Ripper was originally formed in Houston by bassist Sadie Paine and Drummer Animal Axeman in the mid 1970's.  Highly influenced by the theatrical performances of Kiss and Alice Cooper as well as the horror movies of Karloff and Lugosi, Ripper aimed to perform their own brand of 'Gothic-Horror-Power-Metal'.  To this end, the band employed the use of professional grade facial prosthetics, elaborate costumes, pyrotechnical experts, and extravagant stage props.  Many local Houston bands simply refused to perform concerts with them in fear of being literally blown off the stage.  In 1986 Ripper released an album on California based Iron Works Records entitled '...And The Dead Shall Rise' and promptly caught the ear of Metal Blade Records chief Bran Slagel.  The band soon relocated to California to begin negotiations for what would be their second album.  In the interim, the song 'Death Awaits You'  was featured on the 8th installment of Metal Blade's ongoing Metal Massacre series.  Unfortunately, internal dissent and an unstable lineup caused the band to disintegrate and a second Ripper album was never recorded.

 

In the years between 1986 and the present, Ripper's '...And The Dead Shall Rise' album has come to be known as a 'Horror-Metal' classic.  Copies of the album have sold for hundreds of dollars and ultra-rare picture disc and colored vinyl copies have become 'holy-grails' of classic vinyl collections.  To satisfy a growing demand for this classic album, Italy's Black Widow Records has announced that it will re-release '...And The Dead Shall Rise' in both CD and Vinyl formats in October of 2003.

 

TexasMetalUnderground recently had the opportunity to interview Ripper guitarist Rob Graves and get his thoughts and perspective on the continuing demand for Ripper's music nearly 18 years since it was first released.  In the following interview we get a glimpse inside the mid-1980's Houston metal scene as well as a look into the history of Texas' premier 'Horror Metal' ensemble.   For more information on the band and the album re-release visit Rob's official Ripper webpage.

 

Also, be sure to visit our Audio section to hear samples of this Texas Metal classic. 

 

 

TMU:  Were you raised in Texas?  If not, how did you find yourself in Houston in 1980 and how did you end up finding Sadie and Animal?

 

Rob Graves:  Yes...I was born and raised in Houston ...I was in my favorite music store one day (Texas Tom's on NW Freeway) and I saw an ad that they (Sadie and Animal) had placed looking for a guitarist...You should have seen this ad...It was a piece of work...Done on yellow parchment (actually burned around the edges) with hand scripted (by Sadie) Old-English calligraphy...It was destiny...We met that night and were inseparable...The ad said, "If you love horror and rock-n-roll"...I joined under the premise that it would be 'metal' or nothing...They agreed...

 

TMU:  Was the band already fully into the theatrical aspects of makeup and costuming when you joined?  Were you into this concept or did it take convincing to get you into the idea of wearing prosthetics and putting on a huge theatrical performance?

 

Rob Graves:  Yes they were...At that point, it was just costumes though...We all grew up watching horror movies (Frankenstein, Dracula, London After Midnight ,etc.) and when I saw the photo in the ad that they had posted, I said to myself, "I'm in"...KISS looked pretty cool, but we wanted to take it to the next level...We wanted to alter our looks (like Lon Chaney) and become monsters...Four visual permanent characters (Undertaker, Grim Reaper, Vampire, Executioner) designed for the long haul...It was supposed to just get better and better as it went on, and it did, while it lasted...

 

TMU:  Obviously, there were no other bands in  Houston in the early Eighties putting on as elaborate a show as Ripper.  Were clubs hesitant to even book you due to the size of your production?

 

Rob Graves:  There were some good metal bands in Houston besides us (Helstar, Tyton, Blitz, WWIII, Minx, etc.) but you're right, none of them had an image like Ripper...Our manager (Gail Miller) would go to the club owners and say, 'Look, we'll play here tonight for free, and the next time, you'll pay us whatever we want'...And they sure as hell did (laughs)...There were nights that bigger (known) bands were booked into bigger clubs, and we still out-drew  them...That felt kinda weird because some of them were my favorite bands (which went on to become huge)...We had two licensed pyrotechnicians (Technifex Inc.) and six roadies standing by with fire-extinguishers just in case, but we never had a "Great White" incident, thank God...

 

TMU:   Why were other bands in Houston reluctant to play with Ripper?  Was it fear of being upstaged?

