Sunday, October 16, 2016

'Time keeps on slippin', slippin, slippin'... into the future...'

Well the busy times are back, hence the lack of blogging. Like an idiot I didn't take any notes over the past couple of weeks, so stories of Ruts D.C. at the North East Calling festival in Newcastle (we thought we were playing at 9 o'clock but were actually on 3 hours earlier - we arrived at the venue less than an hour before showtime) and gigging at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton (I loved the backward 'S' on the end of 'Rooms', Noddy and co. should be proud!) and The Brooklyn Bowl in The O2 Arena (a Vive Le Rock - sponsored event that also saw great sets The Newtown Neurotics, Giuda and The Cockney Rejects) have somewhat faded from my memory... I also saw Sharks at The Borderline (where I met Paul Cook for the first time and somehow promised Professionals singer / guitarist Tom that I'd play on their upcoming album - I wonder if that'll ever happen?!) and Paranoid Visions with Steve Ignorant at The 100 Club on the same night (ooh I was tired the next day!) and played gigs with The Upper Cut (at The Dolphin in Uxbridge - not our best ever performance, we really must have a rehearsal sometime) and Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks (where two young Polish girls's dancing at the Black Horse in Greenford enlivened proceedings no end) as well as working many-a day in the shop, to such an extent that this feels like my first day off for weeks. Surely that can't be the case? Mind you I've spent most of it asleep so maybe it is.

 More of the same this week, and next week, and the week after that...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

25 with a bullet

So there we were - Dave, Segs and myself - in Dave's car on our way to Southend Airport on Friday afternoon when his phone rang. Nothing too unusual there as it rings all the time - as he was driving he had it plumbed into one of those new-fangled hands-free speakerphone thingys that let you answer the phone while you're at the wheel. It was Steve Beatty, head honcho at Plastic Head Distribution and Westworld Records. 'D'you want the good news or the bad news?' asked he. 'The bad news' answered Ruts DC as one man. 'You've missed out being in the indie charts by one sale' Various derisive noises were emitted by all concerned before he asked if we'd like the good news. Of course we would. 'You're number 25 in the Rock And Metal Album Chart' said he cheerily - if he said anything else it was drowned out by our whooping and hollering and the inevitable 'time for a drink then' from your humble narrator. And as this photo shows, it was all true - there we are between Pink Floyd and Guns N' Roses. And we're a couple of places above Lordi - you remember, that mad mob that won The Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago dressed as giant lizards, or something. Hilarious! 

We were en route to France for an appearance at Fiesta La Mass in Rennes the next evening - for reasons unknown (possibly flight availability?) we were travelling out the night before which meant that we got to the festival site in time to see The Angelic Upstarts roar through their set before retiring to The Hotel Voltaire for some much needed sleep. Being there a day early meant that we had time to look around town the next morning with the help of Vincent the promoter's daughter Alice - I'd not been to Rennes before so it was good to get a bit of a feel for the place and indeed to have a splendid lunch before going back to the hotel for a couple of hours. After an interview with the Punks Not Dead radio station (shouldn't that have an apostrophe?!?) we headed
back to the festival site where things were in full swing with local heroes Banane Metalik going down a storm. We met the Italian band Klasse Kriminale backstage, they're all big Ruts fans and very nice chaps to boot. We were due on at midnight although an issue with Dave's monitor meant that we actually started our set a few minutes late. I thought we played well although the onstage sound was a bit, for want of a better word, nasal which meant that it hard to hear each other sometimes - and as we started late we got the almost inevitable 'ONE SONG' instruction sign when we had two left to play. Halfway through 'In A Rut' Segs stopped the band with the words 'we didn't come all this way not to play ''Babylon's Burning'' did we?' He was correct - we didn't so we played it! A good show but maybe not a great one, especially compared to the previous week's gig, but that happens from time to time. We're up in Newcastle for North East Calling this Saturday so let's see how that one goes. And I wonder where (or indeed if) we will be in the charts this week?    

