An Interview with
Rhythm Guitarist of Status Quo
that took place on Thursday 12th September, 2019.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Richie, how are you mate?
Glenn: Congratulations Sir on your album 'Backbone' getting to No. 2 already.
Richie: Well I don't want to speak too soon. I haven't seen the official position where it's landed just yet. Unless you heard ahead of me, the last I heard it was sitting at number 2.
Glenn: It's looking that way. A buddy of mine, Steve Cooper, he sent me a screen shot showing it at Number 2. I thought, 'Wow, that's awesome'.
Richie: Yeah. I would be honest – it is. It was a bit of a shock. It was a difficult week when the album came out because we were up against a lot of stiff competition. Top 10 would initially had been been fantastic. Top 5 would be the icing on the cake.
Richie: So here's to hope. We've got another few hours to go, you know? (before it's officially number 2 on the Friday)
Glenn: I know. It's just your brother in Hollywood that's keeping you off the top spot – a guy called Post Malone. You can't make it up can you?
Richie: Haha! Post Malone versus Richie Malone (We laugh)
Glenn: Perfect timing isn't it? It's great. (We laugh more). How's it all been going with the promotion so far? You guys have been so busy.
Richie: It's been nuts. As you know, because of my story coming into Quo obviously and a lot of people still haven't heard that has worked well and here's a new album. So they've put me together with Francis to do an awful lot of the promo. It helps him out as well and it's my first time I doing this level of promo and this amount of it. I understand how he must feel. It split it up and you get a couple of different stories. It's good. It's all been positive. It's been great.
Glenn: Yeah. It's such good banter between you. You are putting some fire in him. The young guy is pushing up the old guy gets him going. Just keep giving it him mate because you are doing well. I saw you a couple of years ago when you played at Sheffield City Hall. It was getting there. I don't think you'd been playing with them that long as a unit and it was a bit rusty in parts with the odd song being a bit 'Ugh'. Not you personally. Then I heard a show from Berlin on 4th June, 2019 and Wow! You've really made that band tenfold. It's come together so well. You've put so much fire in it. The confidence of the whole band being that unit now, having you in there, Leon there, working with each other, it sounds so tight and good.
Richie: It is yeah. It has been something that has been worked on behind the scenes and on the road. It's not taken for granted any more All this has progressed that little bit every time. You have a break from the road and everybody says, “Sh*t! Just when we were getting super tight again”. Even when it's been a show where there's been a two or three week gap, people still say, “It's the best we've heard”. It's got to be something good if we've taken breaks and still performing well.
Glenn: Yeah. It's stopped sounding like it was going through the motion. It's like a different band, if you know what I mean? (not because Rick Parfitt isn't there any more). It's become like a full, solid unit again.
Richie: Yeah. Exactly. I certainly feel that. It wasn't like that obviously when I came in three years ago. It was a different story. It was a strange time. We still had some great times in 2016 but it's definitely a different mentality now when on the road. It's happening there and it's doing good.
Glenn: Yeah! Awesome! Did it take you long to really gel with the band personally and also on stage as well as mentally?
Richie: Yeah. Absolutely for sure. It's still happening. We're still trying to gel and do little pieces of songs that aren't rehearsed. So, 150 shows later, we're still trying to progress. When I first came in, obviously, because I knew Rick so well, I was so paranoid that I'm going to look like him while I was playing guitar. It's so easy when you do the Quo thing, to put the legs apart, hold the guitar up and really lay into the Telecaster. That's how I naturally want to play it. I really want to go for it. Then you realise, 'it might look a bit naff to people' because he's trying to do exactly like Rick.
It was a bit tricky at first trying to figure out. The first year was definitely.... even to walk to the other side of the stage was daunting at certain parts. It feels like I'm walking away from the amps now and going into uncharted territory and it's only a few metres away. It's definitely something that has come together but has taken three years to get to this. What you see up there didn't just happen overnight. Some bands have probably started and broken up in the space of two or three years – mine did (he laughs).
Glenn: (I Laugh) I mean, that band started as The Scorpions and later The Spectres and such like way back in the early to mid 60's so they're not going away anytime soon.
Richie: The band that Francis was in – he had The Spectres. They lasted longer than most successful bands of the era before anything. It's amazing how different it is compared to most bands nowadays. That was before the Quo journey even started for Francis and Rick. It's a different time now.
Glenn: It is yeah! I mean, bands these days, they are lucky if they get a single deal – if their single doesn't sell, they've had it!
Richie: Absolutely! Yes!
Glenn: A lot of the bands from way back, they were like two or three albums in before they cut into the charts and got noticed. If these bands were going now from the beginning, they would have no chance. This is really sad because these bands are the guys we've looked up to for the last 20, 30, 40 years.
Richie: Yeah. Of course, of course. The music business has become so difficult. You don't really stand a chance unless you get out there and you can work it. I love a band called 'Airbourne'.
Glenn: They're amazing!
