MUDKISS FANZINE

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RICK BUCKLER: IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT  INTERVIEW BY NIGEL CARTNER

 
Rick Buckler is best known as the drummer from ‘The Jam’, one of the UK’s best loved New Wave/Mod Revival bands of the late 70s early 80s, and their influence is still at large today. Since the split in 1982, Rick has embarked on a journey that has seen him play in a couple of different bands, starting up his own cabinet making business, before eventually forming ‘The Gift’ and ‘From The Jam’, both bands that successfully relived the music of ‘The Jam’ era. Since Rick left the band, he has taken more of a behind the scenes approach within the music industry, but with his interest in photography, he recently found himself subject to the unique and superlative work of Danielle Tunstall, a photographer with an approach to portraits that is highly distinctive, displaying a tremendous amount of imagination and talent. Many photos can look shocking and haunting, but the story within her portraits is that it is fiction based on reality, visually showing the way we feel through experiencing emotion and the subconscious mind.

Rick is a huge fan of Danielle Tunstall’s work and the photos she took of him are a great example of her philosophy towards photography, allowing us to see him in a different, yet scary light (see photos within this article).

With Danielle being a friend of ‘Mudkiss’, (see Danielle’s interview at http://www.mudkiss.com/danielletunstall.htm) we were able to catch up with Rick and find out his thoughts on photography, what he’s been up to lately, and his experiences from ‘The Jam’ .

NIGE: How did your photo shoot come about with Danielle Tunstall, those photos are incredible and scary!

RICK: I saw a TV programme with a solicitor called Tim Andrews, who had Parkinson’s disease and he had his photos taken by various photographers. Danielle Tunstall did one of those and I thought they were stunning, especially the one where he’s holding the yellow flowers. It really had everything going for it and told a story as well as having a great interest of this guy and what he was going through. It sparked a bit of interest in Danielle’s photos from there, but funnily enough I was walking past an art gallery in Woking, called ‘The Light Box’ one day and I saw the display of Tim Andrews’s photos from Danielle Tunstall, which made me more curious. I looked on her website (www.danielletunstall.com) and looked at other photos she’d done, which were stunning. It was highly creative, visually, and had a great impact. I contacted her from there and she agreed to take my photos. I was a bit weary at first because I had no idea how it was going to end up, but I thought I’d leave it to her, not interfere and see what comes of it. It wasn’t like the normal photo shoot I was used to from being in a band where we’d just stand around for a magazine. This was completely different in its outcome, which I found interesting. I think she’s a very talented and imaginative photographer, and I felt quite proud that she actually agreed to take my photograph, and I hope she gets something out of it by raising her profile.

NIGE: Were you happy with the end result? Are they going to be displayed or used anywhere?

RICK: I thought they might be used. If she can make use of them, that’s brilliant. I really had no idea what they would turn out like. It did surprise me of how they did, maybe a little shocked, but it’s a completely different way of looking at something, because most rock photography has a certain way of looking at things, this didn’t have any of that at all, which was quite good.

NIGE: Has that inspired you to get into photography yourself after seeing those pictures?

RICK: Years ago I used to do a bit of photography because it was a great thing to take on the road, but back then it was all film, so it was a tedious process in some ways. I was always interested in photography and I got a friend of mine, Neil Tinning (Twink) on board to be the official photographer of ‘The Jam’ from 1980-82. He was very good at what he did by catching the moment. What Danielle does is the other way round, by taking a photograph and seeing the potential within it and working it that way. There was a moment where I thought I had to run off and buy a decent digital camera and have a go at this myself, but I had to have a word with myself. It’s nice to be inspired but I don’t think I have that talent and creativity in the same way Danielle does.

NIGE: Do you still have all the old photos from what you took on tour?

RICK: I do, I even had some of them published in a Japanese magazine. A lot of the ones I took were fairly unremarkable. I used to like doing landscapes, for example, when we were in Canada I photographed Niagara Falls, which are spectacular in themselves without having the pretentiousness of someone saying, “Well it was my photograph that made Niagara Falls.” I enjoyed doing it, but years ago, I unfortunately had all my equipment stolen and I couldn’t afford to replace it, so I left it all behind, but yes I still have a lot of the old ones, some are included on www.thejamfan.net  [Rick's official Jam site]

NIGE: Have you ever thought about writing a book and using those photos as part of the visual aids?

