Friday, January 05, 2018

Turning Japanese / Hong Kong Garden

Well let's start 2018 as we mean to go on - with some ridiculously good news! Well it's certainly ridiculously good news from my point of view - the first three Ruts D.C. gigs of the year have been announced, and they're all in previously uncharted territory for your humble narrator. We're playing two shows in Tokyo - yes, that's right, Tokyo - on the 27th and 28th of January followed by a show in Hong Kong on the last day of the month. 

You know that bit in these postings where I put something like 'I can hardly believe what I type here sometimes'? Well here it is again - I can hardly believe what I type here sometimes. Seriously though, one of the first live albums I remember hearing was 'Made In Japan' by Deep Purple - it would have been a couple of years after it was originally released, and for whatever reason it made a big impression on me. I think that it was due to a number of factors - Ritchie Blackmore's still-incredible guitar playing, the power that the band played with, the songs, the sound... strange, because I didn't really like very much music like that at the time. Come to think of it, I still don't... anyway it loomed large in my mid-1970s listening, and as a result Japan attained a somewhat mythical status in my teenage mind. I've not been there or to Hong Kong before, and I genuinely cannot wait to do these shows. I'm very lucky to do what I do. I say that a fair bit too don't I? 

We then travel to New Zealand and Australia for the previously - mentioned shows with The StranglersI can hardly believe what I type here sometimes. But you know that already.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Saturday Club

Ruts D.C. played their last gig of this year on Saturday 23rd December at The 100 Club. It was everything that we could have hoped it would be - sold out in advance, we gave one of our best shows of the year alongside great sets from our friends Department S and The London Sewage Company. And there were plenty of friends in the audience too - I hadn't seen ex - U.K. Subs guitar hero Jet for ages, Rupert Orton bought along Newtown Neurotics drummer Simon Lomond while Nigel Bennett introduced me to his friend Steve who, he said, 'wanted to meet me' - and I don't mind admitting that I wanted to meet Steve Lillywhite too... all well and good (and if I'm honest, very exciting!) but none of it would have mattered if there hadn't been an audience. And what an audience they were. People had travelled from far and wide to see the show - you never think that people are going to do that for something you're involved with (well, I don't anyway!) so when it happens it's quite something. Plenty of locals too, and even though I say so myself they saw a good one. You know when you've played well, and we played well - some nights it all falls into place, and this was one of those nights. One to remember forever - but it's been a year to remember for the band. So much has happened - The Stranglers tour seems an age ago now, as do the 'big gigs' with Die Toten Hosen and Stiff Little Fingers, the outdoor show at The Rebellion Festival and so many terrific nights up and down the country, not forgetting The BBC6 Punk Party with The Damned... as I say it's been quite a year for Ruts D.C., and next year we tour Australia and New Zealand with The Stranglers, Great Britain with Stiff Little Fingers and more. 

See you in 2018 - there's work to do.

And in the meantime here's 'Kill The Pain' and 'Psychic Attack' from the 100 Club show - enjoy! 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Big Boss Man

Now this is exciting - Ruts D.C. have secured an endorsement deal with Roland who make a lot of excellent musical equipment, among which are Boss guitar effect pedals. When I was a lad (and believe it or not I was once a lad) Boss were the pedals to have, not least because there were nowhere near as many manufacturers as there are now. I had the CE-2 chorus and the DM-2 analog delay pedals, both of which went missing in action in the early days of my time with Ruts D.C. (click here for the full sad story) but I'm pleased to say that I have now been able to replace them with their modern-day equivalents. Hurrah! I'm looking forward to plumbing them into my pedal board and seeing how they sound with the band, but initial experiments at home are very encouraging indeed.

Incidentally the first time I remember speaking to Paul Fox was when I stumbled up to him (I was even shyer than I am now in those days) at a gig and blurted out something like 'excuse me Paul, what guitar pedals do you use?' He told me he used a Boss chorus pedal so of course I had to have one... for those of you interested in such things he actually had the now highly sought after CE-1 which had been discontinued by the time I was in a position to buy anything - this 'new' Waza version of the CE-2 claims to replicate it's near-legendary sound. We shall see...

