Richie Ramone: Animal Boy Comes to Cork

He’s travelled the world as part of arguably the foremost exponents of punk rock’s velocity and fury, a vital component to its longevity and a cornerstone of the band during some of its most turbulent times. Richard Reinhardt, today a percussionist and composer, his reprised the moniker of Richie Ramone for a new body of solo work, including new album Cellophane and a long-running tour that winds through Cork on Wednesday the 14th, at Cyprus Avenue.

Richie first joined the Ramones under the name of Richie Beau in ’83, following the departure of Tommy Ramone. Hopping behind the kit just before Subterranean Jungle was released, he took the Ramone surname shortly thereafter. An active session drummer in his own right, the gig came along at just the right time, according to Richie. “I was hanging out with Little Matt, Johnny’s guitar tech, and he told me that the Ramones were auditioning drummers. I told him to put in a good word for me, and he got me an audition. The next week, I got a call from Monte (Melnick), their tour manager, and the rest is history. From that moment on, my life changed.”

Richie spent four years with the band, penning songs and becoming the only drummer to sing lead vocals with the Ramones. An infamously volatile working arrangement, fans these days can only wonder at how the band managed to co-exist for as long as it did. Vocalist Joey, although legendary for his personable nature, would eventually be diagnosed with OCD, which presented numerous logistical challenges on the road. Guitarist Johnny was a strictly-regimented road general whose discipline informed the band’s attitude and dealings, while Dee Dee, on bass, would become a law unto himself while battling with what we now know as bipolar disorder. Yet, for all the discord that went on, when it came down to brass tacks, they all knew what to do. “I spent four years and ten months in the band. When it came time to do a record, we all brought our songs to the management office, and voted on which we would do. Joey took me under his wing right from the start, and made everything easy for me.”

Foremost in Richie’s contributions to the eighties Ramones canon was Somebody Put Somethin’ in My Drink, a mean, grimacing bubblegum tale of spiked drinks and ruined social plans. What brought the song about, and did Richie think it would stick with people the way it has done all these years later? “I told Dee Dee the story, about how when I was a kid and had no money, we used to steal drinks in the nightclub when people got up to dance. One night, I started feeling really weird, and soon realized one of the drinks had been spiked with LSD. He told me I had to write a song about it.”

Perhaps the sorest test of the band’s working relationship with Richie on-board was when he was tasked with remixing the entire Halfway to Sanity album by Joey, apparently much to Johnny’s chagrin. When questioned on the challenges the situation presented technically or creatively, Richie holds his cards close to his chest. “Joey called me in the middle of the night saying he wasn’t happy with the mixes, so I went and remixed half the record. It went quite smoothly and everyone was happy.”

Richie took his leave of the band in 1987, stating in the End of the Century documentary film that it was business differences that caused him to split from the Ramones. It begs the question now of what Richie makes of the original members’ estates’ vast merchandising and intellectual-property empire surrounding the band’s infamous logo and early album artwork. “(New York venue) CBGBs and the Ramones are two of the most iconic logos in the world. I think it’s great that kids still want want to wear the legacy, although the band is no longer around.”

As of recent years, Richie has been involved in music again, composing in different genres and oeuvres, from classical (in Suite for Drums and Orchestra, a piece based vaguely on West Side Story, no less), to reprisals of his punk roots. He’s very straightforward when asked about his relationship with music today. “Nothing has changed, just the music business itself is different.”

While touring again under the Ramone pseudonym, he’s also been returning to Dublin, working closely with local agents on Irish touring. It’s a bit of a shift from his memories of mid-Troubles Ireland, when the band crossed the border to the North, a commitment few other major touring acts would undertake. “Back in the eighties, we played Ireland all the time. We were one of the only bands who weren’t put off by the IRA. I remember that some of the hotels were behind barbed wire fences. The crowds were always great.”

With a year of touring and recording behind him and the band, Richie is focused on winding things down for a bit, ahead of next Spring’s live activity. “We toured extensively this year, and I want to take a month or two off, then we start touring in March again, in support of the new album, which is out now on DC-Jam Records.”

Richie Ramone plays Cyprus Avenue next Wednesday, the 14th, and tickets are on sale now, at and in the Old Oak. Support from The Grunts and Tequila Mockingbyrd.

Hope is Noise: Driven By Demons

Hope is Noise have been a constant in Cork alternative for the better part of the past two decades. Espousing a raw post-hardcore invested with a sense of melody drawn from wider influences, the band could be forgiven for settling into a groove. Instead, the band have chosen to confront middle age with fourth album ‘Demons’, which singer/guitarist Daniel Breen says from internal and interpersonal struggles.