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'We shall fight them on the peaches...'

The new Ruts DC album 'Music Must Destroy' was released last Friday on Sosumi / Westworld Records. To celebrate this (ahem!) momentous occasion we played a sold out show at The Underworld in Camden Town. Support came from our friends Department S who rather cheekily inserted the riff to 'Babylon's Burning' into their last song 'I Want' (in my day you stayed in after school for doing things like that!) and finished their show to an audience reaction that many-a headline band would have been proud of.

Our show was different for a number of reasons. We decided to play all of the songs from the album, three of which had not been played on stage before (since you've asked, 'Soft City Lights', 'Peacebomb' and 'Tears On Fire') while 'Golden Boy' had only featured in acoustic shows. After much deliberation we decided to use a click track on some songs which would allow us to use elements from the recorded versions on a backing track to augment the live instruments. We also invited David D'Andrade to join us for several songs - he plays guitar in The Razors with Dave, and in addition to being a great musician he's also annoyingly young and good looking with a full head of hair (I'm not bitter, honest!) so I made sure he was on the opposite side of the stage to me… add to this the for want of a better word 'pressure' of the occasion and we were set for a memorable evening. Of course as with so many things in life not everything went according to plan - Dave left his iPad at home ('thank gawd I backed it all up on my phone') so soundcheck took a little longer than it might although everything sounded good in the end, with the strings to 'Golden Boy' sounding particularly extraordinary through the PA. All well and good - except come showtime the phone decided not to work, meaning that all the work Dave had put in preparing the tracks and all the time that we'd spent rehearsing with them came to nothing. Bah! Oh well - at least we've got them for next time, whenever that may be… other than that the show went as well as any of us could have hoped for. An extraordinary, unforgettable event - but you don't have to take my word for it, as the always - excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog has published this review of proceedings which captures the story rather well - thanks Elvis!

Reaction to the album has generally been very positive, and I'm told that the initial pressing of CDs has sold out which is fantastic news. I saw the vinyl version for the first time on Saturday afternoon at All Ages Records in Camden where we participated in a signing session (which incidentally was really good fun!) and I must say that it looks tremendous. It's a couple disc set with the ten tracks spread over two 12" records so it should sound tremendous too. I'm off to sign 250 or so of them this afternoon to be sent out later this week to people who have bought them through PledgeMusic - exciting times! And talking of exciting times in addition to playing Fiesta La Mass in Rennes this weekend we've just been confirmed as the support band on The Stranglers 'Classic Collection' tour next year, which is splendid news. It also goes some way toward explaining the title of this blog posting, which I have shamelessly stolen from a review in '77 Sulphate Strip', Barry Cain's brilliant collection of writings from his time at 'Record Mirror' in 1977 and which I've been reading over the past few weeks. I first saw The Stranglers in that year - who'd have though that 40 years later I'd be in a band supporting them eh? 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Ruts D.C. 'Music Must Destroy' single is released today!

As the title of this posting suggests, the new Ruts D.C. single 'Music Must Destroy' is released today on SosumiWestworld Records. It features guest performances from Henry Rollins on vocals and Boz Boorer on guitar and is accompanied by a promo video directed by Graham Trott that features Segs, Dave Ruffy and myself in a cement dust-filled warehouse in The Bussey Building in deepest darkest Peckham and the mighty Mr. Rollins (aided and abetted by Segs) up in Edinburgh a couple of days earlier. You can watch the video by clicking here - if you look closely during the crowd scenes you might spot Mr. Spee from Dreadzone, Paul from King Kurt, Tara from The Duel and Bristol 'Death Or Glory' promoters Ziggy and Jon among others (assuming you know what they all look like of course…)

The album of the same name (which has already received this astonishing review - thank you Mr. Ringmaster whoever you may be!) is out next Friday 16th September, when we'll be playing a launch gig supported by Department S at The Underworld in Camden Town in conjunction with the always-worth-reading Vive Le Rock magazine. It should be a night to remember - so let's hope that it is!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Once Upon A Time

