Richie Ramone Delivers The Goods
March 31, 2022 @ 10:00am
Richie Ramone, drummer and frequent songwriter for the punk legends from 1983 to 1987, is back on tour for the first time since Covid and christening new D.C. rock venue The Runaway with its first live performance tonight. He’s only a week into his current tour as lead vocalist with bandmates Clare Misstake (bass guitar, vocals), Ronnie Simmons (guitar, vocals) and Chris Moye (drums), introducing audiences to his new single “Not Afraid” and some yet-to-be-released tracks from his upcoming album, out this summer. Before he hits the stage at The Runaway in Brookland, the second punk rock outpost from Christine Lilyea (Slash Run is her staple location), he spent a few minutes chatting with me about making Joey proud, writing about real experiences and the true meaning of punk rock.
District Fray: How long have you known Christine Lilyea?
Richie Ramone: Since the last time I played [Slash Run] in 2019. She’s fabulous. They always treat the bands well there, so we’re looking forward to playing her new club this time.
Why did you pick The Runaway on this tour?
We usually go back where things are good, you know? I find her place has good punk rock music and the fans who come there are cool.
How would you describe your band’s dynamic?
We’re a DIY band. We travel around. You have to have the right people who like to do this kind of work. We’re doing 20 shows straight in a different city every night. It’s a lot of work. Some people don’t like to travel, but I’ve got a group that really enjoys it.
How does it feel to be back on tour for the first time in two years?
It’s good to be back. It feels really good. It’s important. A lot of these places have closed down because of Covid. We have to support the venues we play, too. It’s more than just about me. I never expected to even be where I am now all these years later: still playing music on the road at my age. But I don’t know. The age thing doesn’t matter anymore. If you can still deliver the goods, then why not do it? I think we still have the edge on this market, so we’re having fun.
When you’re writing music, do you ever find inspiration in new artists?
No, I try not to listen when I’m writing. I try to [write] what comes out of my heart. I get inspiration from being on the road, and if I see something I like or something that touches me, I see if I can write a song about it. I like to write about real experiences so when I sing it, it has meaning — rather than some made-up story.
My managing editor just wrote a story for me about why the Ramones is his two-year-old’s favorite band and my five-year-old is a huge fan, too. How would you describe punk rock to my son, or even Gen Z?
I can’t really describe punk rock, you know? The term “punk” isn’t about your haircut or your nose ring or some crazy clothes you’re wearing. It’s about being true to yourself. It’s about speaking your mind, not being phony, and being a real person and a good person. That’s really what punk’s about. There is none of this music on mainstream radio. They don’t talk about it in school. The only way you learn it is through your parents, playing it or maybe a friend at school. The audience is slowly getting squished and becoming smaller because the older generation who started with the Ramones back in ‘75, they’re in their ‘70s. They’re not going out to clubs anymore. To get the newer generation in, you’ve got to learn that from your parents. Every show, some dad is bringing their daughter or some mom is bringing their son. That’s what we see now to keep it going.
So basically, it’s my responsibility to make sure that my son knows what punk rock is.
Yeah, but not just this kind of music. Let him learn about all kinds of music. I think that’s important.
Can you give me a sneak peek of tonight’s performance? Will there be any surprises?
We’ll have magicians and fire eaters. The show is fantastic. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but you get some Ramones classics. You get songs I wrote for the Ramones back in the day and a lot of stuff off my first two records and my upcoming record, which will be out next year. I am playing some stuff from that and I have a new single out called “Not Afraid. “ It’s really a fun time. It’s not about us performers. It’s about the audience. It’s about who paid their ticket. I want to make sure they have a good time. That’s what’s important to me and that’s what we do — and it works.
How did you react to the tragic news about Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins?
It was sad. It’s just too bad. It’s a sad thing to see. It’s a lesson. When you get a little older, you’ve got to be a little more leery — especially as drummers because our heart is pounding over 200 beats per minute when we do this kind of stuff. You’ve got to be really careful. You’ve got to take care of yourself.
What’s it like to balance your reputation as a Ramone with your work as an individual artist?
[Being a Ramone is] identifiable. You have that stamp on your forehead. Every day, you try to give them respect. My music is still kind of aggressive, so it still fits with the Ramones’ kind of music. They taught me a lot, [including] how to treat the fans. I was only in my ’20s when I was in that band. I feel Joey’s looking down on me at these shows saying, “Richie, go for it man. You’re doing really good.” As long as I have that feeling inside of me, I think I’m doing all right.
Richie Ramone’s show at The Runaway on Thursday, March 31 is sold out. Learn more about him and his band here, and follow them on Instagram. Keep your eyes peeled for his album, out in August, and news from the road on a European tour next year — and a “James Bond”-themed composition down the road. Check out The Runaway here.
The Runaway: 3523 12th St NE, DC; 202-735-0040; therunawaydc.com // @therunawaydc
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