Sunday, 1 December 2013

A chat with Andrew "Ratfink" Wilson

I got to chat with Ex-Alien Sex Fiend and current member of The Vince Ripper & The Rodent show, Andrew "Ratfink" Wilson. An architect of the weird and wonderful world of death rock, industrial, goth, whatever it is you like to call it. We just like to call it rock and roll. Now, with The Vince Ripper & The Rodent Show, he's injecting that ghoulish poison into the generation that missed out.

How's life treating you these days?

Good, me and my wife have just bought a really nice house in the old Victorian part of Blackpool, so that's quite nice. My wife's a very successful tattoo artist, she owns her own studio here in Blackpool called "Hello Sailor", she's been tattooing now for about four years, and she's just recently won UK's best female artist through Skin Deep magazine, so that's a really cool award for her to get. Business on that front is really good for Kat really. The new house is coming on, we're just decking it up for Christmas. My daughter doesn't live with me but she's coming over for Christmas so that'll be quite nice. So yeah, life's good at the minute.

Quite a successful family!

Pretty much! With what I do with the show and what Kat does, yeah, very artistic family.

I'm sure the young Finks will pick that up too, yeah?

Well he was dressed up as a pirate last night, so yeah, he's like Mr.Ben, I don't know if you remember Mr.Ben, but he used to go into a wardrobe and get changed and come out as an astronaut or a pirate or a doctor. Charlie just likes getting dressed up and he's really into super heroes. He likes dressing up, so a bit like his dad I suppose!

I'm sure you're delighted with the result of the match last night!

I was! Five. Delighted, being the big Manchester United fan that I am.

I have absolutely no references for Football, but I imagine 5-0 is a good score.

There's a lot of Irish blood that runs through Manchester United, my friend, I've probably a quarter Irish in me from my mother's side so. And the best ever player for Man United came from Ireland, Mr. George Best.

Believe it or not, I'm English. From Windsor originally!

Well funnily enough, where you're from is not far from Bray, of course the home of Hammer, Bray Studios? Did you not know that? Well Windsor is probably a ten minute drive to Bray, where Hammer studios was.

About Vince Ripper and the Rodent show, the live show. The 3D glasses, where did the idea for that come from?

I think, initially, it was something where me and Vince wanted to interact more with the audience. It was okay doing this sort of DJ show, the firs initial idea, this live DJ show with me being the compare, but I just thought, half-way through what we were doing, there was a bit of a lull and I was thinking; we need to think of something that we could interact more with the audience. So me and Vince just sat down and said, "Why don't we just order loads of 3D glasses and then when we get to that 3D bit in the show, just hand out loads of glasses to everybody. You're connecting with the audience straight away and it humorous, it's kooky. It's not serious at all, we're not a serious act, we like to just have a bit of a laugh and a giggle really. Just seeing everyone taking them out and putting them on and then there's a big countdown on the screen and then it says "Put your 3D glasses on now" and then the screen goes 3D. I think we introduced that quite early.

You probably got the ball rolling there, because maybe some other bands might try to adopt it. I can't name another band doing that at the moment.

Well, it's nice to be influenced I supposed, but we just want to keep it as our own little thing really. I mean, you've the likes of Rob Zombie and people like that who have these absolutely immense lighting shows with the big screens and we'd never get there because we don't have that kind of money, we're more like your hammer horror, low-budget, intense, and entertaining for the audience really. We like to think it's a thing we've created on our own, it was just an idea of interacting with the audience a bit more

I'd love to try them on at a gig one day after a few drinks!

Well we are going to be doing some more shows in the New Year, so if you do get over to the UK. I'm not sure about bringing the show across to Ireland yet, it needs to be done in the right venue of course, but yeah, we will be doing some more shows and I think we might be doing the ALT Fest, a big massive alternative, goth, rock n' roll, punk festival in August that's happening here. Killing Joke, Alien Sex Fiend, funnily enough, there's like 400 bands playing and it's a four day event. We're going to be doing pockets of shows, we don't really go on tour because it's not a touring act that me and Vince do, we're a bit of a Jack in a Box, we just appear and then disappear!

Interestingly enough, as Alien Sex Fiend are playing the same festival, I have to ask if you still maintain contact with Nik and Mrs. Fiend?

Not really, not for a long long time, I keep in contact with Doc occasionally, some of the road crew, sound engineer people, but I don't really keep in contact with Nik and Chris. I wrote a book, I don't know if you're aware about it, it's called "Once Upon a Fiend", and at the time there was stuff in the book that was slightly ambiguous towards Nik and Chris. The guy I was writing it with said "I want you to tell me everything that you can remember, be it the good things or the bad things" and I basically just told it as it was and what I can remember so I think once Nik and Chris got a read of the book I think they were quite disappointed, but life moves on, don't it? Not going to lose any sleep over it.

As we were talking about last night, do you think there's a younger audience or an older audience attending your shows? A mixture of both?