RICK: Yes, I do have that idea. At the moment I’m scribbling down memories. Whether I’ll get it published I don’t know. Twink did publish a book called “The Jam Unseen”, and he used photos that he’d kept locked away for fifteen years. To publish photos in a book like that is very expensive, but it was good to do and it’s a good book with some interesting backstage stuff.

NIGE: Moving into your own current career in music, it’s been a while since I’ve read anything about you in the press, what have you been up to recently in music?

RICK: Several things, but mostly behind the scenes really. Years ago I used to be involved with a recording studio and a lot of bands came through there. One of them was called ‘The Highliners’ and I got involved with them, mostly managerial and I did play with them for a while. I saw them play Goodwood last year, so I got back in touch and I’ve been helping out getting them back on the road, sorting contracts, finding an agent and other bits and bobs. We’re going to organise some dates later on in the year. There are a couple of other bands I’ve been helping out with, but nothing too major. I’ve got other projects that I’ve been thinking of getting under way but these things take time. I’ve not really done a great deal regards playing in the last year, just the backroom stuff.

NIGE: Are ‘The Highliners’ a new band or have they been around for a while, being a mixture of already established musicians?

RICK: They’ve been around a bit. They had a top 40 hit about fifteen years ago. They’re well liked and are kind of a psychobilly/rockabilly band. One of the biggest bands of that genre is ‘The Meteors’ and their drummer, Ginger (Steve Meadham) has now joined ‘The Highliners’. They’ve been working on new material and their great fun, very much tongue in cheek and are great live. I’ve got a soft spot for them, which is why I’ve been helping them out.

NIGE: Do you do any teaching with regards drumming?

RICK: Yes, I do the odd thing every now and then but it’s not something I do on a full time basis. I think the last time I did any teaching was about 6-8 months ago.

NIGE: Have you taught anyone who has gone on to be well known?

RICK: No, it’s mainly people who want to get started and be set on the right path. It’s funny with drumming, because once you’ve got the hang of playing, formed your own style and the way that you do things, you tend to end up teaching yourself, which is what I did when I was learning.

NIGE: Did it come quite naturally when you were teaching yourself?

RICK: I don’t know really, I think it did. I was obviously a music fan and there were certain people and groups I aspired to. That sort of enthusiasm alone will take you a long way I think. It’s not quite as technical as having to learn to write music, which isn’t that important anyway. But with drummers its more hands on there’s a lot you can learn from just watching other drummers.

NIGE: Who inspired you to become a drummer?

RICK: I was quite young at the time and not seen that many bands. Most of my early experiences which came through school, as in who bought a new album. In my case; it was David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and other progressive rock coming through. There was a lot of very good live music, and that was the only way of doing things. There weren’t any computers or electro music at the time, so there were a lot of people to look at and draw from.

NIGE: What about Buddy Rich, the man who could move his hand faster than a bees wing, did he inspire you?

RICK: [laughs] Yeah he was incredibly fast. I did go and see him play at Royal Albert Hall and it was phenomenal. The great thing about the gig was that I’m sure everyone in the audience was a drummer, because he was such an icon for drummers. I don’t think anyone was there to listen to the other music, just to see him. It was phenomenal and I was lucky enough to actually see him play. We got great seats right near the front so we could see everything that he actually did. I probably learnt more in the hour or so watching him than anything else. He could do all sorts of things that most drummers can’t even dream of.

NIGE: What about the likes of Keith Moon, did he influence you at all? Did you ever get to see or meet him?

RICK: No, I never met him or saw him play. It was later on when I appreciated him. In the early stages I didn’t really understand what he was doing because he was thrashing about all over the place. I thought, “this guys making it up as he’s going along”, but it was only years later when I appreciated and understood what was going on.

NIGE: Moving towards your recent playing days, why did you leave ‘From The Jam’?

