Rich Rags - Role Models - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Sunday, 26 July 2015 03:00

role models band pic


Okay folks, sit back, grab a drink and let me introduce you to a friend of mine by the name of Rich Rags. Some of you eagle-eyed people might know him from his spell in The Loyalties, and others will only be too aware of his band Role Models and their past releases - Damn, they even gave away the last EP for free!! (Go check it out)


Well, let me bring you up to speed. Since about April Rags has been busy; in fact some might say he's been very busy cooking up an album with his Go-To Guy Rich Jones (yeah, that guy from Michael Monroe's band) and putting together a killer band that will do justice to what is a killer album.


I get asked all the time what's a good album to listen to or what I'm listening to at the minute. Well, let me introduce you to Role Models' 'The Go-To Guy' - it's more beat up than the previously released material but still with great hooks and Rags knows how to tell a story with his lyrics.


Before the album is launched Uber Rock wanted to get the inside track on the new record and find out what the state of play is within Role Models, so, without further waffle, I better introduce you to Role Models vocalist, songwriter, guitarist and go-to guy...


Rich Rags


Hi Rich, the new album, it's been a long time coming - tell us all about it...


Well, as you know we've released two EPs and the autism charity single up to now. I was in a situation where, though we've been steadily gaining a bit of a good name, there was gonna be some changes in the band and I felt a little lost. Going through a bit of a confidence crisis. I was gonna do an acoustic album and all sorts, hahahaha. Oh boy. That's what we all need. Me being a 'troubadour'. Jeeez. I'm writing all the time and had a lot of song ideas archived so I was just testing the waters with my musical compadres about what I should do. It became pretty apparent that it was time for a full album and all the grandiose nonsense that it entails!


How did you come up with the album title?


Well, that's a funny story. My pal and fellow guitarist on this album, Rich Jones, was at work one day and got the kind of phone call he gets constantly. Some guy from some touring band calling him up to hook up for drinks, hahaha. His co-worker commented that he seemed to be 'the go-to guy' for a lot of travelling musicians who get to London and, well, don't wanna be boring, hahahaha. He then asked Jones who his go-to guy was. "Well. I guess that would be Rags!" They laughed. And then a silence filled the room. "Who is Rags' go-to guy? What's THAT guy like?" Hahahaha! When they told me later I jumped on it immediately as a great album title.


How did you decide what was going to go on it and what was to be left out?


Last year brought about the demise of my old home away from home, Denmark Street. Especially the 12 Bar and Enterprise Studios. It was a place I hung out in, worked at and wrote songs in. When I moved here to the UK it was a place that really introduced me to a lot of friends I have now. Many great, creative and crazy memories there. As a lot of my friends know, if we're having drinks someone will usually, offhandedly, say something amazing, and I'll incorporate it into a lyric. Knowing that this place, and literally the Soho that we once knew was fading away, I tended to gravitate toward the songs that had those moments, words and experiences written in. Now, it's no 'Tommy', hahaha, but there is an underlying thread.


What about the recording? Where was it done and how was it approached?


Well, we've always worked with Andy Brook and this time would be no different. I love working with that guy. The perfect marriage of technical know-how and musicianship. Great ears. And a great friend. But now that Rich Jones was on board playing guitar and singin' with me, and he moved to Berlin, which is one of my favourite cities in the world, I thought splitting it up would be fun. TV from the Radio Dead Ones has a studio there. He recorded that great Bronx single of Dave Alvin's '4th Of July' and I loved it. I wanted to go a little less powerpop jangly on this and put some more meat on there. Coupled with the stuff already laid down with Andy, it seemed like a great idea. It was a perfect place to get into the mindset and spirit of those lyrics as well. We would go out all night in Kreuzberg and have a million laughs and hook up with our pal CC Voltage, who also sung on this. Then the next morning, WHAMMO, a microphone is in your face! Hahaha! This album sounds great but certainly isn't polished, if ya know what I mean!


