GUY GRIFFIN (THE QUIREBOYS) INTERVIEW:
March 2, 2010
The Quireboys have been a staple on the rock scene for years now, in fact the band recently celebrated their longevity by releasing an expanded 20th Anniversary edition of their classic debut album A Bit Of What You Fancy. A lot has changed since that time, band members have come and gone, but the Quireboys show no signs of slowing down. With their latest album, the acoustic Halfpenny Dancer, the band show yet another side of their roots driven rock ‘n’ roll. Longtime guitarist Guy Griffin sat down with Sleaze Roxx’ Tommy Sprague to talk about the new CD, his work in Joe Elliott’s Down N’ Outz and the relationship between himself and vocalist Spike.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s start with the recent tour. You just celebrated 20 years of A Bit Of What You Fancy, how did that feel? Did you enjoy revisiting the whole album on the last tour? Was that nostalgic for you?
Guy Griffin: It’s never nostalgic, I’ve always enjoyed playing all those songs anyway. I think we always play about 5 or 6 of those songs in our set anyway. It was nice to revisit the ones that I really like to play, like Take Me Home, which Spike never wants to sing. It’s a great song, but it’s one of those one’s that is more difficult for him to sing. Towards the end of the set I can understand, because he’s got a really high range so it’s amazing how he sings all those sorts of songs anyway. I was glad to be doing those songs and give him a little bit of harder work. He can do it anyway. It was nice to play a couple of those songs we haven’t played for a few years. Before I was even in The Quireboys, Take Me Home was one of my favorite songs. So it was nice to do that stuff again.
Sleaze Roxx: You talk about the songs you like to play. I’ve liked The Quireboys since I was a kid because my dad and uncle used to play the first album all the time, so when I reached my teenage years I got into them.
Guy Griffin: You make me feel old now (laughing).
Sleaze Roxx: Then I got into record buying and bought all the singles and I took it from there. Even the youngest members of my family know some of the songs. Surely that shows the songs have stood the test of time I suppose.
Guy Griffin: I think so. People have started to come back around to realizing what a great band we really were… and are. Like I said, before I was in the band I was a fan of the band. I think things come around and people start realizing… actually yeah, that’s a great album. People go back and listen to that sort of stuff and then they listen to the stuff we are doing now and as a lot of the rock magazines and the mainstream magazines are all cottoning onto us as if we are a new band again. The albums we have done since have actually been acknowledged as good or better than the first album. We are on a bit of a roll at the moment, it’s really good. You can look back and listen to stuff and listen to that A Bit Of What You Fancy, especially since it’s just been remastered and Abbey Road and the whole thing, it’s really nice to listen to it. It is a good album.
Sleaze Roxx: Absolutely, I’d even go so far as to say the last album full album, Homewreckers & Heartbreakers, is arguably the best album since your debut. I always thought the Quireboys were a lot more credible than some of the bands that came out at the time. To come out with something like Homewreckers & Heartbreakers and songs like Late Night Saturday Call or Hello, I just thought that was amazing. Do you think it would it be fair to say that Homewreckers & Heartbreakers was a break through to compared to A Bit of What You Fancy?
Guy Griffin: I think Homewreckers & Heartbreakers was the best album we’ve was done since we got back together. It’s definitely the culmination of everything that’s happened over the last few years since we got back together and when we got a really good lineup, where we have been playing and touring a lot. It wasn’t anything you had to explain to anyone, if myself or Spike had a song, you didn’t have to explain it to anyone. They are the right people to play the song. I think it was a combination of everything and I think that album is going to have a life of its own. We were all very proud of that album.
Sleaze Roxx: I remember getting it and I was really chuffed. I’ve always thought with The Quireboys that the next album is going to be something worth listening to. Some bands you pick up and they have re-hashed their classic album. It kind of gets tiresome. The Quireboys, since they got back together, they were a new band but still staying true to their roots, is that fair to say? You still have a bit of A Bit of What You Fancy, but there is something there for me, there is no chance of getting bored.
