Ahead of their fall UK tour, Rag Mama Rag were kind enough to answer Louder Than War’s questions.
How did Rag Mama Rag came to be and what was your journey as musicians up until that point ?
Ashley – I had always played in bands since I left school. The first band was called Glyder and we played a mixture of rock music from the early 70s. After that I joined a dance band and we played a regular gig at a motel in Essex. The repertoire was pop music from the 50s until the current day (late 70s). It was a great school for learning different styles of music and for earning money.
Debbie – I experimented with different musical instruments during my 20s. I never really found that stringed instruments were for me so I started to learn Saxophone which I played in a band for a short period of time, then switched to harmonica.
Was the duo format a practical choice or was it also a result of being in larger bands and wanting to go back to something simpler ?
It was definitely a choice of wanting to be in a simpler format but also the music that we play was normally played by solo performers or duos. There is also the financial factor because at that point we had decided to play professionally and obviously it is much easier to organize tours and make the project work financially with less people.
Since the start you have been mixing covers and originals on your records. Is it a way of paying a tribute to the musicians that have influenced you ?
Definitely! But it is also rewarding to write and play our own music. We are regularly going back to rediscover the old music when inspiration fails.
You live in France and you spend your time touring both France and the UK. Could you share your impressions on the the musical scenes in both countries and how they differ ?
They both have their advantages and disadvantages! France has a very good system for supporting musicians and generally speaking the gigs are better paid, however the network of venues for the style of music that we play is practically non existent in France so we do a lot of different types of gigs compared with the gigs that we do on the Folk/Blues circuits that exists in the UK. French audiences are not as familiar as the UK audience with regards to Country Blues but they are open minded and normally very appreciative of the music that we play.
Your records have quite ornate arrangements. Do you sometimes have to limit yourselves to enable you to reproduce the songs faithfully in a live setting ?
This is always a bit of a dilemma! When recording it is always tempting to add other instruments to embellish the song. Generally speaking if the song works in our live format with just one guitar, plus harmonica or percussion, we might add something else during the recording process, but not always. The problem arises when, as we have done in the past, choose a song that doesn’t work in our live situation and then add more sounds than we can produce live. This is a lesson that we learnt many years ago on an earlier album and hopefully we won’t be making the same mistake again. The other point is that an album is always a different listening experience to a live gig so sometimes it is good to a add a bit more colour to interest the listener’s ear.
Have you ever collaborated with other artists over the years ? Is it something you enjoy doing ?
To be honest we haven’t really collaborated a lot with other musicians but recently we did a mini tour with our friend Neil Innes (Bonzo Dog, Rutles and Monty Python) it was great fun and we enjoyed it but we weren’t really playing much of our own repertoire which we prefer to do. Otherwise there have been short term collaborations with other friends including Gary Brooker and many other musicians.
For a duo that plays acoustic music, your music possesses quite a strong rhythmic drive, was it a decision you made from the start ?
Yes! Definitely. Having always played in bands with a drummer we think that we were trying to produce a band sound as a duo.
Is there any plan for a new studio album in the near future ?
Definitely! In fact we are about halfway through recording a new album and we also have many hours of live performance that we need to go through for a new live album. It is just a question of finding the time between touring to complete these projects.
All dates are in November :
01 Emsworth Music Club, Hewitts, 35-37 South St.,Emsworth. PO107EG
03 The Dolphin, 34 High Street; BN175 Littlehampton. Tel: 01903 715789
4pm – 7pm
05 Ringwood Folk Club, Burley Church Hall, Church Lane, Burley. BH24 4AP
www.ringwoodfolk.org.uk/ 8.00 – 10.50 (NO BAR,BRING YOUR OWN DRINKS)
06 Midnight Special Blues Club, The Blues Room, The Old Ford, Lynchford Road,
Ash Vale, Aldershot. GU12 5QA. www.midnightspecialblues.com/
07 Joe’s Bar and Grill, 260 Banbury Rd, Summer Town, Oxford OX2 7DX
08 Blue Sky Cafe, Ambassador Hall, Rear of 236 High St, Bangor LL57 1PA.
09 Edda – Community Arts & Library, Liverpool Rd, Southport PR8 3NE.
Tel: 01704 578003
13 The Malt Shovel Tavern, 121 Bridge St, Northampton NN1 1QF.
14 The Rose and Crown, 1 Market St, Charlbury, OX7 3PL. Tel: 01608 810103
15 Sheep Dip Sessions, Warwickshire. http://www.sheepdipmusic.co.uk
For information and to book seats please email email@example.com
or visit the website and fill in the contact form.
19 Dartford Folk Club, 40 Essex Rd, Dartford DA1 2AU. Tel: 01322 222553
20 The Wight Bear, 65 Southbourne Grove, Bournemouth BH6 3QU.
21 All Hail Ale, 10 Queens Rd, Bournemouth BH2 6BE. Tel: 07786 045996
22 Saxon Bar, The Saxon Centre, 5, Fountain Roundabout, Christchurch BH23 1QN.
Tel: 01202 488931.
23 Shammick Acoustic, Pack O’Cards Inn, High St, Combe Martin, Ilfracombe EX34 0ET.
24 The Farmers Arms, Combe Florey, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 3HZ. Tel: 01823 432267
26 Toad Rock Retreat, 1 Upper St, Tunbridge Wells TN4 8NX. Gig from 7 until 9. Tel: 01892 520818