THE Ramones kickstarted punk, inspired a generation of kids to pick up guitars, and shook the rock establishment to its core.
Now, forty years after the New York band sang about beating on the brat with a baseball bat, drummer Richie Ramone is keeping their spirit alive with his own blistering punk-rock shows. Ramone touches down in Australia in late April for a run of east coast gigs with promises to play rock ‘n’ roll as loud as it should be.
“I’ll play some of the material from my last record and the one coming out.” Richie says. “Also songs I played with the Ramones back in the day, then I’ll play some Ramones classics. It’s a really good set, you know? It’s a complete Ramones set. In 2013 I played ANZ Stadium with Aerosmith. I had a good time and it’s beautiful over there. I’m really looking forward to this trip.”
In 1983, the then-unknown 26 year-old joined the legendary band just after the release of ‘Subterranean Jungle’, the quartet’s seventh studio album.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Richie says. “Somebody told me they were auditioning drummers, they gave them my name and that’s how it worked. I didn’t know them beforehand, and they called me and I just did the audition like any other audition. It was an amazing thing that I ended up in one of the greatest bands of all time. Right away we hit it off. Joey took me under his wing.”
His song-writing and vocals provided a much-needed new dimension to the band, and Richie went on to appear in over 500 shows. Singer Joey Ramone is quoted as saying Richie “saved the band” when he joined.
“The last two or three records, the last two especially, before ‘Too Tough to Die’ were probably not great records,” Richie says. “When you get a new person in the band, it changes the blood and energises the band. ‘Too Tough to Die’ came out in 1983 and did that. They accepted [my songs]. A good song is a good song, you know? Johnny didn’t want me to have more than one or two songs if he didn’t make the numbers, but they accepted it.”
Dysfunction was allegedly rife within the Ramones, including constant tension between guitarist Johnny and singer Joey, mental illness, drug abuse, and betrayal.
“All of it was exaggerated,” Richie says. “They were one of the most professional bands. We worked, you know? But it’s also like a family that’s together a lot; there’s weird shit going on. But when it came time to play a show, we were all together; we made sure of that. But they wanted to break up many times, I think, but I don’t know what caused them to stop [in the end].”
Since departing the band in 1987, Richie has had an eclectic career in music, including composing classical suites and releasing his debut solo album, ‘Entitled’, in 2013. A follow-up is in the works and is set for release this year.
“I’m my own artist now,” he says. “I have the last name and the Ramones taught me a lot. They gave me direction and taught me about how to respect the fans, and I carry that with me, but I’m my own artist, not the Ramones. I can’t be the Ramones. [The new album] is a fucking really great record and I’m really excited about it. I’ve got a Depeche Mode song [‘Enjoy the Silence’] on there, which I really like. I’ll be playing one or two songs from it when I get out there. I don’t like playing a lot of new songs when I’m on tour, so it’ll be only one or two.”
The death of drummer Tommy Ramone in 2014 meant that no founding members of the Ramones are still around, but the spirit of the band is as strong as ever, helped by the ubiquitous Ramones T-shirt and logo.
“There are a lot of new fans,” Richie says. “The thing I see is parents bringing their kids. There’s a fourth generation Ramones thing happening now. Parents want to introduce their kids to good rock ‘n’ roll. There’s tons of fans all over; we’ve got people coming to shows from 65 to 16. But it works. And they’re all wearing the T-shirt [laughs].”
Richie Ramone plays:
Thursday 28th April 2016
Great Northern Hotel – Byron Bay NSW
Friday 29th April 2016
Wooly Mammoth – Brisbane QLD
Saturday 30th April 2016
Social Club – Sydney NSW
Sunday 1st May 2016
Cherry Rock, Melbourne VIC