Guy Griffin: I think we’ve always stayed true to the roots. The same as the first album, but it’s been said a couple of times before, maybe by me or Paul… but basically we have grown into the music that we play. When we did the first album and when I first joined the Quireboys I was 19, so I was 20 years older and recording the album. You’re not really grounded in that music, you’ve got the enthusiasm and that whole thing. Nowadays we are obviously the right age to be playing that sort of music. Obviously we’ve got better musically, and song writing wise you get better because having worked with a lot of good producers and song writers… but especially producers. There is a formula to writing a good song. It could be a shitty song and it will never get anywhere, but if you’ve got a good song… a good song is the same formula if it’s a pop song or a rock song. A good song is usually a pop song. We always write pop songs, like you were saying, Hello is a pop song.
Sleaze Roxx: And like Louder had new elements added in, so it’s always developing, there is always something to be given. That is something proved on Halfpenny Dancer. You recreated some old songs. I’ve listened to some bands like Bon Jovi try to do the country album which I personally wasn’t a massive fan of. But on Halfpenny Dancer you experimented with some old songs and mostly carried it off, that has got to be something to be proud of.
Guy Griffin: We do everything because we love what we do. We love the live shows, we love the music. We’ve always done the same thing, and at some points we’re the biggest thing and at some points we’re pariahs. At the moment it’s all come back up again. We’ve been doing the same thing. I think people have realized, I don’t know if it’s youtube or myspace or facebook and all that sort of stuff, but people see that we are playing all over the world and everywhere is packed out. A lot of people in England think The Quireboys, ‘they’re doing a 20th anniversary tour and they are just doing this one tour’. We did 103 shows last year and we’ve got 90 shows booked already starting in March. That is what we do, it’s a touring band. It’s a working band and in between all that we do records, it’s part of the whole thing. The whole industry has had to reassess itself, but we’ve been doing the same thing as we’ve always done. Luckily for us it’s all come round. We’ve always been a great live band. If you aren’t a great live band you’re screwed nowadays.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve seen The Quireboys a few times mainly in Bristol. I’ve always felt it’s a proper gig and I’ve always had a good time.
Guy Griffin: Where did you see us?
Sleaze Roxx: I saw you at Bristol. I also saw you once when you opened where I live in Plymouth, you opened for Whitesnake. I found out after the gig that you had been chucked off and then I went to the Bristol gig and Spike was none too pleased.
Guy Griffin: It’s such a long time ago, but it was a mixture of a lot of things. We were going down quite well, but we weren’t happy because at that point we hadn’t played for almost two years in England and they were the first shows we were doing. We were sort of very special guests and that kind of stuff, and usually you get at least 45 minutes and it came to 30 minutes. I’ve never seen a lot of big bands where you go into the bar, when the main band is playing and the bar is still full of people, and thats Quireboys fans. That is nothing against Whitesnake, we had a great time with the band themselves. There were all kinds of things going on with that tour. One day it will all come out but it’s not worth talking about. It’s such a long time ago, it’s not worth talking about.
Sleaze Roxx: You spoke earlier a little bit about Spike. You two have worked together for over 20 years now?
Guy Griffin: The thing about Spike is he’s a pain in the hole sometimes. I love Spike, and he would say the same about me, but the thing I’ve always had with Spike is that he sings so much better now than he did back then. I was listening to the first album and compared to Homewreckers & Heartbreakers, and especially with Halfpenny Dancer… I mean Halfpenny Dancer he is one of the best singers in the world. Whatever his faults or whatever, it’s like he’s the best singer in the world for that sort of thing. One day they will put him in a museum and people will be, ‘how the hell did he manage to get that’. Spike is a brilliant singer and we couldn’t do all the shows we do without him being together. It’s this whole thing. It suits us sometimes to go with this thing that we are this wild rock ‘n’ roll band, but we tour more than anyone else so you wouldn’t be able to do it if you weren’t together in some way.
