By Clare McCabe
Vintage UK punks The Members are currently on tour and will be visiting New Zealand in November for three shows. The touring band (who have not been down this way since 1979) consists of original membersJC Carroll and Chris Payne, together with the legendary Mr Rat Scabies (ex The Damned) taking control of the drums.
I had the chance recently to sit down and have a chat (via phone interview) with the man himself, Rat Scabies, about his long career as a drummer and what he is up to currently.
First up, I asked Rat about his recent grail-hunting trip to France - sounds fascinating, I said. For those of you who haven't followed Rat in recent years, a book called Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail was released in 2005 which is the story of Rat and his neighbour on their hunt for, you guessed it, the Holy Grail. Rat told me he has just returned from a few weeks in France participating in this "grail-hunting". Bats were mentioned. And caves. Sounds like just the sort of story that would make for great TV, I said. Sadly, lack of funds thus far has prevented this gem from being filmed.
It seems Rat still loves to travel (whether while on tour or hunting grails). He said he has been to New Zealand a few times throughout his career; my first memory of seeing him live was at the Galaxy in Auckland back in the 80s with The Damned. He is really looking forward to spending a bit of time here in NZ on this tour, especially if it involves the drinking of wine. Interestingly, one of the reasons he agreed to this tour was so that he could explore the country a bit more.
But the person I really wanted to ask him was about Sid Vicious. Rat was in a band back in 1978 with none other than Sid himself, Glen Matlock and a certain young lady named Nancy Spungen on backing vocals. They got together to help raise some much-needed funds to send Sid over to New York and to revive his career after he left the Sex Pistols. It was also a way, Rat said, of showing the press that there were no hard feelings between Glen and Sid. The band was called the Vicious White Kids and they played a one-off gig at the Electric Ballroom in London. Their repertoire was so short, Rat noted, that they played their set, and then played it again. All the way through. Sadly both Sid and Nancy were never to return to London, both of them passed away within six months of this event.
Next up I asked Rat about his recent music career. He told me he had also been on tour with Brian James(another original member of The Damned) playing as Scabies & James. Their last show together was in early October in France. We have proved our point, said Rat of this recent tour, and now its time to move on to the next thing.
The next thing is, I believe, a tour down under with The Members. Rat has been touring with the boys since 2010 and is certainly enjoying theexperience. I asked him about the reaction they get from the fans at their gigs and he said it is an interesting mix - there are always the older crowd who love to get up and dance to the old original Members' numbers (Sound of the Suburbs, et al). "But there are loads of younger kids coming along as well, a new generation to impress. Sometimes it's hard to believe punk rock is still going strong after all these years," he said.
"To be honest," Rat said, "I'm still happy to be out there making music and being able to play drums with various bands - this has been and always will be my life." In fact all his children, he has two sons and one daughter, work in music/creative industries, his daughter is an aspiring actress. "Perhaps I should have talked to them about getting normal '9 to 5' jobs" he said. Oh no way, Mr Scabies, great to hear that they are following in their father's footsteps and can make money doing creative things that they love.
I checked with Rat to see if he is still in contact with the other members of his original band, The Damned. Obviously he still sees Brian, but he also said he is still in touch with Dave Vanian, and his wife Patricia (ex-Sisters of Mercy). He has great memories of touring with them both in past years.
And then my time was up - could probably have come up with questions all day if permitted, but rules are rules. So cool to be able to chat with such a legend - someone who has been in the music business for 35+ years and has known/played with many of the original punk rock greats. Thanks again Mr Scabies and looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks at the Kings Arms with The Members boys. I'll have that glass of wine ready as promised - red or white?
THE MEMBERS FEATURING THE LEGEND OF THE DAMNED - RAT SCABIES NZ TOUR
November 7th: Dux Live, Christchurch
November 8th: Bodega, Wellington
November 9th: Kings Arms, Auckland
Tickets on sale from www.undertheradar.co.nz; Real Groovy Records Auckland; Slow Boat Records andRough Peel Music, Wellington; Cosmic, Christchurch