You got Sami Yaffa to play on a song - how stoked were you when he agreed?


Sami is an old pal from when I lived in NYC. Ave D and 10th St. I hadn't seen him for a long time and then we ended up playing Ginger Wildheart's last birthday party. When Rich and I mentioned the album he just said, "What? You didn't need any bass on the thing?" Hahahaha! We sent him 'Saturday Night Sailor' as its very immediate and has a bit of space for him to stake a claim. And he sure did! He played amazing on it. Really happy and honoured to have that guy on it! It'll be the first single.


Daniel Husayn


The record was mastered in London by the bass player Daniel [Husayn]. It has to be one of the best sounding records this year? He and Andy Brook captured the essence of Rich Rags don't you think in the production and mastering? It's so important to get it right.


Thanks, man! Daniel is amazing at mastering and a great bass player. He's got a work ethic I really admire. He also has a way of reminding me to stick with a theme, to distill what is important out of the thoughts bouncing off all of the walls. I love working with those two. Poor them, hahahaha! Yep, they captured it all right!


Where does this leave you with regards to where you go next? Man, you have to pull a pretty big fuckin' rabbit out of the hat after this record!


Oh buddy! Don't worry about ol' Uncle Rags, hahahaha! I already have seven finished for next year's album. I just write 'em and send my li'l biplanes to Simon and he fixes some rocket engines on 'em. Dan sorts out the mess of jet streams. And now we have a new full time guitarist in Nick Hughes. He stepped in for the Yo-Yo's reunion gigs. Great player and singer. Let's see what he brings! We'll be okay.


Nick hughes


You picked up slots at this year's Camden Rocks and a support slot with Hey! Hello! and when the Biters hit London - these are pretty decent shows to get on, so what else have you up your sleeve, gig-wise?


We've been pretty happy and grateful for these gigs. Ginger asking us on the Hey! Hello! gig has really helped us reach some new people. Once the album is out we will be booking more into the year. There's the great Some Weird Sin nights we are talking about as well as maybe another Jubilee gig. More gigs around this great island and Germany as well. We'll be busy.


Rich Jones did the artwork; why not let the readers in on the concept? Rich has done some amazing jobs for Michael Monroe and, of course, Uber Rock - he can even play the guitar as well.


One typical night in Soho we were havin' an early drink at the 12 Bar when Jones jokingly said, "Come here Rags. Let's take your solo album cover photo!" On his phone, hahahahaha! I don't know if you are aware of the Ronnie Wood solo album, 'I've Got My Own Album To Do'? Well, let's say that might have been an inspiration, hahahaha. When we looked at it later the photo turned out great! And hilarious! Just what was being aimed for. When thinking about artwork and titles, that seemed to fit perfectly. The spirit of this whole thing has been like that.




Tell us a bit about your journey. You've been a bit of a globe trotter musically.  How the hell does a boy from Canada wind up recording such a great record in Germany and London via New York City playing with some fantastic musicians?


Hooooo boy. I started out in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Was in a band called Red Autumn Fall that, at our best, looked and sounded like Bauhaus and the Smiths all mashed up. Alone. Within a sea of boring prairie tragedy bands with names like "The Tractors" hahaha. Through a lot of hard work and touring we started to play some pretty big places, got on the radio, Muchmusic, kinda like Canada's MTV, and got on support slots with bands like Oasis. Stuff like that. Then got bored and moved out to Toronto. I ended up craving some change so I parted ways with them and started playing with a lot of diverse bands there. Lindy (who is a singer songwriter and still does quite well) to Hamilton-born punk queen CJ Sleez. The band with Lindy, that included ex-D Generation and 7 Seconds drummer Belvy K, started playing NYC and Jesse Malin took a liking to us. He mentioned that we should all move there and we would do well. THAT is all I need to hear usually. "MOVE" hahahahaha. So I went first. Everybody else chickened out except Belvy. So we started the band Madison Strays from scratch that ended up recording with James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and Richard Fortus of Guns N' Roses. But it was a demo made with my old high school pal Kenny Shillington that Zane Lowe from Radio One heard and started playing here in the UK. We won Fresh Meat and was asked to come over. The shows were great and a plan was hatched to have us come over for 6 months. We would do really well. I really wanted to go. Everybody chickened out. Starting to sound familiar? Hahahaha! I'm leaving a lot out, but trust me, if anyone has ever consistently snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, it's me, hahahaha!


