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. Itâs hardly a slick commercial operation in that sense, but because they set up their own gear and donât have people running around attending to their every need, donât make the mistake that they are anything less than serious.
âLouder Than War? Yeah, letâs go somewhere quite…â is the greeting from Dave Ruffy and although he means it in the best possible way, thereâs still an edge, way back in his cheerful growl, that says you do not want to waste this manâs 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, âitâs like playing with an unexploded time bomb behind you!â
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 1970âs, 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 1983âs 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 â why now?
âWell, we didnât really plan to reactivate the Ruts DC, it just sort of happened…â begins Dave Ruffy.
âWe got asked to do a remix album for Echo Beach â a German label â of some of the tracks from Rhythm Collision 1. I wasnât that sure, but he got Rob Smith to do some, which I thought were really good. So I thought âwe could do a couple of thoseâ, so Segs and I and an engineer called Steve Dub…
â…who works with the Chemical Brothersâ cuts in Segs âand 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.â
âSo we popped down to Croydon to say hello to the Mad Professor (whoâd worked on Rhythm Collision 1),â continues Segs âit was really as simple as this, âcos Steve wanted to meet him, and Neil (the Mad Professor) said âYeah, we should do another one of those sometime â how about next Tuesday? Because Iâm pulling all the studio out and then Iâm off and wonât be around for a while.ââ
âSo we went OK and we went in and we didnât have anything to start with, so we basically just plugged in and went 1, 2…bassline, a couple of references, a Fela beat, Iâve always loved this…â
Riffing off each other, as they are clearly used to doing, both on and off stage, Dave picks up the story; âIt 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 didnât 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 â not for releasing, but they were really vibey.â
So that left them with an albumâs worth of new tunes, without any vocals and as Dave recalls âwe 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 â a place called Jamm, with a chap called Wizard, whoâs kind of a dubstep guy â he doesnât only do dubstep and heâs a really nice guy as well with a really nice studio.â
âSo we had a couple of days where we just invited some people to come down and we invited (Brixton rapper) Tenor Fly, Ainsely Jones â who Segs had worked with, heâs a Jamaican, lived in New York, lived in London, young guy, very stylish, kind of a singer…â
Segs takes up the story; (Ainsleyâs) a great lyricist, able to listen to music and say âYeah. Iâve got something for that…â. He met Fly who said Iâve got this song âMighty Soldierâ started singing it and next thing you know, weâve got it recorded!â
Thanks to Chris Bolton, ex-manager of Misty in Roots the session also included Mistyâs 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 â It was Mistyâs own People Unite records that first released the Ruts debut âIn A Rutâ single.
Segs tries to complete the story, but heâll be interrupted by Dave in a minute…
âSo we started putting on these tunes and said if you like one, write some lyrics, so it was like âYeah, how about you going firstâ. So I thought âOh Jesus!â, so I went in sang one and then one of them went in…â
Cue Dave, âBut it was a really nice healthy competition, you got Berty (Ngoni), a Jamaican guy, very man of the hills, quite a country guy, heâd do a little bit of singing and then Ainsley whoâs a bit more city would be like âhmmâ so it was a bit of a challenge and the game kept getting upped. But it was really organic. There was no sit down, âright weâre gonna do an album itâs gonna be about this, itâs gonna be about that.â 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.â
âWe didnât have a budget to pay people, it was like get a few beers, bit of chicken, bit of weed for the people that did…â
âI think righteous is the word thatâs often over usedâ Segs chips in before Dave continues.
âYeah, but it kinda was. It wasnât a conceived (process) it was very organic natural idea.â
Then it was back to the Mad Professor to mix it, but that didnât work out. Once again their extensive musical connections paid off, as Dave explains.â
âSeamus Beaghen, who plays organ with us now and Iâve 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…â Through that connection Seamus put Dave and Segs onto a studio in Brighton, as Dave explains.
âItâs run by a guy who goes by the handle of Prince Fatty, so we went down and checked it out. Itâs brilliant. Itâs got an old BBC desk, really analogue â kind of where we were at â 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.â
End of the story? Er, no. After doing a lot of the mixes with Prince Fatty, Pablo, the bandâs road manger took the album with him on one of his trips to Jamaica.
