Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter

Mick Ralphs interview

(Introduction and interview by David Lee)


Though he wouldn't admit it, Mick Ralphs has had a profound impact on rock music, especially in America. Every cover band worth its beer money knows at least a handful of his tunes and you just can't say that about too many songwriters. American Radio has had a twenty-five-year love affair with his music and there are some stations that play his compositions at least once a day, this despite the complete lack of any record company pressure to do so.

He has written classic rock and roll music that has and will endure simply because it is just damned good music! "Can't Get Enough," "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Ready for Love," are but a few of the classics in the guitarist's scrapbook. Mick Ralphs also has the rare distinction of being one of the few popular artists who has remained relatively anonymous while his art is wildly popular. I mean, when pressed, the average radio listener can come up with Paul Rodgers' name as the singer from BAD COMPANY but very few will proffer the name of the groups guitar player.

Having spent the better part of two decades churning out arena rock hits for both MOTT THE HOOPLE and BAD COMPANY Ralphs found himself with a bit of spare time in 1984. Making the best of that down time Ralphs wrote, performed and produced "TAKE THIS!" which is just now getting a proper release. "TAKE THIS" never gained wide distribution or recognition in its initial release and with one listen it will be easy to see why this collection should get another chance. The record features Ralphs at his fat chording best. This IS rock and roll. It is also a bit jazzy and a whole lot of fun to listen to. As an added bonus the length of the original release has been doubled here to include studio out takes, demos and previously unreleased songs. The liner notes were written by Ralphs himself and as he comments on each of the discs tracks you almost feel as though you are in the studio with him as he is creating.

With releases from MOTT THE HOOPLE, BAD COMPANY and the solo album filling store shelves you might think that the man would want to slow down a bit and drink it all in, but not Mick Ralphs. A reformed BAD COMPANY will hit the road in America later this year and a new studio album will likely follow that up which will necessitate yet another tour and so the cycle continues.

Recently, Mick was good enough to take a half hour to chat on the phone with David Lee about all the goings on and here is a bit of that conversation for you.

The interview

DAVID LEE It seems like you are a very busy man as of late with the re-release of this solo record and multiple disc releases from both MOTT THE HOOPLE and BAD COMPANY.

MICK RALPHS That is right, yeah. There is the box set and the BAD COMPANY thing is happening as well.

DL You would think that with all of this going on you might be wanting a bit of down time to rest but it all just seems to keep coming.

MR (Laughing) Naw! I have been off the road for about three years and it is all starting to happen at once again right now, which is quite exciting in a way.

DL Is there any particular project that is a little bit closer to your heart at the moment?

MR Well, the BAD COMPANY thing. We got together just recently and cut four new tracks and we haven't worked together for nearly twenty years! That sounds really good and that is going to be part of an anthology box set type thing that is coming out in March and we are planning on doing some dates in the States to back that up so, that is the main priority at the moment.

DL It wasn't too long ago that a reunion of the original group wouldn't seem to have much of a chance, how did that all change?

MR Well, no there wasn't much of a chance of it happening and it was three years of a bit of Henry Kissinger on my part to get it to work because Paul was very much into doing his own solo project. Simon and I had worked together a lot and Boz was off playing jazz and we hadn't really spoken, all together, for a very long time. What happened was that our ex-manager, who had managed LED ZEPPELIN, had unfortunately died. Peter Grant, though we hadn't worked with him for a number of years there was outstanding business and paperwork that all had to be dealt with so we all had to get together for that and I suppose that instigated it really. We were all sitting around a table together and I thought "We haven't worked together in so long and here we are all sitting down together." It grew from there, I suppose. We talked about it and I suggested that we do something before we all got too old.(laughs)

DL Well I know that a lot of the fans will be very excited to see the four of you back together again when you roll this tour through Detroit.

MR Pine Knob.

DL Exactly!

MR We hope to be back there. How is the weather there? Is it cold?

DL Actually, it is unseasonably warm.

MR It is here too. It has been really warm and it is weird. Where is Ted Nugent from? Isn't he from Detroit?

DL He is from Detroit and still lives a couple of hours out of town. As a matter of fact he recently made a big show of his retirement party here in Detroit.

MR (Laughing)How many times has he done that?

