DAVID RYDER PRANGLEY
BLACK MAGIC AND TRUE LOVE
Many of us remember the glorious noise and vision of Rachel Stamp. They are all but over but they do play from time to time to appease their adoringly faithful and flashy audience, however main man David Ryder Prangely has moved on to many other things. He has just released a classic glam rock rock record titled "Black Magic and True Love". So what better time to talk to David about not only about that, but we discuss his whole journey right up to now, the super highs, the devastating lows and his uber cool resurgence back to the top of the glam rock rock world.
Welcome everyone David Ryder Prangley and in turn get hip to "Black Magic and True Love". you will be so so glad you did!
Hi David, thanks so much for joining us here today. So we have a lot to get to with your whole journey, so let us start at the beginning of your rock n roll odyssey. How old where you when rock n roll grabbed you and where and when in the world was this spark ignited?
David Ryder Prangley ; Hi Darren, my first memories of rock n roll were way back in 1972, watching "Top Of The Pops" in my parents' house in Dinas Powys, South Wales. I was barely three years old and I was totally captivated by The Sweet singing "Blockbuster", specifically the line " you better watch out if you got long black hair". A couple of years later I saw Suzi Quatro singing "Devil Gate Drive" and I thought to myself "that's what I want to be". By 1979/1980 I was really into Marvel comics and kept seeing adverts for something called KISS. It wasn't clear what KISS was (S&M superheroes maybe?) but they were fascinating to me. Then a kid called Nicholas Harwood arrived in my school having been on a family work year in America and he had a KISS record. I heard it and that was it for me.
From then on I spent all my pocket money on records (usually at Buffalo Records in Cardiff) by KISS, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Then of course I wanted to play electric guitar.
Yes, KISS crop up again and again for all us glam rockers, they really struck a chord with us all and it's funny you say S&M heroes, it is kind of odd to think that they then were the same band we see now, you know all that dark imagery that non of us at the time knew anything about at the time but at the same time is was so alluring. Ok let us get into when you fandom turned into something more real. You wanted to play guitar, take us to the moment you saw the guitar you wanted and how you went about obtaining it
D . R . P ; Okay, so I told my parents I wanted to learn guitar and my Mum bought me a three quarter size Spanish guitar that used to belong to her friend's daughter (which I still have) and I took "folk" guitar lessons with a teacher called Mrs Davies (kids never knew adults forenames back then) where I learned all the open chords and some finger picking stuff and I think this was the best thing I ever did as it gave me a solid foundation to build on. I practised all the time and was just totally into it. I was still obsessed with getting an electric guitar and I think that because my parents saw I was dedicated to the Spanish guitar they agreed to get me a black "Kay" Les Paul for Christmas of (I think) 1981. In retrospect it wasn't a great instrument but we didn't know that at the time. It just looked cool and Ace Frehley played one (I had no idea about Gibson and the trend for copies). One thing I remember was the first time I plugged it into an amp, I was so disappointed with the sound - it was totally clean. I didn't understand why it didn't sound like all the records I was hearing, Of course I had no idea about Marshalls and amp overdrive, I was just playing through a tiny five watt solid state amp with a volume and a tone control. One day I did put it on full and it kind of sounded like what I was hearing on the records (the speaker was rattling around) but it was so loud in our small house that I was immediately told to turn it down. I really put my parents through it! Neither of my parents were musical (though my Mum had played piano as a child) but they were generally encouraging and supportive of me playing guitar, the only issues really came when it started to affect my school work or when I played it too loud. The next guitar I became obsessed with was a B.C. Rich Bitch which I'd seen both Suzi Quatro playing (in the "Rock Hard" video) and Lita Ford. Oh yeah, by this time I was also obsessed with the Runaways. I never got a B.C. Rich Bitch back then as they were insanely expensive (upwards of thousand pounds, even in 1981) although there was a music shop in Cardiff called "Livewire" that stocked U.S.A. B.C. Rich guitars and basses and I used to go in there and just stare at them hanging on the wall.
So from Wales (via Spain) to the world of rock n roll . Such innocence in your story, which is so pleasing to hear instead of the usual " I knew what to do and how to do it straight away" vibe, so thanks for your honesty. I remember where I first saw a B.C. Rich guitar, it was in the KISS Lick It Up tour book with Paul Stanley saying he only uses the best and he uses B.C. Rich and yes a killer looking guitar and he was using them way before the Hollywood bands started to use them and make them hip again in the late eighties. So the basics were learnt and you started to move on but you still didn't have the sound you wanted to hear, the same sound on those precious records you owned. So take us to the next step in your world of your guitar, also as an aside did you start singing at the same time as picking up the guitar or did that come later?