Richie: I know that they get slated and people say it's AC/DC. I think it's so not because it's harder and faster. They worked their asses off when I first saw them and in the touring they did. It's a credit to a band like that, that puts the effort in on the live stage.
Glenn: I remember seeing them at Donington in 2009. Joel O'Keefe - he was climbing up the side of the stage and the officials were shouting, “Get down, get down from there!” It was hilarious.
Richie: (Laughs) Yeah! I remember seeing it. I was there!
Glenn: Yeah? Awesome Man! That's sweet! Regarding the album, what would you say the highlights have been recording it?
Richie: One of the highlights that stands out for me and it's more of a personal thing would be one of my tracks, 'Face The Music'. I took that in, I gave them the demo. The aim was to write a pop-rock type song – to put my hand to it. I used to love it when Quo would drift into a song. I always wondered, how do they do it? Sometimes on 'The Party Ain't Over Yet' or whatever. It's radio friendly but it had a Quo type of sound to it. I remember when we were doing that particular song (Face The Music). It had my vocal on it as a lead guide vocal but as soon Francis took over ans started to sing my lyrics.. I was just sat there and he was in the vocal booth. The hair stood up on the back of my neck as I could see how a Quo record turned into a Quo record.
As soon as he starts messing about with the vocals and prefers that sound. Apart from the Telecaster sound and 12-bar riffs, he slates himself for that voice. To hear his voice singing my lyrics... and I think Leon was pretty much the same when he put his song forward.. to hear Francis singing the lyric in it's own way comes to life as a Quo record. That was quite unique. A massive highlight was hearing the album in full for the first time. I flew over to specifically have a playback – just myself, Francis and Andy Brook. We listened to the album from start to finish. Just to sit with them and say, “Right, this is going. This is what Quo fans are going to hear.” It is really something, you know?
Glenn: Yeah! I guess it was like an anticipation for when it was coming out as well. We've all been waiting a few months for September 6th. I remembered it because it's my Sisters birthday on September 6th so it was a double whammy. (We laugh)
Richie: Two celebrations!
Glenn: Yeah which is cool. It starts off to me quite quiet with 'Waiting For A Woman'. Then it hits you in the face with 'Cut Me Some Slack' and 'Liberty Lane' – mind blowing songs!
Richie: I have to admit, when I first heard the album and heard 'Waiting For A Woman' as well as track 1, I was enjoying it. It was plodding along nicely. I said, “Okay, strange choice for a track”. Francis said it's exactly what he wanted people to say: “Why would you open the album with this track? Why not 'Liberty Lane' or 'Cut Me Some Slack'?”.
He said, “Okay, you've heard the first track”. I said, “Okay, that wasn't so bad, I'm hoping it goes up from here” then bang! It goes into 'Cut Me Some Slack', 'Liberty Lane' – it was his idea. It's take a gamble, it's risky, he knew and he planned it that way. He wants to throw people off a bit. He's done this before. He knows what he's doing.
Glenn: It's genius that.
Richie: Yeah. So hats off to him. It was a decision he made by himself and no-one was going to change his mind. I think it's worked out. It does. It does get its reviews in magazines which say its not a great song and doesn't get off to a great start. You can't please everyone and everybody with every single track.
Glenn: You can't. It's impossible. I mean, through the years of Quo, there have been so many styles that have been thrown in. Various line-ups and changes. You can't stick to the 1973 'Hello' Quo style year in, year out can you?
Richie: No. I feel that there is a reason why I suppose the name 'Status Quo' is still alive in 2019. They've taken those crazy gambles over the years and done albums they shouldn't have done. And they've done stuff (they shouldn't have). All along the name is probably still floating about and there were still tours. So yep, like any long standing career or company along has made some bad decisions. I found it strange.
People will kill me for saying it – I can still pick tracks of something like 'Famous In The Last Century'. I love the versions on that. People will say it's total p*ss. (We laugh). I love some of the tracks. I can pick out tracks on any Quo album you name.. I can pick out a track I like. I suppose that's just the fan in me in a way. All in all it's trying to keep the ship a floating. I suppose that was the main thing for the guys, you know?
Glenn: Yeah. I mean, the song that you sing, 'Get Out Of My Head' is brilliant. It adds another dimension to the band and to the sound of the band. It's like a dirty, aggressive, nastier sounding. It's almost like a fire you've blown into it and it's like, 'Yes!' I mean when I first heard it, pardon the expression but it was like Rick Parfitt was almost back with the voice sort of mixing in with the sound of Francis as well. I thought, 'God, give him more songs on the next few albums'.
Richie: That's great.
Glenn: Loved it!
Richie: Well it was something I have been asked, “Were you thinking of Rick when making the album?”. People have even said, “Did you have his picture on the wall when you were making the album?” People ask such strange questions.
Glenn: Yeah that's weird!