Dave take up the thread again; âIt 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, whoâs our road manager â he goes to Jamaica a lot â and he went to a little studio in Jamaica called Small World, Gaylord Bravo is the engineer and er…â
At this point Segs cuts in with an impression of the phone call they got from Jamaica; âHeâs mixing it, heâs mixing it, listen!â in a highly excitable Jamaican accent, before Dave continues, completely unphased by Segs comic intervention.
âSo 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, âcos it was getting a bit hairy! But that pushed it along a bit.â
âSo most of the mixes have been done by Prince Fatty (Mark Pelanconi) and tweaked with Wizard back at Brixton, weâve just finished and I think itâs really good. Iâm really, really proud of it and I think it flows as a body of work.â
âSo thatâs where we are â you did ask! Itâs 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 didnât work out]â
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; âso we ended up doing four shows with them, just warming up really â John Robb came to one and sang with us on one song â we were only doing half an hour but it went down really well.â
âWeâve 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 heâs a middle aged man now and Iâm an old man! But he knows the stuff inside out â when we did the last Ruts gig Paul Fox couldnât make the rehearsals (by then he was of course seriously ill) he came along and Henry Rollins had gone on for ages about âthis guy Leighâ and he seemed the natural choice, he just seemed to really understand what weâre doing.
Heâs not on a lot of the record â heâs on some of it, but some of it we did before he was around, but heâs great at our heritage stuff (as well) heâs got it down â if you know Paul Fox at all, I think he pays ultimate respect to it, but also, weâre moving on.
Weâre very proud of our heritage but never at any point did we sit down and say âI think itâs timeâ âcos weâre quite busy, we donât really need to and I never dreamed we ever would.â
Without breaking stride, the tag team switch and Segs comes in; âI didnât want to be singing (those songs), but itâs 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 â and I went âI dunno Iâm feeling OK about itâ.â
It wasnât always that way as Segs has admitted in the past. It seems the Alabamaâs dates were important in easing Segs back into the very idea of singing the old Ruts songs again.
âThe Alabama tour â I didnât know what it was gonna be like really and I found that I felt Iâm quite at ease in front of the mic now, Iâm 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 â maybe not tonight! â but when Ruts DC was first started I was just a youth really and a lot of it really freaked me out, I donât know how to put it, but having to have that much ego, to get onstage and be a front man.â
âBut now we do it in a totally different way â weâre all onstage and it doesnât really matter whoâs the front man. Iâll do some talking, itâs a bit like a meeting â âwhat dâyou think of that one Ruffy? Dâyou fancy doing that?â ââYeah OKâ.â
That may well be the case during rehearsals, but Segsâ self-deprecating humour doesnât reflect the bandâs performance later that evening at the Hare & Hounds. Itâs also not like any meeting Iâve ever attended. Thank God!
Picking up the batton Dave Ruffy explains how the new line up itâs together;
âWeâve got Molara singing with us as well, so itâs a good dynamic â weâve got a black woman in the group and weâve got a keyboard player â the great thing about Seamus is heâs 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 ânâ roll, which is brilliant. It really adds a thing that weâve never had before, without being âorganyâ… he makes it work.â
âWeâre doing a show in London in October and weâre doing it with a brass section and a couple of guest toasters, stuff like that…â
Segs adds; âSo we can do what we want really and thatâs very refreshing. We can change it, we can do different songs. How it all came about was after the Alabamaâs thing people started ringing up and we did Rebellion, which was a major thing for us â we had a great time at rebellion.â
âThat (was) the major one âcos thatâs where we first decided to do the old songs â fuck it, weâre here.â
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.
âI know itâs not the original singer, itâs not the original guitarist, but itâs not like theyâve left, they both died âin the course of dutyâ really, so itâs like…â
Unsure of how to explain himself, Segs tells the story of a conversation with John Robb.
âWhen I saw him the other day at a festival with the Alabamaâs I said âI know itâs a bit funny us doing it (but weâve) respected it enough for thirty years and he said âI think it would be more disrespectful to not do those songsâ and thatâs what it feels like now.â
Dave weighs in to help Segs out; âTheyâre great songs and why wouldnât you do them? They are really great songs and Iâm really proud of our heritage.â
Seemingly reassured by that, Segs comes back in; âAnd they sound great, itâs great fun to play âem! We had a rehearsal and it was frightening, Iâm singing me heart out, weâre all singing and it was like Gawd! We all went like that â scary!â
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 Damnedâs 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.
