A few weeks ago we ran a review of a gig by The Ruts written by macthehack. While there macthehack also had some interview time with Segs and Dave & below is their conversation.

After 31 years my first sight of Segs and Dave Ruffy is finding them running around the Hare & Hounds looking for blue tac to attach their merchandise to the wall. Welcome to the world of the Ruts DC. It’s hardly a slick commercial operation in that sense, but because they set up their own gear and don’t have people running around attending to their every need, don’t make the mistake that they are anything less than serious.

‘Louder Than War? Yeah, let’s go somewhere quite…’ is the greeting from Dave Ruffy and although he means it in the best possible way, there’s still an edge, way back in his cheerful growl, that says you do not want to waste this man’s time. He may look like a man who might come round and fix your boiler, but as the dapper, laid back Segs will tell the audience later that night, ‘it’s like playing with an unexploded time bomb behind you!’

As you really should know, whether you were around at the time, or not, Segs and Dave Ruffy were the bass and drums powerhouse behind The Ruts, one of the great English punk bands of the late 1970’s, whose career was cut short by the untimely death from a heroin overdose of singer Malcolm Owen in July 1980. After carrying on as Ruts DC, exploring their love of reggae on 1983’s Rhythm Collision Vol.1 the band split later the same year.

Dave and Segs have gone on to form formidable reputations as players and producers with a host of bands and musical projects, from Segs long time membership of the Alabama 3 to Dave sitting behind the kit for everyone from Kirsty McColl to Dexys.

And that was pretty much that. Until now.

So the obvious question is – why now?

“Well, we didn’t really plan to reactivate the Ruts DC, it just sort of happened…” begins Dave Ruffy.

“We got asked to do a remix album for Echo Beach – a German label – of some of the tracks from Rhythm Collision 1. I wasn’t that sure, but he got Rob Smith to do some, which I thought were really good. So I thought ‘we could do a couple of those’, so Segs and I and an engineer called Steve Dub…

“…who works with the Chemical Brothers” cuts in Segs “and I was doing a lot of stuff with him. So it kinda made sense. Steve Dub really got into it, we got paid a small amount and Steve said we should do some recording.”

“So we popped down to Croydon to say hello to the Mad Professor (who’d worked on Rhythm Collision 1),’ continues Segs ‘it was really as simple as this, ‘cos Steve wanted to meet him, and Neil (the Mad Professor) said ‘Yeah, we should do another one of those sometime – how about next Tuesday? Because I’m pulling all the studio out and then I’m off and won’t be around for a while.’”

“So we went OK and we went in and we didn’t have anything to start with, so we basically just plugged in and went 1, 2…bassline, a couple of references, a Fela beat, I’ve always loved this…”

Riffing off each other, as they are clearly used to doing, both on and off stage, Dave picks up the story; “It was essentially a jam really, very much like the way we did Rhythm Collision 1, except we had buckets of brass back then, but we didn’t bother with that. But it was done in the same way, we did it to tape. It was just, get it down, we had a couple of days and we came out with about 14 tracks – not for releasing, but they were really vibey.”

So that left them with an album’s worth of new tunes, without any vocals and as Dave recalls “we were both busy, over a couple of year period we said look lets go into the studio and we went to a studio in Brixton – a place called Jamm, with a chap called Wizard, who’s kind of a dubstep guy – he doesn’t only do dubstep and he’s a really nice guy as well with a really nice studio.”

“So we had a couple of days where we just invited some people to come down and we invited (Brixton rapper) Tenor Fly, Ainsely Jones – who Segs had worked with, he’s a Jamaican, lived in New York, lived in London, young guy, very stylish, kind of a singer…”

Segs takes up the story; (Ainsley’s) a great lyricist, able to listen to music and say ‘Yeah. I’ve got something for that…’. He met Fly who said I’ve got this song ‘Mighty Soldier’ started singing it and next thing you know, we’ve got it recorded!”

Thanks to Chris Bolton, ex-manager of Misty in Roots the session also included Misty’s Ngoni (Delbert McKay) and Rob from Alabama 3. The Misty In Roots connection of course goes all the way back to the early days of the Ruts – It was Misty’s own People Unite records that first released the Ruts debut ‘In A Rut’ single.