Richie: As far as we were concerned, we were in work. We were in a studio trying to make an album. I must admit, when I came up with that rhythm, the only reason I came up with that rhythm to 'Get Out Of My Head' is because Rick Parfitt was such an influence. I didn't set out to say, “I wanna go (sings a classic Quo guitar rhythm riff). I didn't set out to do that. It was just that type of rhythm that Rick would do on songs. That he would do on 'Down The Dustpipe'. It's that type of rhythm. As you say, there's something slightly different in there and that's what Francis had seen in that particular tune.
He refused to work with me on the track. He even stated, “I've got to let you do this on your own because you're onto something there”. When you get it to a certain point, you send it back across and you go from there. That's exactly what happened. The guitar tone you are talking about, I created that at home here on a Boss recording unit and we mixed it in the studio. If the demo ever sees the light of day, (you'll notice) it's not too far from the demo guitar tone. That's what I love about it. It's kept that dirtiness to the guitar but it's a nice technical track.
Richie: I see the comments on the track online have been overwhelming to say the least.
Glenn: Yeah! It must be amazing for you to really be commended on your first song on a Quo album like that. It must be mind-blowing
Richie: It is and it's hard to take it in, I'll have to admit. I have to try and do it again. I then have to say, “For f*cks sake, these guys have done this. This is their 33rd album for Christ's sake and keep coming up with the goods”. But, I do absolutely appreciate the comments. People are saying it's the best track they've heard in years. Other people will have different opinions. I am blown away genuinely at the response for that track and what people have said about 'Face The Music'. It's really heart-warming.
Glenn: Awesome! On the track called 'Backing Off', before the second verse comes in there's like a clunk noise. Was that deliberate?
Richie: The little bit that goes 'Ch'?
Richie Francis goes mad for that. When we listened to the playback in the studio, he would grab my attention and say,”It's coming up there in a couple of bars”. I said, “What? What's coming”, (Francis said to me), “Listen, listen” and then you just hear 'Ch'. “You hear that?” (he said) (I laugh). It's a flick of a switch or a stroke string – a dampened up-stroke. He loves it. He loves little things like that that he's stuck in there.. but he's mad (We laugh) Exactly! And you're asking the question. “That's why I did it” he said.
Glenn: Yeah. He sounds like he's a real nice guy to get on with. He gets so much flack sometimes. That he's moaning about something.. that he's saying this, he's saying that. But you know him properly don't you? That's the big difference behind the closed doors.
Richie: Yep. I do see the flack he gets and he walks himself into it, says things and it gets picked up interpreted the wrong way. He does genuinely mean what he says but people can't seem to take it on board. As you say, they don't really know how his brain is ticking away. His brain is constantly moving at 150 miles an hour. It's hard to keep up with him sometimes. Sometimes when he's away on an interview and he's talking about something.. he does, he can walk himself into a situation and it comes across the wrong way. In his head, he is constantly motoring away. That's the way he is but he is a decent guy as you say. He's very funny, very humorous and caring behind the scenes. He's been in the business so long and you can't imagine what that does to one's brain. (Laughs)
Glenn: Yeah. I guess at times he has to put such a hard faced front on because he lost Rick Parfitt, yet he had to carry on. That must have been bloody hard for him to go full-force and not let it get to him. Especially on 'Burning Bridges' when he sings, “I can't escape this Ricky in my ear”. I don't know how the hell he got through it. It's lucky he's got Richie in his ear now.
Richie: (Laughs) Yeah. I can't imagine what it really must be like in his head. Rick's not around but I know a lot of stuff has gone on in the past that people wouldn't know about between him and Rick. Rick and Francis were together all those years so they would know each other inside out as we all know. They knew how to work with each other through thick and thin. That's why I always love (Quo). No matter what was probably going on, on or off stage, they would still be Quo up there and you could never tell the difference because they were such a good partnership. It is a credit to them that they did walk the business.
Glenn: Exactly! No-one at the time had any idea that it was a bit iffy behind the scenes because they just got on with the job.
Richie: Exactly. Like any business relationship or any marriage or whatever, it's never going to be plain sailing for the whole thing. I do know what Francis says, when he says, “Well Rick was burning the candle at both ends”. Francis recently said it - the great expression that Rick lit it. He was going to burn out quicker than everyone else. He was enjoying himself and it was sad the way it ended at the end. It's good to have to believe it but I know for the guys – for Leon, Andrew, Rhino and Francis.. when Rick passed away in 2016 in Turkey that time, it was really severe.
To come back after that was a massive shock for the band. It was a really bad heart attack. He was never the same since really. I think that's why Francis says, “Rick died for me then” because he never really came back to the Rick he knew. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been. But I suppose that's the way it is. I'm just really happy that Rick's legacy is kept alive. People still get to hear his tunes and this name is out there that he worked all his life for. That is the way that I would look at it myself.
Glenn: Yeah exactly. How was it supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd? That must have been pretty amazing.
Richie: Yeah it was good. That's the perfect example of pulling together as a unit. We had a 60 minute slot here. You can't go and overdo it because people are going to see us as overdoing it some way – trying too hard. We got into the zone. It was four shows. I thought the sound was extremely loud and high pitched at the first show. By the time we got to Wembley.. Wembley is obviously Wembley – it's a legendary place as you know. I watched Lynyrd Skynyrd as a guest and it was a really special night. It wasn't the same as say, playing with REO Speedwagon or Uriah Heep. It was a good bunch of shows and we got to hang out together, have sessions together and have the crack as we say in Ireland.
