Former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone who was a member of the legendary punk group from 1982-1987 and penned such classic songs as “Somebody Put Something in my Drink” and “I’m Not Jesus” has just returned to the music scene after an extended hiatus with a debut album titled “Entitled”. To support the release Richie and his band our out touring the U.S. and Europe and Media Mikes sat down with Richie recently to discuss his time with the Ramones and why he felt now was the time to release a solo album.
Adam Lawton: Can you tell us how you originally were chosen to join the Ramones?
Richie Ramone: There was a big 3 storey house in Brooklyn were we all used to party and hangout. There was also a recording studio there. I just happened to be there one day and Little Matt who was a roadie for the Ramones was leaving after hanging out and I happened to ask him where he was going. He told me that the Ramones were auditioning new drummers and that he had to be there. I told him to my name in the hat for consideration and a short time later I got a call from Monte Melnick the bands manager and the rest is history. I just happened to be in that building at the right time. I didn’t know any of those guys initially as it was an open audition.
AL: What was the band atmosphere like when you joined?
RR: They were worn out. Things were good but of course Joey and Johnny tended to fight a lot. I was just this kid from New Jersey. I was new blood and once I got in there things just settled down. When someone new comes to the band everyone is on their best behavior. (Laughs) It was a good climate in that band for many years. John and I both loved baseball and when I first joined we would go to games at the different ball parks together. Sadly as time went on and it came time to do business things just didn’t work.
AL: What is your take on the recent marketing explosion of Ramones merchandise that often doesn’t include yours, Marky or Cj’s names?
RR: They won’t put mine or Marky’s name on the t-shirts anymore. Apparently the one with Tommy is the biggest seller. If you are able to find an original Richie shirt it’s worth around $300 or more. I’m not part of that merchandising thing anyhow and these days I have mine own merchandise and things are fine. I know the Ramones still sell around 20-25,000 records a year and things are going well. I think things were a bit cheapened when after I left they tried to make it seem like I never existed. People knew I was there. I went through a lull for awhile and now I have risen to the top.
AL: Being you along with CJ were both very instrumental in the continuation/success of the Ramones what were your feelings toward being excluded from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions?
RR: When you see bands with multiple members in a situation like that there really needs to be a decision to take everyone or just the original core members. That’s how it’s supposed to work and when the Ramones went in it didn’t work that way. I still went to the ceremony and spoke on Joey’s behalf. It all worked out. Big fucking deal I didn’t get a statue.
AL: Why did you choose now to come out with a solo album?
RR: I have no idea! I didn’t even pick up a drum stick for 10 or 12 years. In 2006 Joey’s brother Mickey invited to me to perform at the Joey Birthday Bash. That kind of got the fever going. In 2007 I did “Suite for Drums and Orchestra” with the Pasadena Pops and did some shows and then did a few more Birthday Bashes the following 2 or 3 years. From there I started writing and the material turned out real good. People started saying that I should do an album. I had never done a solo record before and one thing just sort of led to another and here I am now. Things weren’t really ever planned they just happened.
AL: How did you go about putting together the material and the band which plays on the record?
RR: I wrote all of the stuff in my home studio. I found Tommy Boland who plays guitar on the record through a friend of mine. I play all the instruments but for this I needed real players. Tommy added a lot of color. I knew I wanted a little heavier guitar sound with solos. I wanted a little metal in there and that’s what I got with Tommy. Jiro Okabe came in and played bass on the record. Playing the material live is a little different. Tommy wasn’t available for this run and Jiro’s vocals didn’t work so I let him go. The live sound has to be a little harder as it’s more stripped down. There are only 4 of us up there and we don’t use any backing tracks. We just plug in and go. This line up of Clare Misstake on bass, Alex Kane on guitar, and Ben Reagan on guitar/drums is really fucking good. I am excited to be out with them.
AL: Where do you generally start when working on new material?
RR: It happens all different ways. Sometimes it starts with a beat, sometimes with a chord progression or a lyric idea. I am not a guy who writes about politics or anything like that. I just write about stuff that happens in my life. A lot of times what’s happening in your life is also happening in other peoples as well.
AL: The U.S. tour runs through March. Does the band have any plans scheduled after that?
RR: We will be heading to South America for the month of May and then will be in Europe and Italy in June. We are going to be touring all of this year. We have to see how this all goes and maybe will do another record. I have more material that I have been thinking about but I want to see how well this first record is going to be received. If the kids want more I am going to give them more.
AL: What has the overall reception been like for the record/tour?
RR: The reception has been real good. Especially from the people who come out to the shows who already have the album. It’s hard if no one has listened to the record before hand because there’s no relationship built around those songs yet. Some fans coming out may get a little bewildered at the new material. That was a big part of why a waited a couple months to tour behind the release as I wanted people to have a chance to sit with the material.
AL: What do you feel is the biggest change in the music scene now as compared to the 1980’s?
RR: In the old days you generally just hid from the fans. I would put my sunglasses and just stay hidden. Now you are totally exposed. It’s a huge difference! Touring is still touring. You’re riding in a van all day and then wait in a cold room till you go on. The music industry has changed also. I just come out and have fun with the fans as that’s who it’s all about. 5 minutes after our set is done I am out at the merch table meeting everyone and taking pictures with them. They pay their hard earned money and we give them a show.