Segs tries to complete the story, but he’ll be interrupted by Dave in a minute…

“So we started putting on these tunes and said if you like one, write some lyrics, so it was like ‘Yeah, how about you going first’. So I thought ‘Oh Jesus!’, so I went in sang one and then one of them went in…”

Cue Dave, “But it was a really nice healthy competition, you got Berty (Ngoni), a Jamaican guy, very man of the hills, quite a country guy, he’d do a little bit of singing and then Ainsley who’s a bit more city would be like ‘hmm’ so it was a bit of a challenge and the game kept getting upped. But it was really organic. There was no sit down, ‘right we’re gonna do an album it’s gonna be about this, it’s gonna be about that.’ And we just found that we were writing quite a political record, just by the nature of where we were, in Brixton and who was on it and it was a fantastic vibe. No one wanted to go home. It was brilliant.”

“We didn’t have a budget to pay people, it was like get a few beers, bit of chicken, bit of weed for the people that did…”

“I think righteous is the word that’s often over used” Segs chips in before Dave continues.

“Yeah, but it kinda was. It wasn’t a conceived (process) it was very organic natural idea.”

Then it was back to the Mad Professor to mix it, but that didn’t work out. Once again their extensive musical connections paid off, as Dave explains.”

“Seamus Beaghen, who plays organ with us now and I’ve played with him in various bands over the years, he plays with Madness from time to time and he plays with Lee Thompson and his ska orchestra…” Through that connection Seamus put Dave and Segs onto a studio in Brighton, as Dave explains.

“It’s run by a guy who goes by the handle of Prince Fatty, so we went down and checked it out. It’s brilliant. It’s got an old BBC desk, really analogue – kind of where we were at – although we did transfer it to digital, it was all done to tape, some to a clic (track) some not to a clic, so it was all quite organic.”

End of the story? Er, no. After doing a lot of the mixes with Prince Fatty, Pablo, the band’s road manger took the album with him on one of his trips to Jamaica.

Dave take up the thread again; “It took a while to get the money together to mix it, he (Prince Fatty) did a lot of the mixing and then there was a period where Pablo, who’s our road manager – he goes to Jamaica a lot – and he went to a little studio in Jamaica called Small World, Gaylord Bravo is the engineer and er…”

At this point Segs cuts in with an impression of the phone call they got from Jamaica; “He’s mixing it, he’s mixing it, listen!” in a highly excitable Jamaican accent, before Dave continues, completely unphased by Segs comic intervention.

“So for a hundred bucks he came out with a bunch of mixes from there and the photos alone are brilliant, of Orange Street. But he had to get out when it got dark, ‘cos it was getting a bit hairy! But that pushed it along a bit.”

“So most of the mixes have been done by Prince Fatty (Mark Pelanconi) and tweaked with Wizard back at Brixton, we’ve just finished and I think it’s really good. I’m really, really proud of it and I think it flows as a body of work.”

“So that’s where we are – you did ask! It’s taken a long time to do it, but by last year we had a lot of the songs finished and we had thought of doing some gigs in France…[with Mad Professor, which didn’t work out]”

At this point Rob from Alabama 3 suggested the band do a few low key slots opening for them, Dave picks up the story again; “so we ended up doing four shows with them, just warming up really – John Robb came to one and sang with us on one song – we were only doing half an hour but it went down really well.”

“We’ve been really lucky, we found a great guitarist in Leigh Heggarty, who was a Ruts fan so when I was 25 he was 15, so he’s a middle aged man now and I’m an old man! But he knows the stuff inside out – when we did the last Ruts gig Paul Fox couldn’t make the rehearsals (by then he was of course seriously ill) he came along and Henry Rollins had gone on for ages about ‘this guy Leigh’ and he seemed the natural choice, he just seemed to really understand what we’re doing.

He’s not on a lot of the record – he’s on some of it, but some of it we did before he was around, but he’s great at our heritage stuff (as well) he’s got it down – if you know Paul Fox at all, I think he pays ultimate respect to it, but also, we’re moving on.

We’re very proud of our heritage but never at any point did we sit down and say ‘I think it’s time’ ‘cos we’re quite busy, we don’t really need to and I never dreamed we ever would.”