D .R . P ; At that time I was just totally into playing guitar, I wasn't singing. At some point I became aware of things called distortion, overdrive and fuzz. In my small village there were a few older musicians ( including Pepsi Tate who would have been in a band called Stage fright at this point). I can't remember the exact order of events but at some point my older brother Michael got a bass guitar and a band called Rock Bottom with some of his school friends. The guitarist in that band was a guy called Mark Gibbons (who went on to be a very successful fantasy / sci-fi artist) and I think he owned a Colorsound Fuzz Wah. This pedal was remarkable for the fact if you put the fuzz on and slowly moved the Wah pedal up it sounded like it sounded on KISS and AC/DC records and very much like "Silver Machine" by Hawkwind ( I was still clueless about amp overdrive). All these bits of info would trickle into my consciousness from other players, reading magazines or going into guitar shops. It wasn't like now were you can find out everything about guitars, amps and pedals from Google. Anyway, eventually I got an overdrive pedal made by Pearl (these were later advertised by Richie Sambora as the "Spice" series) and when I plugged that in it was like entering a whole other world. I learned some cool riffs like "Love Is Pain" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and some KISS stuff (I was probably playing them all wrong). Incidentally that Colorsound Fuzz Wah was sold / swapped around loads of musicians from my area and consequently every band put "Silver Machine" into their set. So, the I formed a band with some school friends called Tusk. There were just three of us - Mark Jones on drums and me and Kelvin Thomas on guitars, no bass. We performed at our school Eisteddfod, which is a Welsh festival / competition that goes on every year and all the schools would do their own mini versions. We played in the school gym, one song (AC/DC's "T.N.T") and it was a bit of a blur. My guitar was feeding back and you couldn't hear the vocals as the other guitarist was singing through a mic that was plugged into the same amp as his guitar. It was kind of a mess but incredibly exciting. All the kids in the school were really excited that there was an actual band in their midst. I would have been thirteen or fourteen at that point. Actually I did sing because we had two songs in our repertoire, "T.N.T. and a version of "Jailhouse Rock" that was inspired by the version ZZ Top did on "Fandango!". I sang on that one. The problem was that we were still very much kids and none of our voices had broken so singing was kind of the last thing you wanted to do. It was a real problem in South Wales at that time, finding a good singer. No-one wanted to do it and those that did were usually not very good. Weirdly, the few that were good never looked cool. So I learned two things that day- I HAD to be in a band no matter what and if you turn your guitar up is feeds back. I remember having to turn my tone and volume way down on the guitar to stop the feedback, but then the guitar ended up sounding all mushy, which wasn't great. Again, I had no info about any of this stuff. I had no idea that all the seventies rock bands were running their amps on ten and had their guitar volume on about five or six and they would turn up the volume for solos and then would cut the volume between songs. Now when I play guitar I use feedback all the time and constantly use the volume control on the guitar. That band (Tusk) split up soon afterwards and one day my brother announced that the second guitarist in his band had quit and asked me if I wanted to join. This was a huge deal and a very significant turning point for me.
Three hundred versions of "Silver Machine" echoing through out Wales, who knew? Seriously that is great insight into the beginnings of what you would become. So Tusk split but the rock n roll bug had well and truly bitten you. So onto your brothers band you went, so tell us about who they were and what they were about
D . R . P ; My brother has joined a band with some of his school friends who eventually called themselves Rock Bottom, not after the KISS song or even the U.F.O. song. Why? I don't know...I had seem play a concert at our school, St Cyres in Penarth. St Cyres used to let the kids put on gigs out of school hours occasionally, usually on a Friday night. They had a big hall there with a proper stage. It was incredibly exciting to go and see my brother play. They did stuff like "Alright Now", "Highway To Hell", "The Jack", "La Grange" etc. I don't think they were doing any original material at that point, oh wait! they had a song called "These Four Walls" that the guitarist had written and it was really catchy. Anyway, I eventually joined them. By this time I had gotten a new guitar- a Westone Thunder II A from a music shop in Cardiff called Gamlins. I also had a fifty watt amp that I got from Sound Centre (another great Cardiff music store - I once saw Burke Shelley from Budgie in there). As with my previous band, the singer plugged a mic into whichever amp had two inputs. We had no idea about PA systems. I should point out that I used to be really full of myself back then. I thought I was Eddie Van Halen but really I was just a fairly good rhythm player who could do a couple of pseudo-flashy lead licks. I must have been a nightmare to work with. They were all three years older than me and I was a real brat. That band was really significant for the fact that the other guitar player, Mark Gibbons, was insistent that we start playing original songs and that they had to be really good. My first attempts at song writing were okay. They usually involved me pastich-ing songs that I liked from other bands. I had a song called "Turn It Up" that was a rip off of "I Love It Loud" by KISS and a song called "Trash Can Fever" and that was a rip off of "You Drive Me Wild" by The Runaways, stuff like that. Eventually I started writing half decent things and Mark was writing stuff too so we decided to record a demo. There was a studio in Cardiff called Studio 2 run by a guy called Malcolm Skrines whose brother Rob was in Tok-io Rose. So, without going into too much detail, we got a decent sounding demo together and Mark Gibbons was an amazing artist so all our artwork was really cool. The whole attitude of the band was that we were going to take it more seriously - rehearse every week and put money into recording. We started doing gigs around the local area, including our local community centre where we played and had flash bombs and smoke and all that stuff. We even had a giant gremlin head with light up eyes that Mark made from chicken wire and papier mache. It was pretty outrageous. We would hire a PA and it was a proper production on a super low budget. Those gigs were packed with local kids, though not all of them liked what we were doing. It was the first time I ever got spat on whilst I was playing (but not the last) and some of the kids waited outside the gig to beat me up (luckily they got bored and left before we finished packing up). It was a revelation because I knew that was what I wanted to do as a career and I also knew that I was taking my life in my hands every time I went on stage. Around this time we started opening for a local band that were really OTT - Tigertials (before they used the 'z' at the end). They were amazing. They used to fill the stage with knackered old TV sets draped in rags and switch them all on to static. They also had a wall of Marshalls and a Simmons drum kit. This was before Steevi Jaimz was in the picture. What was interesting was that we had gotten together a decent set of original tunes and Tigertails' originals were not great at that point. Pepsi used to say "you've got great songs, how do you do it?". We weren't playing clubs at this point, it was all village halls and community centres, which were great as they got packed out with all the local kids. The level of violence was getting out of hand though as a certain section of the audience used to turn up specifically to cause fights. People started bringing shit like crowbars and it was gnarly. We had stuff thrown at us, we got spat on and we got threatened. It was a real fight to do those shows but I never once felt like I didn't want to do it. I never once left the stage either.. That whole experience was such an education in the mentality of the British public - for everyone who loves what you do there are ten more who want you to fail and will try to make that happen. We were starting to get an image together, mainly influenced by US bands like Black n Blue and Bon Jovi though we weren't really "hair metal", more in the vein of UFO, music-wise. In fact we did a gig once and a guy came up to us and said "yeah, that was pretty good! Do you do any of your own material?" and we said "that WAS all our own material" to which he replied "oh, I thought you just did a set of UFO covers". Oddly, I don't own any UFO albums......But I was still a kid, fourteen or fifteen years old and I LOOKED like a kid. I used to be really frustrated that I couldn't wear what Nikki Sixx was wearing because I would look like a child dressing up for Halloween.