Sleaze Roxx: Like with Spike and you guys, you have always had some sort of substance there. Bands like Whitesnake and people like that, a lot of these bands are still around and touring, do you listen to the new releases from some of the bands from the old days. If you do what do you think of them compared to you guys?
Guy Griffin: I don’t listen to any of that. The funny thing is we’re not really in that whole scene. What we listen to wouldn’t be in the rock ‘n’ roll scene. I’ve always liked AC/DC, Rolling Stones, Mott The Hoople, Cheap Trick, that kind of stuff. Cheap Trick still do good stuff, they are still relevant.
Sleaze Roxx: Going back to Halfpenny Dancer, what was the idea behind that. Was that just a bit of fun or just an idea someone came up with. I’ll be honest, I think that is a cracking album. Some of the cover songs I like, Pretty Girls in particular is my favorite. Whose idea was that to do?
Guy Griffin: Some of the songs, like Pretty Girls and stuff, was my idea because Spike wouldn’t do them because they were so old. But I said well, those are the songs I really liked. Pretty Girls is a B side we did on the Bit Of What You Fancy album. They’re great songs, and Guy Bailey wrote some great songs. Some weren’t even on record, like Devil of A Man. I remember doing that song 20 years ago and it never ended up on an album so why not put it out there? It’s a great song.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, put your own spin on all the songs you love.
Guy Griffin: Exactly. The acoustic thing really came from a friend of mine in my first band called Graham Barnell. He had leukemia and so we did a benefit show for him. You can see some stuff on youtube, like rehearsals for it. It’s a couple of years ago now. It was a great gig, we had the fiddles and the mandolin. The same thing we have on this tour and the shows we are going to be doing this year with the full thing on top of it. The songs are written that way anyway. Every Quireboys song is written on the acoustic guitar anyway.
Sleaze Roxx: I was watching an interview with Spike yesterday and he called you one hell of a song writer.
Guy Griffin: That’s nice coming from Spike. Me and Spike have always written together and we have the same idea of what The Quireboys is. It doesn’t mean we have to stick to one thing. There are certain things we would never do. It’s like we don’t do that, we don’t do that, that’s it.
Sleaze Roxx: You are not going to come out with a new dance routine anytime soon then Guy?
Guy Griffin: I don’t think so.
Sleaze Roxx: I want to take you back to the early days. We’ve talked about the first album, let’s talk about the second album Bitter Sweet & Twisted. Bob Rock was brought in to produce the second album, what was it like to work with a producer of that caliber? Did you feel any pressure or was that just the next step for you?
Guy Griffin: At the time there was no pressure at all because we were on a roll. We had already done a big album, so it’s all the confidence and bravado of youth I suppose. You don’t really think about any of that sort of stuff. It was alright working with Bob. We had been on tour for a long, long time and it was just taking things in your stride if you know what I mean. We just went there and went with it. It worked out alright apart from at the end when we had to get someone else in to mix it and stuff, but apart from that it was alright.
Sleaze Roxx: You were saying about touring, it says you opened for the Rolling Stones in 1990 at St James Park. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it to say that now?
Guy Griffin: Oh yeah, it was great (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: We spoke quickly about songwriting and on the first album Guy Bailey obviously was a big songwriter, and you and Spike. As a guitar player Paul Guerin is a hell of a replacement. You said you have good chemistry with him, he really is something special isn’t he?
Guy Griffin: Yeah definitely. Paul has been playing with us for about 5 years now. The whole thing is, he’s been part of The Quireboys family for 20 years. He was in the Red Dogs, the first big Quireboys tour we did on A Bit Of What You Fancy, he was in the Red Dogs. Spike lived at his house for a while back in the day. There is a whole history. People don’t get into The Quireboys through auditions. Through a whole history of loads of fuck ups, that is how people get in the band. No one has ever got into the band through auditions. It doesn’t work out like that.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s like a life membership sort of thing.
