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Hit and run with Richie Ramone

By R&H poet laurette Owen Jenkins

Posted August 03, 2017
richie ramone on drums
Welcome to Blighty: Richie Ramone hits the UK. © Mozzchopz

Richie Ramone chats with Owen Jenkins about his latest album and much, much more to boot.

If we've got our dates right then Richie Ramone, "the fastest, most powerful drummer" who ever played with legendary US punk pioneers the Ramones, last night (2/8/17) kicked off the UK leg of his Hit and Run Road Trippin world tour with a gig at the Guildhall Theatre in Gloucester.

Hopefully, he didn't step in a puddle right up to his middle like Dr Foster did because Richie is due to play Edinburgh tonight, London tomorrow, Watford on Saturday and then the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool on Sunday before heading off to Sweden and Finland, where a single pint of beer costs more than a small country's GDP.

For more on the tour, have a click of Richie's website here, why dontcha?

But what, I hear you all ask, was he doing 12 months ago?

Being interviewed by Rake & Herald poet laureate Owen Jenkins, that's what.

Sadly, we were on hiatus, putting our fan-flippin-tastic Rake Clag online shop together (go on, check it out here, yeah?), so we've only just now had a chance to run the fruits of their chinwag.

And run them we will.

Right here, right now.

And so, with no further ado, here just for you, is that very interview (with some of the more out-of-date bits given the old red pen).

Take it away, Owen and Richie...

Richie Ramone in the street
The word on the street: Is that Richie Ramone's a top dude. © Richie Ramone (possibly)

Owen Jenkins (OJ): Hey Richie, how are things? You guys been busy today?

Richie Ramone (RR): Yeah, we've been busy. We're moving every day. We're just gigging at the moment.

OJ: So what've you been up to recently, you're touring at the moment?

RR: We just did Australia, Japan and came home a couple of weeks ago and now we are six weeks in the States. So we just started that tour and we've just done our ninth show and we are out for 45 days. We're in Texas now.

OJ: You're about to release your latest album, Cellophane. When and where is the best place to be able to hear and buy it?

RR: Yeah, that one won't come out until August. You'll all have to wait but you will be able to get it everywhere, in the stores and iTunes. The date for release is August 5. I actually have copies that I'm selling now on the road so at least people are getting pre-advanced copies when coming to the show.

OJ: Are they selling pretty quickly?

RR: Yeah, it's going good. The album came out really well and it's a good record.

OJ: How's the tour going so far?

RR: Good, yeah. The west side of the States is a little sleepy with the audiences but we get them going every night. Some of my best audiences have been in the UK, overseas and Europe.

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OJ: This is your second solo album coming out; do you still find the writing coming easily?

RR: Nah, the writing has never come easy for me. I'm too anal. I dissect everything. I want to make sure it's right. So it takes me some time.

OJ: With the music on your new album Cellophane, is this a collection of songs you have written previously or all new stuff?

RR: Yeah, its all new stuff and I co-wrote with a couple of different people on this record. It's all new things. The only thing I covered was Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence [so apart from that] this record is full of original songs.

The record has a song called Pretty Poison I had back in the Ramones days that never went on a record, so we recorded that. That's the only one that I wrote back in the 80s.

OJ: Do you find much inspiration from any modern bands or do you go back to your roots when writing and producing?

RR: Nah, it's just, well everything comes from inside of me. I mean, you may listen to the radio and subconsciously be inspired by things but the hits music isn't like the aggressive sound that I like.

I made this record a little more sing-song, more lyric-friendly that you can sing along to, which maybe more like the modern music. I don't know, the only time I listen to the radio is in the car but I don't go, "Oh, I want to do that" or anything like that. Everything just comes from inside but the outside element, I'm sure, affects a human being anyway, subconsciously.

Richie Ramone in Australia
On stage Down Under: Richie in action in Aus. © JohnnyD Photography

OJ: Has this record been a long time in the making?

RR: Yeah, it took about seven months to write. We were off tour for about six to seven months before we went to Australia and that's when we did the record.

OJ: So, what can people expect to hear on your new record?

RR: I don't know, really. It's just life's stories and things I've experienced. Cellophane is written about touring and coming to the shows every night, stuff like that, and finding the energy to play every night.

It's all about the fans, it's more a fan's song. But I don't know, there are a lot of good topics on this record. I never really know how to explain my own music. It's just listen and if you like it, you like.