Without breaking stride, the tag team switch and Segs comes in; “I didn’t want to be singing (those songs), but it’s been a big kind of release for me really of thirty how many years of respect to Malcolm as well. We did carry on and I have sung these songs before, but it just seems very natural – we just did it – and I went ‘I dunno I’m feeling OK about it’.”

It wasn’t always that way as Segs has admitted in the past. It seems the Alabama’s dates were important in easing Segs back into the very idea of singing the old Ruts songs again.

“The Alabama tour – I didn’t know what it was gonna be like really and I found that I felt I’m quite at ease in front of the mic now, I’m older and it was more like a stand-up sort of thing and people said you looked like you were really in command of the mic – maybe not tonight! – but when Ruts DC was first started I was just a youth really and a lot of it really freaked me out, I don’t know how to put it, but having to have that much ego, to get onstage and be a front man.”

“But now we do it in a totally different way – we’re all onstage and it doesn’t really matter who’s the front man. I’ll do some talking, it’s a bit like a meeting – ‘what d’you think of that one Ruffy? D’you fancy doing that?’ ‘’Yeah OK’.”

That may well be the case during rehearsals, but Segs’ self-deprecating humour doesn’t reflect the band’s performance later that evening at the Hare & Hounds. It’s also not like any meeting I’ve ever attended. Thank God!

Picking up the batton Dave Ruffy explains how the new line up it’s together;

“We’ve got Molara singing with us as well, so it’s a good dynamic – we’ve got a black woman in the group and we’ve got a keyboard player – the great thing about Seamus is he’s great on the skanking stuff, he really knows his reggae, but he did four years with Iggy Pop so he really knows where the organ goes in rock ‘n’ roll, which is brilliant. It really adds a thing that we’ve never had before, without being ‘organy’… he makes it work.’

“We’re doing a show in London in October and we’re doing it with a brass section and a couple of guest toasters, stuff like that…”

Segs adds; “So we can do what we want really and that’s very refreshing. We can change it, we can do different songs. How it all came about was after the Alabama’s thing people started ringing up and we did Rebellion, which was a major thing for us – we had a great time at rebellion.”

“That (was) the major one ‘cos that’s where we first decided to do the old songs – fuck it, we’re here.”

At this point you can sense a certain reticence in Segs for the first time, almost as if he feels a need to justify the decision to go back to their original Ruts material.

“I know it’s not the original singer, it’s not the original guitarist, but it’s not like they’ve left, they both died ‘in the course of duty’ really, so it’s like…’

Unsure of how to explain himself, Segs tells the story of a conversation with John Robb.

“When I saw him the other day at a festival with the Alabama’s I said ‘I know it’s a bit funny us doing it (but we’ve) respected it enough for thirty years and he said ‘I think it would be more disrespectful to not do those songs’ and that’s what it feels like now.”

Dave weighs in to help Segs out; “They’re great songs and why wouldn’t you do them? They are really great songs and I’m really proud of our heritage.”

Seemingly reassured by that, Segs comes back in; “And they sound great, it’s great fun to play ‘em! We had a rehearsal and it was frightening, I’m singing me heart out, we’re all singing and it was like Gawd! We all went like that – scary!’

Inevitably talk turns to memories of having seen the Ruts back in the day, or the Ruts DC as they were by the time of the Damned’s 5th Anniversary gig at the Lyceum in 1981, which Segs recalls had already been mentioned earlier the same evening. While I have them on memory lane I also mention having had a ticket for a gig at Canterbury Odeon in 1979 that got cancelled, apparently due to the Ruts having a policy of not playing seated venues.

“D’you want the money?” Segs cracks instantly before trying to remember it. “That would have been maybe the agent saying ‘don’t do that – ‘cos it’s gonna get ripped to pieces!’ We did used to say we won’t play places that only let students in, ‘cos we were getting bigger and bigger and we were allowed to say that ‘cos we used to go to gigs and it was stupid ‘cos there were all (the) punks and rockers outside, who couldn’t get in. And that was horrible, so we refused that and we did say we’d refuse to do seated venues, but it wasn’t like a statement, more ‘we ain’t doing that, it’s got seats’.”

While thinking back thirty years I ask if Dave and Segs looked at Joy Division/New Order – who had to deal with the sudden death of Ian Curtis just months before Malcolm Owen – and felt they got different treatment?

