R.I.P. Longtime Death Manager and Lawyer Eric Greif

The Canadian-American also worked with a young Mötley Crüe, Obituary, Cynic and more
R.I.P. Longtime Death Manager and Lawyer Eric Greif
Eric Greif — the Canadian-American entertainment lawyer, music manager and producer known best for his work with pioneering metal outfit Death and the estate of late frontman Chuck Schuldiner — has died. Greif's passing was announced Saturday (October 30) through Death's social media channels, though a cause of death was not revealed. He was 59.

Greif was reportedly an insulin-dependent diabetic and, in recent years, had been in search of a kidney donor. The announcement of his passing from Death's page called the late Greif "an absolute warrior and proponent for metal and music in general."

"All of you are enjoying Chuck's music on all of these wonderful platforms and releases now because of this man," the post continued. "Eric was average in physical stature but once he opened his mouth there was no doubt he was a giant. He was a loving father and one of the most articulate and interesting men I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Please keep his mother and children in your thoughts. The art of existence is fragile indeed."

Greif was raised in Calgary, where he performed in and recorded with local bands while also writing column "Teen View" for The Calgary Herald. A dual citizen by birth, he shared in a 2007 interview with Sleaze Roxx that upon his final year of high school in Alberta, he "knew...that I wanted to get the hell out of Calgary and do something in music."

"As a U.S. citizen it was easy to contemplate a move to a big American city, and I chose [Los Angeles] because I knew that it was where all the record labels were. So, during the summer of 1980 after grad, newly turned 18, I headed for the States in my tiny Fiat X19."

Arriving in L.A., Greif enrolled at the now-defunct University of Sound Arts in Hollywood, with the intention of becoming a recording engineer, but was soon encouraged to become a producer by then-instructor and record executive Ron Fair.

"He flattered me that I had a decent ear for producing, and that fed my ego in dangerous ways," Greif recalled to Sleaze Roxx. "But it did give me added ball size to try and push myself to carve out a career. I wanted to produce, or manage, or do something cool in the music biz, and that's all I knew."

Greif would go club-hopping in West Hollywood in search of bands to work with, becoming exposed to the nascent hard rock and metal scene beginning to take over the Sunset Strip. Work with the Greg Leon Invasion led to Greif meeting Tommy Lee, drummer of a young Mötley Crüe.

The coming months would see him become assistant to band manager Allan Coffman, who would place him in charge of organizing Mötley Crüe's first-ever tour of Canada in 1982, shortly after the release of their 1981 debut album Too Fast For Love.

"The tour was hysterical, ridiculous, dramatic and hilarious. The idea on paper was to get the guys out of California, give them some road experience, and make some news," Greif shared with Sleaze Roxx. "At that point, the farthest away they'd ever travelled to gig was the area near Lake Tahoe where Allan lived."

Greif would explain just how ridiculous things got before the Crüe had even landed in Canada, recalling how, "As rock stars in training, they decided to wear all their stage gear on the plane, which is the exact opposite of what they would do nowadays. Instead of trying to be inconspicuous, [Nikki Sixx's] hopes were to draw as much attention to the band as possible."

However, the band's glam-metal get-ups prominently featured "custom-made spiked bands of leather" worn on wrists, arms and necks, which Canadian customs took issue with. Greif explained, "They were detained...there was talk of pressing charges, and in the end after a long wait they were let into the country, sans much of the stage wear. Then, once they obtained their bags, [singer Vince Neil] was lectured at length when one of his small suitcases was opened up by a customs officer revealing dozens of hardcore porn mags, all confiscated.

"Weeks later I found myself in a hassle with the Canadian government trying to get the spiked leather stuff returned, but by the time I got a positive ruling, they informed me that, following procedure, unfortunately they'd all been destroyed."

The '80s would see Greif continue working with heavier bands, and his involvement with the inaugural Milwaukee Metal Fest in 1987 led him to the music of Death and frontman Schuldiner. After promoting a gig in the city for the band the following year, he became Death's manager. 

"They were between their first album and their second album and I could see clear potential, especially with Chuck," Greif would share with Westword in 2013. "Chuck was a charismatic guy and he seemed to be a forward thinker as far as what he was doing, and I knew the band would be successful. I just had a feeling that I should hook up with this guy and work together."

"For me, even though Chuck denied it, I looked at Death as the creators of a new genre," Greif continued. "They had taken metal to a completely different form. Anybody that listens to the first Death album, Scream Bloody Gore, will know that it's different than Slayer. I just knew there was something unique about what Chuck was doing. I mean the very first time I ever saw Death I stood there literally with my jaw wide open, flabbergasted. And everybody did at Metal Fest."

Following Schuldiner's 2001 passing, Greif continued to handle the late artist's affairs as the president of Perseverance Holdings Ltd. In 2010, the company and Schuldiner's family announced a partnership that saw Death's recorded catalogue reissued digitally for the first time.

"I can't begin to overflow the impact of Chuck Schuldiner on extreme metal — even now," Greif would tell The Calgary Herald in 2011. "The fan base has expanded to the point where I'm getting letters from 15-year-olds. 'I wasn't even born when that album was out' — that kind of thing. So it's quite a big deal to those that are into this."

Greif also lectured as a professor in the Justice Studies department at Mount Royal University in Calgary. He had also represented Cynic and founding member Paul Masvidal, Obituary, ANCIIENTS and Massacre.