“I think the main theme behind ‘Demons’ is friendship, and the highs and lows that come along with it. I believe that a breakdown in any close/long-term friendship can affect you worse than it would if you’d had a fight with a sibling or family member. There are things and experiences that you share with your friends that you may never do with your family. You choose someone to be your friend and when that friendship falls apart there are feelings of guilt, remorse, anger and in some cases, relief. This is where the title comes from, the ‘demons’ of failing friendships. However the opposite to this trend is the friendship of the four band members of Hope is Noise which we explore in the songs ‘Bitter End’ and ‘Gnarlsburg’. We have been playing in bands together for nearly 20 years and we have stayed close throughout this time. This band will keep going as long as the four of us continue to enjoy hanging out, writing songs and playing gigs together.”

A labour of love in the face of continuing change, the band decided to further emphasise the personal nature of the project by producing it on their own, a process Breen insists on the importance of. “We started writing this album late 2013/early 2014 and slowly worked away on it. We started recording in 2015 and would have loved to have had it done sooner but due to family and work commitments…time was always against us. Thankfully its done now and we can relax a little before getting the next record done. It was all jammed, recorded and mixed at Wood Street Studios on Washington Street. I think the biggest difference was the fact that we produced it ourselves. In the past we have worked with Ciaran O’Shea and Noel Lynch to produce our albums but this time around we really wanted to do it ourselves. There is something quite liberating about self-producing as we had the freedom to create the songs/sounds we wanted rather than how someone else thinks we should sound like. Thankfully we had the great Lawrence White (of Wood Street Studios) engineering the record for us. He also acted as a great sounding board so we could bounce ideas off him. He was very important to this record as his patience, humour and skill proved invaluable to getting the record done.”

The band has been together for the bones of eighteen years under different names, with much the same line-up. How did Arcane and the Terranauts survive to become Hope is Noise, what’s the secret? “Very simple. We are friends. We hang out outside of the band so even if we were not in the band, we would still be friends. All the tensions brought about by being in a band don’t really get to us as we know each other so well. In our twenty years playing together, I can only remember one minor argument which happened about twelve, thirteen years ago. Thankfully, we are all on the same page when it comes to the band. Probably more importantly, we have never stopped writing and as long as this is the case, Hope is Noise will keep going.”

Lodgefest II, happening on October 8th at the Pine Lodge in Myrtleville, is in part a celebration of of that longevity, but also features the return of Kerry post-rockers Ten Past Seven, an appearance from hardcore four-piece Horse, and the debut of new outfit Onkalo. Breen outlines what can be expected for those unfamiliar. “A great night of music, pints and an all round great laugh. I expect all the bands will bring their unique styles and together we can keep the energy high throughout the night. If it is anything like the last Lodgefest in 2012, it will be a memorable night. We really can’t wait.” The last Lodgefest was a similar celebratory affair, reflecting on the Leeside scene of the time. “It was a very hot day/evening in June and I just remember the room becoming a sweatbox… Lamp, Terror Pop and Terriers were all amazing and we weren’t too bad either. There’s a great photo out there in internetland that shows 99% of the crowd topless and dancing which to us is always a sign of a great night.”

Never ones to stay stationary or rest on their laurels, however, Hope is Noise have an eye on the future already. “We’re already planning our next record with at least 3 new songs written. We have a new documentary coming out soon called ‘Let’s Start a Band’ – which we have been working with the ever-hard working Ger and Jim from Gobstar Film. We are looking at releasing it later this year. Gobstar have been amazing and have worked really hard to try and create an interesting film on nearly 20 years of the band’s history and our waffling interviews (laughs). We also have a few gigs around the country in November. Next year also marks the 10th anniversary of our first album, ‘Applaud Friends…The Comedy is Over’ so I think we’ll do a special gig to mark that…maybe play the album in its entirety. So there are a few things in the pipeline, and hopefully we will keep releasing new material and gigging as long as long as we can.”

Anna’s Anchor: Holding the Brú

Ahead of his gig in The Brú on Friday night, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with singer/guitarist Marty Ryan, a.k.a. Anna’s Anchor.