Dave: “Yeah absolutely. The thing is we never had the journalists (on our side), they never really liked us – there was a few did – but we were only really accepted, by the record company and by journalists, in retrospect. But at the time they really didn’t like us – I don’t know exactly why, but I think we weren’t in any way art school, we weren’t a kind of pre-conceived band and the reason we got signed is ‘cos we built up a load of fans – the real honest way to do it. And our fans, they were just young herberts. You remember journalism at the time? It was all deep and it was great in a lot of ways as well, but they never (got us).”

“It wasn’t until we started travelling round the world that people took us seriously. I remember going to the former Yugoslavia and sitting with people who write poetry and books and music – not that I had any highbrow ideas, I’m a working class boy – but people who are in the arts (and realising) you kind of are in the arts ‘cos you’re doing music and you’re trying to get out the ghetto or whatever. And in America they really got it – Henry Rollins and Dave Grohl used to see us in DC and the whole New York scene, Village Voice, they liked the music, they didn’t judge us, ‘cos we never claimed to be a ‘geezer band’ like Sham 69, nothing like that. We were just four blokes who got together and it was just about the music.

 

(The rest of the Henry Rollins interview can be read here, here & here.)

“I was a bit miffed, but I wasn’t at all surprised, it was just the way it was. Malcolm died not long after Ian Curtis – I always used to think it was a week or two, but it was slightly longer than that – six, eight weeks and it was like oh well…”

“I mean I really liked ‘em (Joy Division) thought they were great. Perhaps they were better managed, with Tony Wilson and the media was better managed.”

Segs picks up: “Andy Dayman, (the Ruts manager at the time) who, God rest his soul, has now gone as well, he learnt the art of management through being frustrated that no one would manage us really, he did a good job really in certain aspects, but when Malcolm died he was devastated. He didn’t see it as an opportunity and wasn’t able to say [affects strident tone] ‘right this is what we’re gonna do now guys…’. He was devastated; [in a small, quite voice] ‘I can’t come to the gig tonight’ and he kind of blamed himself, though it wasn’t his fault at all…so it was very heavy.”

Segs continues “I don’t know what the answer is to all that (New Order comparison) but one thing is they changed their name. We tried to and Virgin (the Ruts label at the time) said ‘if you change your name, you’re dropped’. He actually said that ‘I don’t want to be funny, but if you change your name, you’re dropped’ and you won’t be getting any of that money – that £40 a week – you’re getting’ and we said ‘fuck it’”.

Fortunately the band had a rethink and over a long night came up with the solution of Ruts DC, the DC standing for Da Capo – from the beginning. As Segs remembers “It was a compromise at the time, but it kind of stuck.”

“Although now it’s kind of served us well” reckons Dave, “because Ruts DC never had Malcolm in it, so we can be Ruts DC and we have a right to do Ruts stuff. So all that shit from before isn’t there, so Ruts DC now, it’s quite a cool handle. I wouldn’t want to go out as The Ruts, but I’m happy to play Ruts stuff, so now it works in our favour.”

There’s a dark humour in the telling of the story, but not enough to mask the extraordinary insensitivity of their record company of that time, which Segs clearly has not forgotten. For a full explanation of their feelings towards Virgin after that, check out ‘Parasites’ on the Ruts DC album ‘Animal Now’. Ouch.

Oh and Virgin dropped them anyway after the release of ‘Animal Now’ in 1981.

The happy ending is that although it may never have been intended as such, Ruts DC now seems to offer Dave and Segs a way to celebrate their past and continue making new music.

Or as Dave puts it; “What’s nice is it wasn’t a conceived plan, but I’m really happy we’re doing, we’ve got a lovely little band now and loads of interest. I’m having to get an agent ‘cos we’re getting so many offers. We started off trying to do it ourselves but it’s like overwhelming, just trying to deal with gigs…”

Segs neatly puts it in a nutshell; “you may have noticed two old blokes struggling trying to put their merchandising up!” before he takes up the theme with a more considered thought; “It’s more like someone ringing up and saying maybe you need a bit of a hand, more than the money so much. We’re trying to keep it – there’s that word again – righteous, y’know, so we’re happy – I want to play every song onstage (that we are happy with) and I want everyone to enjoy it.”

