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The Rhythm Section

Rich Kids

Article from Sound International, January 1979

Tony Bacon longs to talk to some Rich Kids' ghost, but ends up with the decidedly solid Rusty Egan and Glen Matlock.

From Ghosts of Princes in Towers to Ghosts of Rich Kids on Sofas

'So what do you ask these rhythm section people then?' asks Glen Matlock, lounging in the functional, not overly attractive Rich Kids office ('Doublerich') in London's Marylebone.

'Well, just kind of chat away like we're doing,' I reply, fairly enough. And, I think, it's usually as well to open with a brief band biog to put the players in some kind of context.

Brief Band Biog

Relevant rhythmic ones: Rusty Egan, drums; Glen Matlock, bass. Others: Midge Ure, Steve New. Group formed early 1977, when in April Glen Matlock (having vacated Sex Pistols) teamed up with 17-year-old guitar player Steve New, who had purportedly toured Europe with the 'London Jazz Orchestra', and skinbasher Rusty Egan, who'd had the benefit of lessons from Landscape's Richard Burgess and had been in and out of bands with a resulting broadbased approach to playing. A front man was located in Midge Ure, pinched from Slik (no less), and soon offered guitar and vocals to the now finalised line-up. Three singles and an album (Ghosts Of Princes In Towers EMI EMC3263) later, the group are young enough and enthusiastic enough to overcome any restricting labels that others may throw at them.

Drums, drummers and drumming

Rusty uses a Gretsch kit: 'Gretsch 13x9, 24, 16, 18,' he explains, 'Ludwig 6½in Super snare - not the expensive one, I wasn't gonna pay £200 for a snare drum, was I! And I've got a Pearl 6½in snare drum, I used to play two snare drums.'

The group supported Mink De Ville in mid '78 on one date, at Hammersmith Odeon, and Rusty used two snares on that gig, one high and one low, using one for a taut, 'crack'-like sound, the other for a more mellow, slacker sound. 'It's great, because you can do a build up using the snares,' Rusty reckons.

'Roogalator used to have something like that,' Glen interjects, 'first drummer they had. He had a real Fifties style: one bass drum, one tom tom there, and a snare, and as he went round, there'd be a floor tom with a snare stuck on top of it, he's just put it on top of the floor tom, and it was great, it'd go crackkkkk! But I don't know what happened to him...'

So what do you listen to, Rusty? 'I think the best rhythm section is Phil Collins and Percy Jones, when it was them in Brand X. But I think me as a drummer... I don't want to be a Billy Cobham, and I don't want to be a Phil Collins. Like in a rock'n'roll band you either get a guy who does nothing, or you get a guy who likes to be interesting. And I find you can listen to, say, a heavy metal band, like Deep Purple, and you get a star drummer out of it. To me the star drummer shouldn't be in a band like Deep Purple, he should be a chug-along-drummer, you know what I mean? And then you get a band like Little Feat, and it's all feel, just a nice rhythm. When the fill comes, wow! What a fill! And to me I'd rather be in Little Feat and have people saying: Wow, he did one fill on the whole album, what a fill! than have you like all over the joint.'

He names other favourites: Dennis Davis, Richard Bailey, Richard Burgess, Bill Bruford. 'When I saw UK,' Rusty remembers, 'I thought Bruford was like a sportsman - the wrist bands, the shorts, the short hair, press ups, on stage he just looked like he was doing some kind of sport. Oranges after the gig, all that sort of thing.' 'Lemons at half time,' says Glen, laughing.

The day of the interview, Rusty was to do a session at EMI ('a space version of In The Year 2525') and was going to try out some Syndrums. 'And I'm not gonna use them with all that sound that every other record's got on it now...' We break off for a short burst of drum synth impersonations. 'No,' Rusty continues, 'I'm gonna get a dull sound straight into the mixer, and I'm just gonna do a straight solid beat, but using the snare as a sort of tshh. So it'll be a thud and a tick.'

So he's certainly not the sort of drummer to go in for gimmicks - although he's had his fair share of offers. 'I used to go in to the London Drum Centre,' he says, 'that's where I got my kit, right? Every week it's like: Hey, you've got a record deal — how about this? They thought I had a lot of money, you know? And they're offering me every drum in the world, and all this sort of thing. And I'm saying: I've got a kit! I mean, I'm a drummer with a drum kit, not a drummer like with a collection. I don't go for all your see-through things.'

Glen sums it up: 'A lot of people have enough trouble getting a good sound with what they've got. And until they've got that sorted out, what's the point in trying out all the new things. I mean I like drums to sound like drums, if it's a good sound it's a good sound, so what does it matter? All these electronic things are all very well, but it always seems to be that you get fed up with them after five minutes. They're real passing fads, they're like a kid's new set of toys.'

