Ritchie on Ritchie
QUEEN, RUSH, YES, NEIL SEDAKA, MARK FREE & MAMA CASS
Born this way, I suppose…
Growing up in a household dominated by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow played ceaselessly on a Wharf dale turntable, was the perfect conduit to the genre of Rock! I discovered Queen, ELO and Rush playing them again and again. This was what I wanted to sing. So My Name is Sue gave way to Galileo, Figaro…Magnifico!
I sang everywhere I could. At home, school, on my bike and in the choir and school musical productions. I met up with some friends and decided to just get together once a week on a Sunday and jam out Beatles songs and not care how good or bad but just love the vibe. That’s the essence of singing.
I went away to college and there, in X Records in Bolton, was the album Theatre of Pain by Motley Crue. This was it! This was the look and sound I wanted and would stop at nothing to get it. I worked out, grew my hair, made my own clothes and invested £70 in some singing tapes, Jim Gillette’s Metal Power from Hollywood, CA. I practiced in a tiny room in the basement that housed a chest freezer and a tape cassette player and I went up and down the scales for years, day and night. Finally, I realised I needed to do material and in 1988 joined a band called Thunder Road. We did GnR, Whitesnake, Poison, Crue and Great White. We jammed, did a couple of gigs but we were more famous over the CB airwaves to friends and truckers! All this was between studies but I wanted to go further… much further.
Storms Rage in Paradise…
Now hungry for success, I answered an ad in a music store for a vocalist who could do Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Dio. The practice venue was a unit in a big old Mill in Preston and on a freezing cold February evening in 1990, Afflicted made their first practice. This was to spawn three years of sold out shows – even signing an autograph or two, competitions, radio airplay and second place on Radio 1’s Rock Wars with Tommy Vance. All this from a 1991 studio recorded four track demo tape at Assembly Line in Preston. Things were really great but my training was flawed and I had damaged my voice. I spent some time in ENT clinics and started with a voice coach. Afflicted was over but I had made my mark on the local music scene.
With my voice in better shape, I decided that a show was all about fun and joined Frantic. This was AOR all the way and our jam sessions and shows reflected our love for the music. However, it was a short lived project which signalled the end of covers and the desire to write and record my own material as I had with Afflicted but more melodic and with other influences. While working at a photographic studio, I heard about one of the photographers playing in a band and I should go and see them. I turned up to a show with ten people, two dancing grannies and a dog! The band was awful but the guitarist stood out a mile and his playing was innovative. Not long after I auditioned for a new line up with the guitarist Matthew, drummer Stuz and bass player Damien as the band, Sarenzo. This was to prove an enduring writing and playing partnership between me and Matthew that has stood the test of time. We played sold out shows in Preston and Chorley doing Mr Big, Whitesnake, Skid Row, Kiss and, crucially our own songs. Then disaster struck as I damaged my larynx and lost my voice entirely. Was this the end?
Laughter is the best medicine…
Determined to continue, Sarenzo segued into a band we set up for Children in Need 1992 called The Hot Young Bucks. This was a parody not unlike Bad News and five packed shows made a ton of cash for the charity. By that time my voice was starting to return but Sarenzo went their separate ways and I spent a lot of time writing songs and lyrics in the local laundrette. My voice returned about six months later in 1995 and I headed to St Helens to a band called Slipstream. We wrote our own songs and played in the local area to rave reviews including an open air event in front of hundreds of people. With enough material for an album, things were looking great then a rift meant that we needed a new guitarist and I immediately phoned Matt to invite him to join. The line up proved a success and Matthew reinvented old songs proving them to be a big hit at the six shows we lasted as an outfit.
With a huge stack of lyrics and a bag full of riffs, Matthew and I made a conscious decision. We decided to write record and perform original material. Practicing at a small unit in Preston, we created enough songs for a four track tape entitled MattRick and the die was cast. We would continue to hone our writing and playing skills being reviewed in Muso magazine as ‘a class act’ until, in late 2001, we produced our ten track CD, MatRik ‘One’. This was followed by a sold out showcase gig in Preston and rave reviews inspired us to push the boundaries further and further.
The Grand Finale…
So in 2009, with a skilfully crafted set of songs, fantastic new kit and a vocal overhaul from a top drawer voice coach in Manchester, MatRik became Instar and we began recording the eponymous album which has brought me the most fulfilment as a singer and is truly my finest moment.