This interview originally appeared in NARC Magazine Issue 114 (February 2016)
On the day I interview a Ramone, something I’ve wanted to do all my writing life, David Bowie dies.
So inevitably, when I get through to Richie Ramone on Skype, the first thing we discuss is the death of The Dame. In a broad New Jersey accent, Richie tells me he “just expect[s] it now, kinda. You try not to get too upset. When you get to 70 you know time ain’t on your side. But who next? I guess it’s the Stones”.
Richie Ramone got the rock’n’roll bug early on. “When I was in high school I got hold of fake ID. I was sixteen and living in New Jersey and I used to come up to the city, and that’s where I saw the Ramones. I saw them a few times, and I was fan, totally”.
“I hated all that arena rock shit, but around 1979/1980 I started hanging out at CBGBs, those kind of places, and I saw so many great bands, and I thought, this is what I want, this is how I want to live my life”
“I mean I was a fan, but I didn’t have any Ramones posters on my walls. When I joined the band I joined as a musician. I’ve been playing the drums since I was five years old so I was brought in because I could play.”
Born Richie Rheinhart, Richie Ramone was third in a line of excellent drummers (after Tommy and Marky) and played on the albums Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy and Halfway to Sanity. “I wrote a lot of material for the band” says Richie. “I wrote ‘I’m Not Jesus’ and ‘Somebody Put Something in my Drink’ and I’m the only drummer who wrote songs for the band”
He was also the only Ramones drummer to sing on a track when he recorded ‘You can’t say anything nice’ for the band.
Punk rock to the soles of his Keds, Richie also played on solo work by Dee Dee and the posthumous (and rather excellent) Joey Ramone album Ya Know?. As far as Joey was concerned “Richie saved the band. He’s the greatest thing to happen to the Ramones. He put the spirit back”.
The love is obviously mutual as Richie continues to play at the annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash
“I’m off to the studio this week in LA” Richie tells me. “I’m working on my second solo album, Cellophane, and I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t play great guitar, but I play enough to write songs”. Unfortunately the album won’t be ready for the tour. “Nah, that’s unfortunate, I know” he says, frustrated at the timing. But Richie is one busy boy, recording with the Gobshites, the Rock’n’Roll Rats, and previously with Fred Schneider of the B52s and Dan Sartain.
Richie plays The Cluny on February 9 and it’s not going to be a night for nostalgia. “I’ll be playing Ramones classics, songs I wrote and songs I didn’t, and I’ll be playing a lot of my own material from my solo albums” he says.
“I heard about audiences up there” he says of Newcastle. “You guys really like punk rock, right?”
Oh yes, I tell him, oh yes.