LAURENCE ARCHER (GRAND SLAM): “PHIL LYNOTT Was My Best Mate, Father And Band Mate All At The Same Time”

Grand Slam

Almost 35 years after they split, Grand Slam, the band put together by former Thin Lizzy bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott and hot shot guitarist Laurence Archer, is back with a new lineup and a debut album set for release on 22nd November. Mick Burgess called up Archer to chat about the band and finally getting those old songs officially released alongside some brand new material.

Why did you decide to put Grand Slam back together after so long?

I think the time is right now. I left the music industry for a while but I always had the intention to record these songs, whether as a solo project or with Grand Slam. I wanted a band situation so decided to do it with Grand Slam. I wanted to record those songs that I’d written 38 years ago with Phil Lynott, so that they could be finally be heard in the way they should be heard.

Obviously, Phil is not here to be part of this project but did you ask Mark Stanway and Robbie Brennan to be involved?

Robbie has unfortunately passed away several years ago and Doish Nagel, who was in the band for a while, has been off the radar for quite a long time so it wasn’t really practical for him to be involved. Mark Stanway has been involved and plays the keyboards on the album although there’s not many keyboards as I didn’t want to overdo them but there is some Hammond and piano on there from Mark on two or three tracks.

You have recruited Mike Dyer, David Boyce and Benji Reid as part of your new version of Grand Slam. Where did you first come across these guys?

Mike was the singer of a band I had in the late ’80s called Rhode Island Red and we were with Status Quo’s management but it never really came to anything and I was asked to join UFO at that point and I decided to go and do that. We made contact on and off over the years and about four years ago we got together with some of the old Rhode Island Red guys and then when I decided to put Grand Slam back together, I called him up. I knew Benji from his days in Praying Mantis when they were on a tour with us quite a few years ago. Dave Boyce, I met, because I did a show with Doogie White, Dave “Bucket” Colwell, Clive Edwards and Pat Cash of all people and Dave was there too. He said if I was ever going to do anything to keep him in mind so I called him up about joining Grand Slam. I’d worked with them all and just felt they were all right for the band and we decided to call it Grand Slam and we went on from there.

Your new album, Hit The Ground is due out later this month. How do you feel ahead of its release?

You can never guarantee anything in this day and age but I’ve been blown away by the response. People seem to love the songs that have been released so far, Gone Are The Days and Hit The Ground and everybody seems to get what I’m doing so I’m very excited for people to hear the rest of the album.

Grand Slam never released an official album while you were together. Are you pleased to finally put that right?

I wouldn’t say that this has been a cleansing of the soul as this has always been my passion but I’ve always wanted these songs to be released to realise the potential that they had and I’m also so pleased with the new songs which I think are a natural continuation of the original songs. I was in Grand Slam and there wasn’t really anybody else around to do this. I’ve invested my own money and a lot of time into this and my heart and soul. I’ve worked on these songs and I wanted to get them out there. I want to please the people who were around back then and I also want to bring a new audience for Grand Slam.

Did you record everything from scratch or were you able to keep anything from those original recordings?

Everything that you hear is new. The problems of getting the master tapes of the originals from Phil’s estate was going to make it a very difficult process and also the 48 track 2-inch Grand Slam tapes hadn’t been stored properly in a cooled environment. I didn’t really want to just get the original tapes and remix them as I wanted this to be by the band now. This is all about the new band recording the old songs and also recording new songs too.

A couple of those original songs did get released including Dedication that ended up on Dedication: The Very Best Of Thin Lizzy and Military Man ended up on Gary Moore’s Run For Cover album. How did you feel when your songs that you wrote with Phil ended up on an official release?

Nearly all of those songs were written by me and Phil. The whole thing with Dedication was done behind everybody’s back. Phil singing Dedication was actually on those original Grand Slam demos. I’d gone into the studio to put down backing tracks for Dedication, Crazy and a couple of other things. Phil came in and overdubbed his vocals onto them. The first thing I knew of it being used by Thin Lizzy is when someone called me up and said they’d heard my song on the radio. I called up their management to see what was going on but obviously it was too late by then. They’d even done a video for the song. I did eventually get a songwriting credit but I don’t think the Lizzy version came out as well as the way we had done it.

Some of your Grand Slam recordings did get a release a while back in a double CD pack by Zoom Club Records. Was that an unofficial release or were you involved in that?

Anything that came out earlier with the Grand Slam name on it didn’t have anything to do with me. I didn’t make a penny from any of those. A lot of that came from Mark Stanway who’d just put out anything that he had.

Half of the album is newly written for this album. Who did you write with?

Most of the songs are mine and they’d have a working lyric before anyone got involved then me and Mike mainly but the others would be involved too in finishing off the song. I wrote most of them but everyone had some input.

How many songs did you write during those sessions?

There were a couple of ideas that we didn’t fully move along with. There were 20 songs or so that Mike and I went over. We looked at the ideas and the lyrical content and out of that we had the five new songs that made the album. I already had some songs ready, like Long Road, that I was planning on maybe using for a solo project, written with my voice in mind so there were quite a few ideas that didn’t get used this time but I’m already writing for the next record so these ideas could be developed further for that.

You’ll be hitting the road very soon to support the release of the album. Are you looking forward to playing the old and the new songs live?

I’ve been very lucky being able to do what I’ve been doing both in the film industry and in music. I’ve been playing with Kingdom of Madness and Pete Way’s band recently so I’m very much looking forward to getting out and playing these songs with Grand Slam. We’re doing the launch on the 27th in London and a few gigs around the country as a tester. I think people will be surprised at what they see. We did Rambling Man in the summer and we were blown away by the response. I’m really looking forward to the tour. It’s all moving in the right direction.

You’ll have an album worth of material to play, what about the rest of the set?

It’ll be mostly Grand Slam and a couple of the new songs that will be on the next album. I don’t want to play too much material from outside of the band but we do, do a great version of Back Door Man that we might play at the shows.

Just looking back on the short time, you had working with Phil Lynott. What was he like as a writing partner?

When I first joined the band, I was a very young man and only 19 years old. He was a big hero of mine. I was into my writing at the time and we much hit it off. He was very much a mentor to me and was very talented. He was up and down at that time and had his issues which are well documented but he was like my best mate, father and band member at the same time. He spent hours just sitting and talking with me. Phil had a very natural ability without even trying so I learned from him just by being around him really. I learned a lot from him but it wasn’t a conscious thing it was more from ingesting what he was doing by being around him so much.

What are your long-term plans for the band?

I’d like Grand Slam to go on and on. I’d like it to become an established band and reach the heights I think it should reach. The record company has great ties to America and I really hope we can break into that market. I’ve played the album to some of my American musician friends and they love it. I can’t see it not going down well but, in this day, and age, you need the right company and coverage and promoter and radio station and press support. I think it’s got the potential to do very well over there. I would like to make Grand Slam a permanent band.

Hit The Ground Running is out on the 22nd November.

Grand Slam’s UK Tour starts on 22nd November at The Underworld, London.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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