Segs is very clear that Ruts DC won’t do anything ‘dodgy’ by which he means un-finished or under rehearsed. But the flexibility of the current line up means they can and do revisit old songs and if they are not comfortable simply playing it as was, they can work on it, revise it or just approach it from a whole new angle. A wonderful dub reggae version of ‘SUS’ proves the point latter in the evening.

Knowing that some Ruts material is in the set but not knowing what songs will be included I ask about one of the great Ruts songs ‘Love In Vain’. A tragic, claustrophobic, junkie love song that I still cannot listen to without being reminded of Malcolm Owen. I wonder if it’s one that’s just too much for them, even now?

“We are gonna play it tonight actually,” Dave starts in all seriousness, before Segs can get in with “but, we’re gonna do it in a Chas ‘n’ Dave style!” to completely deflate the moment.

“We do it with a mellodica now, that Seamus plays, like Augustus Pablo…” Dave explains, attempting to carry on in spite of Segs comedy interjection.

But you can’t keep a good man down and Segs is soon recalling his memories of ‘Love In Vain’, in particular that haunting opening riff, originally on harmonica; “we got that out of a Christmas cracker, it was a bit of a joke – we always used to do that with B sides. The first one we did, I don’t know if that ever survived, at Air Studios, kind of a reggae version, ‘cos we were listening to Mutumbi at the time and trying to do…”

Segs then proceeds to do a human beatbox version of the beat they were looking for “and we went in and did that and Malcolm went in and just sang those lyrics. How poignant was that song. We didn’t even realise it (at the time). It’s a beautiful vocal.”

“We do it slighty different” explains Dave, before Segs recalls that they had tried to do it for The Paul Fox benefit gig in 2007. “He (Rollins) loves that song, but he didn’t want to sing it, so Molora was going to sing it, but we just couldn’t get our head round what rhythm it should be, but this time it’s come together, it’s quite rootsy, it’s quite touching. I mean it’s with deep, deep respect that we do it, it’s not like ‘we’ve got to do Love in Vain ‘cos people love it’ ‘cos people wouldn’t really expect us to do it. I think most people that actually like us would go ‘I can understand if they don’t wanna do that one!’.”

“Maybe we’ve been grieving for all those years, this really helped, you can’t help it. We tried to carry on ‘cos we love each other and we wanted to carry on playing and we didn’t know what else to do but we were fucking grieving, d’you know what I mean?

“We weren’t in a very good state. We just carried on and did ‘Animal Now’ – which is very dark – I find those ones really hard to do. I s’pose it’s ‘cos they’re more personal to me, but it’s us dealing with our situation. We didn’t really realise that’s what we were doing it was just ‘c’mon lads, yeah, whatever, let’s get on!’ but really, inside…”

Segs tails off, in spite of their justifiable pride in the songs The Ruts created, returning to those songs and perhaps even more so with ‘Animal Now’ is finally unbottling some emotions that were understandably too difficult for a young band, just one album into their career to deal with.

Despite it being delicate ground both Dave and Segs are open and relaxed when talking about it. So we press on. One quote I had read prior to the interview mentioned the overwhelming sense of grief when the Ruts DC finally made it to New York – realising that they were finally doing the kind of things Malcolm would have wanted to do.

“Yeah, he would’ve loved it,” remembers Dave “‘cos they really embraced us – if you were an English band it was brilliant, you never bought a drink, there were so many Anglophiles there and they took you seriously, you met with decent journalists. The problem is, with our class bound society if you’re a big bloke with a cockney accent – you’re gonna be a herbert then. Not really – we have a modicum of intelligence – just because you talk with a cockney accent doesn’t make you a fucking moron. It’s really annoying, but the great thing music’s done is allow me to travel.”

Seemingly since the 2007 Paul Fox benefit gig, a lot of people seem to have finally started giving the Ruts their due. These days you can read articles on how they were poised to be the next great punk band in the broadsheet newspapers here in England. Something that never would have occurred, not just at the time, but for years afterwards. So just how do you feel about finally getting your due?

“I feel great about it. I don’t have any hard feelings.” reflects Dave “I’m really glad it (happened – the 2007 gig), ‘cos a couple of years before that he (Paul Fox) had Foxy’s Ruts going out and I wasn’t too happy about it, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone making a bob. I had no interest in it. I never have had any interest in just playing old music, it’s not what I want to do. I’m very proud of it. But just to do that? I might as well go and get a job in a butchers shop!”

