Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC at the 100 Club (Ruffy looks on)
(Photo: Andy Miller)
Some weeks ago I posted an interview that I did with Segs and Ruffy, Ruts DC's fabulous rhythm section (here), however we all know that every rhythm section needs a guitarist and theirs takes the form of Leigh Heggarty. In the interest of even handedness I asked Leigh whether he would be happy to answer a few questions on his musical past that ultimately has taken him into the studio and onto the road as a Rut since 2011. Leigh was happy to oblige and here are the results. Cheers Leigh, enjoy the tour!
Q. I arrived in Uxbridge in 1988, the country was off its collective head on acid house and locally there was not a great deal going on musically. However, it was not always so, as an Uxbridge resident of long-standing what was the local music scene like earlier on?
A. From what I can gather there has always been a fair bit of live music in the area - for example Burtons in Uxbridge was a very popular venue in the 1960s. I suppose the main focus for me was Brunel University - I can remember seeing posters for bands like John Entwistle's Ox and Thin Lizzy gigging there in the mid-'70's before I started going to see bands. Incidentally if I'd had been old enough then I would definitely gone to those two shows! Probably the best thing about it from my point of view was that they would put on a wide variety of acts - say a heavy metal gig one week and an acoustic band the next - meaning that it was possible to see many different types of music. The venue had something of a resurgence in the 1980s with the likes of The Stone Roses and Transvision Vamp appearing there, and The Price played there on quite a few occasions - it still exists but sadly it doesn't seem to put on gigs anymore, or if it does then they're not open to the general public which is a great pity.
Ad for Thin Lizzy's gig at Brunel (1976)
Q. I know that you have been excited in the past to have had the opportunity to support Wilko Johnson and indeed a Feelgood’s logo pin is often to be seen on your lapel. Who has influenced you as a fan, and perhaps more specifically as a guitarist?
A. My first musical memories are of The Beatles back in the 1960s when I was a little lad - my mum always said that I asked her why one of their guitars were pointing the other way when I was only about 3 or 4 years old. I also liked The Stones, Who, Kinks etc before T.Rex made a big impression on me as did The Faces, Slade, The Sweet and the other glam rockers. I spent most of my milk round money on their singles before discovering Dr. Feelgood when they appeared on the teatime kid's TV show 'The Geordie Scene' in early 1975. I also liked some heavier rock music which I heard from my older cousins Gary and Steve in Birkenhead who we used to go to stay with in the school holidays. I was inspired to start playing the guitar when Gary got one sometime in the mid-'70's, although I then discovered to my absolute horror that you didn't just pick it up and play it and so left it alone for quite a while. Eventually I got to grips with the basics around the time the punk bands started appearing, although I recall being more interested in sounding like Rory Gallagher at the time. I found a guitar teacher (Tony) who lived a few streets away from us who it turned out went to school with, of all people, Paul Fox. He taught classical guitar and I learned a lot about music from him, which was great as I didn't study it at school. I began playing in bands quite late (I had a go at school and just after but that was so awful that it put me off for ages!) as I started working in a factory straight after leaving school which effected me very badly - I wasn't cut out for the world of conventional work. After a few false starts I got a band called The Others together who split up at the end of 1984, and I then formed The Price in 1985. If I had to pick a favourite player then it would have to be Pete Townshend; other influences include John Lennon and George Harrison, Steve Cropper, Mick Green, Keith Richards, Steve Jones, Gypie Mayo, Danny Kustow, Jimi Hendrix and many many more - not forgetting the aforementioned Mr. Johnson of course.
Q. I first became aware of your music many years ago. I think that I can pin it down to a gig at The Angler’s Retreat in West Drayton, either supporting Cheap (TV Smith band at the time) or just with The Price. For the purpose of this interview I dug out an old issue of the ‘Wake Up’ fanzine from 1992 in which your lead singer described The Price as ‘probably one of the most unfashionable bands ‘cos we stick to what we really believe in’. That said, at that time guitar bands were once more in the ascendancy and potentially The Price were in the right place at the right time. How was it that the band never got a record out and is it irksome to you that after five or so years together it never broke for the band?