But even with a normal straightforward kit, it can still be an uphill battle achieving a good sound — especially live. 'Often when we go on stage I get a really awful sound,' says Rusty, 'and then I have the engineer out front saying: It sounded great! I have to do a gig with an awful sound. And then when I get a gig when I think Wow, this is really great, I get him saying: Stick some tape on it!'

Their engineer is a guy called Henry, who came to the band via Midge Ure. 'We wanted someone who'd know everything, and who also knew someone in the band. I mean we all know the situation: That ain't my fucking kit so I don't care. But Henry looks after everything.'

Bass, basses and bassists

TB: What's the bass you're using now?

GM: I've got a Gibson, a Les Paul Junior bass.

TB: That's unusual.

GM: Yeah, I've never seen another one, I just found it in Orange (music shop in London), and it was like a short scale, real good, basic guitar. It's a '59 and I got it for £350, which I thought was quite a bargain really. Real straightforward. I've had a Rickenbacker and stuff, and I still don't know how to work the bleedin' thing! I used the Gibson on the album, along with a Dan Armstrong on a few tracks, but I think this Gibson's real pokey. It's a real meaty sound. Most bass guitars put out about two volts, this one puts out six, right, and I kept on blowing up all these transistor amps - I can't hardly use an amp! So I was thinking of having it doctored down, but then I thought no, it'll lose the sound. Now I've got an amp that'll take it, an SVT. And I use a Portaflex too.

TB: How important do you think the bass and drums are in a band?

GM: Well I think that's where the band springs from. Not only that, I think a lot of ideas for the tunes and melodies don't always rest on the guitarist at all, in fact sometimes the guitar plays so shrill and so aggressively that there's no tune at all. I tend to play melodically, especially when I used to play with the Pistols, I mean I'd be playing the tune on the bass more than keeping the rhythm. The guitar would be playing the rhythm. To me the bass is easier to hear than guitar, it's a 'non-hurtful' pitch. It's hard on record and stuff to get it coming out, but live... I think it's a far more subversive instrument because people don't always understand, some people do not listen to it. You can really colour the song and change the mood of it completely depending on what you play. People don't realise why there is that kind of mood to it, but it's because of what the bass is doing.

TB: You don't use any gadgets on stage for bass, do you?

GM: I don't, no. Well, I still think that I'm at the beginning of my playing, you know, I'm still at the learning stage. I've got enough with what I've got already, before I start going on to other stuff. If you can still come up with fresh ideas, which I think we have been doing, until it runs out you might as well keep going. Economy always works best. The holes make the full bits sound fuller.

TB: It's what you don't put in that counts.

GM: Yeah, right, I'd like to think it does. That's what I work at, some degree of economy. It's like I don't really get off on players... you know, the Pastorius's of this world. They have some good ideas, but they're into ideas and stuff; I'm more interested in songs, and making songs work, and lyrical ideas. And I don't really think that what they're doing is anything to do with that, it's to do with the playing, you know? It's totally different. It puts me in mind of people in a laboratory somewhere and they come up with all these hairbrained ideas, and a couple of good ones. So ICI get hold of it, doctor it down a bit, then they make it kind of useable, right? In an everyday context. And that's the parallel I can see between their music and ours - although it's not plundering it. Because you change it to your ears, and you hope to make it worthwhile, just diluting it.

TB: Is there anyone else doing that — what players do you like?

GM: I like the guy with Elvis Costello.

TB: Bruce Thomas?

GM: Yeah, he's good, I like Pump It Up.

RE: Ian Dury and his bass player, Charlie Charles. He's too funky though.

GM: His (Dury's) music with the Kilburns was far more inventive. I don't know... I always used to like McCartney - can't even listen to his records now though, they're terrible.

TB: You do play a bit like McCartney here and there. Especially the high-up surges.

GM: Right, right. Not many people do that now. They're all more into Pluckadang! Well if they want to do it they can do it. I like Ron Wood as a bass player, cos he plays bass on a lot of the Stones stuff now.

RE: But ain't it funny about the Pistols, how like Sid couldn't really play bass, you know what I mean? But Anarchy though, you really notice the bass.

GM: I don't know, I couldn't hear it. It's just the sound... But it's a pity though. In the 'society of rock', it's down to the story being nothing to do with the playing.

RE: Yeah. Whether he cut his wrists there or spewed at the so-and-so makes his records better than somebody elses.