"Punk is about being true to yourself and being your own person and not being a phoney."

OJ: Going back to when you first started out, what was it about the punk scene that drew you in?

RR: Well, you know, I say this all the time, it's rock and roll. I mean, it's all rock. Punk is just a term. Punk is about being true to yourself and being your own person and not being a phoney. That's my interpretation of it. It's not about the hair cut or anything like that.

I guess, if you call it punk, you call it punk, but it's just aggressive, fast music. When I got in the Ramones I was, like, 24. Before that, I was all over the place. I got some kind of guidance of a kind of path I wanted to go down. Playing this kind of music was for me. I guess that never leaves you.

OJ: What was it like first starting out with the Ramones, them being an already established band?

RR: It was easy. Joey and I hit it off, like, right away by day two. He took me under his wing and it was just a smooth ride from there. We hung out every day for five years. Well, four years, 10 months. There was no friction. When the new guy gets in the band, everyone is on their best behaviour… New blood brings new energy; we became revitalised again.

Richie Ramone in south america
He gets around: Richie and the band in South America. © Richie Ramone (possibly)

OJ: You being a phenomenal drummer and a frontman and a writer, where would you rather be, behind the mic or behind the drums?

RR: Well, you know, I've been playing drums for over 50 years so, you know, I love being behind the drums. There is no way of doing a whole show singing and being behind the drums. I want to interact with the kids. So that's why I step up front and Ben [Reagan] plays the drums. It just adds another element of excitement.

OJ: Do you still get the same thrill and buzz from being on stage in front of the crowd?

RR: Yeah, it's all about the crowd. My shows are based on who is in the audience and how crazy they are. It's not right for an audience to be sitting down. They are part of the show without a doubt. [I] feed off of that.

OJ: When you were playing back with the Ramones, how much does it differ from touring with them to now?

RR: Well, it's totally different. Now we don't have sound crews and roadies and all that stuff. It's all bare bones now. We just go out there and make it happen. It's a whole new board game.

It was hard at first but once you get used to it, you just do it and get it done. I don't have all the perks of back then. We're out all the time, so you've got to take care of yourself. It's a lot different.

ramones halfway to sanity sleeve
On the record: Richie on the sleeve of Halfway to Sanity. © Sire Records (perhaps)

OJ: Did you ever regret leaving the band when you did?

RR: No, you think about it but I made a decision and you stick by it. You can't look back and go, "I really messed up, blah, blah, blah". You just have to be a man and live by your decision and that's what I did. I'm glad I wrote a few more killer songs for them, like Somebody Put Something in My Drink.

OJ: Do you still play the Joey Ramone birthday bash most years?

RR: I did that about three or four years but I haven't done that for a while now. I don't know why, whether I was invited or not. I don't know. It's just that last year I was touring and sometimes schedules just conflict.

OJ: You do much of everything, be it singing, drumming and producing. Do you still enjoy spending the time in the studio, getting down to the nitty gritty of perfecting each track?

RR: Yeah, I do, yeah. This album I worked with Paul who produced Iggy and played with a bunch of local punk bands. He was really good; we recorded at Red Bull studios in Los Angeles, which is a huge studio, which is really nice to get a good drum sound.

The first song I produced myself was just so much hard work. I need someone behind that glass listening as I'm playing. You can't keep running back and forth. He did a great job at keeping everyone together and all the band suggestions and all that. So you really do need a producer. I probably would never produce my own album again. It was just too much.

Richie ramone's band
Out on the town: Richie and the band go for a wander. © Richie Ramone (I'm guessing)

OJ: You've got quite a collection of musicians playing in the band with you. How did you come together?

RR: They're all LA-based. I have a new guitar player, Ronnie [Simmons] – he's from Australia but he lives in Los Angeles. Ben has been with me almost five years now and Claire's [Misstake] been with me three years.

It's just finding people who are dedicated and like to have fun. It's a lot of hard work what we go through, but it seems to be working right now.

OJ: If you never got into music, where do you think you would be?

RR: I don't know. There were a lot of opportunities along the way but I started drumming at five years old and then I kind of knew what I wanted to do by the time I was 10 or 12 years old.

I don't even know what else I would do. There was never a plan B. I think the world would be a better place is everybody could work and do the thing that they want to do but unfortunately that's not how it goes.