With Skynyrd it was very much get up there and try and make a statement here because it was a short set. Again, that was pre-Backbone. The messages that were coming in via Management that social media.. we couldn't believe it because we were just doing our thing - we doing our set but we were exposed to a lot of people that had probably not seen this line-up of Quo before. It was a real shock to hear how the positivity was coming through at those shows from just a 60-minute set. It was an eye-opener and obviously it was a gamble for Francis to do the Supports or Special Guests as its called. It was good fun. Great venues and incredible crowd and audience. It was a good show.
Glenn: You've done sporadic shows now and again, some in Europe, you've done Let's Rock Leeds Rocks and Let's Rock Essex. Do you know anything about a future UK Tour because my buddies, Steve Cooper and Alan Shooter have both said, “Ask him if there's going to be a Sheffield Show or any other shows later this year?”
Richie: No there's nothing. We are officially off the road as of next week. Our last show is in Switzerland. Again, a lot of people have said, “What the hell when there's a new album coming up?” In a way, it's like Francis is being rebellious again. He's done the album and said, “We're got going to tour until next year.” Amongst a lot of stuff, he's getting older. He does get tired. Basically, he's still as healthy as he can be but he wanted the album to come out. He wants to take a break for a year and come back with a bang next year. Next year will be the traditional UK Winter Tour and Europe probably between October and December.
Glenn: The classic Quo time?
Richie: Yeah. It's a real shame.. of course I'd love myself and other other guys would love to be playing this year. We'd love to play as much as we can but we have to be careful. We'll let this album come out and we needed to see how the album will be received. It would have been a massive gamble to bring out the album and (put out tour dates) beforehand. Because you know, in the business, venues would have had to have been booked up way in advance with tickets and all the pre-sales. The album could come out and be a total flop. Then we would tour on the back of it. Obviously we don't want that, but I think we will see how the album goes tomorrow, how it's been received around Europe and hopefully come back with a revamped set list next year with a stage show and lights. That's the plan. It's a long break which is very difficult for us but we'll see.
Glenn: Yeah. Talking about revamps, we are a bit like, “Oh not the same set list again!!” You know what I mean?
Richie: I know. I know.
Glenn: If you could take certain songs out the set list and put put certain ones in that you really like, that you've not heard Quo play as a fan, be it album tracks or whatever, what would you want to take out and put in? I know it's putting you on the spot right now, so I apologise.
Richie: I know. It's a fair question. It really is. There's two sides to it. There's the fan and the casual punters as we call them. From the casual punters sort of thing – the guys that come.. the majority of people that will come, they want to hear the hits as you know. You will be surprised and people will hate to hear this and I don't like saying it but the likes of 'The Oriental' played in front of a crowd that hasn't really heard it before, people absolutely love it. I don't. It's something about a different change of tempo or technical thing to it but I would probably rest 'The Oriental' and 'The Beginning Of The End'. I would probably rest 'Rain' and 'Something 'Bout You Baby I Like'. It's a tricky one but I would love to put in 'In My Chair'. I would like to do something like 'April, Spring, Summer and Wednesdays' & 'Big Fat Mama'. I'd like 'Backwater' to have stayed in the set.
On the modern side of things I love 'Red Sky' but it's difficult because if you change the set up too much... you can't forget that the audience is not full of die-hard Quo fans any more – it's really not. But there is a whole bunch.. there's so many - 'Dirty Water' for example.. even if they were to tone it down a bit. But it's tricky.
We've got to go and rehearse a bunch of new songs from the album to see what's going to work live. When you do them in a rehearsal studio, we can play them and play them and sometimes they are just not hitting off – they are not clicking right. Earlier, last year I think, we were doing 'Big Fat Mama'. I love doing it but I think the set was quite heavy, it was quite pounding. You don't want to be draining the other guys. I don't want to burn Francis out too much either. It's try to find that happy medium in a 50 year career of songs. I get ya, I hear ya, I know. It is a touchy subject and always has been for Quo.
Glenn: I know. There's so many big hits everyone expects. You can't take out things like 'Rocking All Over The World' because the average punter is expecting those songs.
Richie: Yeah. Exactly. Again, it sounds strange because I was at the Frantic Four's last show in Dublin. I remember walking out at the end. It was probably the best one. As I was walking out, I overheard people say, “Yeah it was good but why didn't they play 'In The Army Now' and I didn't get to hear 'Rocking All Over The World'. I didn't know most of the songs.” That's genuinely what you're up against. When you're playing an arena or if you've got to play at that level of quantity of fans, you have to play the hits. You still have to catch them at the start and try and keep them interested throughout the set. So, it's a nightmare (We laugh) As you know.