This was a time when you would be thrown out of school for having long hair, so I had to compromise and had a kind of Rick Springfield / Daryl Hall kind of hairdo. It wasn't cool. But my Mum did give me and my brother make up to wear on stage and make us stage clothes. My Dad used to drive us to the gigs, they were supportive though my Dad hated the glam look. So, that band did eventually play some club gigs and record some more demos and then we took them to the record labels but in the mid eighties UK labels weren't interested in a Welsh rock band. I think in retrospect, myself and Mark were the ones who really wanted to "make it", though the others were all good players and into it. The band eventually split up and I was devastated. I really thought I was going to be a big star with that band. Soon after Steevi Jaimz arrived in Dinas Powys to join Tigertialz and stuff started to happen for them, meanwhile I was without a band. I did play a few gigs doing covers with my friends which were fun but I felt like I was at the beginning again..it was a few years until I got together a new band that nearly got signed to Sony records and the seeds for Rachel Stamp were planted.
Wow what a rollercoaster ride and all this was before Rachel Stamp. talk about paying dues and yes you are totally on point about the great British public there, if you are out on a limb people want to throw rocks at you, that is just the way it is, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Ok you said you were a bit of a brat, but youth was on your side and you had plans, so you needed some sass to get yourself out there. So you played with Tigertailz in the early days and you were impressed with the stage show at least and I think it is fair to say when Steevi did show up, things started to move in a more professional manner. Ok so your band split, which you said was devastating but re did re-group so to speak. So you were in a band that almost got signed to Sony, no mean feat there, so before we move onto the coolness of Rachel Stamp. take us into the story of that band that nearly got signed to Sony.
D . R . P ; After my first band split up I did a few cover bands with some of my friends but felt like I was back at square one, so to speak. A few years passed and I really got into Prince and decided I would become a solo artist and use drum machines and play everything myself and I started singing around that point but I wasn't very good. I just tried to sound like an American rock singer because all the music I liked was American. Cheap Trick, Prince and pop / soul singers like Terrance Trent D'arby. It took me a few years to develop my own style. Anyhow, I had a few demos and came up with the band name Rockets to go under because I felt my name was too awkward. One of the things we had done in my previous band was to get hold of Music Week directory which listed all the addresses of the UK record labels. Armed with this information the guitarist and my brother had made a trip by train to London to go around to them all and drop of the demos with the hope of getting a deal. Weirdly, even though everyone would say "that's totally NOT the way to do it" we did actually get some replies. They were all rejection letters but at least some people in the big record companies were responding which was hugely encouraging. I did the same thing with my demos and got the train to London armed with an A to Z and would go into the receptions of Sony, EMI and Virgin etc and tell them I wanted to see someone in the A&R department and usually they would tell me I couldn't see them without an appointment but they all would take my tape and promised to pass them on. Out of that trip I had an A&R scout from Sony called Dianne Young write to me and ask for a meeting, which blew my mind. I thought they were going to sign me, of course but I soon discovered that wasn't really how things worked. Sony did come and see me play a showcase gig in South Wales but it never developed into a deal. What did happen was that I put together a band to play that showcase that developed into my next proper band. We played South Wales and I got a bit better as a singer and we made some more demos. Significantly the engineer on one of those demos was a guy called Thighpaulsandra who turned out to be very key in the early days of Rachel Stamp. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Rockets changed our name to Hollyweird and eventually split up and I came out of that realising two things, that I had to move to London if I was going to make it and that I had to write better songs. I should mention that during my teenage years I was completely obsessed with Catholicism ( I was raised a Catholic) and I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These two things had as much influence on my music as anything else. Also, I never drank or took drugs so I was viewed as really weird by all the square people and all the rockers too. I remember a funny story were I was at my friend Mark Gibbons' house and Pepsi Tate called round. Mark mentioned I was upstairs and Pepsi joked "is he up there with his bible and a glass of milk?". I actually used that in the Rachel Stamp song "Dirty Bone". So, in a short space of time my second band split up, I stopped being religious and I started drinking. Also Suede had just hit the scene and they were a revelation to me as they had all the elements I loved about American music - big guitars, big riffs, passionate vocals and weird lyrics plus they looked really cool, but they were quintessentially English. I realised I didn't have to be American. I could write about my life and my own style, mix up all my influences whether it was music, film, books... Then by chance one day in Cardiff I bumped into Thighpaulsandra and he asked me if I was interested in working on a project with him. I gave him my number and this leads us to the start of Rachel Stamp.
Well, what a great go getter attitude and as you say it amounted to nothing but at the same time you never know who is looking or listening, so that was the best way to get yourself out there and ( at the time) only way you could. Ok so the cross and the milk were out and drinking was in.. Suede as you mention were a total game changer because most of the American music had stagnated into cookie cutter nonsense and the coolness of the first wave of bands had long since left the building and Suede came across as the new glam and brought some cool back the England.. So you left your past behind and thrust forth into the future, so without further a do take us to the embryonic start of Rachel Stamp.
