Interview: Wreckless Eric
Rob Garratt Wreckless Eric made a name for himself with a string of releases on the iconic Stiff Records in the late-70s. After decades on the road he married American songwriter Amy Rigby and now the pair are touring in support of their new album. ROB GARRATT spoke to him. Further listening: Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
Vintage punk-rocker Wreckless Eric made a name for himself with a string of releases on the iconic Stiff Records in the late seventies. After decades on the road he married American songwriter Amy Rigby and now the pair are touring together in support of their new album. ROB GARRATT spoke to him about touring with his wife, growing old and his time living in Norwich.
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t Keeping busy I hear?
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“We're having a busy few months, we spent two months in the states and we've been touring since the end of August. We came back from the States and started playing the UK. It's going great. When I say that I just don't know, it's never a given that it's going to all go greatly. We've got the economic situation and crisis so I don't know if that's going to make it good - some people say that more people go out at an economic crisis. I don't think it's affected us in any big way.”
t Well if the audience doesn't come out to you, I hear you go out and play in their front rooms?
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“It's a thing that we've done in America - there's a whole culture in America of house concerts. We did one in Philadelphia and there was a national journalist there and he was researching an article about house concerts because they've got so popular over there. They are the most bizarre idea but they're great when people know what they're doing, really all you need to do is move the sofa and bring some booze.”
t Ever done one in Norwich?
“I lived in Costessey and I moved about two years ago. I lived there for three years, I quite liked it, I liked to see bands at UEA and it was convenient when touring. When me and Amy left we did a house concert in our house to raise money to move and people said we were crazy letting all those strangers in, but they were all very well behaved. They paid about 30 quid each and we gave them dinner, and they brought so much booze there was more left when we finished than before we started.”
t Speaking of Amy, how long have you two been playing together?
“We've been playing together three years now, and together-together three or four years, it took us a ridiculously long time to get together. We knew each other a long time but one of us was always with someone else when the other one was single, and it took some time to shuffle into position.”
t How is it different playing together instead of on your own?
“I've written a lot of songs and albums in my life but when I come to writing a set list I write down three songs and my mind goes blank. Now with Amy we've got twice the catalogue. It gives me more of a chance to do things like play bass and sing harmonies and backing vocals, which is lot of what Amy does, because she was in The Shams, a three-piece girl harmony group.”
t How did you meet?
“I first met her in Nashville, then she moved to Cleeveland, Ohio, which seems like a very odd place to move to. We had a long distance relationship, we were keeping the airlines in the business, but it was difficult to find somewhere to live, so we moved to France. I lived in France for nine years in the eighties and nineties, I now understand life there and I speak French. There's English people there now which I find quite weird.”
t And what kind of stuff are you playing on this tour?
“We do stuff like some of my back catalogue - a few things from the Stiff time in the 70s, and some of the obscure stuff from the 80s, and some of Amy's back catalogue as well. We'll be doing Dancing With Joey Ramone, one of her hits, and my Whole Wide World.”
t How do you feel about playing all those old songs?
“It's not that bad. I've gone through stages where I never wanted to play some songs. I saw my old bass player from 1978 and he remembered that I would not play Whole Wide World a year after it came out, I would always have this problem about playing old stuff. People always yell for it but they don't understand that some of it doesn't sit well with what you're doing now.”
t How has what you're doing changed in that time?
“In a lot of ways technology has changed the sound of the instruments - you can actually use an acoustic guitar on stage now, when you couldn't in 1978. I think perceptions have obviously changed what you can do. Now we use a laptop with a few samples on it - just a bit, it's not like playing to a backing track. In the old days you were expected to be guitar bass and drums, and in the 80s I wanted to be guitar, cello and trombone or something but it was very difficult to do because people expected it to be a certain way.
The only way I can keep going is to reinvent myself. I never did it to keep going, I did it because I had too. This reinvention keeps us moving. Things change, I'm still the same person, but we grow.”
t Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby is out now on Stiff Records.