All the way from his home in Argentina, Jimmy Rip is feeling good and loving life. The upbeat animated voice on the end of the phone bubbles with excitement at the prospect of hitting the road with TELEVISION to crank up the amps and blast out their legendary back catalogue to all that attend!
OD – First of all, did you ever think that you would be still producing music and touring at this point in your life?
JIMMY RIP – Yeah I do!! I mean, I always hoped I would be and I hope to still be doing it the next time you call me (laughs). I hope to be doing the same things, and as long as people are still interested in having me help them or play for them or produce for them… to me it’s the most fun job. It’s really it’s the only job I’ve ever had, so why would I stop? I love it.
OD – I understand that Television are in the process of writing and recording a new album, can you talk a little about where things are with it?
JIMMY RIP – The answer that I prefer to give is, “Tom (Verlaine) is still in the laboratory doing experiments”. We recorded a lot of songs and that was in 2007. But you know, every single time we play, we’re like “Gee, it’d be great if we had a record”. And then we all look at Tom and he doesn’t say anything, so we just keep going! He always goes “Someday Jim, you’ll see. Someday”. I hope it happens. I’m kinda done beating my head against that wall. So if it happens I’d be really happy. To my ears, he’s got great songs; some of them we’ve recorded, some of them we’ve never recorded, and we play a couple of them live at every show. Like, the stuff is there, and to me it sounds great. I still don’t know why there isn’t a record – I’m 100% in favour of it, and so are Bill (Ficca) and Fred (Smith), but really it’s just up to Tom.
OD – I understand that you were not involved with that first wave of CBGB‘s bands and were working on TV jingles at the time. Can you talk a littl about growing up in New York durning that era from a popular cultural point of view and how you eventually got involved with the scene in the East Village?
JIMMY RIP – Well I was really a guitar for hire for many, many years, which was really the antithesis of what was going on in the East Village and the punk scene. Those worlds were completely valid – both worlds kinda looked down their noses at each other. But at that time, it wasn’t really the time of the studio musician, and that’s what really interested me because I really do love playing a lot of different styles and I love a lot of different kinds of music. So I wasn’t so interested – maybe I wasn’t angry enough or something, but I was ready to play with anyone, and I did. I mean I did play on TV jingles and things like that, but I also played in a hundred bands who were playing the Westwoods, or Bleaker street, which was a very big scene at the time. But also on the other side of the coin, played in pop-sounding things, folk bands, country bands…whatever anybody wanted, I was happy to try and play it.
I wasn’t always great at it, but to me, I was just happy to be playing something different and try to make it sound great. I’m kinda still doing the same thing now. I met Tom (Verlaine) because of that, because Fred Smith and JD Doherty and I played in many bands in New York at that time, and when Tom was putting together a band tour for his solo record called Dreamtime in 1981. Fred and Jay suggested I be the other guitar player, and I went in and auditioned.
That week I also auditioned for Peter Frampton, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts, but that was my life then. That was the breadth of things that were around and available to do, and all of those things were fun. All of those things were great and interesting things to do. Peter didn’t hire me, and Kid Creole and Tom Verlaine did hire me and I wound up working with both. Well, Tom still, but Kid Creole for 10-11 years. That was an average week back then. To me, that was fun. To be kinda playing in one band playing at CBGBs and hoping for another gig soon, that didn’t really appeal to me. Although, if you were in a band made a mark that left a great legacy like Television, it would have been worth sacrificing all those other things, but I didn’t see it that way at that time.
OD – So many ground breaking bands have emerged from that particular location and have gone on to influence countless bands and helped to create new genres, do you think there is still a similar passion for pushing the envelope in today’s music?
JIMMY RIP – I think that today it happens so quickly because of the way information and communication spreads in the world, that trends seem to come and go like, in a week, you know? They used to make a joke about it, but now it really is true. Like, I could go on YouTube and see everything if I want to, spend the whole day doing that, and cherry-pick the ideas. I do that sometimes, because I’m making a solo record for myself and I don’t want to be influenced by anything that’s gone on and on, so you have to be very careful with that kind of thing. Your question is do bands get influenced ? I think they do, but I dunno how long they’re gonna last. The information and the vibe spread a bit slower back then, and people took thinks a little more seriously or more to heart. People jump on bandwagons quite quickly and jump off them again quite quickly. It’s a hard thing to say because it usually requires time to sell. Like, if something is gonna be a genre or anything that lasts. It’s a tough question to give an answer to.
OD – When you joined Television after Richard (Hell) left, was there a conscious decision to try something different with a style or direction by bringing your own distinct personality to the music. Did you feel that you could put your own mark on the music?