D .R . P ; I called Thighpaulsandra and he asked me if I was interested in singing on some recordings he was making of some songs he had written. Basically in return for me singing on his songs he helped me record some demos for the new songs I was writing. It meant a lot to me to have someone have faith in my musical ideas because I really wasn't technically great at all but what I did have was good songs and a vision of where I wanted to go and a deep belief that I was going to be successful. I'm sure most people around me were thinking, "jeez this guy is an idiot" but I just had this unshakeable knowledge that I would get a record deal. So, I made some demos of my new songs including "Hey, Hey Michael You're Really Fantastic", "Pop Singer", "Stealing Clothes From Shelley Barratt", "Queen Bee" and "Madonna... Cher....". I was playing guitar, bass and some keyboards. Most of the drums were on a drum machine. A guitarist called Martin Shellard played guitar too and he is a really brilliant player and Thighpaulsandra played some keyboards and synth and added backing vocals. Basically between the three of us we made those demos. Now, making those recordings was the best move I made at that time because it was still very expensive to hire a decent studio back then so most bands had crappy sounding demo tapes and just didn't put the effort into presenting themselves properly. I mean, if some A&R scout is listening to demo tapes you have to make sure that your tape sounds good to get their ear and be able to judge what you can do, right? So in exchange for singing on Thighpaulsnadra's songs I got to use his studio for free. I did my usual thing of then sending the tapes to labels I thought might be interested. I came up with the name Rachel Stamp as again, I felt my name was too awkward. Rachel Stamp was actually one of my friends and she was super cool so I named the band after her. Except there wasn't a band it was just me. This was around 1993/1994 and by now Grunge was the big thing. I thought Nirvana were amazing but the big influences on me at that time were the Nymphs, Redd Kross, Todd Rundgren and Prince. The reaction to my new music from the labels I sent it to was mixed. I think people just couldn't easily relate it to anything else. It had seventies pop elements along with super noisy guitars, synths and weird lyrics. I had finally come across my own sound. I started to dress in a fairly unique manner too. I was still wearing loads of make up and had my hair cut into a peculiar kind of bob style with long bits at the front, kind of David Coverdale meets Mary Quant. It was tough walking around Cardiff like that. The general public was still super aggressive but luckily I never got beaten up, though I got in a few near misses. Of all the tapes I'd sent out I got a reply from Anxious Music which was owned by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and I ended up signing a publishing deal with them and moving to London. The next step was getting a band together to play some gigs. I put an ad in Melody Maker which mentioned Sonic Youth and Jellyfish as influences. One of the people who replied was Will Crewdson and we really hit if off mainly based on a shared love of obscure movies like "O Lucky Man" and bands like Devo and The Pursuit Of Happiness. Finding a keys player, bassist and drummer proved far more difficult so we ended up playing a few gigs with Will on guitar, me on temporary bass guitar and vocals, Thighpaulsandra on keys and Jon Lee from Feeder on drums. We did one show where Jon was in the studio with Feeder and he said something like "I'm just going out to get some cigarettes" or something like that and he walked out, came back to Highbury Garage just as we were going on stage, sat behind the kit of the band set up to go on after us, played the show and then went back to the studio! We did about four shows and got signed to WEA records. After years of being in bands I finally got a record deal offered to me and it only took four gigs. At that time (1994) A&R people used to do their jobs and would go out to see a band they liked and sign them. Today a record label generally won't touch anyone who doesn't already have fifty thousand plays on Soundcloud or YouTube. It's stupid. So Will and I signed to WEA as Rachel Stamp. At one point Jon Lee nearly joined but he had too much going on with Feeder which was probably for the best. I loved Jon but he could be quite intimidating and I was a pretty meek person. We eventually got Cliff Harris (who had been in my old band Rockets) on drums and Mike Rowe on keys and started recording an album but things went kind of south when the guys who signed us left the label.
So strutting around Cardiff looking like Mary Quant, excellent! Glamour is to divorce yourself from your surroundings so A+ for that! So you were basically a duo who signed and then people fell into (and out of) place around you. So you signed to WEA and things went sour after your people left the label, before we move on tell us about the signing process, they came to see okay but can you take us into the whole "meeting and lunches" vibe. Did they court you like you hear all these other bands doing or was it low key or indeed something totally different. I think everyone would love to hear all the "ins and outs" of the deal, if you please..
D . R . P ; Well, two guys from the label, Clive Black (head of A&R) and his assistant Raz Gold heard our demo tape, I'm not sure how exactly - maybe through our publisher. We played a show at the Monarch (which later became the Barfly) in Camden (me singing and playing bass, Will on guitar, Jon Lee on drums and Thighpaulsandra on keys) that they came along to and the next day I got a call from Raz saying they wanted to meet with myself and Will. We were actually getting a lot of interest from labels at this point but no-one was really making any commitment. Will and I went to meet Clive and Raz at the WEA offices on Kensington Church Street and had a brief chat about what we were doing and what out aims were. At one point Clive just said "what do you want?" and I said "we want to be rock stars". It was like something from a movie but having grown up reading books about Prince and being a huge David Lee Roth fan I knew you had to have a good "line" up your sleeve and some nerve in those kind of situations. Clive said "get yourselves a lawyer, I'm offering you a deal". It was pretty crazy. We came out of there in amazement. I's spent my whole life trying to get a record deal and now it was happening. We hired a lawyer called Paul Lennon (one of the best in the business, still to this day) and they hammered out a deal. The day of the signing was something of an anti-climax as Clive was ill so he missed it but we went to Feet First at Camden Palace to celebrate that evening. It wasn't very glamorous but we were on our first step. To be honest I was clueless as to what having a record deal really meant. We got given an advance which we used to live off for a year or so and got a budget to buy equipment and then we had a separate budget to make the album. It was a lot of money but not crazy money . We went about finding some more permanent members which is how we got Cliff and Mike in. It was a great time in terms of "living the dream" but it proved to be just that- a dream that we soon woke up from and found ourselves without a label or a band. The crazy thing about WEA was they spent so much money on us but after Clive and Raz left they just seemed to abandon us, even though they kept spending more money. We released three singles and got great reviews in Kerrang! and started to build a substantial live following. We got a great booking agent (the late Dave Chumbley at Primary) and things were going really well but the label decided they weren't going to release the album we recorded. The craziest thing that happened was that we were offered the main support slot on the No Doubt "Tragic Kingdom" tour in the UK and WEA said they weren't interested in financing it. It blew my mind. Why would a label invest tens of thousands of pounds into a band, have that band start to get a great following and then pull the rug from under us when we were given this amazing opportunity? I still don't understand it to this day. The thing is, back then I didn't understand that we should have FOUND a way to do that tour despite the label being useless. Anyway, after that it all fell apart and Mike and Cliff left the band but me and Will knew we were onto something so we kept going. We got Thighpaulsandra back in for a few gigs on keys and Robin Guy (who had played with a friend's band back in Wales) joined and that's when things really taking off.
