead with RIPPER. The reason Animal tried this was, because they both agreed that it was too good of a chance to pass by.”
When did you actually join the band?
RG: “I answered the ad, they’d placed in my favorite music store in 1980. It caught my eye right away. It had a photo of Sadie and Animal fully decked. She as a “vampyre” complete with fangs and a cape, and he as an “executioner” complete with a hood and an executioners axe. It was awesome! It was printed on yellowed parchment and burned around the edges. The words were hand scripted calligraphy (done by Sadie). I was just blown away! We met that night. It was incredible, it was magical and it was meant to be. I had been in tons of bands prior to RIPPER, but RIPPER was the dream I had been chasing and I caught it!”
Who came up with the name RIPPER, and why did you pick this name?
RG: “Sadie chose the name. I'm not really sure why she did, or what the inspiration was. Some say, it was because of the JUDAS PRIEST song on the "Sad Wings Of Destiny" album. Gene Simmons (KISS) once told Sadie, that she chose that name because "he" played a Ripper (Gibson) bass. She just laughed in his face and told him a thing or two, that I won’t repeat here (laughs). One thing about Sadie: She would tell you where the rubber met the road, if you cornered her. She feared no one. Someone being a "rockstar" didn’t mean anything to her. She was no respector of persons. Gene didn’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his ass!”
Who were the musical influences of RIPPER?
RG: “For Sadie and Animal, it was ALICE COOPER and KISS. For me, it was BLACK SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST. When I joined them, all of their songs were kinda rock-n-rolly. I told them, that if they wanted me, it would be metal or nothing. They agreed and from that day on, we were a metal band. I don’t go for all of that dancing and clapping your hands crap. I believe in "pist on-pounding" metal and nothing less!”
The image of the band was mindblowing! Who invented this great horror look of the band? Did you get inspired from horror movies, or bands like KISS, HALLOWEEN (USA) and ALICE COOPER?
RG: “Well, it was ALICE COOPER and KISS that started the fires of inspiration, but it was the visuals of the horror movies, that turned it into a three alarm blaze. We wanted to go beyond what COOPER and KISS had done, so the next logical step was latex prosthetics. This totally altered our appearance. We enlisted the talents of J.C.Matalon. He had done the makeup for a few horror films and he just happened to live nearby. We first had to make plaster casts of our faces. When those were done, we applied clay to the plaster castings in the forms of how we wanted to look. From there, a mold was made where the liquid latex was poured in. After it cured, we had the latex facial masks. They were thin and very flexable. Once applied, they would move with our own facial expressions. The masks were applied with a certain glue that would only come off with a special neutralizing agent. Once they were on, we would shade them with the different shades of makeup. This was a long and tedious process, but it was worth it. The fans loved it! These pieces were in constant production. One mask was only good for one concert or one photo shoot. Johnny's (Death) was the most difficult.”
Were you a great fan of horror movies?
RG: “Yes, I was. My favorites were “Dracula” (Legosi), “Frankenstein” (Karloff) and “London After Midnight” (Chaney). Classics, and the very core of everything RIPPER did visually. As a band, “Phantasm” (Scrimm) was our favorite. That movie just rocks! “Phantasm” did just as much to inspire us as anything else. My absolute personal favorite horror movie of all time would have to be "Salems Lot”, made from a Stephen King novel. Talk about scary...”
How would you describe the music of RIPPER? Would you say 'horror heavy metal' covers it all?
RG: “This would be my description of RIPPER's music: death-dark-massive-gothic-horror-power-metal. That says it better, don’t you think? Because if you listen to it and think about it, all of those elements are represented. We stepped into the ring punching lights all the way. We took no prisoners. We just took Houston over. We were like Conan, The Barbarian: "Crush the enemy, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women" and too powerful to be ignored. We dominated America's fourth largest city in a matter of days. It was wonderful and a sight to behold.”