You know what, though?  I'm proud of the company I've kept all that time. They are all still doing great, interesting things. Belvy has been curating a night in Brooklyn that celebrates independent artists, musicians and even small business and restaraunts. Our bass player is a globetrotting magazine art director. The drummer and singer from RAF just recorded with Boz Boorer. Lindy is doing extremely well touring. CJ writes an advice column. Countless others. Now I'm here. I've really been very lucky.


Simon Maxwell


Who got you into all this trouble? What bands/singers/guitarists shaped your musical landscape?


I come from a family of six kids. The next youngest is about 10 years my senior. Piles of records. Spent a lot of my time accidentally scratching up their vinyl in the basement. New York Dolls, KISS, Cheap Trick, Ramones, Bay City Rollers, Beatles, Stones, Van Halen, AC/DC. Then it was my turn to buy albums. Maiden, Motörhead, Cars, Pretenders, Dead Kennedys, early REM, Plimsouls, Tom Petty, just on and on and voraciously. But, man when I heard 'Let It Be' by the Replacements, WHAMMO! Hahahaha. Had ONE other friend that liked 'em. So they felt like 'our little secret' for real. Music kinda snagged hold of me pretty early and those were the first hooks I guess.


I think when people hear this record they will be blown away by the songs, no doubt about it. There is a release show planned - tell us about that?


Aww, thanks, man! August 21st at Our Black Heart in Camden is the date. We have a killer bill! Steve Conte is playing with his band as very special guest and I couldn't be happier or more excited! That in itself is gonna light that place up! The Dedwardians, who are an amazing live band and good buddies, and new punks on the block Rehabilitated round it out.


Role Models Live


Was it difficult choosing what went on the album and what was left behind?


Not really. The theme just seemed to dictate what was picked pretty easily. That was the easy part, believe it or not.


What else have you got coming up on the horizon?


There will be a video for 'Saturday Night Sailor' and more gigs, of course. For the long run I have made a bit of a challenge to myself. To record and release an album or EP a year until, well... you know, hahahaha! I intend to keep to that.


Come next summer and you've been on the cover of all the important websites (like Uber Rock) and magazines and it's time to put together the Rags festival - who do you get to play on the day? Money no object, mind - who shows up to play?


I don't like festivals unless I'm playing 'em, hahahaha. Even if I curate them, hahahaha! Wet shoes suck! But I would do something like stagger really famous and established artists with amazing 'non mainstream' bands like ... VAN HALEN... The Ligaments... BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN... LA Drugz...  hahahahaha. And one stage. NO ESCAPING. That would be entertaining. And FAIR!


If you had to get up and do karaoke what's your song of choice?  I have you down for a bit of a crooner or maybe a curveball like Soft Cell or a Rod Stewart-style American Songbook tune just for kicks.


My go-to tune is always David Lee Roth's version of 'Just A Gigilo'. Holy smokes. LOOK OUT! The shirt is OFF! OH MAN! And if I have to be honest, maybe I shouldn't share this hahaha, but I do a MEAN Jon Bon Jovi. Any era. Any song. But if you want the special magic, cue up 'Runaway', hahahahaha!


Well, that'll do for starters, boys and girls, now go pay 'em a visit and let 'em know the Ubers sent you. If they're playing a support slot at a show you're attending don't hang about, get in there and take in what they have to offer. You won't regret it. Cheers Rags.



[Photos by Thai Cervi]