So it was all there on a platter then, whoosh all gone, but you and Will stuck it out and went on to bigger and better things. So with Robin Guy and Thighpaulsandra in the fold you were ready for the next stage in your journey. Take us into what happened after the WEA madness how you regrouped music and lifestyle wise.
D . R . P ; After we got dropped from WEA we had some gigs booked, including one at the Underworld in London and one at the T in the Park festival in Scotland, both of which went really well. In fact the Underworld show went down in infamy as the gig where a fan handcuffed herself to me and she didn't have the key. Both shows went really well. We still had our publisher and booking agent so we just carried on and released "My Sweet Rose" on our own label, Bitch Vinyl. It got playlisted on XFM and before long we headlined the Garage in London and released another single "I Got The Worm" on our own label and that again got playlisted. We were getting great reviews from Kerrang! and Metal Hammer and sometimes the Melody Maker. NME pretty much ignored us. We had a few friends step in on keyboards including Ben Golomstock from Miranda Sex Garden and Xav from Dex Dex Ter (who went on to play with Placebo) until we met Shaheena Dax and when she joined it was like "okay we have a band again". We hooked up with a manager who helped finance an album and got to the point where we were headlining two thousand capacity venues like the Astoria in London. Even so, we still couldn't get a record label to sign us and self releasing had its limitations. It was incredibly frustrating. At one point we even had Sony records pay us money to take a new band they'd signed on tour with us. You would think the sensible thing to do would be to sign the headliners, right? Another crazy thing was when BMG came to a rehearsal and the guy was raving about a new song we had called "Monsters Of The New Wave", telling us it was a hit. He came to our next show where we had five hundred people in a three hundred capacity venue and kids smashing up the street outside because they couldn't get in. A couple of days later he decided that he didn't want to sign us after all and singed another band whose first release for the label plagiarised one of our songs. None of that made sense to me. Maybe industry people were scared of us. We weren't like other bands, we weren't big drug takers, we would talk about feminism and had a lot of gay fans and we would talk about Joan Jett and Pat Benatar in interviews, not the so called "cool" bands. We were also totally broke all the time so maybe we came across too grungy for the industry. I would wear clothes with rips and holes in them because I had no money to anything. I don't know.....To this day if baffles me that no label saw what was going on and capitalised on it. Eventually we did sign to a small label called Pure Sterling and put out the album "Oceans of Venus". Which is where things went very right and very wrong in quick succession.
Yes I think you went against the grain of the time for sure. That time was when everybody was a nobody and quite happy to be such and those were the bands that were signed by the labels that shun you, a sad and dreary time indeed. Before we move on I would like to talk little more about you playing live. I saw you many times and one time was when you played with Cheap Trick. A great show and after you had played your set you came right out and right down the front for the whole Cheap Trick show, I thought that was excellent. So you say about these big gigs you played and your fans were wild so can you give us a few highlights and lowlights from the shows back in the day?
D . R . P ; Well at that point our shows were kind of crazy, in fact part of what impressed Robin about the us was all the craziness around the band. Also what was great about Robin joining was he bought a new enthusiasm to the band and that was great because we were all a bit jaded by the WEA situation. In terms of live shows, our trajectory was pretty much a straight "playing to two people in Leicester on a Tuesday night" to "headlining the two thousand capacity Astoria on Charing Cross Road". It did take about four years though! But it was testament to the fact if you endure at something you'll get results. In terms of Lowlights and highlights of those years, I would say that the time we supported Korn was definitely..... interesting. It was the first show they had ever done in the UK and we had the same agent so we got put on the bill after their singer Jonathan Davis requested a band that were totally unlike Korn to go on before them. He was a very cool guy and super friendly. The rest of Korn kept to themselves and when we went on the entire audience did a double take and just kicked off. Not in a good way. I was wearing hot pants and had pink hair which I wore in bunches. We had cans thrown at us and people shouting "fuck off!" and all that shit all the way through our set. I got hit in the face with a beer can. The thing is I didn't care. I'd grown up doing gigs in South Wales so being spat at physically threatened and having shit thrown at me was what I was used to when I played gigs. I think the audience was confused because they expected us to leave the stage and we just weren't going anywhere until we finished our set. At the end of the show I stood in the middle of the stage doing my "Jesus on the cross" stance as the strobes went off and the cans just rained down. It was pretty glorious and overnight we became kind of infamous amongst London metal heads. In a weird way it got us a lot of respect from those people, though we didn't give a fuck about being respected by anyone who would be violent towards someone in make up. The next big show we did was opening for No Doubt and that went really well. The audience were great. I had my hair in bunches again and ended the show by cutting them off with scissors and throwing my hair into the crowd. Gwen Stefani was like " I can't believe you just did that!" but when I'm on stage it's the most important thing in the world, It's not performance it's real, in the moment magic. After that we started to get more and more people to our own shows and went on from selling out the Old Falcon on Royal College Street to selling out the Garage in Highbury, the LA2 and eventually the Astoria. In between we opened for Cheap Trick which was mind blowing for me as they were my favourite band. They actually used some of our gear for that show as they were over in England for Robin Zander's daughter's wedding and they decided to play two shows while they were here but they didn't bring their own backline. They used my bass amp which was great as Tom Petersson was a huge influence on my playing. Those gigs were really cool and we got to meet the band and hang out a bit. Rick Nielsen's young daughter really dug us so we signed some CDs for her and Rick complimented my singing so it was kind of a dream come true. We also opened for The Tubes at one point who we also loved. We met Adam Ant in that period and he appeared on stage with us and sang two of our songs. One thing that wasn't so great was that we never got to do a full tour as openers. For some reason we just never got offered an opening slot for say Marilyn Manson or Garbage or a band like that which I think would have been great for us. Instead we just whittled away at it and whilst it did pay off I think we would have benefitted from getting in front of a wider audience as well as all the cool misfit kids who made up our own crowd. Another funny thing was that we used to get a bunch of the Nu Metal bands coming to see us play. Any musician who has ever worn make up and dressed cool will know what I'm talking about when I say other bands never took us seriously because of how we looked. We would get these guys in Korn rip off bands chancing upon one of our shows being really dismissive and then after they saw us would come up to us and say "Woah! You can really play and sing! Your drummer is amazing!" and we'd be like "yeah, of course we can play!". Those guys also realised that whilst they were playing to angry teenage boys our audience was mostly girls and they would come to our shows to try and hit on the girls but our crowd was really switched on, feminist kids who just kind of laughed at these grown men wearing backwards baseball caps and shorts. Our audience was super cool. We had a lot of gay and trans kids at our shows and it was such a great atmosphere at the gigs. I think if we had have become more successful we may have lost what was cool about us. I can't really imagine how we would have functioned in the mainstream.