Your demo from ’85 contains four tracks. Were there any ‘unreleased’ songs, that weren’t on this demo nor on the album?
RG: “Yes, there were several recordings, that have never been heard by the public. Some that were made before I joined and some made after. None of these, however, made the grade, so to speak. So they were locked in the dungeon vault never to see the light of day again.”
We noticed that Steve (Carpenter) Bogle plays the keyboards on this tape. Did he also play at your live shows?
RG: “We were after Steve Bogle pretty hot and heavy for a long time to become a part of RIPPER, but he was only interested in helping us on a limited basis. He was a very sought after studio musician and he had more work than he knew what to do with. Live, we used pre-recorded tape loops of those keyboard parts and used them as segways, just as they appear on the album. He is also a very accomplished guitarist and has tasted a bit of success since then. He is now a member of a band called THE HUNGER. They have about five or six albums out. He's a very cool guy, and a very good friend. I'll probably call on his services again in the not so distant future. For the RIPPER album, he used an Oberheim OBX synth. It sounds great, doesn’t it? It was perfect for what we were doing then. He wouldn’t even hear of getting paid. He did the RIPPER stuff out of love and friendship. An awesome man!”
Why did Don (Cocky Bastard) Ramirez play the drums on "Sinister Minister", instead of your original drummer J.D. Shadowz?
RG: “The song “Sinister Minister” was the first track recorded for the album. Just before we went into the studio, Animal left. We hadn’t yet met J.D. and we couldn’t cancel our studio time. Steve just happened to know the drummer for the job. Don Ramirez took the job at a moments notice and nailed it on the first take. He had been in a band called BLITZ with Steve and was readily available. He also refused payment. Before we returned to the studio again, we found J.D. and it is he that appears on the remainder of the album. J.D. is the most gifted drummer I have ever worked with in my life. Without him, what we wanted to do would have been impossible! By the way, Don Ramirez was (and probably still is) a ‘cocky bastard’ (laughs). When you’re that good, you can be...”
On your album, you thank Jesus Christ for helping your dreams become realities. A bit odd for a horror heavy metal band like RIPPER. Was any of the band members religious?
RG: “At the time, all I knew about God was that he existed. Giving him thanks was genuine and heart felt, but ignorant on our parts. Knowing what I know now, I would never again associate his holy name with anything as dark as RIPPER. I ask forgiveness for the act itself and for the confusion it caused. I just feel, that the credit was a form of blasphemy and I retract it. I'm just trying to set the record straight. I just didn’t know at the time, that what we were doing was wrong. I've since learned otherwise.”
How did you get in contact with Iron Works, who released your debut album?
RG: “We had a friend, who wrote a column for a local entertainment publication, that put us in touch with Iron Works Records. It’s not a well known fact, but what you hear on "And The Dead Shall Rise" is actually two 4-song demos. We intended for the demos to get us a record deal, but we never intended it to end up being our record. Iron Works Records at the time, was only willing to press and release, what we had already paid for. So if you hear any mistakes, or if the album at times seems a little rough around the edges, now you know why. All I can say is, I'm glad, we only did one album with them. We were never informed of anything and we never received a penny in royalties. But what goes around comes around. Do you know what I mean?”
How did the press react on the "And The Dead Shall Rise" album?
RG: “When we saw the announcement in Billboard magazine, we figured everything was moving according to plan. What we found out later, was that every single copy of the album was shipped and distributed in Europe, which is fine, but when you’re expecting some local response, and don’t get any, you start wondering what’s up. We received tons of response from Europe and soon made the connection as to what really happened. It would have been nice to have been told though. Believe it or not, we were virtually unknown in America. Only the metal underground knew about us here, because they knew what we didn’t, that Europe gets the first line on what’s hot and spreads the news. For the record, the European press was all excellent. Even now. If only we had been there when we started, we would probably be huge by now, instead of just the collectible curiousity we have become.”
