Richie Reinhardt recalls being a Ramone

Drummer looks back on stint with punk legends

"Being in The Ramones at that time for me was very exciting," the band's former drummer Richie Reinhardt says. "I remember seeing them only a year earlier and to think I'd end up in that band was kind of weird."

Reinhardt became a Ramone in 1983, staying with the band for four years in which time he played on three albums and even penning several tunes.

As the drummer prepared to return to the UK for his first London show in 25 years last month we got on the phone and found out his memories from those heady days of punk stardom.

How did your time with the Ramones come about?

"I used to hang out in Brooklyn, there was a band called The Shirts and they had a recording studio. It was a hangout, just where you went every day. A guy was one of the roadies for The Ramones and one day he had to go to the city because The Ramones were auditioning drummers. I said, 'You're kidding?' I asked him to get me in there and a day or two later their road manager called me leaving a message asking me to audition. I still have that cassette from the phone machine of him asking me to audition! That would be a good eBay item!"

"You couldn't even see the cymbals so if the roadie didn't set the kit up right when you went to smash the cymbal you'd cut your finger off."

Everything must have changed for you on joining the band

"When joining the band you became one of the brothers and you got a lot of recognition. You weren't just for example Pat Benatar's drummer. We had a lot of fun times."

You're known for contributing heavily to the band's songwriting

"I worked on a lot of tracks. It's funny, when I would be a sole songwriter and wouldn't be splitting that money with the other guys, John [guitar] wouldn't like that. I could have had four or five songs on every album. We'd take the songs to our managers and play the songs and they'd always pick mine! But John wouldn't allow it. But finally by the third album I had two songs on there. In London we were on Beggars Banquet and when they put out our records they would always put another one of my songs on there. But I was limited. With John most of it was about the money. To me it was, 'Let's just put the best f***ing songs on here.' I remember writing 'Humankind' and things like that, you write what happens in your daily life.

"I was the first drummer in The Ramones to write solo and sang in the live show too. I did 'You Can't Say Anything Nice' and then by 85 or 86 I did a lot of vocals. It was an added element that made the shows bigger. Joey was very supportive in that way and encouraged me to write more."

What do you think of today's punk scene?

In the '70s and '80s punk was a lifestyle, now it's become so corporate and so poppy. They sample every drum and every bass drum has to sound the same. They'll spend three days getting a drum sound and then they won't use that drum sound! Back then it was a lifestyle and you lived it. That's why these days I don't think people can really get there.

It's a world away from your days with the Ramones, especially those live shows

"There was always stuff going on – ducking beer bottles and spit! I got a kick out of watching the audience with the moshing and them trying to get on stage and being flung back in. You had to be aware what was going on so nobody snuck up on you, it could get scary at times."

From the outside looking in it seems like the band was very tight knit, almost a gang

"It was like a gang. The gang had different camps. In the beginning I was with everybody most of the time then I started to peel off with Joey and Dee Dee and hung out more with them. Every day and night for five years we would go out. We became really tight. I like that term, a gang, that's what it was. No nonsense. When we performed live we didn't turn around, look at each other and smile. There was none of that. Why do you have to turn around and jump on the drum riser? No, look at the audience and play to them the whole time.

"The songs were going and you don't have to look at each other, once you lock in that's it. Just find your way. I have some bootleg tapes of back then and I can't believe how fast we played. We were doing 33 songs in under an hour. It got crazy."

That sounds pretty punishing

"It was very punishing. We all came out in our leather jackets. We never did soundchecks so we never knew what the stage was like and when we walked on there was nothing but smoke. You couldn't see nothing and once you got to your seat you had to go. You couldn't even see the cymbals so if the roadie didn't set the kit up right when you went to smash the cymbal you'd cut your finger off. The hard thing was we'd open up with three songs and then there was ten seconds while Joey said something to get that leather jacket off. Sometimes by that third song it'd be stuck to my skin with sweat and if I couldn't get it off you had to go another seven songs before the next break. That was brutal.

"The Ramones show as far as drumming with all those 16th notes on the hi-hats playing continuously, it was more of an endurance athlete job. When I came off it'd be like I'd jumped in a swimming pool. In far as intricate beats and triplets like I've done since with symphony shows, that wasn't in that band. That was strictly pound that beat, pound it loud and go faster and faster."


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