RICK: Well, I started a band called ‘The Gift’, where the idea was to revisit ‘The Jam’ material and I really enjoyed that. It was at a very basic level playing smaller clubs, but we had a great contact with the audience and it was really good. I think Bruce (Foxton) found himself out of ‘Stiff Little Fingers’ so was at a bit of a loose end. One night we found ourselves on the same bill, me with ‘The Gift’ and Bruce with a band called ‘The Casbah Club’, who were supporting us. I rang Bruce the night before, asking him to do a couple of numbers with us and he agreed to that. It went on from there and he started doing more and more shows with us. When ‘The Casbah Club’ folded, Bruce joined us full time and it became an extension of ‘The Gift.’ However, Bruce can be exceedingly hard work and after a while it became impossible to do anymore. It was great for the fans that we went that far, and we made overtures to Paul Weller to see whether he would even wish us luck, but he came down quite hard against what we were doing. Eventually, it just ran its course and we’d done all we could do. I didn’t want it to run on for years and years and lose its value, so I walked away before we became sour and boring.

NIGE: Yeah, I think you would’ve been able to reach an audience who weren’t around in your hay day, and it’s great for those unfortunate, like myself, to revisit the past because we weren’t around at that time.

RICK: I think you’re right and I know a lot of bands are reforming, and it’s an unfair criticism for people to say, “well you mustn’t do this or that,” I think it was good and I certainly did enjoy it. I also think the fans enjoyed it, but it was tailing off with shows getting thin on the ground and the venues getting smaller, but I think we achieved what we set out to do.

NIGE: Did you enjoy it as much as 30 or so years ago?

RICK: Well it was less hectic. At the time during ‘The Jam’ days, we constantly had to prove ourselves, with new albums and material. There wasn’t really time to stop and think. It was all a mad rush with new tours, new albums and new singles. That became a sort of treadmill and it burnt Paul (Weller) out because of the demand for new material, which didn’t let up, but it was exciting. There was too much pressure on Paul for the song writing and for everyone else too. John Weller, for all his good intentions, wasn’t really a professional manager and have the strength to say, “stop and take stock for a while”, and it all became too much. Paul wanted to get off and find a career where he was more in control, which is what he did. It was a bit of a shame and hindsight is a really wonderful thing, but it was exciting to be part of. This time around, we were more measured and experienced and knew exactly what we wanted to do, and there was no pressure for new material or tour dates, so we took it more at our own pace.

NIGE: What do you miss most about playing?

RICK: Well, I really enjoy playing and I’ve not said that I’m going to stop playing again. I never say never, even when I’m on a break. What I do enjoy is bumping into people I haven’t seen in ages, like the people who always used to come to shows and follow the band about, so I rediscovered that side. The travelling is also great and revisiting the old songs too.

NIGE: What style of music would you class ‘The Jam’ as? Can it be classed as Mod? There were a lot of different genres out at the time, but how did you see yourselves?

RICK: We were always a bit weary of pigeon holing because there was a real mixture of things going on in that era. There was a big punk rock scene in 1976-77 at certain venues, but I wouldn’t describe ‘The Police’ or ‘The Stranglers’ as a punk band, even though were very much playing at them venues. They weren’t a punk band in the same way as ‘The Sex Pistols’ or ‘The Damned’ were. That was one of the great strengths of that era, there were so many different bands of different styles coming through, with ‘Ian Drury and The Blockheads’, ‘Elvis Costello and ‘The Clash’, but they were all very much different and couldn’t be stereotyped into Mod or New Wave. The diversity of it all was something that the press seemed to miss at the time. There was a certain energy around with some great song writing, which I’m not sure is still around anymore.

NIGE: Did you own a scooter though?

RICK: No I never owned a scooter. I owned a TR6, I was always into cars. It’s funny, because people refer to ‘The Who’ as being a Mod band, but they were a rock band who the Mod’s took to. Pete Townshend used to drive a Cadillac, which was a rockers car. He was almost ashamed to be seen in it because the Mod’s didn’t like it. He said that he used to park the car around the corner so The Mod’s didn’t see him get out of it. We were regarded as a Mod band because of Paul being a fan of Steve Marriott. But, there were so many similarities between the skinheads and the Mods in terms of fashions. We did take a lot from what was regarded as the 60s mod fashions and groups, which was basically American when you think of the parkers and buttoned down shirts.

