Richie Ramone has been one of the musicians that have played in Ramones and have the honor to carry the Ramone “surname” given to those who played an instrument in one of the most important bands in history.
In Richie’s case, he played drums on Too Tough To Die, Halfway To Sanity and Animal Boy, but came to proemince for being the only Ramones drummer to write band’s songs by himself like “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” and “I’m Not Jesus”.
We talked to him about his experience with the Ramones, solo career, punk rock and a lot more.
Check it out after the jump.
Interview by Gustavo Dias Cruzeiro
TMDQA!: Considering that the Ramones reached their peak of popularity during the active years after you left the band, looking back, knowing the importance of that band, listening to albums like Halfway To Sanity and Adiós Amigos!, hearing about these huge stadium shows in South America, do you regret leaving the band?
Richie Ramone: I think the band reached their peak during my era. After Halfway to Sanity, Sire dropped the band and then a year later Dee Dee left. Too Tough To Die was an album that bought back the raw aggressive sound that the Ramones got away from for a while.
TMDQA!: As Johnny Ramone once said “I guess people do like you more when you’re dead,” referring to the fact that Ramones reached their peak of recognizement and popularity after the band stopped playing. I’m talking about the weight that comes with carrying the surname “Ramone,” and the legacy that comes with it. For a lot of people, being a “Ramone” is reason enough to be worshipped, a lot of these crazy Ramoniacs are even from South America. Did you have any idea how big the Ramones would be when you were in the band?
Richie Ramone: The Ramones were a big band when I joined in 1983 and yes it is weird how big they got after the passing of three original members. This was an iconic band with lasting power that keeps crossing over from generation to generation.
TMDQA!: In 1987, the Ramones came to South America for the first time with you on the drums. What are your main memories from that tour?
Richie: The fans were very intense and the food was outstanding. South America treats us like royalty. Seems like a good place to retire huh!
TMDQA!: You have said in multiple interviews that you were especially close to Joey. What was your relationship like with him?
Richie: Joey and I hung out every night for 5 years stomping around the east village in NYC and hanging out at our favorite bar, Paul’s Lounge. Joey was a big inspiration to me in every way and miss him dearly.
TMDQA!: Is there any interesting/funny story about your stay with the Ramones that you would like to share with the fans?
Richie: To me the most interesting thing is how this band killed it every time we performed. No matter what was going on between us personally, or how we felt that day, we always gave the fans their money’s worth. They came out to party and we filled their cups.
TMDQA!: We know that following up your departure from the band, in parallel with the participation of CJ and Marky in the Ramones, you kind of got away from the band and the music business itself and went into hotel business, recently you’ve been carrying the Ramones legacy big style, what’s that experience like for you nowadays?
Richie: I am having a blast. And with my first album about to be released, things are going to get really fun. The biggest thing to remember is to be true to your fans and true to yourself because you must have passion inside of you when writing songs. That left me for a while so I needed a change in my life.
TMDQA!: How is your relationship with the remaining Ramones: Tommy, CJ, Marky and even Elvis (Clem Burke)?
Richie: I talk with Tommy from time to time and have seen him at the Joey Ramone Bash several times. Clem lives in Los Angeles so I see him out on the strip at different events and we stay in touch. I met CJ last summer in Nashville and we did a song together on stage. He seems to be a really down to earth guy.
TMDQA!: Last July, you played a historical jam with CJ Ramone in Nashville. How likely is it that you two will tour together? Or maybe even with the other Ramones? The kids from South America would definitely go crazy with a tour consisting of you, CJ Ramone, Tommy Ramone, Marky Ramone, Daniel Rey and even Mickey Leigh.
Richie: Everyone is busy with their own projects. You never know what can happen, but I doubt getting all of us together for a tour will ever be in the stars.
TMDQA!: Some big artists have recorded or played songs written by you, like Children of Bodom, that played “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” and even the well-respected and loved Brazilians from Sepultura and Ratos de Porão once did a jam with “I’m Not Jesus.” What do you think about other people playing your songs? Do you have a favorite one?