A. Well as you say The Price were potentially in the right place at the right time with the likes of The Senseless Things and Mega City Four (both of whom we supported on several occasions) attaining a fair amount of recognition and success. Looking back I realise that we were pretty much outsiders in every way; I remember a conversation with an A&R man who advised me to 'think about your melody lines, they need to be more commercial' - we never attempted to make anything that we did be more commercial, let alone our songs which I guess is all you need to know. That said I wouldn't change any of it - we were honest and that means a lot.
In the course of preparing this post I took a look on the 'Brunel Bands' blogspot and in doing so came across a review of The Price from the 30th November 1989 when they played a support slot to Thrilled Skinny and the aforementioned Mega City Four. This was during my time at Brunel but I wasn't in attendance that night for some reason. Reading on I saw a review from the student paper 'Le Nurb' (hilarious student humour (???) as it is Brunel backwards). Two extracts caught my eye, that seemed to sum up Leigh's take on his former band:
“It seems to be the trend in Le Nurb to say that local support band The Price are just a bunch of lads who play to crowds of sixth formers. Well I don`t care – I went to see The Price instead of the Stone Roses last years and I`d probably do it again”.
Jim Pressley – Le Nurb
"A local band from Uxbridge, consisting of Malcolm (Vocals), Leigh (Guitar), Huggy (Bass) and Mick Drums and a regular band to play at the Academy at Brunel University. Paul Fox of The Ruts produced a number of their singles. The Price were well received and played a set containing many of their classics such as “Man with a smile“, “What about love“, This shattered land” and “Between the lies”
"They`ll never be a band that`ll break big `coz they wont get asked to – a good job too, then they`ll continue to be Brunel’s best support act.”
Jim Pressley – Le Nurb
What made me laugh is that I shared a house with the reviewer for three years around the Hayes and Southall area!
'Brunel's best support act' The Price, with Leigh (far left)
Q. After the initial demise of The Price, in the time honoured tradition you got back together, it must have been ten or so years ago and I found myself once again at the bar in The Angler’s Retreat. Was that reunion supposed to be more permanent or was it always intended to be the last hurrah for the band?
A. We did indeed get together for what was intended to be a one-off show at the aforementioned Anglers Retreat 10 years after the band split up and have reconvened occasionally ever since. I guess we've all forgiven each other for whatever it was that split the band up, or realised we weren't to blame in the first place, or something...
Q. I’ll come to Ruts DC later on, but notably you have also shared the stage with TV Smith. Did that relationship stem from earlier gigs when you both appeared on the bill?
A. Yes it did. The Price played with T.V. Smith's Cheap on several occasions (it looked great on the posters!) and I always got on well with Tim and indeed the rest of the band. One of the Price's sporadic reunion shows was at a birthday party for our roadie / merch man Steve and we invited Tim along to play a solo set - as we were setting up we remembered an occasion in 1991 when our two bands were playing together and Cheap's guitarist Mik couldn't make the gig so T.V. played a solo show with me joining him and the rest of the band for a few numbers at the end. To cut a long story short we played a couple of songs together at the party and it all went from there. I still play occasional duo shows with him and they're always a absolute pleasure to be part of.
Q. Your musical tastes I know to be rather eclectic and from your own blog, ‘Leigh’s Mad World of Guitars (http://leighheggarty.blogspot.co.uk/) it would appear that you are something of a six-string for hire, playing in a wide range of bands over a number of musical genres. Which do you prefer, the live experience or the process of recording?
A. I'm lucky enough to enjoy both, although I find that they're both very different to each another. I've always liked many different styles of music - I don't think that there's any reason why you can't for example like pop music if you like punk rock, to my mind there's nothing wrong with enjoying them both if they appeal to you. I try to bring that mentality to both performing live and studio work - it's all about doing what's right for the situation that you find yourself in, and there's a discipline involved in recording that's different to the spontaneity of a live show. Both good, but as I say both very different from each other. Incidentally I've never seen myself as a 'six-string for hire' - maybe I would be richer if I had!
