The California Rocker Interview: Richie Ramone Talks New Album, Family and Life in the Suburbs

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Richie Ramone may be one of the last of the Ramones, but today he’s creating new traditions.

The former drummer of the Ramones has his own band with whom he tours the world, he has a true family, and lives in the heart of Southern California.

Richie Ramone and his band will be playing the Hi Fi Rockfest at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on Sept. 26.

At the day-long show, he joins bands including the Dead Kennedys, Naked Raygun, Street Dogs and The Two Tens.

“The Rockfest will be a great time,” Ramone said. “It’s gonna be cool playing with the Dead Kennedys and the rest of the bands. We’re looking forward to it.”

With a new record on the horizon and a steady gig as a touring musician, Ramone, born in New Jersey as Richard Rheinhardt — says things ain’t half bad.  A few years back, he relocated for the warm weather of the valley, where he lives with his fiance, Tiffany, and their three rescue dogs.

“I got it pretty good,” Ramone said. “I’m writing music, I’m touring and I’m not in the snow,  Life’s good.”

As a drummer and songwriting member of the Ramones from 1984-1987, he learned a lot from his band mates.  During 500 live performances with Joey and the crew, Richie watched and took it all in.

Joey Ramone credited Richie with helping steer the band into new territory during the later years.

The creator of such hits as “Somebody Put Something in my Drink,”  Richie also wrote “I’m Not Jesus,” “Can’t Say Anything Nice,” “I Know Better Now,” “Humankind” and “Smash You” the title track the Ramones’ re-release, Smash You: Live ’85.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Richie Ramone played a recent gig in Hollywood – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

He went from playing in some hit-and-miss New York-area bands to being the drummer of choice for the punk icons and he played some 500 live performances with Joey and the crew.

And during that time, he watched and learned. The experience was invaluable for eventually running his own band.  Ramone released his first solo album, called Entitled in 2013.

While he’s a talented songwriter, perhaps the best part of the job, Ramone says, is performing.

“I love touring all over the place, but I love Europe, it’s more rowdy,” Ramone said. “I think it’s because it’s a different culture and the people don’t stand around with their arms crossed.  In the U.S. it’s more reserved, and even in the U.K., it’s more reserved.”

He’ll be touring in Europe starting in February to support his band’s new record called In The Neighborhood, Ramone said.

Why is it called that, and what’s on the record?

“Hey, I’m not giving away my secrets,” he laughed.

It’s a safe bet the record doesn’t have anything to do with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood — or his own block in the valley.

But we won’t know what’s going on with the record because he said he’s not going to play anything off In The Neighborhood at Hi-Fi Rockfest, and he’s not giving any hints about the product.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“I don’t do that because really, you yourself have to know what’s good,” he said.  “Some people will love it, and some people won’t and that’s that.”

But Ramone’s looking forward to getting on the road, and that’s for more than the big reason of playing to the crowds.

“I love checking out the food from all over the world, like when we’re in the U.K., we’ll have Bangers and Mash, and of course, I love the food in Italy.”

Speaking of Italy, it’s also one of Ramone’s favorite places to play – he says the crowd really gets into it, it’s more rowdy he says.

Meanwhile back home in the valley, Ramone and Tiffany tend to the three rescue dogs — Greta, a boxer, and two miniature pinchers Jack, and Curley.

“Three dogs, that’s enough,” Ramone said.

At Hi-Fi Rockfest, expect to see Ramone alternate between drumming and fronting. Ramone says it’s the way he likes to do it.

“That’s how we keep it real,” said Ramone after a recent gig at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood.  “I’m a drummer first.  But I can’t sit behind the drums all night, I need to connect.”

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