Richie: The biggest reward for a songwriter is having another band put their spin on your song. I love to listen to all the different versions and how they interpret the lyrics. Two of my favorites are the “Behemoth” version of I’m Not Jesus and Somebody Put Something In My Drink by Daan
TMDQA!: Back in 2011, you played in England with the girls from the cover band The Ramonas, what was that experience like for you? We could tell from the YouTube videos that it was a hell of a night and that the results were fantastic. Is there any chance you’ll have a more extensive tour with them that could potentially come to South America? Here in Brazil, for instance, we have a lot of Ramones cover bands that would die to play with you, too, and even some female-fronted bands, like Ramona from Curitiba.
Richie: I was in Dublin, Ireland recording a record with the Gobshites and only an hour away from the UK. I saw a video of the Ramonas and contacted them about doing a show because I was so close to London. It was really fun and those girls can really rock. I get many invites to play with tribute bands, but I find it hard to do a show playing all the Ramones classics without my fallen brothers. Emotionally it is tough.
TMDQA!: You are quite a versatile musician with an impressive portfolio, having even led a symphonic orchestra. Many consider you the best drummer that’s ever played in the Ramones and also the best musician in general, because besides playing the drums, you also wrote songs and sang. Is it easy to play punk rock?
Richie: Punk rock requires a lot of stamina and you must stay conditioned to perform the music with aggression. Some people think it is easy to play, but to do it with feeling and conviction, requires you to have it in your mind and soul.
TMDQA!: A Mosrite guitar signed by you was recently released. Where did that idea come from?
Richie: Mosrite approached me about a signature model since I write all my songs on guitar. They are hand made in the United States and are easy to play. Oh yeah, they are light also and don’t wear out your shoulder.
TMDQA!: What are your favorite Ramones songs? Is there a favorite one to play?
Richie: That is impossible to answer because there are too many great songs and they are all fun to play.
TMDQA!: In your opinion, in 2013, does punk rock still exist?
Richie: Yes it does exist but not in the same way. In the late 70’s through the mid 80’s punk rock was a way of life. You did what you want, you said what was on your mind and really didn’t care who you offended. Today it seems a bit more tame and corporate but that goes for the whole industry. Times are changing in the business whether you like it or not. As I said before, just be true to yourself and things will work out.
TMDQA!: What have you been listening to recently? Is there any band you’d like to recommend to the kids out there?
Richie: I listen to all kinds of music so I don’t get pigeon holed. If you listen to one type of music only, it will affect your writing because you will want to sound like that. I like to take all the styles of music in, digest it, and let it come out in a natural way without being influenced.
TMDQA!: Tell us more about the musicians in your band: Tommy Bolan, Jiro Okabe and Ben Reagan.
Richie: What I can tell you is that they are a bunch of good guys to be around. They play my music with determination and are also fun to hang out with. Tommy has his own style on guitar and plays like it is his last day on earth. Jiro is from Japan and holds the bottom down with his heavy bass playing. Ben Wah plays rythym guitar and also plays drums so I can front the band on some songs. They all work very hard and give the fans a moment to remember.
TMDQA!: Your band plans to release a new album this year, called “Entitled”, tell us more about this project. Are you guys planning a tour in support of the album? Can we expect you in Brazil again this year?
Richie: Yes to everything…We will do a world tour in support of the record as soon as it is released. We are talking with labels now and will announce a release date soon and of course we are coming back to Brazil later this year.
TMDQA!: The website you’re giving this interview to is called “I have more records than friends” (Tenho Mais Discos Que Amigos), this is classic question we ask everyone we interview. Do you have more records than friends?
Richie: I have way more friends than records because I consider all my fans as friends. When we are on tour, that is the feeling I get.
TMDQA!: Gabba gabba we accept you we accept you one of us. Thanks for the interview, Richie Ramone, we’re anxious for your upcoming albums and tours here in Brazil, where you will always be welcome.
Richie: Thanks you Gustavo and see you all soon….peace….Richie.