The first of a what I hope will be many guitar related interviews for the page! I give you –
5 Questions with Richie Ranno of Starz
I’ve been a fan of Richie Ranno’s guitar playing since I first heard Starz when their second album “Violation” came out on Capitol Records in 1977. Smart, aggressive, melodic and catchy they were everything I loved about music. Richie and his then guitar playing partner in crime Brendan Harkin are still favorites of mine today and when I decided to do some interviews for the Guitar Kulture page Richie immediately came to mind. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Richie many times over the years and he has always been as nice a guy as he is a great guitar player. One of the greatest thrills of my guitar life was opening for Starz last year with my band The Heartless Devils. Having him as the first interview for the page is definitely a high watermark for Guitar Kulture, I can’t thank him enough.
If you are not familiar with Richie or Starz go to StarzCentral.com to get some background and check out some of the links I’ll be posting on the blog to coincide with the interview, I am sure you’ll find a lot of great stuff to dig into!
GK: Richie what’s happening in your musical world these days?
RR: A lot, actually. Starz recently signed a recording contract with Frontiers Records from Europe to record a new album. It’s going slow but we’ll get it done. It’s Michael Lee Smith, Joe Dube & myself along with George DiAna who has been on bass for us since we reunited in 2003 and newcomer Alex Kane***. Alex has played with many groups and tours constantly.
I also play with about 6 different Northern New Jersey groups. One is called, Richie Ranno’s All-Stars and features George & Dube from Starz. We play some Starz songs and also the songs from bands we were in that had hits like “Brandy” by the Looking Glass which Dube was a part of and “Brother Louie” by Stories which I was a part of, along with plenty of great covers.
I play lots of different styles with the other bands which keeps my playing sharp
GK: Why Guitar?
RR: Well, that’s easy. It’s by far the coolest and most expressive instrument one can play. It’s very difficult for many to play because of the coordination of both hands and the physical aspect of putting fingers down on metal strings on a fretboard. But you can bend, pull, slide, use vibrato, whammy bars and so on. I played some piano at a young age, then clarinet. I lost interest and then saw video clips of The Beatles on The Jack Parr Show – before they were on Ed Sullivan. That was it for me. I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
GK: You’re favorite guitar(s) and gear?
RR: Well, for me right now I have 2 Musicman Albert Lee model guitars that have to be the best guitars ever made. One has 3 P90 pickups with a maple neck. The other has 2 humbuckers with a rosewood neck. Both have whammy bars that never go out of tune. Well made guitars, to say the least. I’m a big fan of Albert Lee’s guitar playing so I tried the guitar out at Guitar Center and was amazed by how great it sounded and how beautiful the neck was. Then a short while later a good friend of mine, Jeff Ross, a keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist from L.A. called me to say ‘hi’ and let me know he was going to be in NYC playing in Albert’s band. Jeff & I go back to the days when both of us were living in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 70s playing in bands together. I went to the show, hung out with them – they did 2 shows that night and I was their only guest. Albert & I hit it off well and he got me an artist endorsement deal at Musicman. So I got a great price and the black one with the P90s was actually custom made for me.
I have so many other guitars that I love though – a couple of old Fender Strats that I don’t play as much as I used to and a Gibson SG that I pull out every now and then. Also have a really cool G&L. As for amps – I have all different types. I love the new Blackstar 100W heads but I’ve only played the British ones when we’ve been over there. I have a feeling they might be different than the US Blackstars but I’m not sure.
GK: Who‘s the man? We all have a Mt Rushmore of guitar right?
RR: More than one! Started with the Beatles & Ventures. Then I heard Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds and loved that stuff. Right after that came Jimi Hendrix then Eric Clapton in Cream. Right after that it was Jimmy Page! These guys taught me how to get great sounds and play great guitar licks just by listening to their albums. I went to some live shows and really learned a lot from them. Living right outside of NYC I was fortunate enough to go the Fillmore East and see the greatest rock groups in the greatest rock music time period.
GK: Do you have any favorite guitar related You Tube clips?
RR: There really are so many, it’s impossible but here’s one I love – Vince Gill, Albert Lee & Danny Gatton playing “One Way Rider” live on a TV show, three of the best rockabilly guitarists ever. Not to mention James Burton and Carl Perkins, of course. As for Starz vids, I like this one from Mexicali Live a couple of years ago.
**Alex Kane played guitar with the legendary LSD, Anti-Product and currently plays with Starz and Richie Ramone among his incredibly broad musical endeavors**
Scott Bittner is the founder and main author for the Guitar Blog “Guitar Kulture “. Scott is also the lead singer/guitarist for NY Punk N Roll band The Heartless Devils. The Heartless Devils “El Diablo Sin Corazon” is now available for download on iTunes. You can also check out The Heartless Devils on Facebook and Reverb Nation.