Grand Slam Week: Laurence Archer On Reviving The Band

With their roots in the mid-’80s, Grand Slam, Laurence Archer rebuilt the machine and the band’s debut album, Hit The Ground, finally saw the light of day in November 2019. There have been a string of inspiring live shows, and now, the new album Wheel Of Fortune is out and Archer and Co continue to build this fresh invigoration of Grand Slam project moving into the modern times.

As part of MetalTalk’s Grand Slam week, Paul Monkhouse caught up with Laurence Archer in a wide-ranging interview.

“I spent a little bit of time picking the right guys for the gig,” Laurence Archer said of the journey towards Hit The Ground. “Most importantly, Mike [Dyer], the vocalist. He had been in a band with me before. When I reapproached him, he had had a life on stage doing musicals and various other things. His voice had really come into its own.

“I did a 3G guitar show, where I put together a set of songs, including some of the old Grand Slam songs. I got Mike to come down and sing them. That’s when the formulation of the band idea really came to fruition because it was, yeah, this sounds good.”

Grand Slam. Islington Assembly Hall. April 2022.
Mike Dyer: “I’m not going to replace Phil. The man was a one-off.” Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

It was great for me to hear the songs on the Hit The Ground album. The songs were released in their full version and properly recorded. Mike’s a terrific vocalist. The makeup of the band is great, particularly now Laurence has the incredible Benjy Reid, drums and Rocky Newton, bass.

“We make a great noise together,” Laurence smiles. “It’s all natural. We are not trying to formulate anything. I’m still writing in the way I wrote back then with Phil [Lynott]. I write as I’ve always written. It’s a very natural progression for all of us.

“Going back to Mike, he was definitely the right guy. I didn’t want, as good as they are, a Steve Perry or Bruce Dickinson type. I wanted something that would sit right with the type of material that I write and also the Grand Slam traditional songs.

“You’re always setting yourself up for a fool when you do something like this because you’ve got hardcore fans and big Lynott fans and the big shoes to fill. Mike just did an incredible job, and I was so elated at the response that we were getting from the album and from the live gigs.

“It was incredible because I was waiting for somebody to go, ‘yeah. Why are you doing this?’ I mean, you do get a couple of people that like that. But at the end of the day, I wanted those songs out there for people to listen to properly, and that was the goal. I was lucky to regain my relationship with Mike. It was very natural and it’s onwards and upwards.”

Grand Slam, Shepherd's Bush Empire. 10 November 2021
Grand Slam, Shepherd’s Bush Empire. 10 November 2021. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

If you saw the Shepherds Bush Empire show in 2021, you saw it was a great live show again. It carried on that tradition. Grand Slam had captured that sound. But it must have been a little bit frustrating that then the pandemic happened and pretty much put the brakes on a little bit. 

“You wait 30 years to do something,” Laurence says. “You get it all in place. You get it recorded, and you get it out on Marshall Records. We had two weeks of touring, and to be honest, most of that next year, we had a lot of stuff in the pipeline. Even States side. Obviously, we ended up sitting on our bums for two years, and it’s not the greatest way to try and promote an album when you’re not out there in front of everybody. 

“We did our best with social media and tried to cover it as much as possible. But the timing was terrible for us, really, to be honest. I mean, we couldn’t pick the worst time to release it regarding the pandemic.”

But there was a chance to write new material, which led to the fantastic Wheel Of Fortune album, which has just been released. The first single, There Goes My Heart, opens the album with that real Grand Slam/Thin Lizzy style but then takes off in a slightly different way. It’s a really upbeat song.

“It’s a happy song,” Laurence says. “If you see the video, we take the piss out of ourselves. It’s about having a good time. The song is a collaboration between myself and Mike,. I wrote the song as a bit of a soppy love song, initially. It was all about your long-lost girlfriend, losing you and all that standard soppy shit. 

“I was actually in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, working. Mike came out, and we went through this. Mike started sort of just throwing these ideas around and then it sort of turned into, is it the girl? Is it the car?”

There is a Jaguar E-Type in the video, “which is really the love of his life,” Laurence smiles. “That’s the whole thing. We had a great time making the video.”