GM: Well it was funny when Sid nearly got like bass player of the year last year, in the Melody Maker. You know, I love the bloke and he's great, but, er...

TB: He's not a great bass player. Sweet and charming though he may be.


There is a vague air of dis-satisfaction with the album due mainly, it would seem, to the large array of studios used and a general lack of co-ordination — evident when Rusty and Glen talk of it, and evident when I listen to it. The record was produced by Mick Ronson. 'He was good to work with,' says Glen. 'I mean a lot of people have slated him - for the production, anyway. It was a first album, we did it over a long period of time, I don't know whether that's the producer's job or not. We did it over a period of three months — not three months solid — but we were on tour at the time, and I think we did it the wrong way round really, we should've done it all in one go, to get in the mood of making an album.'

Rusty echoes the dis-satisfaction. 'I didn't get into the mood of making that album,' he remembers, 'I used to say: What's this demo? I kept thinking I was doing demos for something or other.' But they seem agreed on Ronson's value as a catalyst, and reckon they might use him again, although they intend to do some work with Bill Price at Wessex studio in north London. Glen has worked with Bill before — Price produced Anarchy In The UK for the Pistols — and more recently on an abortive Ian Hunter session.

'Bill Price was real good then,' Glen says of the Hunter session at Wessex. 'He got some great sounds, an amazing bass sound out there. I don't know if they're going to use it, there's this one song — I forget what it's called — it's a real slow one. We were gonna do some recording, but it didn't work out, he's doing it with something like the E Street band now, gone back to the States. But they might keep this one track that we had, the bass sound was amazing. Just plugged the bass in, DI'd... no, both. Put the mic in the right place and about five minutes later the sound was going boooommm!'

But it's doubtless the number of studios used for the album that was the real culprit — Regents Park Studio, Tapestry studio (belonging to John Kongos) and RAK among them.

TB: Some strange places you find studios in.

GM: Yeah. Like Tapestry was downstairs in Johnny Kongos' basement, in his house. This is where we did rhythm tracks for the album.

TB: How many tracks in his place?

GM: 24-track — but I think he's closing down now. You walk along the street, it's just kind of like suburbia, down in Barnes. And you go downstairs and — well it's not a big studio — but it's 24-track.

RE: I think we ought to use a big studio next, though. A great big hall thing.

GM: Well Wessex is big, that's what Wessex is like.

TB: You could get a good live sound in Wessex.

RE: Yeah, I'd like to do the next album like a gig set-up. Bung all the gear on a rostrum, drums, bass stacks and the mics and all that. Have one mic in the roof to see what you can do with that.

GM: Like in RAK.

RE: Yeah, he had a £48000 piano in there; fucking great thing, that Yamaha.

GM: It wasn't a piano, it was a synthesiser.

RE: Yeah, a synthesiser. 48 grand.

TB: That's Mickie Most's GX-1. Looks like a theatre organ almost.

RE: Like a money-making machine, you mean. Presses one button he's got a Smokie sound, presses another button he's got the RAK sound. Hot Chocolate on that button... it all comes out money money... pull the handle and you get a jackpot.

TB: So you did some tracks there as well?

RE: No we did one...

GM: We did some mixing there...

RE: Didn't we do Lovers And Fools there?

GM: Lovers And Fools, yeah.

When even the group can't remember what they did where, it's obvious that the recording schedule was all a bit much. But that's not to say that the album suffers totally — indeed tracks like the title, Rich Kids and Strange One are interesting and well thought out. Strange One in particular is quite odd; opening the album, it's a trebly wash of sound until about half way through, when the bass suddenly enters.

Rusty: 'Well we did Strange One just bass and drums, and then we put the rest over it. It started off I said I'd got a new rhythm for this one, he said he'd got a new bass line — he gave me an idea, I gave him an idea, and we just did it. And it was the first take... just that track we did at Regents Park (studio).'

And Glen: 'On Strange One, the way the bass comes in half way, that was done because we'd done one bass line just to kind of get the rhythm of the track down, I just played real simple all the way through. But then we took that off 'cos it was just boring - but at least it was steady. And then I did the bass as one of the last things I put on - but when everything was on it there was no need to play anything at the beginning because no matter what I played it didn't add anything. All it did was have a bass on it for the sake of it. So we thought well, what's the point of having a bass on for the sake of it if we don't need it? And when it did come in — a real good idea that made it work — it was great.'

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Guitar Synths

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Nemo Studio

Publisher: Sound International - Link House Publications

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Sound International - Jan 1979

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Interview by Tony Bacon

Previous article in this issue:

> Guitar Synths

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> Nemo Studio

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