 

Rob Graves:  I think it was just fear period...The unknown, uncharted waters, so to speak...As it turned out, they were smart to be cautious because those that did eventually summon the courage to open for Ripper, barely lived to regret it...Our fans just 'crucified' the opening acts...We were as powerful as we were visual...But make no mistake, the bands were all good...The 'Ripper Corpse' though, were every bit as loyal as the 'KISS Army'...

 

TMU:  Were you (as a band) on friendly terms with any of the other local metal bands in the Houston area?  Bands like Helstar, Bad Heaven, Deadhorse, etc

 

Rob Graves:  We knew the guys in Helstar...We would occasionally be at each others concerts, or see each other when someone big was in town (these were the days when bands like Accept, Saxon, WASP, Metallica and Anthrax were playing the same clubs we were)...There were others such as Blitz, WWIII, Angel Lust, Minx, Wicked Jester, Madam X, Tyton, Filthy Rich and others...It was a cool time...We all knew of each other, but kept it at an arms length...There was always that rivalry thing going on (laughs)...It was healthy...I'd have to say that I was closest to Michael Emerson (WWIII) and Steve Bogle (Blitz) who is now a member of The Hunger (it was Steve who played the keyboards on '...And The Dead Shall Rise')... 

 

TMU:   What about other bands of the 80's Texas metal scene?  Were you aware of any of the bands coming out of Austin and San Antonio? (WatchTower, Militia, S. A. Slayer, etc.)

 

Rob Graves:  Yes...We were aware of S. A. Slayer (we actually saw them perform in a warehouse under an overpass

on the SW Freeway in Houston ) and the rest...There was also Pantera from Dallas ...I remember seeing a band from San Antonio called "City"...They were great, but I don't know what happened to them...Incredible musicians...We (Ripper) got J.D. Shadowz (drums) from Angel Lust and Johnny Crystal (guitar) from Minx...We eventually recruited players from a lot of those bands...

 

TMU:  Juggernaut out of San Antonio was also very theatrical in their presentation with simulated throat slashing and hanging, arising out of coffins, releasing live rats into the audience, etc.  They released two albums on Metal Blade, the first being released the same year as '...and the Dead Shall Rise'.  Was Ripper familiar with this band and did you feel any competition from them as far as being an outrageous theatrical band from Texas?

 

Rob Graves:  We had heard of them, but we didn't really know what they were (visually) all about...We were more like the 'Munsters' of heavy-metal...We were horror and metal, but our themes were mostly based on the fictitious...I'd rather watch Lon Chaney appear from the fog than watch 'Jason' hack someone to pieces...To me, the splatter/slasher part of horror wasn't as appealing (to me) as the mysterious...It was cool, and it certainly had its place, but Ripper was more 'Hollyweird' than grind-core or black-metal...

 

TMU:   Do you recall the names of any of the clubs Ripper used to play in the Houston area?  What was the average capacity?  Did any of them have problems with the band using their smoke and pyrotechnical  effects?

 

Rob Graves:  There was Cardi's, Rockers, Fools Gold, Corners, The Axiom, Fitgerald's and a few others that we blew-up on a regular basis (laughs) with the average capacity being around 1000...Because our pyrotechnicians (Technifex Inc.) were licensed by the State of Texas and well known in the community, there were never really any problems...These guys used concussion-mortars and columns of fire (like KISS) and it was spectacular...We were a sight to behold...We used both dry-ice and chemical foggers with tons of green and red floods for effect...

 

TMU:   Did Ripper stay mainly in the Houston area or did you play any other cities in Texas?

 

Rob Graves:  As it turned out, all of our concerts were in the Houston area...We went directly from Houston to Los Angeles, where we began to rehearse for our second album...We had signed with Metal Blade to include 'Death Awaits You' on their compilation album 'Metal Massacre VIII'  and they were interested in hearing the upcoming material we were rehearsing...Before we could get it to the stage, things started to go terribly wrong...It became a fucking mess...

 

TMU:  Did Ripper have management that helped with financial backing, or were the 2 demos (which later became the album) completely self financed?  What studio were they recorded at?  Do you remember how many demos were sold?