I think when we first started doing the show a few years ago it was more of an older audience because of my background and because we were doing something a little bit different but aimed at an older audience, because of the style of stuff we were doing. Like at the Whitby Goth Festival* there was a lot of older people there, the old goth scene and they could all interact with it immediately. The could understand The Cramps vibe and the sort of 50s, 60s garage rock n' roll vibe that we were doing. But I'd say within the last year, there's been more of a younger audience getting into it, because maybe some of the people that have come to our shows have kids and they've come along. Probably about a year ago we did an 18th birthday party for one of our friends' sons in Birmingham and all his friends came. So yeah, it is becoming a bit more of a mixed audience now, which is good. Open up the kids eyes to The Cramps or even Alien Sex Fiend

Well with the Internet, you've got a whole new audience too. I got into Alien Sex Fiend about three years ago and that's what obviously led me to Vince Ripper & The Rodent Show, so obviously the audience is larger. Does the scene, we'll call it the "goth" scene, do it still seem the same?

It think it's changed Liam, to be honest with you. When I was growing up in the early 80s, I wasn't really a goth. I don't know, I was into Alice Cooper a lot, I was more of a rocker or a punk rock kinda guy. Then I got more into The Cramps and a friend of mine gave me a cassette with a band on it called Alien Sex Fiend and I just took it on and started listening to that. I think, growing up, it was much more of a rock vibe that I was in to. So getting back to what you said about the goth side. Goth HAS changed, it's morphed into a mish-mash of stuff. You know, when Emo came out, what was Emo? To me, they looked like young Goth kids. Then you've got death metal with all this crazy black make-up on and all this kinda stuff, you could say that was Goth, but it's not. People always tried to pigeonhole Alien Sex Fiend as being a Goth band, they were around at the Batcave time, but the Sex Fiends, I wouldn't say they were Goth. They were a very dark, humorous band at the time.

There was a lot of humour thrown in there. Even though Nik looked quite serious and the way the stage was set up, songs like "Dead and Buried", "R.I.P." and "New Christian Music" and stuff like that. So the songs were pretty serious, but Nik is a character, all of the band really, there was a lot of humour thrown in the band which I liked a lot. There was mixture of a sort of Monty Python vibe and Faulty Towers, there was a big sense of humour, with Nik. Goth has changed dramatically over the years, I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I like to see "Goth", whatever it is, as just a statement, like what Punk Rock was. I wasn't a big fan of the music really, whatever Goth was. There's a few Sisters of Mercy tracks I like, couple of Bauhaus. Wasn't a big fan of March Violets or Fields of Nephilim. I wasn't really into the "droopy rock".

Like the over-the-top Romantic stuff.

Yeah, I mean, I was into Killing Joke and they were sort of upon the Goth scene as well, but, they were a bit more in your face. I like bands with a bit of danger. None of this *sings* let's go sit in the grave yard, let's go sing to the dead people. You know, it was like, behave yourselves. I was into more zombies and people eating your brains.

More Misfits kind of stuff?

Believe it or not, I was never really big into The Misfits, don't ask me why because I really don't know. A friend of mine played me a couple of tracks and I like to "get" things immediately. Misfits, I gave it a couple of shows listening to it and I just couldn't get it.

Like when I said before I was into rock music, I wasn't into metal-rock, I was into rock like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Hawkwind. Like I wasn't into metal like Iron Maiden, I like Motorhead though.

There's a mixed bag going up in my head about music, I liked stuff like Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart.

Are there any new bands out recently that you've an interest in?

Well, when I quit Alien Sex Fiend, I got more into rock n' rolling bands. I was with a band called Uncle Fester and changed our name to UFX and I was with them for 12 years, we recorded six albums and did a bit of touring, opening up for The Backyard Babies, Danko Jones, Nashville Pussy, but we were more floor-to-floor Stooges style. So that was what I was getting into after my Sex Fiend days  and prior to Vince Ripper & The Rodent Show. Of course, Turbonegro, Danko Jones?

I can't say I've actually heard Danko Jones man!

You like Turbonegro but you haven't heard Danko Jones? Go and buy the first two or three albums, you will be blown away! A highly recommended album from the Rodent! So yeah, Backyard Babies, massive fan of them. But, recently, Combichrist are quite alright, I like a bit of that on the Industrial side. I've always been a big fan of The Hives.

There's not many "rough around the edges" type bands like that now.

Yeah, there's not a lot frying my bacon at the moment. It's a shame with the music industry at the moment, the way it is overall, everything seems to be so 'nice'. Where's the rock stars, the trouble makers on the TV. You watch GMTV in the morning and it's all X-factor wannabes or Boyzone reforming or Take That reforming, where's the rock n' roll gone!? The last thing I saw that had a bit of bollocks and a bit of danger was The Darkness.

They were BALLS OUT.

They were alright but at least they were causing a bit of trouble. There's just no rock in the industry anymore, you've got to go an search for it yourself on the Internet or rock magazines, find out who's touring, but no, you just don't see it on the TV anymore! It's all these namby-pamby bands trying to be cool. It's gone very poor. Very safe.

We were speaking last night about horror movies and I think it would be interesting to get your insight into this. If you were to introduce someone to the horror genre, without this person having any prior exposure to it, which film would you show them?