âDâyou want the money?â Segs cracks instantly before trying to remember it. âThat would have been maybe the agent saying âdonât do that â âcos itâs gonna get ripped to pieces!â We did used to say we wonât play places that only let students in, âcos we were getting bigger and bigger and we were allowed to say that âcos we used to go to gigs and it was stupid âcos there were all (the) punks and rockers outside, who couldnât get in. And that was horrible, so we refused that and we did say weâd refuse to do seated venues, but it wasnât like a statement, more âwe ainât doing that, itâs got seatsâ.â
While thinking back thirty years I ask if Dave and Segs looked at Joy Division/New Order â who had to deal with the sudden death of Ian Curtis just months before Malcolm Owen â and felt they got different treatment?
Dave: âYeah absolutely. The thing is we never had the journalists (on our side), they never really liked us â there was a few did â but we were only really accepted, by the record company and by journalists, in retrospect. But at the time they really didnât like us â I donât know exactly why, but I think we werenât in any way art school, we werenât a kind of pre-conceived band and the reason we got signed is âcos we built up a load of fans â 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).â
âIt wasnât 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 â not that I had any highbrow ideas, Iâm a working class boy â but people who are in the arts (and realising) you kind of are in the arts âcos youâre doing music and youâre trying to get out the ghetto or whatever. And in America they really got it â Henry Rollins and Dave Grohl used to see us in DC and the whole New York scene, Village Voice, they liked the music, they didnât judge us, âcos we never claimed to be a âgeezer bandâ like Sham 69, nothing like that. We were just four blokes who got together and it was just about the music.
âI was a bit miffed, but I wasnât at all surprised, it was just the way it was. Malcolm died not long after Ian Curtis â I always used to think it was a week or two, but it was slightly longer than that â six, eight weeks and it was like oh well…â
âI mean I really liked âem (Joy Division) thought they were great. Perhaps they were better managed, with Tony Wilson and the media was better managed.â
Segs picks up: âAndy 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 didnât see it as an opportunity and wasnât able to say [affects strident tone] âright this is what weâre gonna do now guys…â. He was devastated; [in a small, quite voice] âI canât come to the gig tonightâ and he kind of blamed himself, though it wasnât his fault at all…so it was very heavy.â
Segs continues âI donât 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 âif you change your name, youâre droppedâ. He actually said that âI donât want to be funny, but if you change your name, youâre droppedâ and you wonât be getting any of that money â that Â£40 a week â youâre gettingâ and we said âfuck itââ.
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 â from the beginning. As Segs remembers âIt was a compromise at the time, but it kind of stuck.â
âAlthough now itâs kind of served us wellâ reckons Dave, âbecause 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 isnât there, so Ruts DC now, itâs quite a cool handle. I wouldnât want to go out as The Ruts, but Iâm happy to play Ruts stuff, so now it works in our favour.â
Thereâs 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 âParasitesâ on the Ruts DC album âAnimal Nowâ. Ouch.
Oh and Virgin dropped them anyway after the release of âAnimal Nowâ 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; âWhatâs nice is it wasnât a conceived plan, but Iâm really happy weâre doing, weâve got a lovely little band now and loads of interest. Iâm having to get an agent âcos weâre getting so many offers. We started off trying to do it ourselves but itâs like overwhelming, just trying to deal with gigs…â
Segs neatly puts it in a nutshell; âyou may have noticed two old blokes struggling trying to put their merchandising up!â before he takes up the theme with a more considered thought; âItâs more like someone ringing up and saying maybe you need a bit of a hand, more than the money so much. Weâre trying to keep it â thereâs that word again â righteous, yâknow, so weâre happy â I want to play every song onstage (that we are happy with) and I want everyone to enjoy it.â
Segs is very clear that Ruts DC wonât do anything âdodgyâ 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 âSUSâ proves the point latter in the evening.
