*Photo Credit To Alistair McIntosh
This episode of In the Head of the Artists is with Richie Simpson of Heavy Drapes! Nhc's resident guitar geek Martin McCann gets the lowdown on Richie's set up and finds out what make this new wave of punk rock guitar hero tick.
WARNING - this article may be steeped in guitar geekiness, proceed with caution.
Richie - your pretty well known in the Scottish music arena, give us some history about your past bands and what sparked you to get started with guitar.
Hey Martin and hello to all you lovely NHC people. Keep up the good work, excellent job! Cheers for asking me to do this, I’m very honoured.
I grew up listening to loads of varied music mainly due to my Dad being in the “biz” back in the day. He had a great collection, from early Rock n Roll, Punk, Rock and everything in between. I used to get taken along to some great gigs at the Apollo too, still have vague memories. I’m sure I even met the Wombles! This is probably why I picked up a guitar. looked like great fun! I got my first one for xmas, a Jedson semi-acoustic and one of those huge (in size) 10 watt amps. It’s all my Dad’s fault.
My first time playing was, like most people, making a hellish racket with like minded folk from school. I think we thought we were Crass or something... without the vision!! Rehearsed in a church hall with whatever gear we could borrow. Usually stuff from the catalogue. I think my first distortion pedal, a Ross, was £1.25 for 26 weeks. Sounded brutal!! When I finally managed to throw some chords together and get a bit more with it I formed Babys Got A Gun with my best buddies from EK. We had great fun, done some fantastic gigs, brought out a single and an album but ultimately it fizzled due to a combination of poor management, disillusionment and lack of money!! Great days though and some fantastic on the road stories…did I mention we supported Bowie!! We dined out on that one for years, still do!
Since then I played around on and off but nothing too serious. We really got it together again last year with Heavy Drapes after reforming after a break. Again, it’s like being out with your mates, having a good laugh and getting to meet like minded people up and down the country, some great folk out there, also getting to play with and meet my childhood heroes. We are having a blast at the moment and enjoying still doing it, it beats staying in watching Netflx.
Tools of the trade - tell us about your favourite guitar, the one you go to first. What do you like about it above all others. And any close seconds, don't spare the details. And I'm sure there were some that got away, is there any you regret losing for whatever reason?
I love all guitars. My favourites have always been Gibson and Gretsch. I’m not really a Fender guy, wouldn’t mind a tele like Joe’s or Keef's though! At the moment my main guitar is one of those new 50’s tribute things Gibson do. Fairly basic guitar, has P90’s which sound fantastic, it also has chambered body so it is nice and light!! Plays great, it’s a good guitar for gigging and bashing around. My last one was a TV yellow Les Paul Junior, lovely wee thing. Still have it but don’t take it out as much. Looks fantastic! I have had a few nice guitars over the years, the first one was a sunburst 1973 Les Paul Deluxe, which I bought off Brian from the Sux Pastels yonks ago, it got sold during the dark years!! I did get a chance to buy it back a few years ago but whoever had been looking after it really treated it shite, played like a dog and looked like someone had taken a chisel to it. Real shame, ruined the guitar. I had another lovely white Les Paul custom which was my No 1 guitar for years, weighed a ton too! Unfortunately it got stolen from our rehearsal room in Edinburgh! That devastated me for years! I wonder where it is now, would love to meet whoever has it!
Bring the noise - what's your choice for amplification and given the chance what would be your ideal rig for live shows or playing at home. Do you need a specific type (valve/solid state) or can you make anything work for you?
I have had a few over the years but I suppose the main one was a Hiwatt valve head that i used through a Hiwatt 4x12, the main overdrive was a Boss Heavy Metal pedal which sounded mighty. It eventually bit the dust due to being well gigged, I think the transformer went in it!! When I was looking for new set up I tried various things, power amps, guitar processors etc but I could not get my head round all the parameter, stereo outputs etc so I eventually settled on a Mesa Boogie Mark 3 combo. Small, heavy as fuck and deadly! I still have this and continue to use it regularly. I have had it for about 25 years, still sounds the biz!! Still weighs a ton though. I can pretty much get a decent sound from any amplifier but I prefer valve amps. I have recently got a hold of a Fender Blues Junior which at the moment is doing it for me, nice and clean with a nice bottom end, sounds heavy cranked up with a pedal also sounds the biz with my Gretsch, pure rock n roll!
Effects and pedals - I'm sure your an old school plug and play kinda guy, but give us your studio choices or preferred effects if you use any.
I was pretty much a plug in and go guy but was finding that sometimes turning up for gigs and using the house gear which was of varying quality so i figured a nice OD pedal may be of use. I bought a Friedman Brown Eye which sounds like an old Marshall, very chunky and heavy in sound. It seems to be working at the moment. Otherwise a bit of delay and reverb to hide my mistakes seems to be about it! I don’t think Chuck Berry had a pedal board!
Bits and pieces - when on tour or playing local is there anything specific you can't do without? From picks to strings, cables and capos - the little things can mean a lot. Any pro tricks you've pick up along the way you'd like to share with us?
I don’t really have any specific things I need, basic 10’s in strings. I’m not too technical either, as long as it sounds mighty on stage we can usually do the biz (and plenty of beer).
And finally, which guitarist Has caught your ear recently. What inspires you to keep playing and who was your first guitar hero?
There are not too many new things out there at the moment which really move me, I think i’m stuck in the past. My heroes today are pretty much who they were when I was young.. Steve Jones is the man, for sound and attitude. If it wasn’t for him, the Pistols would have been a whole different thing. I also love Pete Townshend for the power. Keef for the rhythm and Brian Setzer for the technical stuff! I love the old rockers, Chuck Berry, Cliff Gallup through Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend into the punk guys, Steve Jones, Mick Jones from the Clash, Dave Parsons from Sham, Mick from the Rejects had a great sound too. You can’t beat a bit of Angus too!!
I’ve always loved playing with my mates, thats when it all clicks and makes sense, hopefully will keep doing it until the arthritis sets in. Heavy Drapes have a busy year, plenty of gigs to keep us amused. We are trying to record our album at the moment, we are just finding it hard to get the time as real life has gotten in the road a few times recently!! I think we will keep doing it until we self destruct which will probably be sooner rather than later, thats when I can finally form my Billy Bragg tribute band, I’ve been thinking about that for a while...