Guy Griffin: Pretty much. The band rolls on. Paul is one of the best guitar players in England for the rock ‘n’ roll stuff. It took a weight off my shoulders because I really like writing songs, and just the whole process. Live, when we play, I’m always going to get my solo spot here and there. Anything new we do, most of the stuff is Paul because a lot of the time he can play it better than I can. He’s a fantastic guitar player and a maniac as well.
Sleaze Roxx: We’ve talked about the original members. One member I wanted to bring up was Nigel Mogg, who was the original bass player. I think it was 2005 that Jimmi Crutchley was announced as his replacement, then it was Chris Corney who played bass on the last album. What’s your place on bass players at the moment?
Guy Griffin: Nigel hasn’t been in the band since 2005. Half a decade ago he wasn’t in the band. Nigel got up and did a song with us at a London show with Guy, Chris and I. Nigel lives in Los Angeles now and has his own stuff going on.
Sleaze Roxx: You guys called it quits for a bit, I think in ’93. How hard was that sort of decision, obviously you didn’t call it a day, but call it a day after. I believe Axl Rose had even personally requested you for Guns N’ Roses. Was that a hard decision to make?
Guy Griffin: When we split up I was 22 or 23. So if you think about all of the stuff we did during that time, before the end of the second album, it’s just there was a lot of pressure there. It’s just one of those things, some of us were living in different parts of the world. A couple of us were living in Los Angeles. One of the guys was living in Canada. So it was just one of those things. We were burnt out and had been touring for so long. Even if we did want to get back together we would be living in different part of the world anyway. Let’s meet up for rehearsal and you can’t really because you are all in different parts of the world.
Sleaze Roxx: It wasn’t so bad, when the band split up you went to America and formed Glimmer and signed a deal with Atlantic Records. That must have been something you enjoyed. Get your major deal again with a different band, that must have been enjoyable.
Guy Griffin: It was a bit of vindication or something like that. It took so long to get it, it took about 4 years to get it and I was in Los Angeles but not living the high life anymore. So it took a long time to get to that point and then it took about a year from getting the deal for it all to be finished (laughs). It was good, the record is there and it’s done and it’s hopefully there for prosperity.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously you came back from America after doing the whole Glimmer thing and then you came back to The Quireboys. Was the reformation of that something that happened naturally or was that just your calling?
Guy Griffin: How it actually worked was during that Glimmer thing in Los Angeles. I was about to go off on tour playing with a band called Union, which was Bruce Kulick and John Corabi… so I was going off on a tour with those guys with Glimmer. Then I met up with Spike before the tour. He wasn’t really in Los Angeles at that time. We bumped into each other, we didn’t see each other that much and then we hung out one night and wrote a couple of songs and it was like, these are pretty good. He probably had an agenda anyway (laughs). So we went into a studio and did these 2 songs with a couple of musician mates of ours in LA and by the time I got back off the Glimmer tour 2 or 3 weeks later, we had been offered a deal, me and Spike. I wasn’t really happy with the Glimmer thing anyway, not to do with the band but to do with the record company. We got offered a deal with Sanctuary for The Quireboys. It wasn’t Quireboys, it was me and Spike. We were going to call it something different, it wasn’t going to be The Quireboys, and then Nigel got wind of it when he was in New York getting divorced. So he moved to LA and then we thought, ‘sounds like The Quireboys’.
Sleaze Roxx: This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll, like you say, sounds like The Quireboys.
Guy Griffin: That was the thing, two of the songs that me and Spike wrote were on the record. Show Me What You Got and the second to last song on the album. Those were the songs we wrote so we thought why make hard work for ourselves. In a way we did make hard work for ourselves because we had years and years to get to where it started happening again.