Glenn: I bet it is. I mean, you're playing away thinking, 'God, do we have to play this one? Of course we have to play it!' (I laugh) You've got to put a smile on, playing it away as though you are digging it and you think 'Gawd!'
Richie: I know. People do think 'Oh you must get sick of playing these songs' but once you're up there, like 'Rocking All Over The World' for example. I know it's something that's been done forever but once you're up there and you see... you've got all the main fans that have been going for it all night, then you get that last bunch of people that have kind of come to life' and it's a 'Wow'! So it would be difficult to drop a song like that. I don't get sick of playing it, thank God. I enjoy playing it because of that adrenaline that comes into the arena when it's played.
Glenn: Yeah. I was talking to John Coghlan a few years ago in an Interview and I was saying to him, “I wish they would put a song like 'Accident Prone' because I absolutely love 'Accident Prone' but it never gets thrown in.
Richie: It's a great song.
Glenn: Yeah. Persuade Frame to throw it in if you can. If would be so good if you managed to do it but it's up to him isn't it sometimes.
Glenn: Do you get to compromise much with each other? Is it more or less what Francis says is what goes or is he more laid back and takes a lot of suggestions from the rest of the guys?
Richie: It depends on what the subject is. Francis is obviously the decision maker at the end of the day but if we're trying to come up with something, everybody will suggest something. It kind of has to be his decision. He has to be one that has a wanting to do it as well. It can't be a case of,“Look Francis, this is what we need to do”. There has to be a certain way to approach Francis so we can all be on the same page and it has to work. We are doing a lot of festivals this year. There's not many shows where it's just the Quo crowd. We have to be careful and the big gamble this year was putting in the two new tracks into every single show.
That was a gamble for shows where people only want to hear... as you say, 'The Essex Rocks' and all the 80's festivals' - they only want to hear 'Rocking All Over The World and stuff. Then we're playing all these other tunes plus two brand new ones. It is a gamble but I think with the likes of the encore, 'Bye Bye Johnny' is finished for good. I know Andrew Bown and the guys, they just don't want to play it any more There's no need to play it. It's been there forever.
Glenn: Yes. As long as we can all remember.
Richie: Yes. Yeah exactly. We've set up a line to mix up the encore, depending on the crowd on the night. We've done it. We've come back out on a few shows and done 'Paper Plane'. That was great. I think what would be great would be 'Paper Plane' and 'Burning Bridges' because it's something old and it's something people can bop to as the second track. They're both 3 ½ minute long songs. You finish with a high. It's nice and tight and off you go. That's a way I think we could do it. I don't know. Next year we don't know what the set could be. The problem is, what are we going to drop because Francis enjoys playing every song in that set?
Glenn: (I laugh) I knew you would say that.
Richie: You know! I don't know. We'll have to wait and see what's going to work.
Glenn: I've got you. It makes a lot of sense. You've got to approach it a certain way?
Richie: Yeah. I've had a few suggestions of what songs will go where but the problem with Francis is, he's too clever. He thinks about the set list unlike anybody else. He will talk about key changes. What key before what key in the next song? Is that a shuffle? Is that a straight rock tempo? What tempo is that one? More than, “Oh we've played this song for the last 20 years”. He wants the set to flow and that's why people, for example at the Lynyrd Skynyrd shows, they wouldn't have seen us before and they're seeing something they are totally not expecting.
A really tight, flowing set that had a bit of everything in there - some of the old stuff and finishes on a big high. That comes down to that set list being as tight as hell. But, don't get me wrong, I would love to do... and we were doing it for a while. I'm happy that we got 'Little Lady' in there, we've got 'Mystery Song' and stuff like that. It's an honour to sing some of that.
Glenn: Yeah and you're sounding so good at those songs as well.
Richie: Yeah. Well it really means a lot. I really appreciate them because you can only go up and give it your best. You don't want to overdo it. You don't try and be something that you're not. I use the album version of the riff. I use Rick's voice on those albums. It's so melodic. There isn't a roaring vocal. It's not screaming. It's quite melodic. That's the thing of why Quo got away with it so well. In my opinion, it's so heavy. It's foot to the floor, guitar-driven but it doesn't have a screaming vocal over the top which was great. It's good but it's not easy.
Glenn: It's so up there. It doesn't let up. I've tried singing some of that stuff like 'Whatever You Want'. It's up there and it doesn't drop at all.
Richie: I know. That's what makes it so difficult. Rick was my hero and I remember that last few years I saw him. His playing was tremendous. He was really piling in heavy on the guitar but less in his voice. Even as a die-hard fan, I could still hear that he was really going for the vocals when didn't actually need to. He could have pulled back and saved his voice. In his mind, he's singing from the throat and he's really screaming the vocal. It didn't need it. It didn't matter. He was up front and going at 110 mph and he never gave a sh*t.
Glenn: Yeah exactly.
Richie: But that's what I use. I use the album to see... where did it come from? What was the original tone of the voice and see if I can work around that. As you say, it's great to get the feedback that people are saying that it's good. Trust me, many people have said it's totally sh*t.