The album was released in a normal format, as a picture disc and even as a golden disc. Who came up with this strategy to release the album in different formats?
RG: “Iron Works Records decided to do this on their own. We only knew about the LP and cassette formats in the original release. As I said before, we were never informed of anything. It was like not even having a record label. I didn’t find out about the picture disc and the gold-vinyl, until 2002. I just happened to be surfing around and there it was. Amazing! Here they are, selling on Ebay for a fortune and I never made a dime from them (laughs).”
Do you have your own copy of all three formats?
RG: “No. Something happened to my originals and I don’t have a pic disc or a gold. I wish I did. When Black Widow Records finishes the re-release, I'll then have the album in CD and LP formats. That will be too cool! I can’t wait. I've heard nothing but praise concerning their work.”
Were the sleeves of these different releases the same, or are there any differences, too?
RG: “To tell you the truth, I really have no idea. I've never actually seen one. Knowing Iron Works Records, it was probably well done and pretty cool. They put out good stuff. They just don’t pay you or tell you what they’re doing (laughs).”
What do you think of the fact, that people buy your records for enormous prices at record fairs and on Ebay nowadays? Prices of 250 US dollars are no exception!
RG: “That just blows me away! But what I don’t know is, are they buying it because it’s rare or because it’s rare and awesome? I subscribe to the latter opinion, of course. I hate to see people have to pay that much for it. If they can just hold on for awhile, it'll be in stores again before they know it. If they are paying 250 dollars just to have a copy, that would be astounding! I'm sure, that’s the price for the picture disc and the gold-vinyl.”
Do you have any idea how many copies of the picture disc and the golden record were pressed?
RG: “Not a clue, my friend, not a clue. The fact, that they are selling for two hundred and fifty a pop tells me, that there weren’t too damn many. Maybe if I go bury myself in the sand for a few years, I'll be worth something too (laughs).”
"Death Awaits You" lands on Metal Massacre VIII. How did you get on this release, and who picked the song for this compilation album?
RG: “They contacted us and said they wanted to include the song on MM8. We agreed and they sent us a contract to do so. We never made a dime on that one either (laughs). I was happy with their choice though. That’s a killer cut! Johnny (Death) Crystal was amazing! He was the best guitarist I've ever had the pleasure to work with. We found him in 1984. He joined just in time to do the lead vocal and solo on "Death Awaits You". He can also be heard in bits and pieces of "Night Cruizer". He also co-wrote the music and lyrics for "Wake The Dead".”
After 1986, things become rather quiet for RIPPER, what happened?
RG: “We had done all of the damage we could possibly do in Houston. We basically owned the city, so we decided we would relocate to Los Angeles, because L.A. is the hub for the American music industry. We quickly set up in a downtown rehearsal studio and began the prep work for the next album. Metal Blade Records had said, that they wanted to hear our new stuff, as soon as we were ready. I can’t really explain it, but that was the beginning of a flood of internal strife within the band. Personal conflicts and numerous financial woes were on the horizon. At that point, it seemed like we were fighting more than we were working and things went down hill from there rather quickly. I just stood there and watched RIPPER go down the drain and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Everyone changed once we arrived in California. We quickly signed a deal with Azra Records to include "Sinister Minister" on their compilation album, entitled "Metal That Matters" just to keep our name in view, while we tried to salvage a relationship that was going south in a hurry. Our manager, our make up artist, our pyro-technician and most of our road crew all refused to make the trip to Los Angeles. That didn’t help matters. Maybe they were right. In retrospect, who the hell knows? We thought we were doing the right thing. We figured the move was the next logical step to take, so we did it. Johnny was the first one to give his notice, then J.D. disappeared and suddenly, it was just Sadie and I. We tried to replace them, but it was impossible. We moved back to Houston to begin again and after many more disappointments, we disbanded and went our seperate ways. You have to understand that RIPPER was something we jointly created, like four mad scientists in a laboratory, creating a monster that would live and breath. We had more fun, than the law should allow. We had the time of our lives. It was wonderful and now it was over. It was no ones fault and it was everyones fault. The demise was equal. Here lies RIPPER: born 1977 - died 1990. My tenure was ten years.”
