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Interview with Rat Scabies
Interview with Rat Scabies

Rat Scabies is mostly known as former drummer of The Damned. Even though Scabies left the band in mid 90s he is still one of the key musicians of punk-rock. As well as The Damned records are still classic of punk-rock and goth-rock.

After leaving the band, Scabies continued working actively. As producer he recorded dozens of different bands. He became the main character of documentary novel Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail. In 2018 he released a solo instrumental record P.H.D.. In May of this year, along with Billy Shinbone they created the band The Sinclairs and released Sparkle LP. In the interview for Distortion Magazine, we spoke with Rat Scabies about Sparkle and his collaboration with Billy.


Working on the debut album Sparkle with The Sinclairs, you said you followed the principles of punk rock. So, did you follow the same principles as at the beginning of your career?

Well, I hope so. Yeah. Like anything, I hope they got stronger. And I you know, its quite good if you get older because you realize how things can be used with your attitude. You know how your bad-attitude works, I suppose this what Im saying.

You know Billy Shinbone more than twenty years. Why did you decide to start something together only recently?

EmJust because, we were always involved in other projects someway on the line. Billy was kind of doing Flipron and that stuff. I was of working around. So we just never really came together. And then, at certain point we had some money and some time. We sort of had this idea. And we thought: Ok! Lets see what we can do!

What was the start of work on the Sparkle album? Was it one song or did you decide to record an album from the very beginning?

Billy had loads of ideas for it. So it was quite easy to do. Cause, we kind of went and played. It wasnt difficult we had quite good sensitive direction. He sort of knew where we should be going. And then, I think my input was really just making it more random. And saying: Thats really good song! But can we make it a bit more fucked out or a bit more weird or a bit more interesting? Rather than being a drummer and a guitarist! we both have a very big lab of psychedelia or science fiction noises. So obviously it was a great chance to play those.

The Sparkle album combines punk rock aesthetics with rockabilly songs, as well as lyrical songs like Dodgems and Half Way Round Your Dreams. Was it difficult for you to choose the right direction for the album?

No, no! That was already done! Billy had this direction he was determined to use it. That guitar-sound. It was more about that. That was the inspiration for the album, I think, more than anything else. It triggered what we can do. But also, just being in one place with it! Theres a lot of different influences goes through it. But what I think we did this guitar sound we kept it so consistent. Therere no big changes in the core of what we do. Everything goes around it is sort of different. Theres always the guitar and the drums thats kind of foundation, I think. And everything else is kind ofWe tried to do what the fuck is ahead us (laughs).

Interview with Rat Scabies

Even though there are only Billy and you, on Sparkle the record is very dynamic much more than some of the punk-records made by 4-5 musicians. According to your opinion what helped you to get such sound?

I think in some ways its easy to hear it when theres only us doing it. Having the whole band playing at once, sometimes sound and the energy normally gets lost. Gets covered by whats else is going on with the band. I think, keeping it simple as we do makes it a little bit easier to show through. But most of what we do is really-really random and really experimental. Much more occasional, getting sounds really interesting. And then makes the songs work. Most of rehearsals are traditional, I think.

Is it difficult to achieve catharsis in the composition? There are many different albums. But many listeners are most attracted by the transitions from slow to fast, from something light to heavy ...

NoI dont think so! I get bored very easy listening to music (laughs). When you make a record like that, a part of the thing that: I dont wanna be bored. Billy dont wanna be bored. Because its us playing we listen to it more than anyone else. So, its kind of always makes sure that its interesting for the listener. That kind of dynamics. If theres anything that sounds too soon we do say: I want an advent here! Listening to this I want to hear something changes! And depending on what you come up with, what kind of sound or which chord youre expecting to find it gives you the whole new area to move to in terms of dynamics. Its not difficult. But I think you have no be not self-critical. But I think you have to be aware of your own test. I think, musicians should only make records they like. And I think there are lots of cases when people make records because they think It would bring them to a commercial success.

A few years before, we discussed your recent solo-record P.H.D.. But talking about The Sinclairs it seems that you decided to continue exploring the boarders of instrumental music. Obvious question why

EmWell, Billy is a really prolific songwriter and lyricist. Its one of the main things Ive always loved about. Hes amazing writer. So when it comes to this record Ive done nothing but write songs (laughs). Its been a nice holiday to not write songs with Billy and just a kind of go in and go where your figure should go instead of having a structure or having a story or whatever it is.

Songs like A New Kind of Sandwich and Stuffed Bear Rides the Rings of Saturn were mainly focused on drums. Was it originally conceived or did inspiration bring you to such a result?

Really, it was what Billy played, and I just sort of thought: Whats gonna come from this? Whats gonna work with this? not getting into melody lines and whats gonna work really. And what I think would sounds good. Theres always your try to stay interesting. Thats why you play music- because you always should progress. You always should try and do different things. Its rather than having an idea pre-conceived. Far then listening to the guitar-parts. And being inspired by that. Thats why I try this. And yeah, theres a lot of drums (laughs).

As a member of The Damned over the years, youve been evolving - together with your style. What motivated you to study different musical directions and discover something new?

What always appeals to me most is moving in a new direction. And not doing something Ive done before. Working with people listening to what I do I like to think: Move along with me! or with you, as an artist. I think that was the thing with The Damned. We were very lucky that our audience grew up as we did. With our musical taste. We started with something very basic and very simplistic in any way. There were lots of things going on in there. And then, we got into something like The Black Album. We were very lucky because our audience had come along with us. They kind of wanted the band to move on because they wanted the records that moved on. A lot of them didnt want to stuck in line like in 76 in genre. They were quite happy that bands were moving into other directions. This is what I do listen to now as well.

Interview with Rat Scabies

But being a drummer, dealing with melody lines and lyrics what helps you to figure out how you should do this?

Its nearly always on the first hearing. The first time Im hear something is usually when I decide what Im gonna try and play. Which is a very different things what you actually end up playing (laughs). Very often. Its not always the same. So many times I made a record. Or weve been recordingWhat I hear on backtrack isnt what my thoughts are. It kind of sounds different. I dont know if thats an advantage or not. But generally, its on the first hearing. When I decide what approach Im gonna take. And then, you have to kind of taking the dynamic of the song: Should I get louder in that part? Should I get quiet? Should I suddenly stop? Should you bring in the next part? Usually, what Im paying the most attention to is guitar and vocal parts. Usually, I play with the guitar more then with vocal. But I have a rule if theres a singing you shouldnt be going: Ba-ba-ba-ba-bah! with the drum-kit. You should give the singer retell the thing without dragging him out. The rest of what I do for dynamic is really about guitars.

In Sparkle, your parts sound jazzy, and there are also punk elements in them. Can you say that working with Billy you have gone out of your comfort zone?

I wouldnt say it was a comfort zone cause, Ive done some jazzy things. Working with Donovan was very jazzy. So, it wasnt much him taking me out of comfort zone. But he took me back to playing thing I dont naturally do. Im usually a very straight-ahead rock-drummer. Four-four-four. So, you got this kind of stuff Billy writes the way they got the swing. And also the great groove. One kind or another. Its a really different to the rest of the record. But yeah, he sorts of forces with me. But at the same time, Im so comfortable doing that.

Text: Danil Volohov

Interview with Rat Scabies

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