So Rachel Stamp never held back and in that time of baseball caps and shorts you really set yourselves apart from the pack and that was it should be, create your own world and bring people into it , which you did. If the mainstream would have happened we will never know but in the cold light of day you retain the cool that so many bands never have, so all in all "you won" I would say. Before we leave Rachel Stamp, you do still play occasionally, is that as much as the band does now, just for the fun or are there more plans for the band at this point?
D . R . P ; Since I think 2009, Rachel Stamp get together every few years to do a show, the most recent being February fourteenth 2020. We're open to playing the right gigs but we're not about to tour or release any new material. The shows we do play are always really great though. We're very lucky that the fans still want to see us. Rachel Stamp was a very special band for a lot of people and that will never change.
Yes totally, I just thought it would be good to clarify that for any fans longing for new material yano, We wish you continued success with any future shows you do. Ok let us now move on. So after Rachel Stamp what came next for you was "David Ryder Prangley and the witches" what was next? Take into your world straight after Rachel Stamp ended.
D . R . P ; So, Rachel Stamp effectively came to an end, although we never actually split up, after we got back from a tour of the USA which went well but again we didn't have label / management to really capitalise on it. When we got back it was a case of "what now?". Our drummer Robin had left the band before the USA tour and our album "Oceans Of Venus" hadn't done as well as we were hoping for over here so we were kind of back to square one. I had the idea to play a couple of club shows, in venues smaller than we would normally play just to get some excitement and buzz going again. Just three or four gigs to keep things going while we wrote some new material for another album. We already had Sylvia Massey on board to produce the next album, we just needed a label. Anyway, in the midst of trying to work out how to move forward the three or four gigs turned into a really long tour of the UK which I personally felt was not the right thing to do and at the end of it I felt that we were now just going round in ever decreasing circles and everyone was frustrated and we just kind of stopped. It was heart breaking after all the years we had worked so hard and personally it had a really bad effect on my mental health because, as I mentioned before, we were a great band selling out gigs, getting great press and yet no major label would sign us. It made no sense to me. Also a publishing advance was spent by a previous manager who claimed we owed it to various people but he wouldn't show us the accounts so I was totally broke. It was a horrible time and in the midst of all that I went through a break up and my Father died and I ended up having a nervous breakdown. It was like I suddenly had x-ray eyes and everything in the world was see through and there was no substance in anything.
At that point I thought to myself "what do I love?". Well I love music which sounds so simple but I just picked up my guitar and started writing songs. I didn't want to play heavy music as I didn't want to compared to Rachel Stamp so I wrote really quiet songs and got together with some friends and played some shows as David Ryder Prangley and the Witches. It was super melancholy, very gentle and the shows went down really well but freaked a lot of people out because they were so emotionally charged. I did make some demos of the songs but it was hard to capture the emotional intensity. It was basically the sound of devastation, which probably should not be captured as it's too distressing to listen to. I got some great reviews of the gigs in major magazines and got great feedback from the industry people who heard the demos but again a record deal and tour was not forthcoming. Eventually I started to get offers of work from various people to come and play bass for them, one of which was Eric Faulkner who had been in the Bay City Rollers and I joined his band for a few years. That was very odd. Eric is a great musician and there's some killer songs on those Bay City Rollers LPs, especially the later ones. We used to play mainly in Germany on these arena shows where there would be us, The Rubettes, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch (without Dave Dee), Rattles (they never did my favourite song of theirs "Sunshine Every Day" though), The Troggs (who were amazing) and various other bands (occasionally Sailor and even the Ohio Players). That was fun to a certain extent but Eric was.... let me just say a "difficult character" on occasion. I liked him but I wouldn't work with him again. Also around that time Will from Rachel Stamp went to see Zodiac Mindwarp play and Adam Ant got up and jammed with him. Will said Hi to Adam after the show and before we knew it we were playing with him. That was really exciting. It started off very low key as Adam wanted to slowly get back into playing. We would turn up at small venues unannounced on their "open mic nights" and get up and play Ants songs. The crowds would be like "Who's this? WOW! That's ADAM ANT!". Word got around that we were doing this and eventually we played a few shows at the Scala in King's Cross and to this day they were some of the most exciting gigs I've ever played. Adam pretty much let Will pick the set list so we would come on with "Plastic Surgery" straight into "Lady" and then "The Day I Met God". The fans were blown away. There's videos from those shows on line and you can literally hear the fans freaking out at the setlist. They loved it. The last show I did with Adam was the Matthew Ashman tribute gig and that was amazing. There were loads of Adam's friends at the sides of the stage, people like Patricia Quinn from the Rocky Horror Show and Andrew Logan and Sara Stockbridge, all these people I'd grown up watching on TV. It was surreal. Adam was phenomenal at those shows. I ended up leaving the band soon after that when sadly Adam had to deal with some mental health issues which have been well documented elsewhere and which I don't want to go into, but since then he's had great success and Will is still playing with him. I played with some other people during that period too, including a Flamenco Rock artist from Spain and a guy called Livan who supported Aerosmith and Alice Cooper so that was fun. I did some guest appearances with Ginger from The Wildhearts and sang some BV on a couple of his records and I produced some bands and directed a couple of videos. I even acted in a pilot for a TV show called "Big FM" playing a Welsh glam rock DJ with Lanah Pillay (from Eat The Rich fame) and the late Mark Speight. Then I got a call from my friend Danielz who plays in T. Rextasy . He had been a singer in a great glam band called Tarazara who I loved and he asked me to play bass with T.Rextasy so I did that for a few years. That was super fun. Playing Marc Bolan songs for a living! Eventually I decided that I needed to get back to making my own music and that's when I started making "Black Magic and True Love".