Did you write any new songs, that never saw the light of day?
RG: “Yes, I currently have about three albums worth of unrecorded and unreleased music. These are the songs, that would have been on RIPPER’s second, third and fourth album. And be warned, they are heavy laden! Much heavier than the first album. Absolute killers, every one of them.”
What's your favorite RIPPER song and why?
RG: “My personal favorite would have to be "Sinister Minister". It’s like an 80's metal version of "Monster Mash". Sadie penned the lyrics for that one and I wrote the music. It was a blast to record and to play live. It’s full of creepy goodies and sound effects. It’s definately a piece of work. I was at my best, vocally and musically in that song. There will never be another one like it. That’s for sure!”
Let's take a closer look at your live shows, if we may.It must have been a difficult task to bring such an immense show. Did you do many gigs over the years?
RG: “Yes, we did. We played numerous times. The funny thing was, all of the shows were in Houston. Things fell apart so quickly in L.A., we didn’t even get the chance to play there. A lot of those years, especially in the beginning, we had to play three piece. We changed second guitarists like underwear, until Johnny came along. But you’re right about one thing: the production was immense.”
Can you remember some of the bands, you shared the stage with?
RG: “It’s funny you should ask that. I remember when we first started out, there wasn’t a band in the city that would let us open for them. So we were forced to start at the bottom, headlining our own shows. In fact, it was quite some time before anyone was even willing to open for us. I can’t really blame them. Opening for RIPPER was like putting a band-aid on a volcano. The opening bands were usually crucified by the fans. We had an army of loyal followers. I remember religious groups protesting outside of the venue, carrying signs and trying to persuade people no to go inside. What a trip!”
Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to witness one of RIPPER’s live shows. Maybe you can tell us a little about what happened exactly on stage?
RG: “Sadie used Sunn bass equipment. She had four cabinets with a JBL 15" in each, stacked on top of four cabinets with a JBL 18" in each. She had four Sunn Beta Bass 200 watt heads, which were slaved together. She ran one line direct to the mixing console and miked one 15" cab and one 18" cab. She had a wall of sound and it sounded like a freight train coming. J.D. used a chrome set of double-bass Ludwigs. He also used some Simmons electronic drums as well. He had a huge Paiste gong behind him. J.D. could mix it up and he had the fastest feet in the west! Johnny (Death) and I both used Marshall amps. Each of us had two 100 watt heads and four 4x12 cabinets, two slants and two straights each. We didn’t run direct, we were miked only. We had a huge 10'x 40' airbrushed backdrop, that looked 3D. There were spider webs all over the place, there were smoking cauldrons, skeletons and bones and there were tombstones. We had two chemical foggers. Floods of red and green lights. We had two licenced pyro-technicians, who proceded to destroy every venue we played in. Nothing ever caught fire though, they were professionals. They used bombs, flash-pots and concussion mortars. It was like World War Three. It was wonderful! We were definately an assault on the senses. On top of all that, we were an extremely tight band. We could have gone up there in jeans and t-shirts and kicked ass. Our image wasn’t a gimmick. It’s who we were. We did it, because we liked it. And it just so happens, that a lot of other people liked it too. We played a full two hour concert, complete with a drum-solo, bass solo and two guitar solos. We friggin stomped ass, we were thunderous, overwhelming and we refused to be ignored!! We were like a bomb going off in downtown Baghdad. People leaving a RIPPER concert looked like people staggering out of a burning skyscraper. No exaggeration. Our costumes and make up were the same as we appear on the album. How’s that for detail?!”
Did you stick to your own penned material or also ‘throw in’ an occassional cover?