NIGE: What was the best tour and why in ‘The Jam’ days?

RICK: We really loved playing and weren’t very good at turning things down, resulting in us doing an enormous amount of gigs day after day. When it moved onto the larger venues, it was really good playing on proper stages. It was all great and I don’t think I could pick out any particular one. I’ve got fond memories of all of them.

NIGE: Earlier, you mentioned about writing memoirs, is that something you’ve been doing for years or is it more recent?

RICK: A little while ago, me and Bruce did a book about our story, which is full of little anecdotes about ‘The Jam’ days. Some of it came from that, and there are a few humorous stories. For example, we borrowed a van where we had to keep the lion in the back, because the guy we borrowed it from owned a lioness. Imagine the problem of loading the equipment with this lion in the back. It’s just other silly little stories that happened in the early club days, through to the success, the travelling, and the other things that the journalists certainly didn’t see or write about, which the fans would find interesting. It’s more of an elaboration of that other story Bruce and I did. I just keep adding to it and we’ll see how it goes and it’s just a case of getting it all down before it’s too late.

NIGE: In today’s music, which current bands are you into? Are there any drummer’s that you rate?

RICK: Not really, I’m more into the influences on my own life. I do like to see real drummers. I hated the drum machines of the 80s as they took the soul right out of it. It seems to be a problem finding decent drummers to play in bands these days, something I’ve learnt from talking to local groups. It’s not one of the easiest instruments to start playing, because of the logistics of it and no way of turning the bloody things down, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, there’s not really anybody I can point a finger at and say to watch out for in the newer groups, but I can’t really answer that one for sure.

NIGE: What’s different about the industry today than back in your own day?

RICK: Well I think the most obvious thing is the use of the internet to get music out. I think the only thing that still holds true today is going out and playing live. Other than that, the whole industry has changed a great deal, with regards record companies, charts and the way to publicise music. A lot of that has completely shifted, but the most important thing is to play live to an audience you’ve gained yourself. Sometimes, people think you can substitute that for things like You Tube, which can help, but some people rely on them too much.

NIGE: Finally, where do you think ‘The Jam’ rank amongst the greats in British music?

RICK: [laughs] I think you’re asking the wrong person that question. I’m very proud of what we did. Paul wrote some of the greatest songs for that particular era, but I don’t know whether some of the newer bands would agree with that. People who were fans of ‘The Jam’ grew up and related to it at the time. I just hope that sort of thing still goes on with bands today, as in when you discover music, you grow up with it, then that stays with you forever and has the biggest influence, the same way that the likes of ‘The Kinks’ and ‘The Who’ influenced us. Sometimes it’s a bit strange when somebody says that ‘The Jam’ were a great influence upon them, it’s a bit of a mind thing that really. I mean it’s great when other artists cite you as being a great influence on what they’ve done, but it can be strange sometimes.

 

It was a real pleasure speaking with Rick, and very interesting to see a different side to him away from being known as the drummer of ‘The Jam’, which was his fascination with photography. He was a very level headed and humble guy, still unable to comprehend the fact that he’s influenced so many musicians, thirty years on. He seemed like somebody who would do anyone a favour, exemplified by his involvement with ‘The Highliners’ and his wish to help out photographer Danielle Tunstall, by offering his services to be photographed in order to raise her own profile.

Half way through the interview, we had to ‘down tools’ as we became engaged in a conversation about Las Vegas and writing in general. At one point I had to joke, “I’m supposed to be interviewing you,” because of the interest he was showing in my own personal work, unusual for an interview, but again this demonstrated his humbleness and unpretentious approach. I wish him all the luck in the world in his future projects and hope we can catch up with him again in the not so distant future.

Interview by Nigel Cartner 01/07/11
Photos:
Twink of The Jam www.mpag.co.uk/jam.htm
Rick Buckler photos by Danielle Tunstall website: www.danielletunstall.com
Behind the drums photo by Gaz Clark: www.flickr.com/photos/24368061@N00/