Wowie that is some journey there, highs and lows. Also many thanks for letting people in and telling them about your mental state after Rachel Stamp ended, I am sure that was not an easy thing to do, but hopefully people can relate to it and turn you could help other people out so many thanks for that in advance! So after the wild ride the music was still in you and it was time to explore what you had in yourself still musically. So the future is now and here we have your first full length solo LP "Black Magic and True Love" and what a total glam rock joy it is! People need to know about this record so here we are, so let us get into the record. So was all the material new and as such you were clearing out the decks to make a totally new statement?
D . R . P ; Well before my solo album I had a band called Sister Witch. I'd been introduced to a young singer called Lux Lyall and we got along like a house on fire. We both loved the Runaways and Todd Rundgren and movies like "The Virgin Suicides" and "Night Of The Hunter" and I loved Lux's lyrics. We started writing songs together and decided to make an album before we'd even done any gigs and that was really interesting as we could make up stuff as we went along. We used drum machines and I decided that I didn't want to approach the guitar from a conventional point of view so there's hardly any chords on that LP, just single note guitar riffs. We used a lot of synth bass and we decided to use tambourines instead of the traditional hi-hats and cymbals which gave the band a really unique sound. When we eventually did do gigs we got our friends Belle Star and Anna-Christina to come in on drums and bass guitar and Drew Richards (who produced the album) played guitar with us on some gigs. We did some shows and they went pretty well but one of the issues was that most club venues in London have absolutely terrible monitor systems so we'd be playing and Lux couldn't hear herself sing which was really frustrating and eventually doing gigs that way was not productive. In response to struggling with the volume / monitor issues we started writing much quieter songs and before long it became obvious that this is where Lux really came into her own, so we decided that the new songs should be a Lux Lyall solo album. That gave free reign to go wherever we wanted to with the arrangements and Drew and Lux came up with this whole orchestral vibe and finished the album, "Vamp". That LP is something I'm really proud of. It came out a couple of months ago and is available on all the usual digital platforms and also on pink vinyl, for all the LP lovers out there. I played guitar and bass on the record and we're currently writing a follow up to it.
Excellent, sounds like a truly interesting record and that must have wet your appetite to make you own music I guess, so how did "Black Magic and True Love" come to fruition?
D . R . P ; I decided to record a solo LP when I realised that I had a lot of songs that I had written and never recorded or released. Some went back to the time after Rachel Stamp split up and some that I had just written. I felt that now was the time to record and put them out. At first I was toying with the idea of using a pseudonym or making up a "band" name, mainly because my actual name is so long and weird sounding but everyone I spoke to said "you have to use your name, don't hide from it or your past" so that's what I did. I go the Sister Witch band together and we rehearsed the songs and went into Unit 2 Studios in West London with engineer Adie Hardy and set up the whole band in one room and recorded us playing live. We didn't use click tracks, except for part of "Space Station Number Nine" because I wanted a very metronomic feel to the start of that track. We did most of the songs in one or two takes and then immediately overdubbed the hand claps and percussion. That was the first day and we recorded four of the seven songs. I did vocals later at Drew Richards studio, again all in one or two takes "Forever In Starlight" was recorded live at Unit 2 on another day when my good friend Laurie Black was in town and she played wonderful piano on the song and sang some really beautiful backing vocals. Then we did another day or two recording backing vocals with Anna-Christina and Liza Bec who also played sax and recorder. I played the instrumental "The Apple" live in the studio. After that Adie Hardy and myself mixed the album pretty quickly. We wanted to have a very loose feel to it, like those early Bolan and Bowie albums, not try to mimic them but to have the same kind of feel. You can only really get that if you record the instruments live at the same time. Of course you have to be reasonably good players to pull that off but I think a lot of bands would benefit from recording that way. A song like "Space Station Number Nine", we played that straight through with solos and everything. I was stepping on my boost pedal to play the solo as we recorded. The opening song "They Came From The Stars To Capture Our Hearts" was recorded and mixed at a different studio, Plastic Studios, by Marc Olivier and I played piano on that with Liza Bec on backing vocals and recorder and synth and also my friend Natasha Sutton-Williams, who is an amazing play writer and performer, sang on that track too. Originally I was going to record a couple more songs for the LP but I realised when I had recorded these seven I had thirty minutes of music, which is how long LPs used to be and these songs fitted together perfectly and made a journey for the listener.
Well you have nailed what you wanted to that is for sure. A nice seventies loose vibe to it but killer performances and lyrics to enhance it all and make it a cohesive statement. I also like the thirty minute rule. You can, especially now have TOO much information and the message can and very often does get lost, less is more. Ok let us go track by track, you have touched on some but lets break the whole record down. First up "They Came From The Stars To Capture Out Hearts". I feel that you haven't stepped back from using both light and shade on the album, which is a brave move indeed, let the songs live and breathe and you are the deliverer of the song. I think this is a great opener and so catchy. It reminds me of all those classic horror films when at the end when the terror is over this is like the uplifting theme but still with a little harrowing menace to it
D . R . P ; I wrote that on Lux Lyall's piano. She has this really great electric piano that she spray painted pink one night when she was drunk. I wanted a very sparse song to start the album off with so I played a very straight forward chord pattern and I knew I wanted a sci-fi theme and I came up with a story about aliens coming to Earth and they're so beautiful that all the humans fall in love with them, they're just completely infatuated and as such can no longer function on a day to day level. Society comes to a total stand still. It was very much a "glam" ballad in the traditional sense but I threw in the recorder solo (played by Liza Bec) to get a kind of a hippie thing going on too. I always loved Ian Anderson's flute playing and the multi-track recorders John Paul Jones used on Zeppelin records. People think it's a mellotron but it's real recorder, doubled with a synthesizer.
