Rat Scabies

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

An Interview with Rat Scabies
by Dennis Morgillo

Rat Scabies is the drummer of the legendary British Punk band ‘The Damned’. The Damned had the first punk UK single with “New Rose” and the first Album - “Damned, Damned, Damned” and they were the first UK punk band to tour the US. 

Madhouse: What were your influences?
Rat Scabies: I liked Jazz, and anything with a lot of drums. Jazz was everywhere in England at the time.  

Madhouse: What was the scene in England like in 1975 prior to the Damned?
Rat Scabies: There was maybe a dozen people in the punk scene and everyone else was busy with tie dye and prog rock. Hippies and all that festival stuff. So when you saw someone like Chrissie Hynde they stood out. If someone looked like they had the right attitude they usually did. 

Madhouse: When forming the Damned, you invited Sid Vicious to be the singer? 
Rat: We saw Sid out one night and asked if he wanted to be our singer. He never showed up but Dave Vanian did and the rest is history. 

Madhouse: Chrissie Hynde said The Damned were the best punk musicians around at this time?
Rat: We had ambition and could play pretty well. We loved playing and played as much as we could. At the time Emerson Lake and Palmer were huge and I felt I could never do that. The Stranglers and the Jam could play very well also. It wasn’t a prime requisite to be a great player.
But we created our own styles. 

Madhouse: Tell us about the Anarchy Tour with the Sex Pistols, Clash, Johnny Thunders.
Rat: It was quite disastrous. Shows were cancelled. I think we only played 1 gig on that tour with that lineup. There really was not an audience for punk at that time. It was mostly journalists. It was the greatest show on earth, but only once. 

Madhouse: Its kind of like America and Britain were in a battle for who invented punk rock?
Rat: It was happening in unison, England and the NY scene.   
We were aware of what was happening in NY but we never heard it. We looked at Punk Magazine and we saw the Ramones and pictures of the NYC scene but we had to imagine what they sounded like. The first NY vinyl we received in London was “Television” and we liked it. When we finally heard the Ramones, we were like Yes - thats exactly what we imagined they sounded like.  

Madhouse: How did it come about that Nick Mason from Pink Floyd produced your second album.
Rat: We had the same publisher as Pink Floyd and we wanted a psychedelic punk album. We originally wanted Syd Barrett but he was not well enough at the time. The sessions went very well but we had only a few months to write the second album.  I had become disillusioned with the whole thing at this time. 

Madhouse: You finally left the band in 1995. What happened?
Rat: Dave wanted to launch a solo career. I realized it wasn’t going to work anymore. 
We recorded the album “Not of This Earth” with Dave and he sang on it twice, and he signed all the contracts and then after a falling out over money he said he is not happy.  

Madhouse: Tell us about the book “Rat Scabies & the Holy Grail”
Rat: It’s about me looking for the Holy Grail. I grew up with that stuff and always loved it. The book is a lot of fun. It’s a combination travel narrative and buddy book, as we travel across Europe investigating different sites, clues.

Madhouse: What have you been up to lately?
Rat: I have been doing a lot of Producing, I just finished an album with The Mutants. 
Me on drums, Wilko Johnson and Wayne Kramer.  I was playing drums in the theater, in a show called “If you Kiss me, Kiss me”. 

Madhouse: Rat Scabies is the coolest Rock name of all time. How did you come up with that?
Rat: I actually had Scabies and we were in a rat infested rehearsal room at the time, 

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