Interview: Richie Ramone [November 2014]

By Glen Bushell

The Ramones are a band that need no introduction. Their legacy is almost unmatched, and they have influenced almost every band that will claim they are a punk band. The band’s third drummer Richie Ramone breathed a new life into the band when he joined in 1982, and during his five years with The Ramones is credited as writing some of their most beloved songs such as ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’, ‘Smash You’, ‘I’m Not Jesus’ and more. After recently releasing his solo album ‘Entitled’, and with his first UK tour on the horizon, we caught up with the legendary drummer to talk about his solo album, what to expect from his live shows and what punk means in to him in 2014.

So Richie, you recently released your first solo album ‘Entitled’. What inspired you to do the record after so many years?

It’s kind of weird, I didn’t do much for like 10 years and something was eating at me. I went and scored ‘West Side Story’ for an orchestra and did some of those shows, and that was cool. Then I went to the Joey Ramone bash in 2006 or something, I did that for a couple of years and started writing and it just snowballed from there. After that long, I had a long rest and got myself together and people said, “You should make a record!” and I know nothing about making a record. It was a lot of work but it all worked out.

What made you decide to re-record some older Ramones songs for the album?

I did that because a lot of fans know the older songs and I wanted to put my own twist on it. Instead of giving them 12 new songs, I gave them eight. Well nine actually,  I put ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’ as an extra track on the vinyl. Just so they could be familiar with me, they knew my singing, and I didn’t want them to have to absorb too much new stuff.

You played drums as well as sang on the record. Was it hard to find a drummer for the live shows?

I still drum and sing live, but my second guitarist Ben plays drums as well so I move out front a few times during the show just so I can get in the kids’ faces. We switch it up a little live.

Is it quite liberating stepping out from behind the kit and fronting a band?

It just seems natural to me. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m not pretentious, I’m just being me. If you are just true to yourself like a real punk should it will be natural.

You wrote some classic Ramones songs in your time with the band. Do you have any particular favourites?

‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’ is one of the favourites, and I think that’s in the top ten of all time. ‘Can’t Say Anything Nice’ is another and the Latin countries really love that. It’s their favourite in South America. I’d probably say ‘..Drink’ and ‘I Know Better Now’ which has a strong message for kids. The writing was good, and I just try not to write too much fluff you know, it has to be special.

Do you feel you have a duty to maintain the legacy that The Ramones left on the punk world?

In a way. I mean it’s kind of two-fold being a singer now where I have the legacy of The Ramones, but I’m also a new artist. I wanted to make sure that this album was tough, aggressive and hard, and that’s how it came out. It blends well when I do some Ramones classics live mixed in with the record, and it all ties in really well. I do more of the Ramones songs like ‘Commando’ and ‘Loudmouth’ which is some of the harder Ramones stuff, not the poppier stuff.

Do you have any stand out memories from your time in The Ramones?

There was a lot of stuff. Five years is a long time and we were together a lot because we would play 160 shows a year. I hung out with Joey every night for five years and we would go out together all the time if we weren’t playing. The great memories are being able to play in packed clubs, and the excitement that came with it. Ramones always packed them in too, because we would never play anywhere too big, it would always be floor to ceiling with people. That was a real exciting part of it.

With the amount of songs that would be in a Ramones set and the speed of the songs, did it take quite a physical toll on your body?

I was a kid then so you didn’t do anything but drink and stay up all night and still play a show. To play that fast I would practise on pillows because the sticks wouldn’t bounce back up so I had to really develop my wrists. Now when I’m doing this where I’m singing lead and playing drums it’s extremely exhausting so I have to stay in shape. It’s a totally different thing when you take up the responsibility of being a lead singer too. Now I have to take care of my voice and all that shit. You can’t get away with not sleeping, so I tend to make sure I keep my heart rate up, ride a bike in the gym, all so you can get used to your heart going at 170 beats per minute live.

You have a UK tour coming up in December. What can people expect from a Richie Ramone show?

The people that are on the fence and don’t show up, all their friends are going to tell them what they missed, put it that way. They are going to get stuff off the new record that maybe you haven’t heard yet, and some Ramones classics. It’s just really hard and in your face, it doesn’t stop, and the band is really tight. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s my first time bringing my band over there, so I’m interested to see what happens.

What’s in store for the future? Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?

January we are going start laying some tracks down. We’re probably going to start on a new record or EP or something as I have some more ideas I want to get out there, and in February we are going to head South America for a tour.

Do you still stay in touch with the current punk scene, or have you heard any new bands that you have enjoyed?

I really like Teenage Bottlerocket. They got it right and they are a really good band and one of my favourites out there now. I also keep in touch with Isis Queen (Barb Wire Dolls vocalist), I really like what they are doing. I would like to get out to Greece and do a show with them, but we will see in the future. I’d like to hook up and do some touring with another band, like one of those guys maybe.

And finally, what does punk mean to you in 2014?

What punk has always meant to me is that it’s not about the haircut or the clothes you wear, or it’s not about spitting. It’s about being true to yourself and not being phoney. That’s what we do at our shows, because I sing the songs and tell the story. Either you like it or you don’t like it, just try to have some sense of being true to yourself, because that’s what punk rock is.

Richie Ramones solo album ‘Entitled’ is available now. Make sure you catch him on tour in the UK throughout December. All the dates for the tour can be found here.


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]