 

Rob Graves:   We had a great manager and whatever she did, she did out of her own pocket...She received the money, and paid the soundman, the pyro-techs and our road crew...The two demos were completely band financed...That was the single biggest factor in the demise of Ripper...Money...We had no financial help from Iron Works Records, or anyone else for that matter...We (Ripper) alone carried the financial burden...The two demos (which became the album) were recorded at Rampart Studios (Houston) in 1985...There was no way to keep track of the number of demos sold...It didn't matter how many were on hand, they always sold out...I get Emails from all over the world from people who have these demos, and I still can't figure out how they got them (laughs)...I would have to say that the number of demos sold would have to be in the thousands (maybe the tens of thousands)...We also gave them out like candy...It was good PR...

 

TMU:  What prompted the move out to California and how long were you out on the West coast?'

 

Rob Graves:  We had gone as far as (we felt) we could go at home...The metal-industry was really growing at that point and we figured if we were going to (finally) make it, we were going to have to be where the action was...That was California...We were there from the beginning of 1986 until the end of 1988...

 

TMU:  What caused the eventual demise of Ripper?  Was it frustration with the lack of a 'real' record deal, internal strife, etc...?

 

Rob Graves:  It was a number of things really...The lack of a 'major' record deal, financial problems and (plenty of) internal strife...Ripper went through so many line-up changes (with only Rob and Sadie remaining throughout) that it was nearly impossible to gain any momentum...Every time we were in a position to do something, someone would leave or was replaced...It was a never ending revolving door...That took all of the fun out of it for me...Replacing a member in Ripper was a bitch...We had to find people that were really into horror and metal...Most everyone was into one or the other, but very seldom into both...And if they were into both, could they play?...Some were more than willing, but poorly equipped in the talent department...With the exceptions of Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, California was mostly glam, and not metal...Most of the players we auditioned would rather dress like women than monsters...That had its place, I guess, but not with us...

 

TMU:  What made you decide to re-release "...and the Dead Shall Rise"? Were you contacted by Black Widow Records, or did you shop around for a label interested in re-releasing it?

 

Rob Graves:  A good friend of mine (Tobias"Tobi"Piwek) at Metal Coven put me in contact with the guys at Black Widow Records... Massimo (BWR) told me that he had been trying for years to contact me to do the re-release...I had many other offers but decided to go with BWR...It will be done in both CD and LP formats...I can't wait...

 

TMU:  I've read in interviews that you are no longer in contact with the former members of Ripper.  Do you know if they are aware of the continued interest in Ripper after all these years?

 

Rob Graves:  To tell you the truth, I wasn't even aware of it all myself until 2002...I just happened to be surfing around the internet one day, and 'Bam!', there it all was...I was blown away...I started contacting these people, you know, just to say thanks for remembering Ripper and all of a sudden, 'Wham!'... Europe is going ape-shit over the whole thing...Offers from record labels start pouring in, requests for interviews, cries for a Ripper reunion and it goes on and on...Man, if we had gone to Europe instead of California , things might (would) have been different...I didn't know about the picture-discs or the colored-vinyl (red and gold) versions that Iron Works Records released until recently...These things sell for hundreds of dollars on Ebay and I never made a dime from them (laughs)...That album has become one of the most (if not the most) sought after horror-metal albums of all time...Timing for the re-release couldn't be better...Maybe if I go and bury myself in the sand for twenty years, I'll be worth something too (laughs)...But you're right...I don't know where the other members are (its been nearly 13 years since the split) and I haven't had much success in finding them...I hope they're all OK and happy...I wish them well...

 

TMU:  Do you have a firm release date for the album and will it be distributed worldwide?  Are the CD and vinyl going to be released simultaneously?

 

Rob Graves:  I've been told by the guys at Black Widow Records that the re-release will be in the fall of 2003, and yes, the CD and the LP will be released together...That's gonna be awesome...

 

TMU:   Do you still reside in Texas?  How did you find out about texasmetalunderground.com?

 

Rob Graves:  Yes I do...Where else is there? (laughs)...A good friend of mine (Leopoldo 'LeatherKnight' Puzielli) at TrueMetal.it ( Italy  ) turned me on to the mighty Texas Metal Underground...The rest is history...All I can say is, 'Its about time'...Finally, a website dedicated to Texas Metal...Thanks for the interview...I'm proud that Ripper will be featured here, and be a part of what TMU will become...Good luck and best wishes from the Robster on all of your future endeavors...'Watch the skies, there's a storm brewing in Texas'...

 

TMU:  Thanks for the interview Rob!

 

Rob Graves:  Thank you my friend...The pleasure was all mine...I'll keep you posted as things develop and I'll make sure you guys receive a BWR promo...Take care...Talk to you soon...All my best...Rob Graves...