“I really like music and I like to do new things – and new old things. So when it (the 2007 gig) came up and Segs and I were asked to do it, we said ‘Look, we’ll do it, but I have to call the shots.’

Segs is nodding vigorously as he chips in with one word; “Integrity”.

Both of them were determined to make it proper tribute to the Ruts music and an effective way of raising funds for cancer research and their terminally ill former guitarist. But that didn’t stop Dave Ruffy from making the tough decisions needed to turn what could have been a well meaning pub gig into what one newspaper (incredibly, I suspect it was the Daily Telegraph) called ‘the greatest punk gig ever’ at the Islington Academy.

Or as Dave himself put it; “I felt the Ruts had been (sold) short ‘Oh that silly band, had a couple of hits…’ and I wanted to get the integrity back. So I said we’ll do it and he (Paul Fox) said ‘can we have my band Foxy’s Ruts playing?’ And I said ‘no, because nobody knows who the fuck they are! I want names, I want a sell out, I want to make some money for cancer research and make some money so you can have a decent burial.’”.

Before you get the idea that Dave Ruffy was being unnecessarily brutal, it’s only fair to point out that Segs is laughing at the recollection and between laughs he confirms; “It was like that, but you’ve got to remember we’re all very old friends.”

“But I just thought we have one chance (to do this)” Dave continues “and Henry (Rollins, who took over on lead vocals) said ‘I really want to do it but not if…’ and I said ‘we’re not gonna fuck about!’.”

“So we made sure we were up to speed ‘cos we hadn’t done this punk rock shit for years! I mean I’ve never stopped playing, but I don’t play like that – you’ve got to be match fit!”

“So we rehearsed a few times with Henry and just a little bit of rehearsing with Paul. And I caused all sorts of stuff with people very upset at not being allowed to play and I said it’s down to me – I’ll be the motherfucker, I don’t care! I’m not here to help anyone out.”

“And we did the show and it was all going to be (crew) provided, but I knew that those guys were going to be doing ten bands and by the time we got on they’d be knackered. So I bought my own sound engineer in, I recorded it and he only did us – I wanted it to be different to everyone not just ‘ere we go bang, bang, bang’. I wanted it to be great and we did all we could to make it great.”

“I think it was a really special occasion – there was something went on (that night), it was greater than the sum of its parts. It was a special night.”

Segs sums it up in his own unique way; “The energy when we went on and Foxy went (sings the opening guitar riff to ‘Something That I Said’) and then when it came in, even I went BOFF! It felt like I moved forward two foot and I went ‘fuckin’ hell!’ and we were off. He (Foxy) did a good job ‘cos we didn’t know how he was gonna be, we’d got to the point where we could joke with him and say ‘don’t take your shirt off!’”

To emphasise the point Dave reminds Segs that they even got Foxy to wear long trousers, something he hadn’t done for years apparently. As Dave puts it “you can’t go on in shorts”.

Segs finishes of; “In the end, the email said ‘integrity intact’. Life is about small circles, it was a very sad day, it was about Foxy.”

“But that was his life and we ended it on a really great note.” agrees Dave.

“He was in pain as well” remembers Segs, “I went over to see him afterwards and show him the DVD and he was very, very frail and Snowy who was looking after him – which was fantastic – said ‘look he’s getting really bad now, he can’t even hold the joint up to his mouth now’ and I’m going, ‘he’s got fucking lung cancer!’ and I’m having to hold the joint up for him, brilliant! He’s got to see the funny side of that…”

“So we watched it (the DVD) and West One came on and he played the wrong note – he always played the wrong note and he went ‘Oh fuck! I fucking didn’t even get it right on my last gig!’ and I went ‘Foxy, that’s fucking brilliant, it’s the best note you could’ve played brother.”

“So that was it. Job done.” Summarises Dave, “and a year or two later, here we are and I just wanted to put it to bed with a smile on its face and fucking big happy story and there were people that wants us to carry on being The Ruts afterwards and I had to tell them in no uncertain terms… well, we felt very righteous about it. You cannot be The Ruts. You can be a tribute band, you can be whatever you want, but you cannot be that, any more than my missus could do a Ruffy’s Ruts if I died, ‘cos she had nothing to do with it.”