RG: “Nope, we didn’t play any covers. Everything we did was ours. There was way more than just the eight songs on the album. We had only just recorded those for the album. Studio time was expensive, and we paid for everything right out of our own pockets. If you ever run across a live bootleg recording of RIPPER, you'll hear the material. You'll also hear how the studio could never capture our live energy, though we tried to sound as live as possibe on the album. We were a live band. That was our element.”
Do you have any special memories about a certain show, that you did?
RG: “All of them were memorable. I used to love to see the looks on their faces, when a 10' column of fire would shoot up unexpectedly. The fans used to chant "wake, wake, wake" during "Wake The Dead" and "crack your skulls" during "Metal Mission" and "Death" during "Death Awaits You". That was awesome! We had moshpits, stagedivers and the whole bit. Most of these venues were just clubs with a 500 to 1000 capacity. We never made it to the larger arenas. They loved us and we loved them! We knew it, and so did they.”
There must have been some embarassing moments as well. Gigs, where everything seems to go wrong…
RG: “Other than minor technical difficulties, everything pretty much went off without a hitch. We were always very polished and well rehearsed. We were never burned or blinded by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everything was in place and secure, plus we had a six man road crew who were always on their toes. There was one show, now that you mention it. We were playing at a notorius punk club, called The Axiom. The punkers didn’t like it when it was metal night, so they would come in and try to disrupt things. One of these guys had a 2' high green mohawk. He came up in front of me and started waving his arms and spitting, trying to distract me. One of our roadies grabbed him, dragged him outside and beat him to a pulp, much to the delight of the crowd. His mohawk looked a little different after that (laughs).”
The Texas metal scene was very rich in the eighties. Were there many clubs you could play live, and what's the scene like today?
RG: “Indeed. There were endless venues for all original bands to showcase. We made it a point to destroy them all on a regular basis. The RIPPER limo was a converted 1961 Cadillac hearse. Before we got out, a smoke bomb would be detonated inside and we would step out fully decked through the smoke. That was so cool! We also had our own 2 ton panel truck for the gear. The scene in Texas is still awesome, with more new clubs and venues opening all the time.”
Were there any bands, you loved to hang out with, when you were not playing live?
RG: “Yes, HELSTAR, TYTON, FILTHY RICH, KINGS-X, BRAZEN, BLITZ, LIC, WICKED JESTER, WWIII, etc. We were all original metal bands. The rock-n-rollers didn’t like us though. They would stand in the audience with their arms folded, while we blew the meat right off of their bones.”
Did you ever shoot any live video material from RIPPER?
RG: “We never organized a video shoot, but I remember seeing a video cam in the audience on occasion. There are probably some cool bootleg videos out there somewhere. I'd like to see one. We were a sight to behold, that’s for sure!”
Did you ever get the chance to play outside of the USA?
RG: “No, much to my regret. There is nothing I would have loved more than to tour Europe! I feel like I belong there, and I've never been. Europe is tuned into the whole metal scene, and they've stayed loyal to it, even though the rest of the world has turned their backs. As we all know, everything that is great, came from there anyway. Even Americans. Everyone here can trace his roots to Europe. The absolute cradle of civilization as I see it.”
The clothes, you’re wearing on the pictures on the debut album, was this also your stage outfit?
RG: “The very same. We did upgrade them from time to time, but they remained pretty much the same. Those 7" platform boots cost 500.00 per pair. That tophat cost US$250.00. The leather and studs were also very expensive. The capes, the hoods, the cloaks, etc. Quite an investment for a band footing the whole bill. Our equipment was valued in the 10's of thousands alone.”
Who came up with the ideas for the horror show you performed live?
RG: “It was all a group creation. We would stay up all night talking, building and making plans. We were a family. Those were the best times of my life. Anything we put our minds to do, we did. The word “no” was not in our vocabulary. We enlisted the help of dozens of craftsmen, costume makers, carpenters and welders. We had things made that could be assembled to save space and storage. We loved the behind the scenes RIPPER as much as the performing RIPPER.”
