You Can Get Dark With Me… Interview with Rich Ragany

New solo album presents the heart and soul of the London music scene

Interview by Adrian Hextall

The last few years has seen the Calgary, Canada born, New York City seasoned, and now UK based songsmith, Rich Ragany, build up quite a reputation with his various bands of rock n ’roll trailblazers, The Role Models, The Loyalties and most recently, RR & The Digressions.

Rich’s songs have won over the hearts of many, most recently with the critically acclaimed albums ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ and ‘What We Do (To Not Let Go)’ gaining considerable airplay on BBC Introducing, and rave reviews and features from the likes of Classic Rock, Vive Le Rock, Louder Than War and Powerplay etc.

If that wasn’t enough, Rich over the years has shared stages with the likes of Ramones, Bad Brains, SNFU, Rammstein, Oasis, The Lemonheads, Warrior Soul, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Whitfield Crane, Ginger Wildheart, The Professionals, Steve Conte (New York Dolls), as well as each band packing out venues in their own right.

All this experience and resulting attention has brought him to signing a deal with Barrel And Squidger (who have released music by CJ Wildheart, Massive Wagons, members of Status Quo and Sex Pistols) with a brand new solo album titled ‘You Can Get Dark With Me’. Due for release this coming June 14th, the album features ten songs of heartfelt soul searching and rousing anthems that are uniquely personal to Ragany and really get to the core essence of his personality and song-writing talents.

It makes sense therefore that we have a chat with the man himself, and by chat I mean two back to back Zoom calls at 40 minutes each. So read on for the lowdown on the bands, the road, the music, the new album and a few live shows celebrating the last 10 years of music… ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rich Ragany.

If you look at Rich Ragany’s career, he has been busy, he’s put out, on his own admission “a record a year plus singles and all sorts of things. And I’m, not to say, proud  pride is, I don’t know, a weird word for me always, but I think you understand what I mean, but I can say I’m fucking grateful to have made records, that many records with Andy Brook, you know? I’ve spent so much time with the professor, and look at the bands I had. The first version of Role Models was me and Rich Jones. And good old Pat, crazy Pat Lynch, back then in the old 12-Bar [venue] days. And then, I worked with Justin Maurer, he was in Clorox Girls [ https://cloroxgirlsofficial.bandcamp.com/album/clorox-girls-s-t ]. I’ve worked with James Sullivan on solo stuff, you know, Sully [Frontman/guitarist of garage-pop trio MORE KICKS – https://jamesrobertsullivan.bandcamp.com/. Of course, there’s Role Models stuff which will never actually ever kind of go away, you know, we’re gonna do something later on this year, record a single and stuff. Oops, did I say that?……..  And then, looking at them, there’s Nick Hughes, and he’s now promoting the new Middlenight Men album with a tour coming up as well.  There are so many more, and I look at all these people I’ve played with, and like, all the stuff they’ve done, since we played together, take Gaff for example (Michael Gaffney, guitarist in The Digressions and now with London based punk rockers Desperate Measures), I’m just so so grateful.

If you check out Rich’s latest album details at the foot of the article, you’ll see a host of guests playing on different tracks. The list if you’ve followed Ragany’s career is nothing short of ‘as expected’. These artists have been as much a part of his career as the man himself. There’s one common factor, one I’d loosely refer to as the North London Music Scene. The Camden sound, the Camden vibe sees all of these artists playing one or more of the myriad of venues in London’s equivalent of the Sunset Strip. It’s a great community that sees artists working with each other to realise their own dreams. The phrase ‘Camden Avengers Assemble’ springs to mind. 

“Yes, there’s a lot of that. Kit [Swing – Digressions member and guest on Rich’s new album] said that to me once. There were always people who would be doing their own thing but I am really happy that I worked through my own brain to bring all these people together. Do you know what I mean? Because a lot of these people would never have even met and they’ve all gone on to do really amazing things, and I’m really proud of the fact that I worked very hard organizing this stuff, writing those songs, putting together the themes of the albums, organizing the tours, all that stuff, and now I see everybody else doing the same. I just love the fact that that music in those instances brought a lot of people together, and now, people who wouldn’t have ever have been in the same room, they’re now best of friends, and they’re creating other things, and we’re still creating different things too.

I’m proud of all the stuff that I have done. I’m very grateful to have been in all those fucking situations, and I look at those records, and I am really, really, really, happy with those records, man. I mean, you can hear my voice changing, literally. Yeah, all those records, from like, the first Role Models to this latest record.”

Now it’s fair to say that the critical reception to each of them has been stellar. It’s always been very positive. If an artist can’t take that and be really proud of it, when can they? There are long time fans that appreciate both the musical style of what Ragany is producing. Over the years, the albums themselves and the different bands as well have shown marked differences in the style of music presented, but lyrically, people connect with what Rich sings about, and it’s that that they latch onto, and I think that’s one of the things that drives all the sort of positive affirmation of the outputs and the energy Ragany puts behind each and every release.

“The fact that it’s happened that way in the UK, you know, was one of the most important things to me. Listening to music when I was growing up was a way of getting out of a situation that wasn’t so great, abusive situations and stuff. Music was really a refuge, and I felt like there was a conversation happening between me and whoever I was listening to. Even at that young age, it wasn’t lost upon me that Johnny Thunder sat on a sofa and wrote, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory while watching TV. ” That was by himself, that was a moment, and the moment of getting the band together and recording that and then releasing it. It’s then becoming a part of other people’s lives, and it’s like an ongoing conversation, an ongoing sharing of moments, and I always felt that was an excellent way to live your life, and it was magical, and I kind knew then it was like, it was something I wanted to do.