DL Probably a couple of times!(laughs)

MR Good old Ted, I love him! He is a good showman and if you see him give him my regards. Tell him that we are getting back together with the old guys. He would love that.

DL Strangely enough I have long associated BAD COMPANY and Ted Nugent, probably because there was one tour that you did with the DAMN YANKEES that I saw five or six times.

MR That is right! That was with the different lineup wasn't it? That wasn't with Paul.

DL No.

MR That was with "The Dork."

DL "The Dork?"

MR Yeah, "The Dork," Brian Howe.

DL Do I sense a bit of tension there?(laughs)

MR Well, no I just despise him!(laughs)

DL Well!

MR He is going out now and purporting to be BAD COMPANY on his own bat. So, we have been taking court orders and all kinds of stuff to put it away but he just ignores it all. I think that when we go out next year he will just have to disappear. He is doing these little rinkydink shows and saying that it is BAD COMPANY and he is not entitled to do that but he is doing it.

DL His career is in that state now is it?

MR Yeah, you are right.

DL Well, I suppose we should talk a bit about the solo record that Angel Air has put out?

MR Yeah. That is a thing that I did in 1981 or 1982, 1982 I think that it was. It was done when at the time when Paul had not long left the original lineup of BAD COMPANY. He didn't actually leave, he just said he wanted some time off and he never came back!(laughs) So, we all had different things. I had all these songs and I wanted something to do so I ended up doing that though, I don't actually believe in solo albums as such. I mean, I thought that I had nothing better to do so I will do a record. I wrote nearly all of the songs and I got all of the musicians, produced it and arranged it and blah, blah, blah. It was a good project. I did all of the artwork and the whole thing so it was a good thing to do. When it came out it never did anything because, I think, that at the time it never got released when it was done and I had a band together and we did about four dates, I think, and it was obvious that it was going nowhere. Then, my friend Dave Gilmore from PINK FLOYD said "You are wasting your time. Come on the road with me." And so I went on the road with him for a year. Luckily for me, do you know Pete?

DL Yes.

MR Yeah, he was sweet and he phoned me up because of the MOTT thing and said "Why don't I put out your solo album?" and I said "Great." What I have done is that I have redone, done more sleave notes for it, changed some of the pictures and given Pete some other stuff that was unreleased and he has added that onto the record to make it a bit more interesting.

DL It pretty much doubles the record's length.

MR Yeah! There is a version of one of my songs with Simon (Kirke) singing on it that I heard the other day. It's kind of old now for me but it is nice that it has come out again. It has a good picture on the front!(laughs)

DL Yeah, I love that picture. Classic rock and roll.

MR Yeah, that was taken in the BAD COMPANY days. You can see Paul Rodgers in the background there.

DL You have a bunch of great photos in the middle of the booklet as well. I read somewhere that you are a bit of a Leslie West fan and there in the middle is a classic picture of you and Leslie West.

MR There is indeed. That was taken in New York. I haven't seen him for years but I have heard that he has lost a lot of weight.

DL Yeah, he has.

MR He needed to. He is a great guitar player and a nice guy too. He is the guy, when I first came to America with MOTT in 1970, he was the first guy that I saw play a guitar called "The Les Paul Jr." And he had such a great sound and I just loved his sound. It was just great to hear him play and then I struck up a friendship with him. We play kind of similarly in some ways, you know, nice big fat chords.

DL Yeah, really meaty kind of music.

MR Yeah!

DL You also sang on this record.

MR Yeah, I did unfortunately.

DL I have never heard you sing, I don't think.

MR It's not that great, I don't think but it is O.K. In the sleave notes I put "It is a shame that I can't sing." but I do my best.

DL Was that a conscious decision, I mean, for you to sing on this record?

MR Well, yeah. I mean, when I write the songs and when I do demos I sing them at home in my pathetic way but, you know, If you write a song and you have got the melody it is nice to get it all down together. I did it and I thought "Well, it isn't that bad." and I got some good musicians, some back up people and when I went on and did some dates I was doing the singing and it was alright. I quite like singing actually, I just wish that I had a better voice.(laughs)

DL So, this material has only ever been performed live three or four times then?