Who wrote the lyrics for RIPPER and what are they about?
RG: “We all played a part in the lyrics. They were about horror and dark fantasy. Fiction and nothing more. We were not devil worshipers. We were musicians and performers. I have never been fascinated with occult. We just loved horror movies and scary stuff. We thought, it rocked and I still do. Sadie wrote the lyrics for "Sinister Minister" and "Death Awaits You". J.D. wrote the opening verse for "Metal Mission" and Johnny co-wrote the lyrics for "Wake The Dead". Everything else was penned by yours truly.”
Sadie was one of the female members in RIPPER. What was it like for her to be the only female in the band? Did she get fully accepted by all her male collegues (besides her RIPPER mates of course)?
RG: “Being the fact that she was the founding member of RIPPER, she got the respect she deserved. She was totally accepted by the rest of us, as well as her collegues. To me, she was the undisputed queen of heavy metal. She was an outstanding musician. She played her bass like a mack truck, she tanked and she had more bass gear than some superstars. If it had not been for her, most of our audience would have been male. She was a pioneer and opened the door for many aspiring female players. I was very proud of her. She had guts, vision and a will of iron.”
What was the reason for the split of RIPPER and when did this actually happen?
RG: “Well, like I mentioned before, everyone changed once we arrived in California. The cost of living, and everything else there was more than we were used to. Most people, who travel to California from somewhere else become like a kid in a candy store. Certain members began to wander mentally, hang out with the wrong crowd, and ultimately, their loyalty was compromised. People, parties, drugs and everything else you can think of were offered to you in an unending supply, on a silver platter. I guess it was too much to resist. To some, just arriving in the land of the stars can make you think, you are a star. Above reproach and discipline, above sticking together, rolling up your sleeves and going to work. Life is more than limos, fast money and overnight fame. It’s hard friggin work. Sometimes you can forget where you started, who you used to be, and where you are going. I stayed anchored to reality, while trying to keep my eye on tomorrow. There were arguements and fights about things we used to love doing. I sat there and watched ten years of hard work go down the drain. It broke my heart. A part of me died that day. That part of me now lives again: I'm ready, I'm back!”
Did RIPPER continue after you'd left the band, or did this mean the definate end of RIPPER?
RG: “It was the end. Sadie and I tried to rebuild it, but it was over. We left California in 1988 and disbanded in Texas in 1990. J.D. even rejoined at one point, only to disappear again. It just wasn’t the same anymore. All of a sudden there were new suspcions, a ton of mistrust. It was ugly and tragic. The absolute worst time of my life. When I think about what could have been…”
What did you do after RIPPER split up?
RG: “I had been going non-stop since 1967, the year I received my first guitar. I was burnt out. In 1991, I sold all of my gear and tried to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It’s like I was in a time vacuum. I entered it in 1991 and I woke up from it in 1998. One day Animal came over and just stood there staring at me. I asked: "What’s wrong with you?" He said "This is too much, I can’t stand to see you this way any longer". He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to a music store. He bought me a brand new Fender Stratocaster and a brand new Marshall amp. It had to be God... I was over and finished, I was done. I had crossed the point of no return, or so I had thought. I just sat there and stared at the brand new gear for a few days. Then I hooked it all up and began to play. It just flowed from my fingertips like I had never stopped. I immediately began playing all of the unrecorded, unreleased RIPPER material I had written years earlier and it was still fresh. It was still magical! I woke up from a seven year sleep unscathed. I'm better than I ever was! I'm reborn, I'm charged and ready!! Look out world: Rob Graves is back!!”
What do you do in the music scene nowadays? Are you still playing live or recording stuff?
RG: “Mainly, I've been writing and rehearsing, trying out different players, putting together my new band. The new material is much heavier than the first album. It’s awesome! I can’t wait. You'll love it! It is my hope, that the re-release with Black Widow Records will generate enough interest to lead to a new deal for my new band. I feel good about my future. I'm very excited and full of life.”
