Richie Ramone: "I don't write happy songs. The stuff I wrote for the Ramones is kind of dark"
When Richard Reinhardt auditioned to become a member of the Ramones in 1983, few knew what an asset he would be to the legendary punk outfit. Not only could Richie Ramone play the hell out of the drums, he could also sing and write songs. With Richie aboard, The Ramones produced three of their best albums: Too Tough to Die, Halfway to Sanity and Animal Boy.
A dispute over merchandise revenue led to Richie walking away in 1987, but he had left his mark on a quintessential American rock band. His songs, such as "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" have been covered by several punk and metal bands. In advance of his Monday, March 3, show at Herman's Hideaway, we recently spoke with Richie about keeping the true meaning of the Ramones alive.
Westword: You are originally from New Jersey. How long have you been in Los Angeles?
Richie Ramone (aka Richard Reinhardt): I've lived here three different times. I moved here in 1988, and then I moved back to New York, and then I came back in 2000. I then moved to Miami, and now I am back in L.A. for four years. I am here for good. It's either New York or L.A. for me, especially for this business. But now, I don't have to deal with the snow. You can't have a house in New York City. You can't have a car.
Your debut solo album that came out last year, Entitled, has gotten some great reviews.
It's very exciting. It is a really positive record. It's cool and it sound great. The songwriting is strong. It is a unique sound. It separates itself from a lot of stuff that is out there. It's because of my weird vocals.
You can hear that classic Ramones sound shining through.
There is a Ramones influence, but it is just a hard rock record. That sound is in my blood, that in your face sound. I have two guitar players who are both very good. I have a drummer, so when we play live, I get to move to the front and sing. It gets a little weird sitting behind the drums and singing. The kids like me to come up front so they can steal my jewelry. I wanted to combine those different sounds of punk and metal, and that is what I got, punk meets a little metal, and I am happy with the outcome. I think the record is a little heavier and a little darker than the Ramones. I don't write happy songs. The stuff I wrote for the Ramones is kind of dark. "Someone Put Something in My Drink" is not a happy, surf song.
Why did you decide to record the album in Nashville?
The bass player I was using at the time knew the studio. We got a great rate, and the engineer there I really liked. We went to Nashville for ten days. I brought the tapes back to L.A. and mixed them for seven months. It's great to go record somewhere else because you don't have your friends coming down to the studio to hang out. It's nice to get out of town with the guys and lay it down. It's hard to tell people not to come down. I don't like having the posse around. It's too intense. Because I also produced this record, I had to be on both sides of the glass. I had to have it the way I wanted. When the posse is there, it is a little too much.
Did you make it to the Grand Ole Opry?
Yes, but we had been there before. I saw that and some other places, but it was mostly work for sixteen hours a day, catch some sleep and back to work in the morning. When you are in the studio, you have to take advantage of the time. There is no time to goof around.
Do you feel obligated to do Ramones material when you play?
I try to stay away from it until the end. I need to play three or four of Ramones' classics. That is mostly for the encore. It is definitely not a Ramones tribute thing. We play about twenty songs in the set, and I choose two or three Ramones songs to play. I even play some b-sides. There was an album done while Joey was in the hospital. I got to sing lead on a few songs. I will do those because people know them. I do a few Ramones songs to make everybody happy. I am not about doing what C.J. and Marky do. They do a whole set of Ramones song. I am not going to do that. It is not the same without Joey and Dee Dee, not the same without everybody there. I don't feel I need to do that.