It'd be a Hammer film. *Holds up a poster for The Plague of the Zombies*, starring AndrĂ© Morell, Diane Clare, John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, 1966 and it's probably one of the best zombie films ever filmed, and it's British! It was filmed at Bray studios! I'd start off with Plague of the Zombies, get your teeth into it. I grew up on Hammer, I mean don't get me wrong, the Americans have done some amazing films, but I really get pulled into a lot of the Hammer stuff. I've got all my blu-rays up there and box sets, books, I just love British horror films really! The new stuff is alright, the thing that got me creeped out a while ago was Paranormal Activity, thought that was a bit disturbing really!

I've noticed a lot of those "found footage" movies floating around at the moment. Plenty of 
other great ones out at the moment too though.

Yeah I liked V/H/S when that came out, you seen that? The second one isn't as good but the first one is sensational, very cleverly written and quite believable. Me and my wife were watching it and I was quite blown away over how 'real' it was.It's got five stories in it and I love all those. Tales from the Crypt, Beyond the Grave, Vault of Horror...Creepshow, that sort of thing.

I've actually written a little bit about anthology films a while ago. That we really need The Cryptkeeper back.

Yeah! When I was talking about Tales from the Crypt, I meant the 1972 one with Peter Cushing in it. Check it out. Awesome! It's got Joan Collins in it as well.

I'm actually heading out to the pub so I might throw it on when I get back! What, for you, makes a good horror film? Is there anything in particular, like a formula you like, or would you rather change it up?

To be honest with you, what I like in horror films, something that you can't see. That's why I like that Paranormal Activity, it was making you use your imagination. It's like, you interviewing me now, and that door behind you just suddenly opens. I'm bored of all the boogeymen and Freddy Kreugers and that lot, serial killers, we've seen that before, thousands of times. It was all fantastic, but we've seen it. Nowadays, I like stuff where you really don't know what it is. You're out of your comfort zone. Someone's coming at you with a knife and they've a mask on and it's like, right, obviously just some maniac. I think nowadays in horror, directors need to use a little bit more imagination by going into something that's not really there.

Witchcraft, I find pretty terrifying. The dark side of things, witches and more demonic stuff.

Like Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem? I really liked that one. Great for witchcraft and Satanism and the like.

I'll tell you what I've been watching lately, it's called American Horror Story, have you seen that yet?

I can't say I have, but again, something I've been recommended! 

"Coven" is the new one out and it's about witches and zombies and it's really cool.So I'm watching that a lot. I think Walking Dead is pretty cool, I think it's well directed and the zombies look incredible. But yeah, getting back to your questions, I like something that you can't see or can't understand. That, to me, is frightening. If you were to do a film like that in 2013, where there's not much going on but it draws you in, no gore, no special effects, just a good story about something that's around us all, but we never get to see it.

I think I get what you mean, but anyway, back to The Vince Ripper & The Rodent Show, what's in the future?

Yeah! Loads of new stuff actually, I'm going to be changing my appearance a little bit next year, do something a little bit different with that. I'm still going to keep the hat, the make-up and the eyes and things like that. The show is going to change, we've got more live stuff now, a lot of new songs, it's going to be more Cramps orientated. Sort of a Cramps/Industrial vibe going on, still keeping the Boneyard Cramps stuff but, I don't like using that word "Industrial", but electronica. A little more dancey. We could do two shows, a Boneyard rock n' roll show or we could do a Sex Fiend horror show. We've probably got around 40 songs that we've pre-recorded that we can pick and choose from, so there's that to look out for next year. We've got a new album out possibly next year, it's going to be called It's Fun to be a Monster. I like to portray myself as a kooky monster, so you know!

You DO look pretty terrifying on stage.

Yeah! Sometimes! We're hopefully going to get a new 3D bit as well. We're going to get our friend to edit up that section. The 3D section in the show is about ten minutes long, but once you've got the glasses on and there's loads of cool stuff going on, ten minutes is just enough.

We've got shows coming up next year, I think we're doing a couple of festivals next year, hopefully back to Whitby Goth Festival in the spring. Hopefully doing ALT Fest, a massive Alternative festival down South in the UK.What's quite nice is that I do all the bookings so it's nice when people just send me an e-mail and ask "Are you available? We've seen the videos" or "We've heard about you guys". There's certain places in the UK that we've not even played yet, we've not done Leeds, not done Sheffield, Cambridge, Oxford, so there's quite a lot of places we've not done yet. So, next year, more shows hopefully!

Great! Well, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans, new or old?

If you get the chance, come and check us out. If we're playing somewhere near your town. Check us out on Facebook, it's updated quite a lot and a lot of information goes on there. You know, we don't like to saturate or ram it into people's faces about what we're doing all the time, but we'd like more people to know what we're about. So yeah, just come and check out the Boneyard and see what it's like to have a good time for forty minutes, be entertained instead of watching posy musicians, you know? It's great not having musicians in the band as well, you've no one to argue with!

Thanks again for speaking with me man, I'd love to speak to you again some time, get more of your insight into music, horror and anything in between.

Yeah that's alright! We'll give it a go another time!

Boneshaker baby

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