Limerick man Marty Ryan, a.k.a. Anna’s Anchor, stops in Cork on Friday night in a full-band show at the Brú on McCurtain Street. Adopting his nom-de-plume for both solo and ensemble recording projects, it has it roots in travel and self-discovery. “In the Summer of 2014, my old band decided to take time off. I was at a loose end, having just finished college, so I went to Montana for the Summer on a J1 visa, I spent the time there writing and by the end of the Summer, I had worked enough that I could book some studio time and I recorded a 4 track EP. I always wanted to tour more, release more music and be more productive so doing Anna’s Anchor gave me an outlet to do this as I would be the only one holding myself back.”

New album ‘Nautical Miles’ follows on from previous recording project Islands, which provides an insight to the ambition and lust for life behind the earnestness of Ryan’s music. “In terms of writing, off the back of the Islands project in the Summer of 2015, which was an eight-week project where I visited 8 islands, played a gig on each island and then wrote, released and recorded a song each week, I felt like I was only really hitting my stride by the end of it so I kept writing straight after. Luckily my close friend and amazing drummer from Clonakilty, Brian Scally (B-Positives) happened to be back in Ireland the same time. Once I had the bones of the ideas written, we spent a couple of weeks in a rehearsal space in Dublin Hill at the end of August and like that, the album was pretty much written. One drawback of writing a full band worth of material by yourself is writing each individual part on each instrument so this takes at least 4 times longer than a normal band, and I spent the next few months until the recording sessions working hard on that at home in Limerick.”

The recording of the album proved to be a criss-cross affair across the Irish Sea, in pursuit of working with one of his favourite producers. “With the recording of the album, I was really drawn to a producer’s work in Manchester called Bob Cooper. He had done some of my favourite records and he was really in tune with the scene over in the U.K that I’d be involved with. However there was one problem. Whilst I consider Anna’s Anchor a full time endeavour, I still have a full time job, which is essential to be able to do things like record an album. I wanted to keep my annual leave for touring so I booked five weekends’ worth of flights back and forth between Shannon and Manchester, luckily the flights were all at the right times and the studio was relatively close to the airport so from leaving my house to getting in the door of the studio, it was only a 3 hour journey. Logistically it was eye of the needle stuff for it all to work out. Pretty brutal not having any time off what so ever over 5 weeks, but we made it happen. Working with Bob was a dream, he’s really particular about guitar sounds, and we spent a lot of time trying to get the most interesting and appropriate tones. He knows the genre inside out too, so the ideas he came up with and tweaks were all hugely helpful.”

Lead-off single ‘Hampton’ crystallises the earnestness of Anna’s Anchor, a dichotomy of hopeful alt-rock and painfully introspective subject matter. “When I first started Anna’s Anchor, I did want it to be as honest as possible. A lot of the time even when bands state they’re being open and honest, I think there’s a lot more to give. I wanted the songs to be really thought provoking and a rollercoaster of emotions. For me personally, I actually find it really helpful to put exactly what’s in my head to tape. I’m an only child and have a tendency to keep things to myself a lot, getting it out there however personal it is, I find really helpful for my mental health, that said, Hampton is about my mother’s struggle with alcohol and how it split our family. It was a difficult and confusing time that really took its toll on me.”

Keeping an eye to the future, however, Ryan has packed the rest of his year with an extensive tour around Europe. “I’m doing a large number of dates, both full-band and solo across Ireland, the U.K and even a trip to Germany over the next few months, you can find all these dates on my website. Once the album is out, it’s a case of gigging as much as possible and winning them over one by one!”

The Damned: Damned, Damned, Damned

It’s been forty years since the shock and awe of punk filled living rooms, and young minds, on either side of the Atlantic, and one of the genre’s innovators in The Damned is hitting Cyprus Avenue on August 24th. Guitarist Captain Sensible speaks with Mike McGrath-Bryan on the band’s past, present and future.

This year sees punk, be it in one’s own eyes simply a genre of music, an overarching aesthetic, or mere sensationalist slapstick, hit forty years old. The word “punk” alone inspires Homerian bouts of semantics and sabre-rattling among those that are so given, but like any other movement, be it social or musical, no-one knew precisely what would happen or what impact it would have, least of all Captain Sensible. “No, I wasn’t attempting to change the world, just improve mine, as I’d identified the fact that on the ladder of life the bottom rung was gonna be my position. So in ’76 I was rather happy to be able to twang a guitar for a living. I still feel the same… a lucky bastard, and I don’t take it for granted like some other musos I could mention. The glory days you were actually quite rough ‘n’ ready, as we were often sleeping on each other’s floors. It was fun, but hardly glamourous. And we were the first, which always got up the Pistols’ noses. Nice, eh?”

