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Here's Five: Ruts DC

Here's Five: Ruts DC

Wednesday 11th November, 2015 1:24PM

Legendary act Ruts DC are heading downunder next week for their first ever shows on New Zealand soil. The London-based group has long history of highs and lows, having originally formed in as The Ruts in 1977 and setting themselves on track to relative success with socially-conscience punk cuts such as 'Babylon's Burning' and 'Something That I Said'. But following the tragic heroin overdose of lead singer Malcolm Owen in 1980 the band a beat out a different path.

Taking up the moniker Ruts DC, the group put out a couple of reggae-influenced albums before disbanding in 1983. Then, more than two decades later, they reformed for a benefit gig and one thing lead to another. Now boasting a line-up of John ”Segs” Jennings, David Ruffy and Leigh Heggarty the group has a new album (titled Psychic Attack) in the works. In anticipation of next week's tour UnderTheRadar asked Ruffy to share the stories behind some of his favourite Ruts DC songs, and he even dropped a couple of new ones on us....

1. Whatever We Do (Ruts DC, Rhythm Collision Vol. 1, 1982)
This was on our first ever dub album. After Animal Now, we – Segs, Paul Fox and I - left Virgin, and we had no money. We bumped into a chap called Neil Fraser, who’s known as the Mad Professor, and we recorded a dub album with him in South London, near Croydon way. We jammed some afro-beats and reggae roots music, and basically just made the album that we wanted to make. Segs wrote the lyrics to this one again, and the words still ring true. We often open up our set with this song, since we like to start with a nice slow build and this is perfect for that. It’s slow and low, with a good message and a good vibe.

2. Mighty Soldier (Ruts DC, Rhythm Collision Vol. 2, 2013)

This is a dancehall reggae song with a really good rhythm and beat. It gets us in the zone whenever we play it, because it’s so happy. We played it the other night at the Hawkwind show and everyone was dancing their socks off to it, which was brilliant. It just goes to show that if the music is good then it transcends style and genre, because we had all the hairy bikers and the acid people dancing to it. On the record we had Tenor Fly, who’s one of the Brixton Generals, doing the toasting (Jamaican term for rapping), and he helped give it a really good vibe. It began as a song about children who are forced to become soldiers and fight wars, but it came out a bit more positive than that in the end. The message became that all our children are mighty soldiers, because they have to deal with the problems ahead – without sounding too corny, that’s what it’s about.

3. Dangerous Minds (Ruts DC, Animal Now, 1981)

This was originally written about Margret Thatcher and other dark politicians – there are plenty of them. I don’t know what it is about this one, but it really grooves, and it just has some really ethereal qualities that we don’t have in any of our other songs. We’ve revisited it and reclaimed it, and it sounds great when we slow it down these days. People really seem to like it as well, and it always gets a huge cheer whenever we play it. Of course this list will probably change week-to-week, but right now this is one of my current favourites. And it’s so nice to play in a band where you still enjoy playing the music, because I’ve been in plenty of other bands where I haven’t.

4. Secondhand Child (As yet unreleased)

This is a brand new song. It's about how nobody deserves to be the victim of childhood abuse. It’s kind of American sounding, in that it’s got a bit of a Patti Smith or a Television kind of New York vibe to it. Segs and I do the chorus together, and it builds and builds with this really strong message at the forefront. We’ve been playing it out in Europe, and often when you say you’re going to play a new song, people say, "Oh God! Here we go." But this song probably got the biggest cheer of the night every time. We’re hoping to record the song probably, along with the rest of the new album, when we finish this tour in December. Then we’ll probably release it around May 2016, subject to finishing it all on time. There’s still a few more songs that we haven’t quite got all the lyrics for, but we’ve got some very fine music, and regardless of what one likes I think there’s going to be a lot of stuff on there that people will be liking a lot.

5. Psychic Attack (As yet unreleased)

This is another brand new song, and people won’t know it either because it’s one of the tracks off our new album, which is actually going to be called Psychic Attack. It’s kind of like a punk rock song – the first we’ve written since about 1978. We’re currently doing three or four new songs on this tour, and I like all of them, but this one is my favourite. It’s a bit reminiscent of The Stooges and The Damned, but it’s a genuine heartfelt song that just sort of came out of the blue. We’ve been writing the new album for the past couple of years, and Segs and I have been away a couple of times out to the mountains in Portugal to do more writing. They have to be really good you see, because we’ve got a hot legacy, and if we’re doing rock ‘n’ roll songs then we’ve got to live up it. And we’re really happy with the new songs we’ve got so far, because they do live up to it. We’re very excited, particularly about this one, and that’s why we’ve named the album and the tour after it.

Ruts DC will be on these shores for three shows next week across Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Head over here for more details and to buy tickets.


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Fri 20th Nov
Bodega, Wellington
Sat 21st Nov
Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland

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