Your humble narrator in what
those in the know call MV3.
That's Ruts D.C.'s gear behind me.
And talking of exciting things, last Friday saw the much-anticipated (by me at any rate) BBC Radio 6 Music 'Christmas Punk Party' hosted by Steve Lamacq at the famous Maida Vale Studios. Back in the day I remember recording sessions by the likes of The Ruts and indeed Ruts D.C. from the radio, many if not all of which were recorded at said studios - and now little old me found himself participating in the digital equivalent. Amazing. It certainly was a day to remember - The Damned played a great set, with Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian were as iconic as ever and Paul Grey back on bass and looking as though he was loving every minute of it. Stuart Pearce introduced the band, Brix Smith Start DJ'd before their set and Ruts D.C. played a 20-something minute set to a wildly appreciative audience - but that only tells a fraction of the story. As someone who has been known to get over-emotional about music and the power it can have in people's lives I will go so far as to say that it was one of the most enjoyable musical adventures that I've ever been lucky enough to be part of. From meeting up early afternoon in The Prince Alfred (during which Mr. Lamacq appeared through one of the pub's many doors and nearly went flying over my guitar case) to returning there after the show for advanced drinking and jollity it was everything I and indeed we could have hoped that it would be. If you missed it you can hear the whole show here on the BBC 6 website for the next few weeks, and Adrian at Aural Sculptors has been quick off the mark by getting the Ruts D.C. and Damned sets up for download here. Great stuff.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've go some guitar pedals to try...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Punky Reggae Party

At this time of year a busy few days in mad-guitar-land is all too often followed by a bout of ManFlu, and that is indeed the case once again here. Bah! But it's also been a good few days in mad-guitar-land, beginning last Thursday with a Ruts D.C. gig at The Talking Heads in Southampton. The Riverjuke amp went wrong (again) in our soundcheck (it blew a fuse - time for a 'proper' service perhaps lads?!?) but thankfully my amp sounded great (again) and we played a splendid set to a nearly-sold-out room. It's good when that happens - but as I said last time, we're lucky as it happens to us quite a lot these days.

The next two nights saw your humble narrator catch a couple of great gigs, the first of which was at Koko on Friday where The Undertones reduced grown men to tears with a magnificent performance. As 'Teenage Kicks' drew to a close and the entire place erupted around us Adrian of Aural Sculptors fame commented 'John Peel was right about that one wasn't he?' Indeed he was Adrian, indeed he was. The following night Daniel Romano played at The Borderline, a venue which has been completely transformed since I was last there. The stage is in the same place but everything has been painted black, the bar has moved and the walk to the toilets resembles something out of a science fiction film. Weird! Mr. Romano is a big favourite at Balcony Shirts - Scott plays his albums in the shop all the time - and myself and the lads saw a blistering display of garage-y rock from the man and his band. Great stuff - if you're not familiar with his work he's well worth checking out.

On Sunday afternoon Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. At the end of our second set the guv'nor approached Al with the immortal words 'there's a one-er in it for you if you play another 25 minutes' - I think Al surprised said guv'nor with his reply of 'can you make it £120, it divides easier between the six of us?', but either way we played an extra 25 minutes and everyone went home happy. Well I certainly did, until I woke up the next day with a cold. Ah well - you don't get something for nothing do you? Which reminds me - Ruts D.C. will be joining The Damned, Brix Smith Start and Stuart Pearce (oh yes!) on Steve Lamacq's BBC Radio 6 Music Live radio show 'Christmas Punk Party' on Friday 8th December. As I said in the last posting, I can't quite believe what I type here sometimes... anyway if you'd like to come along this link tells you how to apply for tickets - I wouldn't leave it too long if I were you...

Monday, November 13, 2017

See You Up There!

Time for a belated report on three Ruts DC gigs the weekend before last, the first or which was at The Waterfront in Norwich. Support came from The East Town Pirates who I thought were very entertaining although I missed the second half of their set as I was summoned to a nearby pub by Segs where he was meeting Stiff Little Fingers bassman Ali McMordie. I walked in to find them both ensconced around a small table - if you'd have told me back in (say) 1979 that I would one day have been meeting up with them never mind being in a band with one of them then I don't know what I would have said... our show saw the return of my Marshall DSL100 amplifier after a repair at the factory, and without wishing to tempt fate I have to say that it sounded terrific. We also have a spare - hereinafter referred to as 'the Riverjuke amp'  as Harry, Adam and co. currently own it - but more about that in a minute. We played well although for me it was the weakest of the three shows - not bad, just not quite as good as the others, if you know what I mean.

