It's no great surprise, and completely understandable, that Ruts DC have always been and remain overshadowed by The Ruts. DC were of course formed shortly after Ruts singer Malcolm Owen died in July 1980 leaving the other three members of the band shell shocked and unsure what to do next. Carrying on seemed to all extents and purposes the least painful option at the time but it was a decision which wasn't easy to make.
“We wanted to carry on writing but the dynamic of the band had completed changed”Â explains drummer Dave Ruffy “We all shared the vocals”Â adds bass player Segs “but looking back the first Ruts DC album we did was grief ridden even if we weren't aware of it at the time.”Â
That album, ”ËAnimal Now', was released on Virgin in 1981 but failed to keep hold of much of The Ruts audience. Yet in hindsight it's a fine record, one which included at least one song carried over from the Ruts, “Different View”Â, as well as their trademark reggae sound ”ËFools' and one of the most vicious attacks on the record industry ever, and Virgin in particular, in ”ËParasites'. It also features possibly the greatest rhythm section Punk has ever seen as well as inspirational guitarist, the late Paul Fox. Thirty years later ”ËAnimal Now' still, criminally, hasn't been released on CD.
The lack of commercial success, and probably the words to ”ËParasites', resulted in Virgin pulling the plug on them only a couple of years after they had been a regular on Top of the Pops and viewed as the band most likely to take over the Clash's mantle. But, a year later Ruts DC released the now near legendary ”ËRhythm Collision Volume 1' album on their own Bohemian Records label, an absolute essential dub reggae album made in collaboration with the Mad Professor which to this day is viewed as a masterpiece
“We had no money, no gigs, nowhere to rehearse”Â remembers Ruffy
“Foxy looked up Mad Professor and we went down to see him”Â continues Segs “and the studio was his house. There were two speakers with gaffer tape on them, and the studio was the bedroom of the house. We thought it was great. It was one of the most creative times I've ever had.”Â
“It was all hand built”Â Ruffy smiles “Mad Professor was in there performing, ust in his own world and we loved it.”Â
I had the privilege of seeing Ruts DC on the London date of the ”ËRhythm Collision' tour when they played in the foyer at the Brixton Fair Deal (now the Academy) in October 1982 and it still remains in my top ten gigs of all time. They simply encapsulated everything that was great about punk and dub reggae switching from Rhythm Collision tracks like the tremendous ”ËWeak Heart' to Ruts classics such as ”ËJah War' in front of a loyal hardcore Ruts fan base who had stuck with them through thick and thin.
Yet despite its greatness, Rhythm Collision, failed to pick up a new audience and the inevitable writing was sadly on the wall.
“People wanted to hear punk rock and we wanted to do our thing”Â muses Ruffy “The whole grief thing hit me and it was really sad”Â Segs says quietly “It was too much for me. We went to places like New York where we'd never been before and they loved us. But it should have been the Ruts playing there with Malcolm not with me singing. We did a UK tour in the van and I had these sandwiches in foil and when I'd eaten them our manager said keep the foil and we can use it tomorrow. One minute we were on Top of the Pops the next minute we were saving foil for sandwiches. It was impossible to continue.”Â
Ruts DC split in early 1983. Since then both Segs and Ruffy have kept busy, Segs most recently as a producer and member of Alabama 3, Ruffy as a renowned drummer with the likes of Kirsty McCall and the Waterboys and more recently with Marc Almond and Edwyn Collins.
Paul Fox passed away in 2007 which led to the legendary gig the band played three months before his death in London with Henry Rollins singing and epic as that was it looked like the last we would hear of the Ruts.
However, the fantastic news is that not only have Segs and Ruffy recorded Rhythm Collision Volume 2 with the Mad Professor but they will be going out to play live as Ruts DC in Dub supporting Alabama 3 on four dates of their imminent tour.
“It's not a Ruts reformation,”Â states Segs “how could it be, but we've recorded the album and we're currently finishing mixing it with Prince Fatty. We're going to do four dates on the Alabama 3 tour and the set's going to be a mixture of new songs, some tracks from ”ËRhythm Collision Volume 1', maybe ”ËFools' from ”ËAnimal Now' and we might even throw in a different version of ”ËJah War'.
“It's a bit scary playing live again with Ruts DC”Â remarks Ruffy “but we've put together a great band. The album has turned out quite political, not intentionally, but in a natural way. There was a great vibe in the studio when we recorded it and thirty years is long enough to have waited for Volume 2! I see the whole venture as a work in progress and there's no reason, time permitting, why we can't keep it going”Â
Can there be much better news to finish off 2011 than the return of Ruts DC?
Ruts DC will be supporting Alabama 3 at the following dates:
17 November Manchester Ritz
26 November Bristol Academy
1 December Bournemouth Academy
2 December London Kentish Town Forum
Rhythm Collision Volume 2 will be available to buy at the gigs with hopefully a full release following shortly afterwards.