Debut single New Rose holds an irreplaceable distinction in the genre, the first punk single to hit the UK charts in late 1976. How was that juxtaposition of being in a band as part of a broad movement so positioned against the mainstream, and being embraced on such a large scale?I was shocked when New Rose entered the charts… as an avid viewer of TOTP’s, I made the most of our trips to the BBC. They had a wonderful bar on the top floor too, where all the TV celebs would mingle with the bands… that was a good laugh. Punk put the UK at the forefront of the music scene for a couple of years – not everyone liked it of course but the Damned, Subs, Mopeds etc were a much necessary alternative to Saturday Night Fever and disco fever in general with the gigs at the time full of pogoing spiky-haired types having a bloody good time.”

Looking at the term “punk” now, and the term’s status as a broad stroke, as well as in relation to the band’s stylistic move away from it in the 1980s, the question arises of what they make of it now, and if they see their influence or legacy. “The Damned straddle several genres – punk, goth, psych – it’s a good mix. Without getting uppity – the Damned can really play. It’s a proper band like Deep Purple and the Sabs before us. I just wanted to be in a group as good as them. But as we entered the ’80s, I realised Dave Vanian’s songs were getting increasingly stylised… what would become called goth, a few years later. Writing our setlist is sometimes difficult as we have to please two entirely separate audiences in the punks, who want it fast and loud, and the goths who prefer it dark and lyrical. That dichotomy makes it interesting for us though… our setlists can vary dramatically depending on the audience.”

The last four decades have brought the Damned to Ireland on numerous occasions. The Captain is enthusiastic in recounting previous exploits. “I do recall a wonderful show many years ago in Cork. A couple of doors down from the venue, Dave and myself were trying out the local stout. A very friendly landlord was jollying things along with whisky chasers on the house… consequently we lost all track of time, and when they eventually found out where we were, the band were an hour late onstage. The gig went with a swing too, I believe”, he chortles.

Fast-forwarding to today, where do the band see themselves creatively now? Is there any new material on the way, on that note? “Each album we’ve made has been a different vibe from the preceding one… it’s been a musical adventure, so I’m looking forward to hearing what Mr. Vanian will bring to the table next time. There’s been talk of a new album, maybe for next year. The only thing you can guarantee is that there’ll be material involved that will surprise people… as there was on the last one So, Who’s Paranoid which included a 14 minute psychedelic freak out.”

With forty years under their belt, one mightn’t blame the Damned for resting on their laurels as their contemporaries. Thankfully, none of the lads seem to be so disposed, not least the Captain, even on an anniversary tour. “We like to think of the Damned as being a rudderless pirate ship sailing through a sea of musical mediocrity, back to save the world from plastic entertainment garbage like the X-Factor, and all that horrible new-fangled pop music with autotuned vocals. The band members all do other things most of the time, so when we get back together and start jamming through the varied catalogue of songs we have to choose from, it’s always fresh and exciting. Bearing in mind some of our ages, we won’t be doing this forever… but the fortieth anniversary gives us the opportunity to play a career-spanning set, covering all periods of Damned history, including adrenaline-fuelled punk, anthemic goth and some psyched out improvising to keep us on our toes musically.”

The Damned play Cyprus Avenue on August 24th. Tickets on sale now from Eventbrite and the Old Oak.

Lars Frederiksen: A Butcher’s Banquet

As their European tour takes a stop at Cyprus Avenue on August 18th, Lars Frederiksen of the Old Firm Casuals, among many other bands, talks with Mike McGrath-Bryan about life, music and staying true to your roots.

With a sound firmly rooted in the Oi! school of streetwise, no-nonsense, football-terrace punk rock, California’s The Old Firm Casuals came together in 2010, and the band prodigiously released splits and singles almost immediately, until finally releasing their debut LP in 2014. Vocalist and guitarist Lars Frederiksen, he of Rancid and The Bastards infamy, discusses in laid-back fashion what fuelled an early rush of output such as this: “I think we love the music we make. When you play with a bunch of people you like, that helps as well in my opinion. For me, personally, I’m lucky to be in a band like the Casuals. Everyone gets along and respects each other. As far as how I manage it all? Lots of coffee.”

