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It’s sunny and warm in Oslo and I’ve set off to meet Casino Steel at a local watering hole of his. The place is a rock bar, and is rather dark in contrast to the bright day outside. The walls are covered in paintings of The Rolling Stones and Lemmy Killminster by an artist called Wold. Pretty good they are too. The music is loud and there I see him, perched on a bar stool. He is wearing jeans and a nice tailored jacket and looks the entire ageing rock star that he is.

Casino Steel started his music career a long time ago. As a young boy growing up in Trondheim, he decided at an early age that Norway wasn’t the place he wanted to be. He hated the music and the smallness of it all, and he bought a one way ticket to London to pursue his dream of making good music on the same turf as his idols. His first band in the UK were The Hollywood Brats and it was at this time he changed his name from Stein Groven to Casino Steel. He started the band The Boys in 1976. They played gigs and made albums and he was very much apart of the music scene in London at the time. He would hang out with other struggling musicians and made a great many friends. The Boys weren’t doing too badly towards the end of the 70’s, but Casino was struggling with his alcohol addiction and feeling totally wrecked, and together with his close mate Gary Holton, he decided they would leave London for a calmer and more healthy life in Trondheim, Norway. Steel and Holton put together an album of country rock, and instead of the calmer lifestyle they were hoping for, they found they had taken the craziness with them to Norway and had a huge success. Gary was struggling with both drugs and alcohol and Casino and he ended up partying even harder than they had in London. Gary returned to England and had success as an actor in the TV series Auf Wiedersehn Pet. He died in 1985.

In 1999 The Boys got together again for a tour of Japan and have been playing together ever since. They have all been recording individually, but are set to go into studio in January next year to record their new album. Casino Steel and The Boys are billed for Rebellion in Blackpool later this year. Not to be missed…..

TEDDIE: What inspired you to move to London at the tender age of 18?

CASINO: I hated the Norwegian music scene, so I needed to go to London to be on the same ground as the artists I liked, The Beatles and The Stones.

TEDDIE: Did you manage to make a living from playing in a band and writing music reviews for the Norwegian newspaper Adressa, or did you have to have another job to survive?

CASINO: I went over to the UK on a one way ticket. I worked three years selling newspapers at Paddington station, whilst I was rehearsing with the band The Hollywood Brats.

TEDDIE: Whilst you were with The Hollywood Brats you changed your name from Stein Groven to Casino Steel. What’s the story behind that?

CASINO: Nothing. There is no story. Everyone changed their name at that time. Even English people did. It was just to be cooler and easier for people to remember.

TEDDIE: Back in those days in London in the 70’s you used to hang out with a lot of famous people, like Lemmy Killminster (Motorhead) and Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols). Sid actually asked me if I knew you, which I didn’t at the time. How did that friendship come about?

CASINO: I got to know Lemmy in 74-75, I reckon. Lemmy used to hang out at the St Moritz Bar, which was straight across the road from the Marquee Club. Lemmy was always on the pinball machine. That place was open after the Marquee Club closed and we used to go there. It’s just a bar really. I got to know Sid in 75-76. He used to hang around The Sex Pistols. He was a member of the Bromley Contingent. We were up in Maida Vale in northern London.  The Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X were down in south London. Up in Maida Vale we were The Boys, The Clash, The Damned and a few others. And Sid Vicious moved up to Maida Vale and we all basically just hung out at the same bar and the same basement studio, which was in Warrington Crescent. It was a four track studio owned by our lead guitarist. We would all hang around there and we would do demo’s. [Photo: The Boys back in the day]

TEDDIE: You started the band The Boys in 1976 with Matt Dangerfield, John Plain, Kid Reid and Jack Black, which disbanded in 1980. What was the reason for that as they were doing rather well at the time?

CASINO: Yes, but not well enough. We were doing all right. We were just about to release our fourth album, but we didn’t get anywhere. I’d just been to Norway and recorded an album with Gary Holton and I was also playing with The Ramones at the time. They asked me to go to New York with them. They offered me and our road manager a place in their family. At the time Joey and Johnny Ramone really hated each other, so it wasn’t any fun. It was great on stage, but there was no social togetherness at all. I was an alcoholic and a nervous wreck at the time, so I decided I needed to go in a different direction. I turned them down and decided it was also the right time to leave The Boys.

TEDDIE: You met Gary Holton in a pub in 1974 whilst he was a member of Heavy Metal Kids. You took him with you to Trondheim, Norway in 1980, where you had a huge success with Holton/Steel. Did you always plan to do something together or was it a spur of the moment thing?

CASINO: I actually met Gary Holton when we were both playing a club in London called The Speakeasy. After that we would bump into each other every now and then and became great mates. In 1980 we met in a pub and were both having the same problems. We basically just wanted to get away from the circus. People were dying left, right and centre and we were both struggling with alcohol addictions and he was into some drugs. I was a wreck. Gary was a wreck, so we agreed to escape together. I said I know some people in Norway. Lets go there and get away from all the craziness. We had a huge success with our first album in Norway and it led to things getting more crazy than ever. So escaping didn’t work. We basically just moved the craziness over to Trondheim, Norway.

TEDDIE: I see you have some music videos out with pictures of you and Gary with Ronnie Wood. He sketched a picture of you and Gary that you used for an album cover. Was he a close friend of yours and if so, how did you meet him?

CASINO: Gary knew him. Gary and Ronnie had the same drug dealer. They were close mates.

TEDDIE: You are back with The Boys again. Has this happened recently?

CASINO: No, that was actually back in 1999. Funny story. In 1999 we got an offer to go on tour in Japan. And we thought, yes, why not. And when we came to Japan we thought we’d be playing little clubs with 10 people and a dog and we were so surprised to be playing huge venues and they were packed. We sold 90 000 albums that year on vinyl. I remember thinking there must have been something wrong here. What on earth was this? It turned out that this was the start of the internet. As Japan was a little bit ahead of the rest of the world in this area we were getting a lot of attention, fast via the internet. The internet was the reason we became big in Japan. It was a lot of fun and we have just gone on from there.

TEDDIE:  Duncan Reid is leaving The Boys. Do you have anyone lined up to take his place?  

CASINO: Duncan is leaving after we have done another Japan Tour in October this year. His last gig will be Tokyo. And we are looking for another good bass player, but no candidates as yet.

TEDDIE: The Boys are touring the world and you are booked for the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, later this year. You have great billing. Does this mean you won’t be in studio any time soon?

CASINO: We are going in to the studio in January 2012 to record our new album. And all the members have been recording all the time individually. But January is when we are dedicating ourselves to The Boys. I’ve just been to the Rockfield studios last week recording for the solo album for Honest John Plain, which will be released in April 2012. That was such a great experience. It was me and John Plain and Martin Chambers from The Pretenders, Glen Matlock formerly of The Sex Pistols, Sami Yaffa from Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls, Michael Monroe also Hanoi Rocks. Lots of people playing together. It was great fun. It’s all coming out on John Plain’s album and its John Plain and Friends. I am also releasing a country music album next year. Punk is about anarchy and rebellion and country music is all about bars, which sums me up pretty much.

Interview by Teddie Dahlin 22/07/11

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