If Richie Ramone described his first solo album, Entitled, as a “tough record” that he “could shove down people’s throats” its successor is less confrontational.
“It definitely had a different spirit to it,” the former Ramones drummer turned band leader says of Cellophane. “I think I’ve grown more as an artist and as a singer. It’s a little more friendlier but still has that punk edge.
“The first record my lead guitarist was Tommy Bolan and he played a little more metal, so it tended to have that metal-punk influence.
“This one I wanted to move in a different direction with more sing along songs.
“I made that first record before I was really touring with the band. After two years touring with them I kind of knew what the band sounded like more live, so I used Claire [Misstake, their bass player] and Ben [Reagan, rhythm guitar and drums] on this album so it had a little different vibe to it. But it came out great, I really like it.”
Alongside eight originals, Cellophane includes a cover version of the Depeche Mode song Enjoy The Silence. Richie Ramone, who played on The Ramones’ 80s albums Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy and Halfway to Sanity, says he thought he could bring something new to the song.
“Every time I do a record I’m always looking for that right cover and this song struck me. I knew it when I was a kid and it just worked really well with my voice. I pulled up a version, started singing on it and thought ‘Wow, if I could put some heavy guitars on this I could make this my own – which I think is the whole point of making a cover song, making it sound like you wrote it, and that’s the way it came out. I don’t like to copy the same song. It really worked well and I’m proud of that song. It sounds cool in the clubs too.”
As one of the last surviving members of one of American punk rock’s greatest bands, Ramone could be forgiven for feeling protective of their history and output. The drummer and lead vocalist prefers not to dwell on their legacy. “I just want to give them respect and not do any thing too irrational,” he says. “I’m Richie Ramone, I’m my own artist, but I came from that band and I want them to be looking down and going, ‘Hey, Richie, you’re doing a good job’. That’s the way I look at it.
“I don’t get all complicated with legacies and things like that, that’s what Marky [Richie’s predecessor] does. I just want to go about my business.
“They taught me a few things that I carry with me today but that’s pretty much it.”
It wasn’t like being a drummer in another band. I can think of some big bands and I don’t even know the drummers’ names. Here you became one of them. You were a Ramone, you were identifiable.Richie Ramone
Front man Joey Ramone once said he thought Richie ‘put the spirit back in The Ramones’. The drummer, who wrote several songs including Somebody Put Something in My Drink during his time in the group, says he felt closest to the late singer and bassist Dee Dee Ramone.
“The thing is when you get a new member, new blood, I think everybody goes on their best behaviour,” Richie reflects. “They had a few sleepy albums before Too Tough To Die and I think I just brought in a new energy. I was really younger than those guys and I brought in a ‘Hey, let’s do this’ type of thing.
“But I was very close to Joey. I was in the band four years and ten months and I think every night I was with Joey. We hung out whether we were on the road or in New York City, and Dee Dee and I were close too – more than I was close with John.”
The best thing about being a Ramone, he says simply, was “you’re in one of the greatest bands of all time – that’s a fact”.
“It wasn’t like being a drummer in another band. I can think of some big bands and I don’t even know the drummers’ names. Here you became one of them. You were a Ramone, you were identifiable, and I get to take that with me forever now.
“The main thing is they were a great band, they were innovators, their music’s timeless and they’ll go on for ever and ever, so if you ever could be in one band that was the band to be in.”
Richie Ramone and his band play at The Snooty Fox Club, Wakefield on December 4. www.richieramone.com