I saw a list somewhere with your all-time favorite records in it. I reckoned that you must be a very devoted ROBIN TROWER fan! What do you like so much in his playing?
RG: “The power and the soul. The feel and the fury. The dynamics and the awesome tone. The vibrato in his hands. The songs and the ability. That classic dreamy-floating-spacey-airey-liquid Stratocaster through a Marshall sound. It’s subliminal and hypnotic! He’s a true legend!”
What would be your five all-time favorite albums right now?
RG: “Bridge Of Sighs” (TROWER); “Balls To The Wall” (ACCEPT); “British Steel” (JUDAS PRIEST); “The Dungeons Are Calling” (SAVATAGE); “Peace Sells But Who's Buying” (MEGADETH). This list changes periodically, but those are my current top 5 faves.”
What’s it like for you that people still remember RIPPER, and are interested hearing about this incredible band?
RG: “To be honest, it means the world to me. It means that all of that blood and sweat wasn’t in vain! It means that we were appreciated. It means that someone took notice. It’s like getting a grammy or an academy award. It means, that in the pits of failure, you can look up and find your way out again. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It means more to me, than I can express. It’s heaven, I'm elated!”
Why did RIPPER never become as big as KISS or ALICE COOPER for instance?
RG: “They obviously found a way to keep everyone together through the tough times. They found a way to hang on until things got better. They also both had record companies that paid all of the bills. That’s something we never had. In the end, I think that was the fatal blow. It certainly wasn’t a question of RIPPER's quality. We could have held our own and stood toe-to-toe with anyone! It was money, it was expensive. Everything we did was over the top. We just knew that a big record company would come along and rescue us. Impatience got the better of everyone before that could happen. Damn shame!”
Will there ever be a RIPPER reunion?
RG: “I really don’t know. I doubt it very seriously. There were things done and things said that probably did permanent damage. I miss Sadie, Johnny and J.D. very much! I hope they are all well and happy.”
What about the re-release of "And The Dead Shall Rise"?
RG: “Both formats (on vinyl and CD) of this album will be re-released by Black Widow Records sometime in 2003. I can’t wait! It’s about time.”
Are you still in touch with some of the ex-members of RIPPER, or do you know what happened to them?
RG: “I have since lost all contact with them, but I wish them well.”
RIPPER had a fanclub back in those days. What did they actually do and how long did it exist?
RG: “The fans got all of the new RIPPER news before anyone else. Some got free tickets to the concerts. There was a newsletter, discounts on merchandise, inner circle privileges. Things like that. It lasted from 1980 until 1988 or so.”
Did they also release some sort of a fanzine maybe??
RG: “I'm sure they did. We used to get these handmade fanzines from all over the world. Sadie probably still has all of that stuff. She probably still has copies of all of our old concert flyers. Cool stuff!”
We told you about this compilation picture disc, where RIPPER was on with "Sinister Minister". The LP, called "Metal That Matters" (’87) also featured LIEGE LORD, FORTRESS, STORMTROOPER, WARWITCH, HOLY TERROR, MERSINARY, BLOODCUM, KNIGHTMARE and IRONN CROSS. How come Iron Works Records never informed you, because RIPPER was still existing as a band at the time, right?
RG: “Correct. According to the catalogue, it was released on Azra Records, which is the sister company of Iron Works. I was looking around on the web one day and I found it. Like I said, they never informed us of anything. I still can’t figure out, what all the secrecy was about. How could it have been anything but intentional? It was deliberate.”
To what kind of music do you listen nowadays?