Sleaze Roxx: Things just keep getting better and better for you guys, or so it would seem. It gives people like me who have been listening to you for years, and you guys never disappointment me, so I’m obviously always pleased to hear from a band you’ve liked for so long. Just going into your personal side projects, you and Paul are involved with Down N’ Outz at the minute. What is the current situation with that?
Guy Griffin: We’ve almost finished a record and who knows from there. We’ve played with Mott The Hoople, doing songs that Mott The Hoople hadn’t done outside of Mott The Hoople like Ian Hunter and British Lions, that kind of stuff. Amazing songs that never would have been heard in this day and age, unbelievable songs. Joe Elliott really made an effort to get all these songs heard and we’ve pretty much finished an album. I just got one song over from Joe with his vocals on it and it sounds unbelievable. We recorded all the songs, we just send them over to Joe in Dublin. He’s at home because his wife had a baby. He’s sounding great. So that is almost finished, I’m sure it will be out this year. We will be doing some gigs, who knows where.
Sleaze Roxx: What sort of music is it. Is it rock ‘n’ roll The Quireboys style or is it more Mott The Hoople glam influenced?
Guy Griffin: It’s open to whatever we want to do with it really. It’s a fun thing for all of us. Spike has a part in the whole thing as well. It’s a side thing, and why not? What we have put on the record sounds amazing. It doesn’t sound like The Quireboys and it doesn’t sound like Def Leppard. It’s a cross between the two and Joe sounds amazing on it.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you producing that? I’ve listened to Halfpenny Dancer and then I picked up the CD case and I was thinking this is well produced, and found out that you produced it. Will you be producing that record as well? Is that a new career move for you?
Guy Griffin: Down N’ Outz? Oh no no no. I won’t be responsible for that one. That will be Joe Elliott and Chris Corney I guess.
Sleaze Roxx: Did he co-produce Halfpenny Dancer with you?
Guy Griffin: Oh yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: Moving back to The Quireboys. I think you have some acoustic dates planned for England. Is there a plan for a full UK tour later this year like you did last year in December?
Guy Griffin: Definitely, and we’ve got a couple of big festival appearances in the summer as well but I can’t say anything about that. But there are a couple of big ones so it’s all good for The Quireboys at the moment.
Sleaze Roxx: From the tour onwards are you are going to be playing some of the acoustic format of Halfpenny Dancer?
Guy Griffin: I don’t know. Whatever I say doesn’t always stick anyway. I think we will see how it goes, but I like to keep everything separate. I think because the acoustic thing is such a different thing because it’s not like, like you were saying, some of these rock bands do these acoustic things and it’s basically playing exactly the same as what you play except turned down a bit. We reinterpret everything. You can hear There She Goes Again and it’s a complete different song to what it was. So it’s different for us. We’ve got different musicians, there are people in the band who weren’t even on the first album. Also you have extra musicians. We are all playing it how we play it now. I, and Spike as well, want to keep it separate. The ones that we do are written like a country song or like an old Rod Stewart or Faces or Stones song. So they stand up because they were written like that. If you try and take some big power ballad and then try and make it into a country song maybe it doesn’t work. You try and rearrange songs from what they were and sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it does, in our case (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: I’d just like to mention the deluxe version of Halfpenny Dancer which is the latest album we’ve been talking about. That is being released in March. I urge people to go out and buy it. It will be one of the best penny’s you’ve ever spent. Before we end the interview is there anything else you would like to say, make a point to the fans?
Guy Griffin: Just please go out and either buy or have a listen to Halfpenny Dancer.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s a fantastic album.
Guy Griffin: I think it’s a good representation of where we are at now, but we are still rocking out there as well.
Sleaze Roxx: If everyone wants to visit the website it is www.quireboys.com. Check out their tour dates and pick up some CDs. Guy it’s been fantastic to interview you.
Spcieal thanks to Bruce Murray and Guy Griffin.