So, yeah, I’m really, again, grateful, that word, you know, hashtag #grateful. (laughing) But I am, because it’s what I dreamt of doing, and all this stuff that sits around it. Come on, dude, you know me. I’ve been in a lot of great bands, with a lot of nutcases, and we’ve had some pretty great times, you know what I mean? It’s been fantastic, the whole thing. I just did something I dreamt about doing when I was younger.  I didn’t just want to go on stage and rock and roll, I know it sounds stupid, but I wanted to go on stage and feel something. I remember being in the crowd watching INXS and I thought, fuck, they were amazing. They had that connection, you felt like you could kind of get along with them. There was a connection there. – That’s the difference.”

The connection to the band is key, that feeling that they can be part of your world rather than just being rock stars sat on a pedestal over there, the untouchables. We see this more and more these days with social media and band to fan connectivity becoming more and more necessary to ensure the connection remains and that fans continue to appreciate, support and grow with the artists they love. 

This will sound funny, but I love Black Sabbath, I listened to Mob Rules so much, but I remember opening up something like Kerrang! Magazine, and there was a picture of them, and they were playing darts in a pub, like a bunch of English blokes, you know? And I was like, “Oh, that’s cool, “they don’t just sit around and worship Satan, “that’s good, you know? It forms that connection because you realise they’re normal.” 

Throughout his career, Ragany has had that connection with his fans. Playing different venues at events like Camden Rocks Festival at all times of the day would see hordes of fans packing out the tiniest of venues front to back and wall to wall to see him and whichever one of the bands play live. That following remains to this day having watched Rich continue to grow and evolve as a musician. 

I recall us playing at The Good Mixer, oh man, what a small stage. I left the hotel in Leamington Spa, got on the train, ’cause my wife and I had a hotel there, it was like, all right, see you later, honey. I get a little bottle of Jack Daniels, get to the venue and meet up with Nick [Hughes] and the others. We go to a bar down the street, and have a pint, we come back, and it’s a ghost town, empty, zero, and there’s nobody even on that street. It was the day we released Forrest Lawn [ https://rolemodelslondon.bandcamp.com/album/forest-lawn ], and I was just like, oh, well. Maybe it was a signpost of what’s coming up ahead, everything was seeming okay, but I don’t think anybody gives a shit… And then it happened this quick, and it was hilarious, I just turned around and I started setting up my amp, and I remember struggling for a bit, managed to get it working, turned around and then I turned around and the place was fucking packed, and there was a line out of the door, and I just remember Nick and I having a big hug. If anybody ever wanted to know what it felt like to be a performer, and having the moment where you felt completely alone, like you put all this work into something, meant something to you, and with honest to God, that feeling that you want to reach out, and it make some kind of connection, and have that kind of, that conversation, like we said, you know, I keep coming back to that word, and a moment like that happens, you know, it’s just like, you realize who the lucky person is. It’s not the person who’s come to see you, it’s you, you’re the lucky fucking person being on stage.”

Rich then goes on to recount a story about how he was at a party with his wife and someone came up to him saying “so you’re a rock star then?” and pointing out how he’s not made it because he’s not heard of him. As Rich points out, you don’t need a mansion and guitar shaped swimming pool to be a success. Not every corner shop turns into a Tesco superstore. But on a Sunday morning someone who needs eggs and milk will walk into a corner shop and speak to someone who knows their name and remembers their favourite products and has that connection with them. When was the last time you had a connection with anyone in a national supermarket? [Other than Gladys who works behind the deli counter obviously…. ]

I tell you what, that community, you know you can go into that shop if you’re worried, being followed, don’t feel safe walking home, you can go in, they’ll help, they’re gonna be able to take care of you, because they’re part of the neighborhood, and part of the community.”

If Rich has anything left to prove then perhaps this new album is it. You’ll feel that community spirit when Ragany’s new album , ‘You Can Get Dark With Me’ is release in June. It has ten songs that started out so simple and solitary but have travelled so far. The Camden Avengers have once again assembled and as you’ll see below from the hugely impressive list of musicians that appear, this is an album that can take on the world and win against whatever is thrown at it. It’s the corner-shop community spirit with the power an might of the Walmarts of the world behind it.…

There are two upcoming launch shows as well: 

June 14 Huddersfield, The Parsh INFO

June 15 London, The Black Heart INFO

You Can Pre-order ‘You Can Get Dark With Me’ HERE:

‘You Can Get Dark With Me’ credits and album info:

EMPTY AND FREE +++*

A PLEASANT FICTION +*

YOU CAN GET DARK WITH ME +++**

SIERRA BONITA ++***

TRAGIC CELEBRATION +*

REACH OUT +*

THE GREAT NOTHING +*

SHINE AROUND ME +*

WE’RE ALIVE ANYWAY +*

WORTH +*

RICH RAGANY – Lead And Harmony Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Piano and Keyboards 

With… 

SIMON MAXWELL – Drums And Percussion  

RICKY MCGUIRE- Bass

ANDY BROOK – Piano on “Alive Anyways” and “The Great Nothing”. 

Harmony Vocals on “Sierra Bonita” and “The Great Nothing”

Drum Programming on “The Great Nothing”

RUSSELL BROOM – Additional Guitars on “Empty And Free”, “You Can Get Dark With Me” and “Sierra Bonita”. 

Bass and drum programming on “Sierra Bonita”

Keyboards on “You Can Get Dark With Me”

KIT SWING – Harmony vocals on “Empty And Free” & “Reach Out”

KEN MOCHIKOSHI-HORNE – Additional guitar on “A Pleasant Fiction”

MADDIE LEE – Duet Vocals on “You Can Get Dark With Me”

 

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