Glenn: Yeah. I've read that and I'm thinking, 'That's unfair because you're putting your heart and soul into it.' I think these fans, these so-called die-hard fans – these hardcore frantic four fans, they make you sick sometimes because they can't expect a replica Rick Parfitt. God bless him, he's not here any more, we've got Richie Malone. Give Richie a chance because Richie's a good guy. He knows his stuff and he can deliver.
Richie: I know. You know how it is. Music and especially Status Quo's can be referred to very easy like football. It's very easy if you imagine Frantic Four Fans – the really die-hard fans, you can imagine that they're Chelsea fans and the current band is Manchester United. There is nothing that you can do to convert them to the different team. There is no reason. They are stuck on that side of the fence and that's their own thing. If that's what keeps them happy. It's none of this, 'What makes them happy?', they just genuinely don't have an interest.
A lot of us have asked the people that do and that's why it still works. We've still got to give it some for some of the people that still want to come and see it and hear it. It's been a real shock because some of the older fan-base I've noticed, people have actually found it difficult to say, “It actually isn't that bad.” To see some of them coming back and saying, “This is actually better than I expected”. To see that happen is quite special at the moment. There's something happening there!
Glenn: Yeah. When I played 'Backbone' – certain bits of it. Even my mate Steve Cooper said this, that you've got a Frantic side that goes into the 80's side like the albums, 'Never Too Late', '1982', a bit of 'Back To Back' and a bit of the later sound as well. It gels but it's not old hat and I wouldn't say it's totally new – it's just what it is.
Richie: I agree. I think we were lucky with the material that was put forward for Backbone. That's what you guys have been given there. It was eleven tracks. We're gonna make the album. My second track was going to be a bonus track and 'Crazy, Crazy' which is obviously that country type thing. That was the material that was put forward and Francis ran with it. That's what we all individually sent in as our first choices of our own personal songs. He saw something in those tracks. He worked really hard on them. Some of the demos of the original stuff, he worked really hard. He changed the arrangements. He did say at the very off and we all said that if this is a total f*ck*ng flop it's totally on his head and he owned up for that. (Francis said), “If this goes down really bad it's on me and if it goes down well it's on me. (I laugh) We ran with that.
He worked more in the main on this and made all the decisions. He obviously had that sound in his head. He knew how he wanted it to sound. He stripped it back. I actually already had a lot on the cards. I was listening to something, just going over some vocals and I realised again that there's something clean about the album but driven. There's something there on the album and you could crank it up and it's not distorting. As you say, it's like something from the past with a twist on it. But time will tell. It's the first album of this line-up if you think about it. It's the first studio album with Leon on drums.
Glenn: Exactly. With an album like this, with this line-up up, I can see this going for many, many more years to come.
Richie: I hope so. We don't want to jump the gun. Unfortunately, Andrew and Francis are that bit older now so it actually can't go for years and years which is sad in a way. But, the good side of it is, is that we're here now and we're going to try and make the most of it. Yes, I'm not ruling out another album if this is successful. We'll still have to go touring under the name 'Backbone' as everyone will know. It will probably be next year or the following year. I know deep down all of us, we're all eager to do another album. I've got my demos here ready and for the next year off we will all be doing things. I know we'll never have this hype again if we do another album. The promo around this album has been off the scale and obviously it's down to a couple of things. The first (new studio album) in 8 years and it's the first without Rick. If we did another album, who knows what will be on there.
Glenn: It's like it's the next album from the new band. You don't know how it could go do you? It's like they (press and fans) could be just used it now. It might be lower in the charts or it might be a case of 'Backbone' was so good, I'll go and buy that and it will get right the chart. We just don't know do we? We haven't got a crystal ball in front of us. All we can do is see what happens.
Richie: Yeah. I think the main thing it is a fair cross on the album and it did track well. Even if it did track well in today's current climate, chart-wise it doesn't mean you've sold 100,000 records. It's the exposure at the moment and the fact that a lot of people are seeing that the band is actually still out there working. It's the next chapter. The main thing is us being out there and getting the word out. The fact that people have heard what this band is about. I think a lot of people wanted this to be a complete and utter pile of sh*te – they would have loved that – to be totally a bad album. I think the fact that it's come out and it's been quite decent has probably turned a lot of heads. The most important thing as you know, the current state of affairs is bums on seats at venues. That's what it's down to. People actually come out and see the band. I think that will be our success.
Glenn: Exactly. You've done so, so well. What Quo album means the most to you in the past and what song if you were there at the time would you have loved to have played on and been in the studio with that particular line-up at the time?
Richie: It's such a difficult question because I'm so inclined to go with something from the 70's but I genuinely do love lots of tracks from 'Rock 'Til You Drop'. My favourite Quo album will always be 'Hello!'. That's my favourite album. I love a lot of Quo albums but 'Hello!' was always special to me because it was something I played to death when I was getting into the band and it had everything on it that I love about following the band.