On 5th September 1966 filming began on 'The Prisoner' in the village of Portmeirion in North Wales. Fifty years on it still divides opinion - McGoohan's surreal masterpiece or overwrought nonsense? A brilliantly observed allegory or a clumsy mess? For what my opinion is worth you either get it or you don't - if you get it you'll argue it's excellence in the face of some of the most fervent criticism that something as seemingly trivial as a mere television show will ever receive, if you don't then you literally won't give it houseroom. Me? I think that if there's a better TV series then I've yet to see it - which reminds me, I must watch it again sometime soon. Many happy returns Number 6 - be seeing you... 

Anyway your humble narrator was a bit, erm, fragile yesterday… actually I was asleep for most of the afternoon. And before you ask - yes, I've still got a bit of a headache… but 'twas a splendid Saturday night at The 100 Club, a very special evening to cerebrate all round good bloke and man-with-lots-of-punk-tattoos Simon 'Coppo' Copson's 50th birthday. I joined Department S for their last three songs and had a bloomin' great time. And why not?

The previous evening Big Al and The Blistering Buicks played at The Sir John Gibson in Stanwell. It was a new gig for the band, and with my fellow six-stringer Pete away elsewhere I was obliged to cover some of his parts as well as my own. We played three short sets instead of our customary two hour-long spots - matters got decidedly weird in the first interval when a cheery chappie came over and interrupted myself and Dave the bass player's chat with the words 'alright lads? Sorry to interrupt…' (he quite clearly wasn't sorry) and then asked for 'some Madness, not the obvious stuff like 'Our House' and all that, I want a b-side or an album track - yeah?' The politest response I could think of was 'prepare yourself for a disappointment…' - to which he replied with 'oh yeah, and it's my mate's birthday' (people like him always have a mate with a birthday - strange but true) 'so if you could play him a Madness b-side or two' (how did I know that he was going to say that?!?) 'he'd be well happy'. Yes, I bet that he would. We played 'One Step Beyond' in our second set - I very much doubt that he even noticed.

There are three more BA and The BBs gigs this week (in Sunningdale, Burnham and High Wycombe since you've asked) as well as more days in Balcony Shirts so there's plenty to do. And on Friday the new Ruts D.C. single 'Music Must Destroy' is released on Westworld / Sosumi Records. The promo video is finished and looks great - Henry Rollins is as fearsome as ever, and even though I say so myself, we look pretty good too. That day in the cement-filled warehouse in Peckham was worthwhile after all - but more about that next time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Electronic sound

So - the mystery of the thing-on-top-of-the-speaker-cabinet is solved thanks to Ruts DC fan / friend and electronics engineer Nigel who tells me that he's 'pretty sure it's an old-style electronic counter' and sent me this link to prove it. Thanks Nigel!

I've just watched a rough cut of the 'Music Must Destroy' video and I'm pleased to say that it's looking excellent - the single is out next Friday 9th September with the album released the following week so it should be finished and available for general viewing then. Exciting times!  

In the meantime it's been back to the bar gigs for your humble narrator, starting with a short notice Upper Cut show at The Dolphin in Uxbridge last Friday. Roger was elsewhere so Geoff Nicholls did his customarily excellent job depping on drums, and with a party of people down from Oop North for the Rugby League Cup Final the next day a suitably lively evening ensued. 
The next night Big Al and The Blistering Buicks journeyed to Broxbourne for an interesting show at The Rushymeade Club, a venue so obscure that most of the band got lost trying to find it because none of the locals that they asked for directions had ever heard of it. It was actually a clubhouse on a caravan park, and turned out to be a great little venue with very friendly people. It took a while to get going, but by our second set the dance floor was full and with a bit of luck we'll be back in Broxbourne again before too long. 
Sunday saw an early evening (7 pm start) gig at The Queens Arms in Colnbrook. Our friends Pimp My Jazz were playing an afternoon show down the road (literally!) at Ye Olde George so we got there early to catch a few songs before heading off to the venue to set up. Bank Holiday weekend shows are often a bit odd - you get people who go out early and leave early, people who go out early and stay out late and all points in between. This often results in an audience that can range in size from a few people to a packed room and back again within a couple of songs. This indeed was the case here, where we started playing to virtually no one and ended with a full and noisy room and a punky - looking chap with a mohican haircut dancing wildly to 'Suspicious Minds'. A good gig.