This year has seen the release of extended-play ‘A Butcher’s Banquet’, getting a positive reception both among the band’s faithful and in the wider sphere. Frederiksen is forthcoming about the process of creation and recording. “At first we were gonna make a full length record. We all wanted some new songs out before our upcoming tour over there. With everyone’s work schedule and such, we felt it might be a little rushed to get another thirteen-, fourteen-song record out there. Time constraints and financial constraints sorta forced it to become an E.P. We pay for all the recordings ourselves, so it would have been a stretch. Also, you never wanna rush music. The seven songs on there were tracks that were realized already. ‘Butchers’ was a track I’ve had in the basement since (former solo project) the Bastards. I knew I could never sing it and play the riff so the Bastards never did it. Also, there was no lyrics back then anyway. I gave it to (UK punk legends) the Anti-Nowhere League, but they never recorded it. Those guys probably would have knocked it outta the park, I’m pretty sure. I knew Casey would kill the lead vocal, and he did. I’m really proud of it. I think we made a great E.P.”

Frederiksen wears his influences on his sleeve, but what of a song’s themes and lyrics, writing/rewriting riffs, etc? “Sometimes I get an idea for some lyrics, and just write them down. Mostly it’s something I’ve experienced personally, but I like riffs to begin a song. Most of the time, the lyrics come second. I love guitar players like Steve Whale of the Business, Tommi Tox from Stomper 98, Jake Burns, Phil Campbell & Fast Eddie to mention a few ’cause their guitar playing and songwriting is incredible to me. I’ve had a chance to write with a few of the guys I mentioned, and I’ve learned an incredible amount of things from them.”

The band is, as mentioned, of a decidedly old-school slant, a reflection of Frederiksen’s life, times and identity as a human being. It’s true to his own personal vision, and is the realisation of some long-held personal goals. “This band is what I always wanted the Bastards to be. That first Bastards record is a straight up, unapologetic Oi! record. That’s what I set out to make, and I did it back in 2001. The second record had a life of its own, and went in a different direction which I didn’t really have my heart into, so the band went into hiatus after a year of touring. It’s no secret I grew up on Oi! music and was exposed to the great Oi! bands in the very early ’80’s. It’s my life and my culture. Always was, and always will be. I’m still a working-class/working-poor guy no matter the success or failure I’ve had in my life. No one can ever take that away from me. Some try, but I’m still here. All of us in the Casuals had the same upbringings so the music is a reflection of that.”

Lars Frederiksen is no stranger to Cork by any stretch, having played Bradley’s in 2014 in an intimate show promoted by local collective Rebel County Drunk Punx. What are his memories of the show? “I loved it! We had a blast, and the place was mental. We did have to adjust a few things to make a stage, but the chicken balls and chips with curry sauce made it a complete night. The Jollars tore the roof off the place, and treated us very, very well. They made us feel at home. That’s a show I will never forget.”

Whereas Rancid’s overall aesthetic is very much a product of the band’s time, place and experience, the Casuals have tied in with UK soccer culture to an extent, with the Millwall lions appearing spraypainted on Frederiksen’s guitar. Naturally, the conversation turns to the beautiful game. “I love the game of football. I have since I was three years old living in Denmark. My grandfather (RIP) was the one who exposed myself and my older brother Robert (RIP) to the game. He was a goalkeeper for the town team, among others, before WWII. I don’t think he played much after the war, as my mom and the rest of the family were lucky enough to survive. I try to get to at least one Millwall game a year home or away. I’ve been lucky to get to five to ten at some points. I think when you’re from actual Viking decent, it’s in your blood (laughs).”

On the topic of sports, Frederiksen is a good personal friend of former pro wrestler and upcoming UFC debutant CM Punk. The two crossed paths on many occasions, with Frederiksen even appearing on Punk’s WWE documentary ‘Best in the World’.“Yeah, he’s my buddy. Met him when the Bastards came thru Philly years ago. We clicked. He was still on the indie circuit at the time, busting his balls to make it. I’m proud of him. I like to see my friends become successful with their dreams, or goals. If you’re from a place like where I come from, you root for guys like that. I’m lucky to have him as a friend. As far as his jump to UFC, I got his back. Like I said, if my friends have goals or dreams they wanna realize, I support them all the way.”

A full year awaits Frederiksen after the upcoming European leg of the Casuals’ tour. “Currently as I answer these questions, I’m in Germany, and Lars from Stomper is driving me to the airport. I’ll be making the new Stomper 98 record with the guys in November which we just got done demoing. As far as the Casuals, we’ll be going to make a new record in the fall as well. More shows with the Casuals, I think. Playing a few shows with Oxley’s Midnight Runners. Rancid will have new music soon. Taking the kids to school, etc. I don’t know, just the usual shit. Look forward to seeing everyone in Cork soon.”

The Old Firm Casuals play Cyprus Avenue on August 18th,. The Hacklers, the Jollars, and the Audible Joes are all in support, and tickets are on sale from eventbrite and The Old Oak.