I would love to have played on.. people think I'm crazy, the re-recorded version of 'Forty-Five Hundred Times' because I know that that was done pretty much live with a mobile studio. In my opinion, the band were absolutely smoking hot. Rick in particular was smoking hot on that version and they were really tight. I could just imagine the vibe of being in that room when they were doing that recording. Of course, I would loved to have been there when they did 'April, Spring, Summer And Wednesdays' and that was way back when they were discovering themselves. That would have been magic to have been a fly on the wall. There's too many to choose from.
Glenn: Yeah I agree. You could go on forever. You had a band in the past called 'Raid'. Can you see in-between when Quo aren't working – not touring or not in the studio that you would resurrect that because people know you from Quo and come and see your own band? Or is that just like a non-starter?
Richie: I'm definitely going to get something going late this year and soak into next year because of the long break we're going to have. I'll have to do something to keep actively playing. The Raid thing is a tricky subject because when I was with Raid, the other guitarist that was in the band, we were essentially like Francis and Rick. That's the way to explain it – he was lead and I was rhythm. We were very much like Francis and Rick in a way in friendship and all that. Unfortunately, we've both gone our separate ways. To do Raid without him would be strange. I don't even know if he still plays any more as we haven't spoken in a long time.
If I was to resurrect something, I would probably do it under 'The Richie Malone Band' or something like that because if I'm doing Raid thing, I'd have to take a deal and probably do some of my original stuff. I know a lot of Quo fans have asked. There are originals out there that I have done and I would love to re-record them again now with the experience of being in Quo. It's an open door at the moment.
First things first would be get a core band together. A couple of bands I'd like. One would be just to do the typical circuit of doing covers – happy to keep playing to keep busy but there's a second band I would like to get together which would do all the heavier stuff that I like. I would be like to be playing a lot of heavier stuff. I've always been into heavier riffs. A couple we used to play – Airbourne and Stone Gods who were a great band.
Glenn: Oh they were awesome.
Richie: I love a lot of that stuff but it's a very small market where I can take that – Dublin for example – Rock Clubs. But I'd really like to put my heart into that because it would shock a few people. You know, “He's in Quo. What's he doing here with 'Drop C Tuning' and 'Drop B Tunings”. But that's what I love and I've not done it for so long that I'm excited at the thought of doing that in the break.
Glenn: Well exactly, just because you play a type of style with one band, doesn't mean that's all you are into. I know Francis is into his country music and he's proved that with that album he brought out ('We Talk Too Much' with 'Hannah Rickard'). Why not? Why be that same musical entity continuously?
Richie: True. Look at Rick's solo album. 'Over And Out'. You would expect it to be all heavy but there's some varied stuff on that album. He genuinely came from the Cabaret stuff. He did like an awful lot of different types of music. For me, I'll get something going that's a bit heavier and more so. There's no money involved in it because what money is in it nowadays? If you are not already an established act, a wedding band or something like that, how do you make money? I really feel sorry for a lot of young bands or any band that's trying so hard to make money but they're screwed over at every turn by somebody else.
Glenn: Plus to get up there you have to have all the buy-ons and many bands can't afford it. The industry kills the future of the industry if that makes any sense, unless you've got a lot of money behind you.
Richie: Yep. I remember when I look back and you're trying to save for a mortgage but you're stuck in a very expensive rented apartment. When are you ever going to get the money? I remember when I was in my band starting up. We had a couple of originals but in order to get the gigs we'd have to play some covers. The more covers we did, the more that that's all they wanted to hear.
Glenn: Yeah it's catch 22!
Richie: It's catch 22. We wanted to do more originals but Promoters would say, “No - You're not playing this!” Or the bar staff and the managers. It's extremely difficult unless you've got somebody with an amount of money to put behind you. Even at that, it's tricky. I can only imagine what it's like in the UK.2
Glenn: It's the same. You get bands from Sheffield just playing Sheffield and then you get out a bit further with bands like Doomsday Outlaw. They've got out there and signed to Frontiers Records. Some bands have made it here and some have not. It's just sheer luck sometimes to get noticed like the Artic Monkeys.
Richie: Yeah! Exactly and case of point, as they say. Airbourne on last time I saw them – they were travelling around on a Phoenix tour bus. If you're travelling around on a tour bus at that level you're doing something right. They're bringing around their full production. They are bringing all their Marshall's. They've got a couple of stage trucks. When I first saw them it was in a place where I used to play in Dublin and there was about 200 people there. Even back then I was thinking, 'I wonder how far these are gonna go because it does have the essence of AC/DC but I could see there's something different.
Glenn: Yeah, it's faster and more aggressive.
Richie: Aggressive again but the other thing is, it's catchy. Joel writes catchy, sing-along, punch the air with your fist melodies. That's not easy to do. Hats off to them. They get slated too.
Glenn: Yeah. You mentioned about buses and I'll tell you what is always a big buzz. It's when we see the Quo bus or a bus that looks like the Quo bus. We say, “Oh it's Quo's bus!” when me and my mate Alan Shooter see it or one like it. He knows the registration of it and if say The Bootleg Beatles were using it.
