MICK RALPHS : INTERVIEW Pt.1

Donrad

Donrad: I'd like to talk about your new album "It's All Good."

Mick: Oh... you got it?

Donrad: Yes. I love it.

Mick: That's great!

Donrad: But it doesn't sound at all like your other music.

Mick: Well no. It's funny, when I'm not on the road or doing stuff with Bad Company- or whatever- I've always written songs galore... a lot of stuff people don't even hear. A lot of the stuff on this particular record (It's All Good) is just sketch pad ideas I had for songs that I've never got around to putting lyrics to. Because I've always put them down, I generally tend to get music more than I do lyrics...when you get the two together, you've got a good song.

I've always got these bits of music- I came back from the tour with the original Bad Company- and I thought "well, I've got all these bits of songs what am I going to do with them?" Then I started to write more songs and I thought "why don't I just log them all down and see if I can compile enough for an album."
I found I had more than enough for an album and Peter Purnell (from Angel Air Records) luckily said he'd put them out as a sort of an off-shoot of Bad Company if you like.

You know I did this album all at home without any plans of putting it out at all. It was just like I'd jot this idea down as this might be a good song, but I think because of that I'd done- not thrown away- but without sort of thinking "oh my god, who's going to hear this?" I just put it down as I felt like it. All the guitar stuff is like one take because I was just doing it for myself. I thought I'd just put a bit of guitar on this and rattle it off and say "ok, that's near enough."

Donrad: I didn't know you played keyboards.

Mick: Yeah! I have been playing a lot of keyboards, especially in the last five or six years. I suppose it gives you more scope than the guitar, although it does tend to make you write a different way. But I find that the keyboard is the complete instrument you know? Guitar is great for a certain thing, but a piano is so much more expansive. I suppose people wouldn't think I played the keyboard, but I enjoy exploring the keyboard. I mean I only play by ear like I do guitar. It's fun to explore it. I'm sort of trying things out and I think "well, that sounds nice." I don't know what the chords are half the time, I mean if it sounds good it's fine.

Donrad: On the "Barking Mad" track, where did you get all the crazy sound effects?

Mick: Ahhh.... well, that's funny. I bought my wife's daughter a Yamaha drum machine last year or the year before, and it had these pads on it that kids can hit them and change the sounds they make, like tom-tom sounds or snare drum sounds and then one of them was a special effects sound.

One of them was like breaking glass, another one was like a bloke laughing, another one is a horse winnying... like kiddy stuff you know? Not only that, it also has these sort of funky grooves built into it like sort of hip-hop stuff. So I was playing around with it- instead of the usual drum machine I use- and I found I couldn't link them up because the Yamaha wasn't keeping time like a regular drum machine should, it was actually going ahead a little bit. So I thought "well never mind, I'll just use that and play it along with that" because it has some different sounds in it. So I laid down a track and I'm playing along with it and I start hitting these pads and all of these silly sounds start coming out and I thought"well what the hell, why not? It sounds pretty stupid but it's alright."

Donrad: It added to it.

Mick: Yeah, it made people smile, so that's ok.

Donrad: Do you still go to pawnshops and look for guitars?

Mick: I do it the lazy way now. I go on the internet (laughs) and surf around America, much to the annoyance of my wife and much to the cost of my phone bill. It's a new thing I've gotten into. The kids have computers and I never get to go on them, so I'm going to get my own lap top and nobody's going to use it but me. Then everybody's said "you've gotta try "G Base" and I'm looking at all these guitars and going "YES!" It's like having "Vintage Guitar" magazine everyday in your home you know?

I'm still a guitar nut, so I look up all these Les Pauls and Fender Esquires and photo them in. Some are great and some aren't so great. I bought one guitar off the internet and it arrived in about three days, it was brilliant. I didn't even go anywhere.

Donrad: How many guitars do you have in your collection now?

Mick: Not as many as I did. At the moment I have probably more than anyone should really need because I like them so much. I have about thirty I suppose.

Donrad: Do you have a favorite guitar?

Mick: Yeah, it's a 1957 Fender Esquire. It's the only one that's not in a case, it's sitting in the studio right now. It just sits there and says "play me!" (laughs). It's just a funky piece of wood. I still like Gibson, I've got a beautiful old Les Paul that's been hacked about a bit. It was a 1959 Sunburst, but somebody scraped the finish off and it's pretty beat up, but it sounds great. It's not like what they sell in shops as an awesome piece, it's just a working man's '59 Les Paul and it sounds great. I used it on the (Bad Company) "Reformation Tour" a couple of years ago, it's great to play.

Donrad: When you joined Bad Company you obviously came into a lot more money than you did with Mott The Hoople.

Mick: Yes.

Donrad: And that probably allowed you to collect afew more things that you always wanted.

Mick: That's right.

Donrad: I remember a picture of you in "Creem" magazine with a 1964 1/2 Mustang.

Mick: That's right. I gave my daughter that picture because she couldn't believe it was her dad.

Donrad: Do you still own that car?

Mick: No. I had it when I was living alone in London in my youth. I'd just come back from the states and Paul (Rodgers) and I caught the american car bug, so he bought a Camero and I... that '64 1/2 was my second Mustang, I had a "Bullitt" type Mustang before that I wish I'd kept, like the car in the film "Bullitt."

Donrad: What kind of car do you have now?

Mick: Oh I'm very sensible now I'm afraid. I've got a Range Rover. It's brilliant actually but it's manual. I always (still) have manual, I steer away from automatic. The new type Range Rover is really nice. I've had Range Rovers for a few years actually. I suppose after going through the usual thing people do when they have money, like Porsches and the rest of it. Then they have children and they suddenly start getting sensible and the Porsche goes, although you still want one- really- you just think you shouldn't because it makes you do things you shouldn't really do if you're a dad. So you have to wait till they're all grown up and then have one again (laughs).

Donrad: Who were your guitar influences?

Mick: Oh lots of them really. Mostly the blues players. Hubert Sumlin that played with Howlin' Wolf, Albert King. Chuck Berry I like particularly for his song writing and his rhythm style. I had the honor of meeting his son actually at a gig in St. Louis. He's a nice kid. You wouldn't think he was Chuck Berrys'son. He's like a real straight, computer whiz kid you know? He said "you gotta talk to my dad, I'm a big fan of Bad Company, you gotta talk to him." I'm thinking "you want me to talk to Chuck Berry?" This kid's excited because he's with Bad Company and I'm excited because I'm with Chuck Berrys' son.

Donrad: Did you ever meet Chuck Berry?

Mick: No. No. I've seen him play. I've seen him on gigs in America lots of times, but I just like his records really. For what they did you know? The luric and the groove. The groove is still going on from all those blues guys from Chess in Chicago. Otis Spahn, Willie Dixon and all those guys. I learned a long time ago- and not many people know this- that they played rock and roll with a shuffle across a straight four. Those old songs like "Johnny B. Goode" just sort of grooved and that's what a lot of the rock bands in England- especially in the early 60's- didn't get. It didn't dawn on them that that was what they were doing. It was natural for those American guys because that's how the black guys played the blues, shuffles and fours. Chuck Berry just put fours across the shuffle. If you try it, it really works. It's quite amazing, you'd think it wouldn't work but it's great.

Donrad: I think Keith Richards stole all those riffs.

Mick: Oh yeah. He's great too.

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