The second single was Spitfire. “We did the video in England,” Laurence says. “To be quite honest, There Goes My Heart wasn’t my first choice of single, but, I’m glad it is. It was the record company, Silver Lining Music and Warner Brothers, that basically said, this is the one to go with. It has the guitar harmony thing at the front end and in the theme that goes on. 

“But as I say, none of it’s intentional. It’s just the way I write. It’s just if I could have some harmonies in everything I wrote, I would probably do that.”

The response to both singles was very good. “The album is, I wouldn’t say too diverse, but I would say that it has lots of rich elements in there. I’m really happy with the way it came about. Most of these songs I’ve written in the last couple of years. A couple of the songs are things I’ve had in the bag for ten years or so.

“But getting together with the guys to record the album, essentially, I wrote and arranged everything. I went into a rehearsal studio for two days with the guys and, then the next day, we were in the studio starting the album. Chapel Studios is a great little studio up north. 

“But it just came together really quickly. Working with Rocky, who I’ve worked with in a couple of different guises… I’ve known him right back from the Def Leppard days. There used to be a house in Isleworth in London where Joe Elliot, Bernie Tormé and John Lockton, the other guitar player in Wild Horses, and Frank Noon, the original drummer with Def Leppard, who did all the demos and was in Wild Horses and Stampede. 

“Everybody lived in his house in Isleworth. It was like one of those, you know, rooms everywhere. Rocky was in there as well. So I’ve known Rocky since probably about 79/80. It’s great having him on board.”

Grand Slam - Wheel Of Fortune
Grand Slam – Wheel Of Fortune

There will be more about the album soon, but it is a class piece, with really great material. I particularly love Trail Of Tears, and Spitfire is a great song. Pirate song is something really different. 

Pirate Song illustrates great fretwork, but Archer is not one who is not known for over-egging things. He does nothing so flash that it overwhelms a song. There is always that core with him that he is a songwriter and that comes first. Everything else just adds to it. 

I say I love Mike’s lyrics as well. He is such a storyteller, but also, there’s that sense of humour with There Goes My Heart when he slips in the burly chassis comment. Is that the Cockney for Shirley Bassey? It’s all little things like that.

Mike is a great storyteller," Laurence says
Mike is a great storyteller,” Laurence says. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

“Mike is a great storyteller,” Laurence says. “On every track, there’s a story there. We’ve got Trail Of Tears, which is about the American Indians. It’s a heartfelt thing. The Pirate Song I wrote, I was working in Greece and the production team used to take us out in the evening. There would be all these Greek guys playing balalaika and all this sort of thing. 

“I said to them one night, what are all these traditional Greek songs about? Well, it’s all about piracy. Everything is about piracy because, they have Albania there, and mainland Greece there. So, I went back to my hotel room. They had this thing where all Greek songs have got like this drone going on in the background, and I thought, OK, let’s try something. 

“It came out of nowhere. So, I came back with a song, and I played it to Mike. We kept most of my lyrics in there but Mike went on and embellished it in a fantastic way. It’s a really interesting song. It tells a story about piracy.

“Trail of Tears, Star Crossed Lovers, is the Shakespeare thing. There are so many hidden depths in there and, obviously Wheel Of Fortune, which is the title. 

“I won’t go into too much detail, but essentially Wheel Of Fortune, when I put Grand Slam together, and people heard that I was putting Grand Slam together, let’s just say I had people coming out of the woodwork trying to jump on the bandwagon. 

“Everybody from managers to road managers, to musicians, to whatever. We had a very bad experience with American interest where we paid them some money for some tour support and some coverage and press and everything in America, and they did nothing. They just kept the money.

“We had to go into a lawsuit about trying to get the money back. We won the case, but we couldn’t afford to go to America to get the money back. 

“But at the end of the day, it’s about what we had all the way through that first initial thing and the lockdown period. We have always seen people trying to grab money, so Wheel Of Fortune is sort of about that. 

“The main line in that is look what you could have won, which is basically if you’ve been true, then you could be on our journey. Hopefully, that will go on.”

Grand Slam, Wheel Of Fortune, is out now via Silver Lining Music. For more details, visit https://lnk.to/GrandSlamWheelOfFortune.

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