“We’re doing something totally different, we don’t just play the punk, we build the set up slowly. We don’t just go ‘’ere we go, bang, bang, bang,’ two old blokes jumping up and down. That’d be really embarrassing. We do rock well, when we bring it in, but we measure it and bring people in slowly.”

“I thought at the festival in Blackpool (Rebellion, when they first decided to include Ruts material in the set), I thought ‘fuck it’ we really didn’t know, but we did what we did and it was brilliant…”

Segs takes over remembering the Rebellion show; “We started off doing the reggae stuff and ‘Whatever We Do’ from Rhythm Collision and people came down the front, trying to give us support, I could see it all – we love ‘em but they’re only doing the reggae – and then we did ‘Rude Boys’ and it turned into a mosh pit!”

“I walked out into the audience afterwards when PiL were on and I stood at the back – where the old geezers hang out – I didn’t think anyone would know (me) and someone came up and said ‘you were the best band on’ and people were going ‘yeah, PiL are not as good as you’ and I said ‘look, he’s doing his new album, we’re doing stuff that people have been waiting to hear for thirty fucking years!’ So it was kind of easier for us, so give him respect ‘cos respect is due.”

“One of the things is – I don’t know whether it’s good or not – but you do end up thinking about Malcolm a hell of a lot. When I’m singing the songs, I think about him a lot – and Foxy too. So we’ve told Leigh (Heggarty) to not even try and be Foxy – we don’t want him to be Foxy – we keep saying ‘turn up, turn up, until we tell you to turn down, turn up’ and he’ll go ‘well, I’m quite loud…’

By now Segs is shouting; “Keep turning up ‘til someone tells you to turn down! ‘cos Foxy would’ve done that. So Foxy’s there and Malcolm – you can’t help but think about them.”

Unusually for Segs he pauses, before saying, more to himself that anyone else; “Is that torture? I don’t know, I think it’s quite good.”

It’s clear that finally going back to the old Ruts material still brings a lot of emotions to the surface, that perhaps Dave and Segs have pushed to the back of their minds as they have relentlessly pursued new musical challenges. It may not have been easy, but you get a very strong sense that both men are determined to see The Ruts and in particular Malcolm and Paul Fox, getting their due and the reaction they are getting seems to be something they draw strength from.

Dave continues on the strength of those Ruts songs; “They still work. Because they were written from an honest place, (so) the songs still work. They were formed in a really natural way – we jammed and wrote lyrics about what we cared about and what was going on.”

Segs comes back in, to explain the difference; “The Ruts DC is Ruts DC, y’know, that is the dub reggae side of things and ‘Animal Now’ and Ruts DC playing Ruts isn’t Ruts-like I think. We’re doing them in a different way. The mere fact that we’ve got organ and a female singer (shows) we’re not trying to do them in the same way. Although I do find myself listening to the originals and (thinking) I’ll put that little growl in my voice there – but that’s big respect there.”

When talking about Malcolm both Segs and Dave Ruffy recall his strong sense of humour and unpredictability.

As Segs recalls; “Journalistically, it was the worst thing to do – ‘cos you’re supposed to take yourself seriously, but he’d disappear under the drum riser and not come out – just to piss us off! But what that meant was every gig (was different).”

To emphasise the point Segs tells the story of the Alabama 3 arranging for the Ruts tribute band Savage Circle to play on his birthday – “just to wind me up” – and what they did was from Chorus (the French TV music programme); “this is really weird, this is all the same moves – ‘cos that’s the only footage. But if you’d been there, it was never the same twice, you wouldn’t know where anyone was gonna come back in. Sometimes in ‘Savage Circle’ we’d build it up and Malcolm would just go up to the mic and… (Segs mimes to suggest Malcolm going up to the mic ready to launch back into the vocals and then pulling away again), so you’d built it up right to the top, you couldn’t go any further, and then you’ve gotta take a bit more!”

