Latest release: Cellophane (Independent)Website: www.richieramone.com
Like all good rock n roll tales, the Richie Ramone story is a fascinating and interesting one filled with colourful characters and places. In his early 20s, this classically-trained jazz drummer descended into the underground music scene of New York’s Greenwich Village. A short time later, Richard Reinhardt had become Richie Ramone, drummer for one of the most iconic punk rock bands of all, the Ramones.
“My time with the Ramones was good!” he declares in his almost impenetrable New York accent. He isn’t drawn into talking much about the legendary tension and off-stage dysfunction that has become part of the Ramones mythology. “Parties… drinking… doing everything that we liked. I was 24 when I got in the band and I didn’t really see anything that was that bad. During my time… I don’t know what happened later or before, you read all these stories – whatever… when I was in the band it was good. We had a great line-up and we did great work.”
Thirty years on from those heady days, Richie Ramone is still on the road and these days making his own rock n roll records. His second solo album sees him return to Australian shores for the second time this year in November. Cellophane is the culmination of “seven or eight months'” work on songs that germinated while touring on his previous output, Entitled.
“On the road you kinda get some ideas,” he says. “We were off for a good six months’ stretch last year so we recorded it in January. Then you gotta mix it and do the marketing and get it out, so it’s a long process.”
Cellophane serves up eight originals including ‘Pretty Poison’, written during his years with the Ramones, and a snarling cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy the Silence’.
“It’s great,” he says of the perhaps surprising song choice. “I like the song, When I started writing the guitar parts and shit it started to really come alive. It sounded fast and cool. You gotta make it your own, make it original. I’m excited about it. It works well in the nightclubs too,” he says with a chuckle.
If Depeche Mode doesn’t sound like the sort of artist Richie Ramone would be expected to cover, his other choice would have been more of a curve ball if he’d found a way to pull it off.
“‘Macarthur Park’,” he says, and sings a couple of lines. “But it was so long… I didn’t know how to cut it down. It’s a seven minute song! Maybe the next record, I don’t know. You gotta do stuff that makes you happy. You won’t be happy doing what other people are doing.”
After a lifetime dedicated to his craft, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is still very happy going out on the road and making music.
“I’m coming to Australia twice in one year, I’m travelling the world, I get to eat the food, I get the wine, I drink the bourbon. We do what we need to do to get by on the road. It’s a good thing. I still feel the joy and the energy and if I can still put it out, let’s do it!”
Richie Ramone has a direct connection to Australia now, in the shape of young gun guitarist Ronnie Simmons, who cut his teeth with bands like L.U.S.T. and The Art before basing himself in LA several years ago. The ex-Ramone speaks highly of him.
“He’s a really good player,” he says. “He was already a big Ramones fan when he came into the band so it’s worked out really well.”
Richie’s return to Australia is timely. Exactly forty years ago the first Ramones album was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world. Few people realised it at the time, but it was to become one of the most influential records of all time. Richie Ramone wasn’t there when the album was made, of course, but he remains part of the Ramones legend.
“They were innovators,” he says of their lasting influence and ongoing legacy. “They came out with that sound and when you change the face of music, it’s gonna stick around. The song writing’s great. That’s why the Ramones songs are timeless. They don’t date. They still sound great and they still rock, it’s not like, ‘Oh that sounds like 1976’. It doesn’t. Their music will be here forever and ever and ever.”