Q. Your formal association with Ruts DC started with the preparation for Rut’s guitarist Paul Fox’s benefit gig in July 2007 (at that time Paul was battling with terminal lung cancer). How did it come about that you got the gig to step into Paul’s big shoes?
A. One evening a few days before Paul's last show (at The Islington Academy with Henry Rollins on vocals) I received a call from Dave Ruffy which began with the immortal words 'what are you doing tomorrow?' They were due to be rehearsing for the gig the next afternoon but Paul was too unwell and he'd suggested me as a stand-in (they also rehearsed with the then - manager of the Blockheads Lee Harris but he couldn't make this session) so I spent the rest of the evening revising all those Ruts riffs that I'd learned sitting on the end of my bed all those years ago. The rehearsal went well - really well as it happens - and the subsequent show was of course a classic. Over the next few months Dave and Segs got together and 'Rhythm Collision Volume 2' began to take shape, and I'm pleased to say that they invited me to contribute to the album. After it's release there was the offer of a show at a dub festival in France - that fell through but The Alabama 3 (who Segs was also playing with at the time) offered the band a few support shows in late 2011. And the rest, as they (whoever 'they' are) say, is history.
Paul's last gig (16th July 2007)
Q. Since reforming in 2011, Ruts DC have gone from strength to strength, with two studio albums and a live album under their belts already. From the standpoint of both a fan and now an insider, how do you view the legacy of The Ruts and Ruts DC?
A. Well I know from talking to people at gigs that there is a lot of respect for the original band and of course for The Ruts. It's interesting to note that when we first started playing together fans of the band were bemused to find that Dave and Segs didn't seem think that many people would be too interested in seeing Ruts DC again. Happily this has of course proved not to be the case. For what my thoughts are worth The Ruts were easily one of the best bands of the punk era, and Ruts DC were severely underrated at the time - I'm very aware that every time we walk out on stage to play there will be people in the audience who will agree and therefore it's very important not to let them down. Hopefully we don't!
Q. As a gigging musician, what in your opinion can be done to stem the tide of small, independent music venue closures? I have here The Square in Harlow at the front of my mind, a venue that I know is close to your heart. After a brief respite, that venue again finds itself under threat of closure.
A. The Square in Harlow was a good example of a venue with an open booking policy - the sort of approach that I referred to in my first answer where any type of music would be given a chance, which makes it's recent demise all the harder to take. The Price played there many times, and I was fortunate enough to play three songs with Eddie And The Hot Rods at the venue's closing night - if it's possible to have emotion for a building then it was certainly there on that occasion. Sadly as more and more people think that the only way to get 'discovered' is to be part of the 'X Factor' / 'Britain's Got Talent' circus live music venues are likely to seem less and less important to potential performers, which is a crying shame. What can be done to stop it happening? Well I guess we all have to get out and watch more live music and support the places that are still putting bands and artists on - easier said than done I know, but if there's no audience then there can / will be no venues…
Q. In March of next year, Ruts DC are confirmed as the opening act of The Stranglers 2017 tour. It’s a fantastic billing and I know that the pairing has made many aged punks very happy. Real good value for money in these times of austerity! What are your expectation of this tour?
Ad for the 'No More Heroes' tour gig from the student paper (the closest I got to seeing the bloody band at Brunel University!)
A. Well to say that I'm looking forward to the tour is, to coin a phrase, the understatement of the year so far. The Stranglers have always been a fine band - I first saw them (I think) 40 years ago on the 'No More Heroes' tour at Brunel University so the idea of appearing alongside them means a lot to me personally. From a band point of view it's obviously a great thing for us to be part of, and we're all really looking forward to a great tour. If you're going along then please come and say hello!
Flyer for the tour and the new single 'Kill The Pain'