âWe are gonna play it tonight actually,â Dave starts in all seriousness, before Segs can get in with âbut, weâre gonna do it in a Chas ânâ Dave style!â to completely deflate the moment.
âWe do it with a mellodica now, that Seamus plays, like Augustus Pablo…â Dave explains, attempting to carry on in spite of Segs comedy interjection.
But you canât keep a good man down and Segs is soon recalling his memories of âLove In Vainâ, in particular that haunting opening riff, originally on harmonica; âwe got that out of a Christmas cracker, it was a bit of a joke â we always used to do that with B sides. The first one we did, I donât know if that ever survived, at Air Studios, kind of a reggae version, âcos we were listening to Mutumbi at the time and trying to do…â
Segs then proceeds to do a human beatbox version of the beat they were looking for âand we went in and did that and Malcolm went in and just sang those lyrics. How poignant was that song. We didnât even realise it (at the time). Itâs a beautiful vocal.â
âWe do it slighty differentâ explains Dave, before Segs recalls that they had tried to do it for The Paul Fox benefit gig in 2007. âHe (Rollins) loves that song, but he didnât want to sing it, so Molora was going to sing it, but we just couldnât get our head round what rhythm it should be, but this time itâs come together, itâs quite rootsy, itâs quite touching. I mean itâs with deep, deep respect that we do it, itâs not like âweâve got to do Love in Vain âcos people love itâ âcos people wouldnât really expect us to do it. I think most people that actually like us would go âI can understand if they donât wanna do that one!â.â
âMaybe weâve been grieving for all those years, this really helped, you canât help it. We tried to carry on âcos we love each other and we wanted to carry on playing and we didnât know what else to do but we were fucking grieving, dâyou know what I mean?
âWe werenât in a very good state. We just carried on and did âAnimal Nowâ â which is very dark â I find those ones really hard to do. I sâpose itâs âcos theyâre more personal to me, but itâs us dealing with our situation. We didnât really realise thatâs what we were doing it was just âcâmon lads, yeah, whatever, letâs get on!â but really, inside…â
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 âAnimal Nowâ 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 â realising that they were finally doing the kind of things Malcolm would have wanted to do.
âYeah, he wouldâve loved it,â remembers Dave ââcos they really embraced us â 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 youâre a big bloke with a cockney accent â youâre gonna be a herbert then. Not really â we have a modicum of intelligence â just because you talk with a cockney accent doesnât make you a fucking moron. Itâs really annoying, but the great thing musicâs done is allow me to travel.â
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?
âI feel great about it. I donât have any hard feelings.â reflects Dave âIâm really glad it (happened â the 2007 gig), âcos a couple of years before that he (Paul Fox) had Foxyâs Ruts going out and I wasnât too happy about it, but I wouldnât begrudge anyone making a bob. I had no interest in it. I never have had any interest in just playing old music, itâs not what I want to do. Iâm very proud of it. But just to do that? I might as well go and get a job in a butchers shop!â
âI really like music and I like to do new things â and new old things. So when it (the 2007 gig) came up and Segs and I were asked to do it, we said âLook, weâll do it, but I have to call the shots.â
Segs is nodding vigorously as he chips in with one word; âIntegrityâ.
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 didnât 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 âthe greatest punk gig everâ at the Islington Academy.
Or as Dave himself put it; âI felt the Ruts had been (sold) short âOh that silly band, had a couple of hits…â and I wanted to get the integrity back. So I said weâll do it and he (Paul Fox) said âcan we have my band Foxyâs Ruts playing?â And I said âno, 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.ââ.