The next day - Saturday 4th November, if you're taking notes - saw us journey across the country to Wolverhampton for The Midlands Calling Festival. There was time to check in at our hotel before making our way to The Civic Hall where Harry and Adam went in to set up our merchandise while Segs and myself walked the short distance to the Blooms clothes shop - we'd spotted it on the way there and Segs thought that it 'looked interesting'... he couldn't have been more correct - it was how I imagine tailor's shop would have been years ago, with a brace of cheery immaculately-dressed assistants with tape measures around their necks all only to happy to attend to your every clothing needs. It got a bit 'suit you' here and there - rarely a bad thing I'm sure you'll agree - and I loved it. I found a suit in the sale which I liked the look of, but as I said to the assistant, the trousers were 'a bit David Essex' (I like his music, but not the flares!) and I'd prefer three buttons while the jacket only had two - within seconds I was told that it could be altered and ready for collection the next morning. Sold! I must wear it on stage sometime soon... in the meantime we played a thunderous 45 minute set to the enthusiastic appreciation of the assembled multitude and everybody seemed to be very happy with our efforts. We'd decided to use the Riverjuke amp but to our dismay no sound was forthcoming - with only a short changeover between bands we decided to use the backline amp provided and resolved to have a proper look at it the next night in Wakefield

I'd not been to Warehouse 23 before, but it seems to me to be an excellent venue which is putting on a lot of very diverse entertainment, which is always a good thing to see. At the soundcheck we plugged the Riverjuke amp in again - still no sound. I set up my DSL 100 while Harry set about investigating - when he opened the amp up to his and indeed my astonishment he discovered that the four power valves were missing. Well, that would do it! It had gone to Marshalls at the same time as mine but they had clearly forgotten to put the valves back in after testing them. Doh! (Harry called them the next day and they have since sent a new set of valves free of charge, so hopefully all's well that ends well...) Thankfully my amp sounded great, and we went on to play what to me was the best show of the three. Again that's not to say that the other two were bad, just that this one just edged it. We're lucky, we play some good gigs - talking of which, it's just been officially announced today that we're supporting Stiff Little Fingers on their 'Down To The Bone' British tour next March. Once again, if you'd have told me when I was 18 that one day I'd be typing that sentence I don't know what I would have said...

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Life begins at forty?

'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols' was released 40 years ago last Saturday, on October 28th 1977. Many thousands, maybe even millions of words have been written about it, how knows how many bands formed on the back of hearing it, and it's visceral rock 'n' roll power remains undiminished four decades on. Or does it? Every so often I hear somebody repeating the tired old cliches like 'they couldn't play' and 'they were invented by their manager weren't they?' - all absolute nonsense of course, as one listen to the album proves. I played it on Saturday afternoon and it sounded magnificent. Mind you, it usually does.

And talking of magnificent albums 'Power In The Darkness' by The Tom Robinson Band is in my not-so-humble opinion one of the best records (I still think of them as records, don't you?) of all time. To celebrate it's 40th anniversary (hang on - wasn't it released in 1978?!?) Tom has been out and about over the last few weeks with his current band playing it in it's entirety - I was lucky enough to catch a performance by them at The 100 Club last Thursday evening, not least because the band were joined by the original TRB guitarist Danny Kustow for the last two songs ('Motorway' and 'Don't Take No For An Answer' - check out these wonderful vintage clips to see the band back in the day) of the evening. Kustow is one of my all-time favourite players, and it was fabulous to see him on stage again - I even managed a few words with him after the show (I'm shy at the best of times so talking to a genuine guitar hero took a lot of doing!) which meant a lot to me. The best part of a week later, it still does.  

When last we spoke The Upper Cut were about to play their last ever show - and what better place for us to play it at than The Dolphin in Uxbridge. To say that I had and indeed have mixed feelings about this is something of an understatement; I think a lot of the people I play music with, and whilst it's obvious that nothing can last for ever the band has had some great times over the last few years so it'll be sad to see it go - if indeed it does go. Considering we didn't have a chance to rehearse the band played well and there were no awkward moments - well at least there weren't until Noel the guv'nor checked that we were still going to be playing he and Bridie's wedding anniversary party in December. Hmm.. it seems we will be appearing there again next month... the next night Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played a short notice (I got a text about the show during the Upper Cut's interval!) gig across the road at The General Elliot, a raucous evening which saw much dancing and merriment throughout a boisterous performance. The band played two good shows last weekend (in Burnham and Shepperton since you were wondering) and have plenty more where they came from in the new few weeks so there's lots to be going on with. 