Richie: Yeah! I used to do it myself. You'd see the bus coming around the corner and say, “Oh look, there they are!” Now you get there and there's 15 fans waiting to see it and you think, 'Oh sh*t!'; and I can't get to the dressing room because I'm still in my pyjamas! (We laugh) It's a part of it. A lot of people queue up for hours on end in the cold. We've actually opened the door and said, “Hey, have a cup of tea or something” and we hand out cups of tea because people are determined. They really are to meet their heroes – it's amazing. It really is.
Glenn: Yeah! Do you find now because you've been in Quo for a while that you get recognised a lot more when you're on your own?
Richie: Yeah. It's happened a few times back home which is very strange because in Ireland the Quo aren't existent here. Everybody knows who we are but we're just going about our daily business on the road across Europe. It doesn't make the news back home. There's been a few times where I've been spotted. The strangest place was going to a stag weekend on a flight to Prague and I get a tap on the shoulder from this guy. He said, “I've seen you a year or two ago, you're Richie Malone aren't you?”. I'm at the back of this plane and I'm going to a stag so I'm probably not in a good state!
Glenn: (I laugh) P*ss*d up!
Richie: Of all the places to get recognised, I'm 30 thousand feet on the way to Prague. It worked out in my favour because we probably had our quota of drink (not pun intended) and there's this beautiful gentleman at the back with 2 whisky and cokes! Nobody else could.
Richie: It has its perks. It's good in a way though that we can drift off and not be recognised. To go about your own devices. I can't imagine what it's like to be a big superstar that genuinely can't go anywhere.
Glenn: I know. Locked up in a hotel room or on a bus and can't get off because they get mobbed straight away.
Richie: Exactly and I suppose at a certain point that's the price you pay in show-business at that level. If you're going to progress, you'll see and know yourself that you're getting to certain level of stardom whether you are enjoying it or not. When there's a certain amount of zeros at the end of every pay-check people are going to continue but it's got to be difficult and plays with other people's minds.
Glenn: Exactly. You've mentioned Prague and such like but you must have see loads and loads of new places around the world that you've not seen before. Do any certain places really stand out to you that you've played in or managed to get off-days and visited as such?
Richie: Yeah. Every time I'm asked that question I can't help but always say is Australia. We've been to some beautiful places around Europe and of course you know, Quo will always go to Germany. I remember being in Switzerland on a show date, getting up to one of the Alps. It was 30 degrees at one show we were doing and there was snow on the mountain that me and Leon went up. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say, “Where are we here? We're up in the Alps. There's snow on the ground and I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We're playing 9 O'Clock”.
It could be the strangest place but if I have to pick one it would have to be Sydney because it's such a recognisable place and to play in the Opera house. That was really, really special. There have been nicer locations close to lakes but you just have to enjoy while you can. Sometimes you wake up and the downside of touring is your on your tour bus or your in the dressing room which is just concrete walls for the best part of ten hours. You are waiting to do the show. You try and enjoy wherever you are. I can't name any bad places.
Glenn: You take the rough with the smooth don't you? The great and the not so great.
Richie: Exactly yeah. When it's not so good there you use your road skills to pass the time. (We laugh)
Glenn: Awesome. Well we've been talking for about an hour. I'm going to let you get off very soon. It's been so good to talk with you for a bit.
Richie: It's been a pleasure. It's great. It's strange show-business. If it's not a 6am call to do radio or TV, it's 8pm in the evening (We laugh)
Glenn: We've covered many different things and we can talk forever. I've been a Quo fan since '77 as well. It's great.
Richie: It is. You've got to keep yourself grounded though. I've kept my job as well. I've been in a company for 13 years. You keep yourself grounded and a lot of people would say, “Oh it will go to his head”. People have opinions but you can't (let it go to your head) especially with people like Francis, Andrew and Rhino that have been doing it all their lives. It's nice to be nice and I find it's working.
Glenn: Well just keep on rocking with it all and keep on going because you've put so much into this band it's untrue – You and Leon.
Richie: Oh thank you. I appreciate that.
Glenn: I'm so pleased you are with them and the guys are still there and firing out some great songs. I can't wait to see the band back on tour again.
Richie: You and me both. I terribly, terribly miss the Winter Tour. There's something about that that is very special. The fans and obviously the band. To get back out on the Winter Tour – hopefully fingers crossed it's going to happen.
Glenn: Yeah! For us, every year for several years, it was October/November/December – it was Quo and Motorhead – every year. (Richie laughs). October to November were the months that we looked forward to seeing Lemmy, Rick, Francis and everyone. It was a great time. Thanks for being there mate. It means a lot to us all.
Richie: No problem. It has been good to talk to you.
Glenn: Thanks Richie. You take care. Bye.
Richie: Bye Bye.
Special thanks to Chris Hewlett @ Chris Hewlett PR,
Ilona Sawicka @ Duroc Media & Geraldine Klohs @ earMusic.