Pete meets Grant
Serpell of SAILOR
Full steam ahead for SAILOR!
Grant Serpell, the
drummer with SAILOR, doesn't come across is the usual glittering
sort of pee star. He's quiet, well spoken, and he looks almost
ordinary! You certainty won't see him in huge platform soles, or
The day we met, he was neatly, rather than flashily dressed, and he seemed to be more worried about a traffic warden finding his car parked near a meter that might run out than how well the group's record was doing!
SAILOR, you may have noticed, seem to have risen very quickly to their current position in the music world. One day they were just another band touring the country - and the next their single, "Glass Of Champagne," was threatening "Bohemian Rhapsody's" place at the top of the singles chart.
Grant seems unaffected by it all - but then, as far as he's concerned, success didn't happen overnight! "When I first became a musician," he said, "I gave myself two years to make it. That was seven years ago!" He gave a wry smile - typical of the dry humour you come to expect from SAILOR.
Grant in fact had no need to go through all those hard times as a musician, because he was well qualified to earn his living in other ways that probably would have earned him a lot more money. But music was his biggest interest, and he always hoped that one day, he might become a star!
After attending St. Clement Danes Grammar School, Grant went to Sussex University to study chemistry, and got a third class honours in the subject. "The reason I only got a third," he said, "was because I was playing so much instead of studying!"
After University he got a job working in a computer firm, and stayed there for three and a half years. At that time, he was also working in a jazz-rock group called Affinity, getting home at six in the morning and then having to get up again at nine to go to work. "Eventually, it got too much," said Grant, "so I left my job and went full-time with the band."
After Affinity, Grant was involved for a while in various other musical projects. But then, in 1973 he met up with Georg Kajanus, Phil Pickett and Henry Marsh - and together, they formed SAILOR. And since then, that's been the centre of his whole life.
"It took us a while to come up with the name," said Grant. "At first, we thought of all sorts of strange things like Psycho Funk and K.P. Packet, but we finally decided on SAILOR."
The group decided that, if they were going to be called SAILOR, they should also look the part, and so, in the early days, they all used to wear identical, sailors' uniforms on stage. Their first album, "Sailor" was released, and, although it didn't do much in this country, it was a big hit in Holland - as was their single, "Traffic Jam."
"I don't think any of us ever looked like musicians," said Grant. "Before SAILOR, I had long hair, but we all decided a band called SAILOR who dressed up as sailors and who had long hair would look awful. Anyway, I've always lagged behind as far as fashion goes!"
By the end of last year, the group had grown a little tired of their sailor-uniforms, so they had a re-think and came up with their current, more individual stage outfits. And to go with their image, they released their brand new album, "Trouble," and a single, "Glass Of Champagne."
"When we first got together, we were all very impressed with the music that Georg wrote," said Grant, "and so that was the music we decided we had to perform. Some people said 'Glass Of Champagne' sounded a bit like Roxy Music, but it's still us. I think our sound is unique."
One of the reasons the sound is so different is that the group use a very different instruments from the usual line-up of guitars and pianos - the Nickleodeon, which is the huge, organ-like instrument you may have seen them playing on "Top of the Pops". It takes two people to play it - Henry plays one side, and Phil the other!
About the other members of the group, Grant says, "Georg (the lead singer) is very quiet, Henry (the blond one who wears those white suits) is the funny one. Phil's quite funny too - in fact, we all enjoy each other's company."
When he's not working, Grant is usually to be found much more peacefully occupied - either fishing or playing golf. "I play golf at the club near my home with the drummer who plays with Engelbert Humperdinck," he told me. "The people at the club have got to know us now, so they don't think we're strange. But I believe they still think that musicians are different in some way!"
Home for Grant is Berkshire, where he lives with his wife, Michelle, who's a teacher, and his two children, Charlotte and Edmund. Their house is near a river, and Grant says it's easy to spot, because it has a bath in the front garden. I'm not sure why, but he said it, so it must be true!
And now that he's at last achieved success after seven years of trying, Grant admits he's enjoying it - but it hasn't really changed his attitude to life at all. "I don't really want fame," he said. "I prefer to take a back seat. I think you should always have something to aim for, because it's your ambitions that make life interesting."
And one of the group's current ambitions is to make it in America. In fact, when I met Grant, he told me the group were just about to set off on their first visit to the States. "I'm really looking forward to going there," he said. "We're more or less unknown there, so it'll be exciting to go for the first time and find out what they think of us!"
But no matter how much the Americans take to SAILOR, Grant says he'll still be happy to come back home - and to his ordinary, quiet life here in Britain!
Article by courtesy of Linda Welch (UK)!