Before you get the idea that Dave Ruffy was being unnecessarily brutal, itâs only fair to point out that Segs is laughing at the recollection and between laughs he confirms; âIt was like that, but youâve got to remember weâre all very old friends.â
âBut I just thought we have one chance (to do this)â Dave continues âand Henry (Rollins, who took over on lead vocals) said âI really want to do it but not if…â and I said âweâre not gonna fuck about!â.â
âSo we made sure we were up to speed âcos we hadnât done this punk rock shit for years! I mean Iâve never stopped playing, but I donât play like that â youâve got to be match fit!â
âSo 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 itâs down to me â Iâll be the motherfucker, I donât care! Iâm not here to help anyone out.â
âAnd 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 theyâd be knackered. So I bought my own sound engineer in, I recorded it and he only did us â I wanted it to be different to everyone not just âere we go bang, bang, bangâ. I wanted it to be great and we did all we could to make it great.â
âI think it was a really special occasion â there was something went on (that night), it was greater than the sum of its parts. It was a special night.â
Segs sums it up in his own unique way; âThe energy when we went on and Foxy went (sings the opening guitar riff to âSomething That I Saidâ) and then when it came in, even I went BOFF! It felt like I moved forward two foot and I went âfuckinâ hell!â and we were off. He (Foxy) did a good job âcos we didnât know how he was gonna be, weâd got to the point where we could joke with him and say âdonât take your shirt off!ââ
To emphasise the point Dave reminds Segs that they even got Foxy to wear long trousers, something he hadnât done for years apparently. As Dave puts it âyou canât go on in shortsâ.
Segs finishes of; âIn the end, the email said âintegrity intactâ. Life is about small circles, it was a very sad day, it was about Foxy.â
âBut that was his life and we ended it on a really great note.â agrees Dave.
âHe was in pain as wellâ remembers Segs, âI went over to see him afterwards and show him the DVD and he was very, very frail and Snowy who was looking after him â which was fantastic â said âlook heâs getting really bad now, he canât even hold the joint up to his mouth nowâ and Iâm going, âheâs got fucking lung cancer!â and Iâm having to hold the joint up for him, brilliant! Heâs got to see the funny side of that…â
âSo we watched it (the DVD) and West One came on and he played the wrong note â he always played the wrong note and he went âOh fuck! I fucking didnât even get it right on my last gig!â and I went âFoxy, thatâs fucking brilliant, itâs the best note you couldâve played brother.â
âSo that was it. Job done.â Summarises Dave, âand 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 Ruffyâs Ruts if I died, âcos she had nothing to do with it.â
âWeâre doing something totally different, we donât just play the punk, we build the set up slowly. We donât just go ââere we go, bang, bang, bang,â two old blokes jumping up and down. Thatâd be really embarrassing. We do rock well, when we bring it in, but we measure it and bring people in slowly.â
âI thought at the festival in Blackpool (Rebellion, when they first decided to include Ruts material in the set), I thought âfuck itâ we really didnât know, but we did what we did and it was brilliant…â
Segs takes over remembering the Rebellion show; âWe started off doing the reggae stuff and âWhatever We Doâ from Rhythm Collision and people came down the front, trying to give us support, I could see it all â we love âem but theyâre only doing the reggae â and then we did âRude Boysâ and it turned into a mosh pit!â
âI walked out into the audience afterwards when PiL were on and I stood at the back â where the old geezers hang out â I didnât think anyone would know (me) and someone came up and said âyou were the best band onâ and people were going âyeah, PiL are not as good as youâ and I said âlook, heâs doing his new album, weâre doing stuff that people have been waiting to hear for thirty fucking years!â So it was kind of easier for us, so give him respect âcos respect is due.â
âOne of the things is â I donât know whether itâs good or not â but you do end up thinking about Malcolm a hell of a lot. When Iâm singing the songs, I think about him a lot â and Foxy too. So weâve told Leigh (Heggarty) to not even try and be Foxy â we donât want him to be Foxy â we keep saying âturn up, turn up, until we tell you to turn down, turn upâ and heâll go âwell, Iâm quite loud…â
By now Segs is shouting; âKeep turning up âtil someone tells you to turn down! âcos Foxy wouldâve done that. So Foxyâs there and Malcolm â you canât help but think about them.â
Unusually for Segs he pauses, before saying, more to himself that anyone else; âIs that torture? I donât know, I think itâs quite good.â
Itâs 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; âThey still work. Because they were written from an honest place, (so) the songs still work. They were formed in a really natural way â we jammed and wrote lyrics about what we cared about and what was going on.â
Segs comes back in, to explain the difference; âThe Ruts DC is Ruts DC, yâknow, that is the dub reggae side of things and âAnimal Nowâ and Ruts DC playing Ruts isnât Ruts-like I think. Weâre doing them in a different way. The mere fact that weâve got organ and a female singer (shows) weâre not trying to do them in the same way. Although I do find myself listening to the originals and (thinking) Iâll put that little growl in my voice there â but thatâs big respect there.â
When talking about Malcolm both Segs and Dave Ruffy recall his strong sense of humour and unpredictability.