MR Yeah, I hired a band to do four gigs and the band wasn't the same as on the record. On the record I used Simon Kirke on the drums and Mickey Feat on bass. Mickey Feat ended up being in the band with me and I had a guy called Bucket, who ended up being the second guitar player in the version of BAD COMPANY that you saw with DAMN YANKEES, he is in the picture in the back there. The drummer was called Chris Slade and he ended up with AC/DC. In fact, the bass player and the drummer went with me on Dave Gilmore's solo tour. The keyboard player, I don't know what happened to him, Linsey Bridgewater, I think his name was. It was a good fun thing but a long time ago.

DL This is something for the long term fan?

MR I think so. I think Pete put it out because of the MOTT interest and it was a spinoff of that really. There was other guys who were in MOTT and have done solo projects and he has put them out but also in America because of the BAD COMPANY association, I suppose that there would be fans that would be interested in that.

DL The liner notes say that you have written fifty or sixty new songs and it would seem that you are in the same position now as you were when this record originally came out?

MR Yeah. It is exactly the same thing. I came off the road three years ago and I have just kept working and writing and I have stockpiled about fifty songs, yeah. A couple of them we have used for the BAD COMPANY material, on the box set and obviously if we do a new record then I will use some more for that but what I would dearly love is to get a publishing deal. I mean, I like to write more than anything else although I like performing and playing guitar I would like my main function to be writing. I would like to be able to just do that for a living if I could. If I get a good publishing deal maybe I could do just that and then I could go out and gig whenever I felt like it.(laughs) Right now I have to go to work with BAD COMPANY to make some money.

DL Well, there is certainly money to be had there!

MR It is amazing the interest is still there, isn't it? It is great to be doing it with the old original band as well.

DL I like the other versions of the band, especially the "HOLY WATER" era.

MR You liked that? Yeah, that was a good period.

DL I like that period because it was able to sound very different from the early stuff but was still identifiable as BAD COMPANY.

MR It was a more modern sound but it still had to have the stamp.

DL Still, given the choice of whom to see play live I would have to say it would be the original band.

MR Yeah, the stuff that we just did sounds like the old stuff but updated. It sounds great and has the stamp of BAD COMPANY all over it, very definitive.

DL You intimated that there may be another record after the boxed set?

MR Yeah. That is the hope but it all depends on how this all goes. We are going to do some dates in America and if all goes well then, I think, we would probably do another record.

DL Is Atlantic still involved?

MR Well it is Elektra but it is still all part of the Atlantic group.

DL I had read that there had been some discussion about bringing back MOTT THE HOOPLE. What is the status of that?

MR I spoke with Ian recently in London when we did the launch of the book and the box set and we both agreed that it would be best to leave it as it was because it was such a long time ago. I mean, the BAD COMPANY thing is an ongoing thing and MOTT THE HOOPLE was a long time ago and the way that it was, was the best that it was. It is not the sort of thing that you can resurrect because it was a, sort of, a young wild band and I don't think that we would play the same way anymore really. I have a lot of respect for Ian and we both understand that he is doing his thing and I am doing my thing and he was very nice when I saw him in England.

DL The last thing that I wanted to ask you about was, the fact that you have had such an extreme influence on guitar players for two or even three generations now . . .

MR That is nice to know.

DL Is that something that you are aware of?

MR I am not aware of it really but it is a very nice compliment, thank you.

DL Not at all. Your songs play endlessly here in the States is that something that doesn't happen in Europe?

MR No, I think, that we tend to be more well known over there and you tend to have more specific, like classic rock stations over there. BAD COMPANY is well liked on the radio over there, which is great and probably much more so than over here. In England, the music scene is much more fashionable and it changes much more quickly than it does in America. The fans over here tend to be young kids and they are very fickle and tend to change their favorite bands every week whereas in America everybody buys records and if you get a bunch of people who like you, they stay with you. That is why they took to us in America. People come to see us all the time and they have grown up with us. America has always had music coming over the radio and in England it is not as everywhere as it is in America and I like it everywhere. In England it is like "Oh well, you are young and you most listen to pop music." But in America everybody listens to music, it is great!

DL And it allows you to put out box sets!(laughs)

MR It certainly does!

Copyright © 1999 David Lee.