JIMMY RIP – Well yeah absolutely. We’ve done a lot of shows where we only play Marquee Moon, and when we do those songs, I try my damnedest to give the fans what I think they prefer, which is to hear Marquee Moon, to hear those songs as they remember them from the record, and really I put my best effort to really recreating what Richard did which was so brilliant, and he’s just wonderful on that record. I’ve no problem playing it. To me it’s a great thing to play what he played on that record, and he played really, really great things. When we do other songs, when we do new songs that we haven’t recorded or things like that, I’m me.
Tom appreciates that, and that’s why we’ve played together for 34 years now, because I’m good at giving him what he wants to hear and putting my twist on it. He’s actually letting me play some solos now which is nice ha ha! I played with him for about 26 years before I joined Television and I never played a solo on stage with him, which is fair enough. In my band, nobody plays a solo but me, so I have no problem with it. And it’s Tom: getting to hear him play solos all night is a treat, because the guy is absolutely brilliant and he plays something new that spins my head around every single time we’re on stage. He really is one of the most unique and amazing musicians I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard a lot of musicians. That’s a great thing for me. And yeah, I’ve tried to keep it in the world of Television, but I’m definitely playing from my heart. I’m not imitating anything.
OD – You have worked with so many musicians in your career from Jerry Lee Lewis to Mick Jagger, if you could collaborate with any other musicians today who would it be?
JIMMY RIP – Oohh… good question. Well he doesn’t really do that kind of thing, but I’d like to play with Prince. I’ve met him a few times and a lot of people have a few different stories about meeting him or their experience with him. To me, he was incredibly nice, and really funny and respectful. He’s the first person that comes to mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with more talent than that, and I think it would be a lot of fun to be around his creative side to see how that happens. Like, a minute or an hour or a day. And Keith Richards!! Everybody else I love is dead. If Howlin’ Wolf or Jimi Hendrix were still around I’d pick them but they’re not coming back so just those 2.
OD – Regarding the set list for the up and coming tour in June, will there be a particular focus on any specif time period with the band or will it be a vast selection from the past discography?
JIMMY RIP – I don’t think the shows in Dublin and Belfast are, like – we have some shows that are usually big festivals where we’d play Marquee Moon and that’s an hour show. But I think that these are club/theatre shows and so there will be quite a bit longer. So we usually do most of Marquee Moon, which is 6 out of 8 songs from that record. And sometimes we do at least 1 or 2 from the other 2 Television records and the rest is new material and maybe a cover or 2. There’s always a chance of a psychotic reaction, and that’s the show!
OD – What’s the latest on Jimmy Rip and The Trip, will we ever see a solo tour stretching to Europe any time soon?
JIMMY RIP – I would love it. I would love to do something like that. It’s not sleazy, we’re just a trio, and the women are very small, so we can share a room. So if anybody is interested, I’d be happy to leave here and go play someplace outside Argentina. We do a lot of shows across South America and we so far, haven’t managed to get north of the Equator. But we would love to. I’m just finishing a new record. It should be out here probably in September, and it’s a really good one. Its just really hard rocking blues, very live-sounding.
But its not slick weird blues. People down here really enjoy it. They really enjoy rock and blues here and that’s why I live in Argentina, because of the passion for rock and blues here, and how much they appreciate real rock and roll here. It’s just mind-blowing when you’re here. It’s amazing, the audiences.
OD – Finally, you have been lucky enough to have a long career in this industry, looking back would you have changed anything to determine
JIMMY RIP – Well, any time you’re on stage in a baseball stadium starting Satisfaction with Mick Jagger leaning on your shoulder, that’s a pretty surreal moment for anyone. It really is a dream thousands of guitar players have had, when they wake up and go “NOO I DON’T WANNA WAKE UP!!”, and I did that for about a year. And it never ever became a routine. We practiced so much, and hung out so much. I think that might have been the first song I ever learned how to play on guitar, and a lot of people can play those 3 notes – it’s a pretty easy little riff. To remember doing that and standing there doing it with him was like, not bizarre but certainly was surreal. When you’re doing it, it’s flashing through your brain “Oh Jesus Christ I can’t believe this is happening to me”. And not once did I say “oh hey we’re gonna play this song again”. Every single time I’d say “This is a great song – thank you Keith for writing it, and thank you God for letting me stand here play it”
Television play Dublin’s Academy on Friday June 12th and Belfast Limelight on June 13th. For more information on tickets and stage times, please check out MCD for more details. Tickets on sale now via Ticketmaster.
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Interview – Oran O’Beirne © 2015
Transcription – Shaun Martin
Photography – Various Stock images.