As Segs recalls; âJournalistically, it was the worst thing to do â âcos youâre supposed to take yourself seriously, but heâd disappear under the drum riser and not come out â just to piss us off! But what that meant was every gig (was different).ââ¨â¨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 â âjust to wind me upâ â and what they did was from Chorus (the French TV music programme); âthis is really weird, this is all the same moves â âcos thatâs the only footage. But if youâd been there, it was never the same twice, you wouldnât know where anyone was gonna come back in. Sometimes in âSavage Circleâ weâd 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 youâd built it up right to the top, you couldnât go any further, and then youâve gotta take a bit more!â
âIt was a fabulous lesson in stagecraft really. I think I really underrated him at the time â I think a lot of people did, but we just took it for granted…â
At this point DJâs start appearing and setting up on the stage of the back room we are in, so we nip back to the bandâs dressing room to wrap up and talk about the new album and Dave Ruffy clarifies the situation with âRhythm Collision IIâ
âWell âRhythm Collision IIâ the sampler is out âcos it took so fucking long we thought we gotta do something when we had those gigs last year, so we thought letâs put a few tracks out as a sampler and see how it goes and weâve just in the last couple of days compiled what we think is the definitive (album). So itâs going to be out on 30th October, weâve started a label called Sosumi â basically âso sue meâ. Weâd got lots of offers on the table. But if we put it out on our own, so we can sell it on our own. Weâre trying to tie up loose ends, but itâs definitely gonna come out and itâll be on iTunes and itâll be on our website.
Segs picks up the thread; âItâs a strange time (for selling records) youâre saying âwhy nowâ and itâs a bit like weâve come and played this place because (Mick the promoter is an old friend of Dave Ruffyâs) and itâs like âweâre not selling many ticketsâ and we get on Facebook and do it ourselves and suddenly weâre doing really well. We are very involved â everybody has to do that â thatâs how we were back in the day. We were independent when we started.ââ¨â¨âWe started Sosumi âcos we went on Amazon US and there were twenty three Ruts albums and I hadnât even heard of half of them! A lot of them are bootlegs so we just though weâll release it ourselves, which is how Sosumi started.â
So how does Segs feel about downloading (legal or otherwise) as a musician?
âItâs alright to download. From my point of view, letâs not bury our heads in the sand against technology. I donât know any kids under twenty five that pay for any music, thatâs just the basic thing. So what are you gonna do? Put âem in prison? Or give them your music and try and get them to gigs.â
Dave adds; âThere are people â like us, who might buy something â but kids donât, 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 youâre still in with a chance of making a living, that still stands, but itâs hard.â
Segs comes back; âIâd like to think that someone would download it â itâs no different to taping off the radio â 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) Iâd buy them second hand so thereâs no royalties anyway.â
âBut Iâd like to think youâd then go âthis is great, letâs go and see the groupâ 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 wasnât, but now over the last ten years thereâs places like this (the Hare & Hounds) where you can come and itâs great.â
Dave agrees; âI think people like to go to a gig and meet people and get a CD and you sign it for them and itâs perfect. Whereas before it was like âI donât wanna see any punters, whereâs me limo? Get me out of here.ââ As Dave needlessly points out that was never the attitude of The Ruts, but the point is well made.
âYou ainât gonna get really rich, but as long as your surviving and getting along alright. And if youâre doing good music â I donât think anyoneâs owed a living really.â Dave concludes.
So, ironically downloadingâs been good for live music?
âI wish Iâd have just said that!â Exclaims Segs, before adding, is his best know it all voice âI think itâs been really good for music â think about that.â
And thatâs 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 theyâre doing a great job on all fronts.
As a saying coined back in the day would have it, âthereâs no buts with The Rutsâ and itâs as true today as it was then, with the addition of a âDCâ of course. Integrity intact.
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.
All words and live photo’s by macthehack. You can read more from macthehack on LTW here.