This weekend it's time for some more Ruts D.C. gigs - we're in Norwich on Friday, Wolverhampton on Saturday and Wakefield on Sunday. We've been rehearsing today and in addition to running though our current set we've been looking at some ideas for new songs which hopefully will be recorded for a new album sometime next year. And that's not the only exciting thing that's hopefully on the horizon - but more about that another time... in the meantime I've got the rest of the night off so I think that it's time to play the Pistols album again. I've been playing it rather a lot since last Saturday - maybe you have too?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

'The skill in attending a party is knowing when to leave...'

So there I was, minding my own business on the main stage at Butlins in Skegness as Ruts D.C. were in the process of closing this year's Great British Alternative Music Festival - to my left Segs is flanked by Jake Burns and Kirk Brandon, behind me Dave Ruffy is on the drums and steering the ship in customary fashion while Stan Stammers is with me at my microphone; we're all singing 'if you're in a rut, you've gotta get out of it' - as the song ends Stan throws his arms around me and I shake hands with Kirk and Jake before the three of them leave the stage. We're about to slam into 'Babylon's Burning' when I allow myself a moment's thought - 'how the bloody hell did that just happen?' followed swiftly by 'and didn't Richard Jobson say that he was going to join in too?'
All in all it was a suitably surreal end to a wonderful run of Ruts D.C. shows. In the last month or so we've played all over Britain and Ireland and barring the odd mad moment or two it's been an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Our new friends Harry, Adam and Mike from Riverjuke have shown devotion above and beyond the call of duty (well I think that they have, they'd probably say that they're 'just doing their jobs') which has made the band's job immeasurably easier, and even though I say so myself we've played some really great shows. After a batch of gigs like these there's often one or two that stand out as being better or indeed worse that the rest, but I can honestly say that's not the case this time. Ok, maybe Aberdeen (where we were to say the least concerned that the P.A. system wasn't up to the job but which turned out to be a classic evening) and Cardiff (which saw my Marshall amp go wrong again meaning that I was in a less-than-cheery mood; thankfully the Riverjuke boys had thought to bring a spare and the show saw one of the best audience reactions of all) stand out, but not by much. Incidentally my amp's back at the factory for repair and I'm looking at buying the spare - there go the wages. Again. But maybe nothing tops the 'crikey, I'm on stage with members of Theatre Of Hate and Stiff Little Fingers' moment. Strange days Indeed. Most peculiar mama.

So - what now? Well Ruts D.C. return to the stage at the start of November so it was back to basics on Friday night when I rejoined Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks for a show at no lesser venue than Hayes Working Men's Club. Al was recovering from a minor operation on his left hand and so wasn't playing acoustic guitar (we usually start the evening with a few acoustic numbers) and so Pete and myself split the duties on his very nice Martin HD 28 - I really must get myself a good acoustic guitar one day... I'd spent a while revising the songs as I'd not played with the band for over a month and had restrung my Stratocaster accordingly - shame I'd neglected to try it through an amplifier as the volume pot had developed a fairly serious-sounding crackle when used. This sort of thing can happen when a guitar isn't played for a while, and hopefully will be cured with a squirt or two of switch cleaner when I get five minutes. (Thinking about it I should perhaps be doing that instead of typing this? Hmm...) And last night I went to The Hope And Anchor in Islington to see the debut performance by RiVeR who feature Matt on guitar - he writes the excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog and attends many of our gigs so it was good to go along and give him a bit of support. A highly enjoyable night saw your humble narrator chatting to quite a few people who had seen and indeed enjoyed Ruts D.C. on this tour, and one gentleman who recognised me as a member of Big Al's band. As I say, strange days indeed... but proof were it needed that you don't get something for nothing in this godforsaken life comes with the news that this coming Friday's Upper Cut gig at The Dolphin in Uxbridge looks like being the band's last ever show. Shame - but nothing lasts forever (sadly!) and we've had a good run so hopefully we'll go out on a high. What was that line that Michael Stipe said when REM split up? A lofty comparison perhaps, but a comparison nevertheless - let's we don't leave our dignity at the front door eh?