And yesterday myself, my brother and my Dad went to the Muhammad Ali exhibition at The O2 Arena in Greenwich. I've always been a big fan of the man as both a sportsman and a World figure and this event did nothing to change my mind - the term 'greatest' will never be more apt

This week among other things I'll be playing a few songs at The 100 Club with Department S on Saturday night. Now that's something to really look forward to!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Concrete and Clay

Let's face it - it could be anything...
Well we haven't had a quiz here for a while so here's your long-overdue starter for 10 - what is the function of the device sitting on top of the Semprini speaker cabinet with my old Gibson Les Paul Deluxe in the photo on the right? Any ideas? No? That's a shame, because I haven't got a clue. In fact the gentleman who lent it to us doesn't know either, which is a bit odd if you think about it. It looks great though doesn't it? And since we were using it in the promotional video for the new Ruts DC single 'Music Must Destroy' the look is considerably more important than it's function.
We - Ruts DC, director Graham Trott and assorted assistants - were filming in a warehouse in The Bussey Building in Peckham for much of last Friday; footage of guest vocalist Henry Rollins and guest guitarist Boz Boorer was (as I believe the film people say) already in the can. It was a long and at times difficult day - Graham was using a drone to film us but as the floor of the warehouse was covered in cement dust (or something - I tried not to think too deeply about what it might or might not have been!) every time it took off it stirred up clouds of the bloody stuff. Oh and the drone itself crashed into a light on one of it's first flights - there was a spare but the incident somehow seemed to sum up proceedings up until that point. Fortunately matters improved considerably as the day went on, and by the time various friends (including Mr. Spee from Dreadzone, Paul from King Kurt and Bristol promoters Ziggy and Jon) arrived to participate in the crowd scenes the atmosphere was better. Or maybe we'd just got used to the dust by then? Our day had begun with a photo shoot - suitably suited and booted we posed furiously for Graham's camera, and if the examples I saw were anything to go by both the pictures and video should be well worth the work. We'll all know soon enough - more news as and when I have it.
The somewhat less-than-pleasant fallout from our day in the dust was that I had an hour-long nosebleed when I got home, and another one in the morning when I felt how I'd imagine I'd feel if I'd been hit in the face by Muhammad Ali in his prime. See how I suffer for my art? This meant for a not-particularly enjoyable day in Balcony Shirts, although that was nothing compared to the potentially life-threatening Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks performance the next afternoon at The White Horse in Longford near Staines. We were playing under an gazebo in the pub garden, which was all well and good for the first sunny set but proved to be woefully inadequate when the rain arrived during our second set. It's never a good feeling to know that the only thing stopping the by-now deceptively heavy rain from landing on the plugboard that your amplifier is plugged into is a piece of soggy cardboard. Dave the drummer attempted to play with an umbrella wedged behind him as we all huddled increasing closely in search of shelter but when Dave's bass amp slid of the up-until-that-point stage table with a resounding crash enough was more than enough. This was a shame as we were playing well and people were enjoying it but it was simply too dangerous to carry on.
This week it's more days in the shop, more Big Al gigs, a short notice Upper Cut show and a Bank Holiday Monday at the start of next week. That's a day off isn't it? That'll be nice… now, has anybody got any idea what that thing on top of the speaker cabinet is?!?