Richie Ramone on drums
Beat that: Richie knows his way around a drum kit alright. © Donna Balancia.

OJ: Being a drummer for 50-odd years, what advice would you give to young drummers setting out in new bands?

RR: Well, I always say for any musician, always listen to all kinds of music. You wanna be a punk drummer, I want you to listen to the radio, listen to hard rock, listen to country, listen to jazz because you take that all in then you put it in your little machine in your head and it comes out the way you want it. You can apply it to all different kinds of music, just don't get stuck on just one thing because it makes you a more well-rounded musician knowing different kinds of music.

I don't play country because it's too boring for me to play on the drums, I don't play metal because I don't like double kick drum stuff, but I know it's in the back of my head. Drummers have to practice, practice on pillows so the sticks don't bounce back and develop your wrists and just practice, man. It's all you can do. Oh, and practice live. Don't just do it on your own all the time. You have to learn to listen to them play at the same time as well.

OJ: What kind of music were you into when you first started drumming at five?

RR: My brother Lenny is five years older than me, so I was five years ahead of the curve in the late 60s/70s. He was a horn player, so I listened to all kinds of horn bands and then Hendrix and so on.

Music changed really fast in the 60s. It evolved and it kept changing with new bands, whereas now it seems kind of stagnant. My brother would have all the records that were out and I would have all that stuff and then he would be in a band and I was already playing live by 12 because we had a band that would play weddings and stuff like that. I was playing live at a young age, which really helped.

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OJ: If you were to be sat at home what would you be listening to at the moment?

RR: What, now? Like I said, I mainly listen more in the car than I do at home. I like to listen while I drive. I'll turn on the radio to see what's on the radio and it's kind of disappointing. I like bands like Teenage Bottlerocket that are friends of mine and I think they are really good. There are a few good bands out there. I get to see them.

[There ] is, like, two or three great bands in Texas already that have opened up for us. There are a lot of bands out there now, a lot of them are good but none of them can get ahead. It's hard to get to the top of 5m bands. They work at it and I saw a lot of talent, which I was happy to see, but it's just the radio has to get going again and I don't know if it ever will.

OJ: Do you think that the way music is made and sold these days has had a detrimental effect on this?

RR: Yeah, it's very hard to get your music heard by the masses. Well, in America. I don't know what it's like elsewhere but here it's really, really tough. All the radio stations are owned by corporations now. They have their own format and it's sad but what are you going to do?

OJ: I think the distribution plays a role but it's good to see vinyl making a comeback. Well, it is in the UK, anyway.

RR: Yeah, it's been doing that here too. I'll probably put Cellophane out on vinyl around Christmas time, just want to get the CD out first and then do a new release on vinyl.

OJ: You've been getting good backing to get the album out?

RR: Yeah, I'm still with DC-Jam Records. We just got a new distribution deal, so we got a good guy over there who takes care of all that business for me.

OJ: How is the live music scene going over in the US? Are you still getting plenty of people coming out to watch?

RR: Yeah, some. I think it's slipped. I think a lot more kids just want to just go out and dance instead of seeing live music. But whatever, you know? There are still people who want to come out and enjoy live music; I don't think it's as much anymore. It's terrible but you can't let it affect you. You just have to break through the wall and keep going.

Cheers, Owen, and huge salutes to Richie for giving the interview in the first place. For more info on Richie, his recordings, gigs and other stuff, check out his website here. And, if you're into all that social media malarkey, you can also follow his exploits and the like on FaceBook and Twitter by clicking this and this, respectively.

But right now, though, whap up the speakers because here's Richie in action. First, it's the video for
I Fix This, from Cellophane, followed by Richie and his band playing Pretty Poison, Animal Boy and Blitzkrieg Bop in New Jersey last July before he takes to the skins while singing Somebody Put Something in My Drink in Ontario back in 2014. Enjoy!

See also Rotten on the Rake, posted 20/7/17, and Stiff little interview, posted 17/2/16, among others.

The original version of this article can be found on Owen's Life on Music blog. Cheers muchly for letting us run it here on the Rake & Herald, chief!

Owen Jenkins is an Afghan veteran and former soldier with the British Army. His poems can be read online here.

Picture credits

As you may have noticed, we're not too sure who owns the copyright for many of the above pics, which we found on Richie's FaceBook page. However, if you're the copyright holder of any of the above and you want a corrected credit, please get in touch with us here and we'll happily sort things out.

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