Yes love that solo part it remined my of "For You Pleasure" era Roxy Music, and that is nothing but a good thing. Ok keeping the "glam" going "Space Station Number Nine" continues the "glam" vibe in a very seventies and straight forward way. Was that the idea with this track?
D . R . P ; That song has one chord in it. At least for the most part. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to most things so I thought I would try and write a song with one chord in it. Again it has a sci-fi theme about alienation and loneliness. The song goes back to my first solo band David Ryder Prangley and the Witches. The title was inspired by the Montrose song "Space Station Five" (which they got from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and "Love Potion Number Nine" by the Clovers. My next album will have a song called "Love Potion Number Five" on it.
Next up is "Trouble Every Day" a heavier track, reminds me a little of "Paint It Black" by the Stones. Some great lines in here too "Live like the books we used to read" is a great line
D . R . P ; The lyrics on this song are from the point of view of a brattish, narcissistic rock star who knows they're a pain in the ass. I've always been intrigued by the whole "star" thing. To be a star in many ways you have to be completely obsessed and selfish, which are not great traits in a human being. I think the song is shocking in some ways. It's like the Stones song "Live With Me" and the line "You'd look good pram pushing down the high street". It's really outrageous misogyny but its being sung by this skinny little guy with long hair and make up. It's like a little kid telling you to fuck off, you can't really be offended by it. I loved it when Girlschool did that song and Kim McAuliffe sang that line. It was really funny and cool that they twisted around. The songs on this album aren't making any "statements", and a lot of times they're purposely obscure. For this album I want people to see what they want to in the lyrics and add their own meanings.
"Forever In Starlight" is the big ballad. That is not and should not be a bad phrase if the song is there that is. Lots of nods to the pass glam heroes in the lyrics "this is for all the cats you know who they are" a killer Bolan line from his TV show and also another great lyric "sense of senseless things". So what about this track
D . R . P ; This is my favourite song on the album and one of my favourite songs I've ever written. The opening chords are similar to the opening chords of "Purple Rain" but not the same, but that was the kind of feel I originally went for and then it turned into something quite different. Laurie Black played an amazing piano part. She heard the song and just started playing this wonderful part on top of the chords. The guitar solo was inspired by Tony Peluso's solo on the Carpenters "Goodbye To Love", that fuzztone sound. I mention Punky Meadows from the band Angel in the second verse and I did one of his signature moves in the video and he actually wrote to me to tell me that he loved the song. In fact the lyrics are full of references to real people, including Inger Lorre from the Nymphs who is my favourite singer and other real events which I won't go into but this songs has resonated with a lot of people. It's really special.
Yes it is clearly on so many levels. Next up is the instrumental "The Apple". Was this like a clearing of the scene you set with the start of the record ready for the next scene?
D . R . P ; I used a mellotron piano sound on the LP version which Adie Hardy put through a bunch of crazy effects. The track leads us into Side Two of the vinyl which has a loose theme of good / evil, heaven / hell. I love the story of Eve taking the apple from the garden of Eden. Defying God. Some people see it as a treasonous act but I see it as an act of rebellion in the face of oppression. The gaining of Knowledge. Out of the darkness into the light. I've always been obsessed with witches- these powerful, knowledgeable women who the "powers that be" try to silence because they pose a threat to the male dominated order of the world. Going back to Suzi Quatro and Joan Of Arc. I've had female idols since I was a child.
Next up the title track "Black Magic and True Love", one of my faves on the record and I can see why you titled the record this, it provokes discussion at the least. It has a great swagger and again catchy as hell, tell us about this one
D . R . P ; This track is an older song and I wanted a tune on the LP that people can dance to but that is laid back and kind of sultry. I guess this is the one song on the album that is really designed around that early seventies British glam sound. The lyrics are kind of obscure but the title is really a big question to the world. Both of the terms "black magic" and "true love" mean different things to different people. Both have good and bad connotations to them, depending on how they effect you or how you perceive them.
Ok last track "Captain Sugar" very spacey, Roxy, trippy and a fitting end to the record. It is leaving you to make up your own mind about what you have just heard. It fits perfectly to end the piece.
D . R . P ; Yes this is the album closer and the recording you hear on the album is the first and only take of it. Liza Bec plays a great sax solo on this song. It's influenced by The Doors and Dr John and Millie Jackson. I really wanted to make an album that people could listen to over and over and hear different things every time they put it on. It was important that it came out on vinyl too as I think more and more people want to have that intimacy with the music. It is very intimate, a baring of my innermost secrets, but shrouded in dry ice.... I hope people will enjoy the album and get something precious out of it.
I think everyone who hears it will get a real kick out of the record it is a glam rock classic of the future no doubt about it. So let us get everyone on board with this first record and then they can join you on your journey to the next release, talking of which in these strange times what are your future plans?
D . R . P ; Thank you! The album is out on all major digital platforms and from my Bandcamp page. As for the future I am hoping to start work on my next album next month as studio work seems to be the only thing feasible at present.
Best of luck with the new recordings and be sure to keep us here at suits and the platform boots in the loop, but first let us get the world hip to the glam rock joy of "Black Magic and True Love". Thanks again David and all the best for the future.
D . R . P ; THANK YOU!
Interview conducted May / July 2020.
Photographs courtesy of David Ryder Prangley, Rowan Spray, Phillip Grey, Nigel Crane, Vania Zouravliov, Drew Richards and suits and the platform boots vaults.