RG: ‘I still listen to all of the old stuff, but there are some new things that I enjoy. None of it is as heavy as my stuff, but what are you gonna do. I like GODSMACK, KORN, MUDVAYNE and ROB ZOMBIE pretty much. I don’t really understand what has happened to metal. It’s just not the same anymore. Everyone is drop-tuning and grunging. There’s no lead guitar or double-kick drummers anymore. No Halford screams... I guess I'm just a throwback to the old days. I miss the virtuosity and precision that was a part of the old style metal. I'll see what I can do about that.”
Do you have any other interests or hobbies besides playing music?
RG: “I love Playstation 2, Twisted Metal 1 and 2, ATV Off Road Fury, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit, Ridge Racer, etc. That’s it, besides my music. And I love my car. It’s a 1995 Nissan 200SX DOHC 5 speed. That little sucker will throw you back in the seat and burn! I love that car!! I have a nice home and an Airdale terrier. Her name is Maggie. She's great! She follows me everywhere. She is almost two years old. I love her! Airdales rock! She wakes me up every day and refuses to be ignored. I love to surf around on the web, answer all of my e-mails and go on RIPPER scavanger hunts! You wouldnt believe how much RIPPER stuff I've found on the web. That’s how I found you, Toine! (laughs)”
What do you think of the metal scene today and are there any bands that you like right now?
RG: “The real metal scene these days is in Europe. Here, it’s just a bunch of noise and tatoos with butt-cracks and underwear showing (laughs). It really reminds me of the punk rock of the late 70's. You know THE SEX PISTOLS and THE CLASH. Maybe that means that real metal is about to make a comeback.”
What’s the best memory you have about being in RIPPER?
RG: “The fun and excitement, when we were a family and how we came from what seemed like nowhere and took over America's 4th largest city in a matter of days. The guitars and the amps, the fans, the sheer joy of metal, the power of the music, the wall of sound and the looks on peoples faces. Seeing our parents standing out in the audience with earplugs (laughs). It was the best part of my life so far. I'll never forget. Never!”
And the worst?
RG: “When it all came crashing down, when it ended. I'll never forget that either! When Gene Simmons of KISS told us that our music was corny and that we should be like MOTLEY CRUE and sing songs about love. Never!! Sadie called Paul Stanley one night at about four in the morning once and he said: "Don’t you think, it’s a little late to be calling?" To which she replied: "Where’s your flaming youth now, Paul?" That was Sadie (laughs).”
Is there anything you'd like to add to this interview? Maybe there’s something we forgot, which is important enough for the story of RIPPER?
RG: “I think you pretty much covered everything. RIPPER is over, but Rob Graves has only just begun! The best is yet to come! Wait and see...”
Do you want to say something to our readers?
RG: “Yes, I do. You guys don’t know how fortunate you are to have people like Toine and Rita to bring the heavy metal news to you. They have the same passion as the readers and it’s very obvious, that they love what they do. I have done many interviews, but never one as cool as this. I am in their debt. They have done me a great honor. I won’t forget!”
The last words are for you, Rob.
RG: “I mourned for RIPPER for seven long years. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but that time is passed. I'm alive and well, and still youthful considering. I have a fire shut up in my bones, that is ready to explode to a metal hungry world. If it’s sheer metal power that you want, well, just hold on to your hats, because it’s coming: Rob Graves style!! I'll be in touch and keep you posted as things develop and you'll get the exclusive. You have my word! "When the fog rolls in and you hear the wolves cries, the graves will open and the dead shall rise". Watch the skies: theres a storm brewing in Texas!! Rob Graves...Risen...4-23-03.”
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(printed in Metal Maidens magazine #33/Oct. 2003; parts of this interview will appear in HEADACHE magazine, NL - Nov. 2003)
*…AND THE DEAD SHALL RISE (’86 Iron Works - LP)
*…AND THE DEAD SHALL RISE (’87 Iron Works – picture disc LP)
*METAL THAT MATTERS (’87 compilation album Iron Works/Azra Records – picture disc LP): “Sinister Minster”
*METAL MASSACRE VIII (’87 compilation album Metal Blade – LP):“Death Awaits You”
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