Barry Ryan is best known as the guitar of The Rockats and Robert Gordon's band. Blues Leaf Records just released his first solo album 'Let There Be Rockabilly' which we reviewed recently.
Hi Barry. Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us.
Really Rockabilly: I would like to start the interview with a question about your very early experience with rock 'n' roll music. From your MySpace I found out that your first band was punk/rock 'n' roll band The Victims. Were there any other bands before that? How long did The Victims stay together. Was the project was still running when you joined The Rockats in 1980?
Barry Ryan (BR): My first real band was a rock band called Tramp. We were together from 1970 to 1975. We were school buddies and our influences were the British Invasion groups of the 60s and then later we liked bands such as Free, Humble Pie, Savoy Brown, and The Move. We were pretty good, but not commercial enough to get good jobs. But we did win a band contest with the prize being studio time which allowed us to put out a single. When it seemed not much was gonna happen I left and joined the Victims. They were already a band but were looking for a new guitarist. The singer and I had known each other for sometime and he was a fan of the New York Dolls. This was at the beginning of punk and that was our sound. We mostly did originals and I liked that. The Victims and the Misfits became friends and did a lot of shows together and we released an EP on their Plan 9 label. It was during this time that I met Levi and the Rockats when we did a show together in NY. This was around early 1978. I liked them and went to to see them again at Max's Kansas City. I left the Victims in mid 1979 and started a band with Walter Lure and Billy Rath of the Heartbreakers but it didn't last too long.
Levi & The Rockats had moved to LA and were doing quite well until the usual problems arose and Levi left, and the drummer was replaced with Jerry Nolan of the NY Dolls/Heartbreakers. When they needed a new guitar player it
was Jerry who recommended me. This would be around late 1979. We did our first show as the Rockats in January 1980 at 'Max's'. It was sold out and there was general pandemonium.
RR: Did you feel at that time in the early 1980s the Rockats were in the beginning of so-called rockabilly revival in America? Where you influenced by the British rockabilly revival bands like Crazy Cavan and The Matchbox?
BR: At first we knew there was something going on because people started dressing in 50s style clothes and hair styles. But it was mostly confined to NY and LA. Then we started to tour and we could feel it snow-balling. You have to remember, this was 1980 and no-one had seen anything like this. Robert Gordon and Link Wray were out, but his band looked kind of hippyish. Sound techs didn't know how to deal with the stand-up bass because they never saw a band that used one. Brian Setzer was at many of the early shows. Jimbo from Rev. Horton Heat told me the Rockats are the reason he got started and Johnny Depp said recently on a BBC radio interview that he was very influenced by us early on. One night in NY we had Iggy Pop, Phil Lynott and Johnny Thunders on stage all at the same time. Billy Idol joined us many times on stage and does the intro on our Live at The Ritz album. I know in England there had always been a rockabilly scene with great groups like Crazy Cavan, Matchbox (love that name) and others. I liked these groups but I wasn't influenced by them. The early things like Johnny Kidd and some Cliff Richards stuff did have an impact though.
RR: You joined The Rockats right in the beginning (just after Levi left) and stayed with the band up to the current times. From numerous concert adverts from the States we know the band is still going strong and you even released an album not long back called 'Wild Love'. Other than for the concerts, do you often meet up for music sessions with the guys from the band?
BR: The Rockats are not very active these days. We all live long distances
from each other so this makes it very difficult to operate like a band. We did the Rockabilly Magazine Festival in Austin, Texas this past May, and a blues festival in Norway in June. Our last CD was about 5 years ago and there are no plans for anything that I'm aware of. But we are still all friends and when we get together we have a good time weather it's music or just hanging out.
RR: Please can you share the memories of how you joined Robert Gordon's band where you have been playing a guitar for the past 10 years already.
BR: A friend of mine, John Willoughby, was the stand-up bass player for the London rockabilly band The Poorboys in the early 80s. He has been living in NY for more than 20 years now. He was playing in a local band called the Spinouts. They were doing a gig in the city at a club whose owner was friends with Robert Gordon and asked him to come down and sing some songs with the band. John wanted to make a good impression on Robert so he asked me to play with them that night. It went well and Robert decided to do some more shows. Eventually it ended up with me, John and Jeff Delina on drums. Jeff also plays in a band called Rhythm Bound. This has been going on for 10 or 11 years now and we always have a good time. Although I have done shows with Robert Gordon in the midwest, New Egland and Canada, it's mostly a local thing. Recently he has been doing shows with Chris Spedding again. We did a couple shows this past October and I don't know what is next.
RR: Despite having such a busy musical schedule you found some time to write and record 10 track album of your own. We really enjoyed it. The album is really diverse, but kept within rock 'n' roll frame. With the name 'Let There Be Rockabilly' is it a some sort of your tribute to the style and some of it variations?
BR: I didn't intend my new album to be a tribute to rockabilly. I had some old songs that I wanted to update along with some new ideas that I'd been working on. I'd been performing with my own band for years, but had never recorded anything. People kept asking me if I had something so I thought I'd better get something out there. Although my record company 'Blues Leaf' put the album out, I paid for the recording and mastering myself. I also produced it. I didn't want anymore problems with producers, managers, record company people etc to get in the way. I knew I could do it if I just eliminated the opposition. I'm very proud of the outcome and have been getting great responses. Having said all of this, I do have an idea for a tribute album, but I don't want to give anything away just yet.
RR: Do you ever perform as a solo artist? From the current music scene, who do you enjoy listening or watching perform live?
BR: I like so much stuff that it's hard to put it all down.
I recently went to see the Rev. Horton Heat here in NY. That was very good.
I like listening to satellite radio. There is a country show called 'Willy's Place' that plays all the greats: Hank Sr., Cash, George Jones, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline. Then there is a 50s station that plays everything from doo-wop to rockabilly. My favorite rockin' stuff probably won't surprise anyone: The Sun stuff, Johnny Burnette, Gene, Eddie, Buddy, it's all the greatest. For blues it's Otis Rush and Elmore James. I also love Big Joe Turner. I listen to all this and more. As a teenager in the 60s I was very into early Beatles and Stones. Amazing how much rock & roll and country
is in their music. I listen to as much as I can. Not just for enjoyment but also for ideas and inspiration.