“It was a fabulous lesson in stagecraft really. I think I really underrated him at the time – I think a lot of people did, but we just took it for granted…”

At this point DJ’s start appearing and setting up on the stage of the back room we are in, so we nip back to the band’s dressing room to wrap up and talk about the new album and Dave Ruffy clarifies the situation with ‘Rhythm Collision II’

“Well ‘Rhythm Collision II’ the sampler is out ‘cos it took so fucking long we thought we gotta do something when we had those gigs last year, so we thought let’s put a few tracks out as a sampler and see how it goes and we’ve just in the last couple of days compiled what we think is the definitive (album). So it’s going to be out on 30th October, we’ve started a label called Sosumi – basically ‘so sue me’. We’d got lots of offers on the table. But if we put it out on our own, so we can sell it on our own. We’re trying to tie up loose ends, but it’s definitely gonna come out and it’ll be on iTunes and it’ll be on our website.

Segs picks up the thread; “It’s a strange time (for selling records) you’re saying ‘why now’ and it’s a bit like we’ve come and played this place because (Mick the promoter is an old friend of Dave Ruffy’s) and it’s like ‘we’re not selling many tickets’ and we get on Facebook and do it ourselves and suddenly we’re doing really well. We are very involved – everybody has to do that – that’s how we were back in the day. We were independent when we started.”

“We started Sosumi ‘cos we went on Amazon US and there were twenty three Ruts albums and I hadn’t even heard of half of them! A lot of them are bootlegs so we just though we’ll release it ourselves, which is how Sosumi started.”

So how does Segs feel about downloading (legal or otherwise) as a musician?

“It’s alright to download. From my point of view, let’s not bury our heads in the sand against technology. I don’t know any kids under twenty five that pay for any music, that’s just the basic thing. So what are you gonna do? Put ‘em in prison? Or give them your music and try and get them to gigs.”

Dave adds; “There are people – like us, who might buy something – but kids don’t, but I think most people who know who we are would maybe be prepared to buy something. But I look at it as a jobbing musician, you can still earn, playing live music with other people you’re still in with a chance of making a living, that still stands, but it’s hard.”

Segs comes back; “I’d like to think that someone would download it – it’s no different to taping off the radio – make a mix tape and then go looking for those records. I used to go looking for the records that I heard and taped, especially with funk and stuff like that, but (a lot of the time) I’d buy them second hand so there’s no royalties anyway.”

“But I’d like to think you’d then go ‘this is great, let’s go and see the group’ and you see us and you can get a signed copy, so you might buy that and you might buy a t-shirt. But certainly buy a ticket to the gig and that builds it up and you have to go that way. I think there is a very healthy scene, there was a period when it wasn’t, but now over the last ten years there’s places like this (the Hare & Hounds) where you can come and it’s great.”

Dave agrees; “I think people like to go to a gig and meet people and get a CD and you sign it for them and it’s perfect. Whereas before it was like ‘I don’t wanna see any punters, where’s me limo? Get me out of here.’” As Dave needlessly points out that was never the attitude of The Ruts, but the point is well made.

“You ain’t gonna get really rich, but as long as your surviving and getting along alright. And if you’re doing good music – I don’t think anyone’s owed a living really.” Dave concludes.

So, ironically downloading’s been good for live music?

“I wish I’d have just said that!” Exclaims Segs, before adding, is his best know it all voice “I think it’s been really good for music – think about that.”

And that’s where we leave it, laughing. Segs and Dave Ruffy have a show to do, an album to get out and some friends lives to celebrate. Judging by the memorable gig that night at the Hare & Hounds they’re doing a great job on all fronts.

As a saying coined back in the day would have it, ‘there’s no buts with The Ruts’ and it’s as true today as it was then, with the addition of a ‘DC’ of course. Integrity intact.

–END–

Ruts DC official site.

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Special thanks to author Roland Link who generously agreed to share the interview slot. Roland is working on book about The Ruts and has previously published a history of Stiff Little Fingers, which is available here.

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All words and live photo’s by macthehack. You can read more from macthehack on LTW here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. UPDATE:
    Had a message from Dave Ruffy – to say that the ‘shorts story’ was actually about Henry Rollins, not Paul Fox. Apologies for any confusion caused. The fact that Dave was just as happy laying down the law to Henry Rollins, makes it an even better story in my book!

  2. That was a great interview, many thanks – great to hear what they are up to these days. Must have been a bugger to transcribe though.

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