After releasing two albums in two years, 2023 promises to be another busy year for David Ryder Prangley. “The man who put the glam in Mid-Glamorgan” (as said Simon Price) will be releasing his third solo album this spring, alongside a reissue of Rachel Stamp’s debut ‘Hymns For Strange Children’. Just after this interview took place, Rachel Stamp announced a date to coincide with the album release on 14th April at Islington Academy. For all the details and more, read on…
‘Vampire Deluxe’ was my favourite album of 2021. There seems to be a strong lyrical link between it and ‘Black Magic And True Love’; were they written at the same time, or did you already have the idea to release two albums in quick succession?
Thank you Martin! I had most of the songs written for both albums before I recorded ‘Black Magic &
True Love’ and I always had in my mind to release two albums in very quick succession, that sounded
like companion albums. Kind of like The Police’s first two LPs where they sound the same and have a
running lyrical theme. It was just a case of picking which songs went together and making two albums out of that. I did write ‘Sweet Heartbreaker’ and ‘Hey Stargazer’ after the first album was recorded. I actually had the guitar riff to ‘Sweet Heartbreaker’ kicking around for a few years and finally put lyrics to it. In general, over the two albums, and in fact on my next album too, I wanted the lyrics to all have a similar stylistic tone and I was conscious to not veer too far from the central themes of magic and space and other stuff that I’m too polite to talk about, but if you’ve heard the albums then you’ll know what I’m saying… The songs can be interpreted differently by different people and I did that on purpose. There’s no one meaning behind any of the songs and that’s why I didn’t print the lyrics on the albums. I want people to hear whatever they hear, even if it’s not what I actually sang.
Tell us about your songwriting process. Do you demo songs at home once you have a solid idea, in
order to choose which ones to put on an album? Does the finished song differ much from the
demo? I noticed that old Ants demos were practically identical to the finished song, which I
thought showed how strong Adam’s vision was for his songs. You seem to be similar, in having an
image that is as important as the music.
I don’t have one process for writing, though I often make the songs up in my head and then have to
work them out on guitar or piano. The songs on ‘Black Magic & True Love’ and ‘Vampire Deluxe’ are
very simple in terms of structure, and I arrange all the basic parts for the different instruments but
leave room for the players to bring their own personalities to the songs. The solos are left up to
whoever plays them. It’s really important for me to work with people whose playing I like and it’s
important that the band have a connection to the music. I’ve been really lucky to have great musicians with me on these albums – Rob Emms and Belle Star on drums, Laurie Black and Grog Lisee on piano, Anna-Christina on bass guitar, Liza Bec on recorder and saxophone and Drew Richards on guitar, who also co-produced ‘Vampire Deluxe’ with me. Adie Hardy co-produced ‘Black Magic & True Love’ with Marc Olivier co-producing the song ‘They Came From The Stars To Capture Our Hearts’. I started producing other bands whilst I was still in my band Rachel Stamp and I really enjoy it. A lot of what makes a good producer is being organised – which sounds a bit dull, but it’s vital to have a plan and rehearse stuff before you get to the studio so you know what you’re doing when you get there and don’t get freaked out when the red light turns on!
In terms of the connection between the image and the music – that’s vital for me. I want people to
look at the cover of the record and when they play it, the songs fit perfectly with the cover image.
It’s funny that you mention Adam Ant because I played bass with him for a short while. He’s a
brilliant musician and a great arranger, especially with vocals. He’s certainly a musical and visual
inspiration for me.
What can you tell us about your upcoming solo album and the Rachel Stamp reissue? Any gigs
My next album is on the way! I have the title and cover image already and I’ve demo’d three songs and have about four more written and I have some songs leftover from the first two albums. This album will continue the themes of the first two but have a few twists. I’ve been singing in a lower register lately so I’m going to explore that side of my voice as well as what people know me for already. I’m hoping to release the first track from the next album in April, around the time of the Rachel Stamp re-issue. That came about when we were approached by the label Easy Action to contribute the Rachel Stamp cover of T Rex’s ‘Calling All Destroyers’ to a compilation LP they’re putting out. We got on well with the label and they suggested re-issuing ‘Hymns For Strange Children’ so here we are, and the release is set for Friday 14th April and we’re playing a show at the O2 Academy Islington in London to celebrate the release on the same day.
To be honest, it was quite odd going back and working on ‘Hymns For Strange Children’ again. I never
listen to that album, but it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I had to go back and tweak some
of the songs for the vinyl version so ended up spending several hours with headphones on immersed
in Stampworld! I think when we originally made that album I wasn’t thrilled with the sonics but in retrospect I love it. It’s a really unusual album that doesn’t sound at all dated and doesn’t sound like
anything else. I always described Rachel Stamp as ‘Prince meets Black Sabbath’ with the heavy riffs,
tri-tones and then the synths on top of it all. We never used programming or sequencers – it was all
played live and has a very different feel to, say, the industrial bands or indie guitar bands of the time.
Everyone in Rachel Stamp has very eclectic tastes and generally were into more off the wall bands
like Devo, The Nymphs, Big Star, Parliament, Sabbath, Bodycount… bands that were doing their own
thing. It was important for us to do our own thing too and people had a weird reaction to us because
they couldn’t easily catagorise us. The press tried to dismiss us some kind of glam revival which we
never were. I mean, we loved Marc Bolan and David Bowie and Sweet, and me and Robin were certainly into some of the 80s LA glam metal bands like Ratt and Poison but we weren’t trying to revive anything, we were all about the moment. I would say that visually we were more influenced by English punk and by bands like We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It and Prince and by movies like Blade Runner, Near Dark and The Abominable Dr Phibes.
The fans totally got it, but other bands were kind of scared of us. They couldn’t understand how we
could walk around the streets looking like we did and then get on stage and play super loud high
energy heavy music. So many musicians jump on trends and it blows their minds to see someone
just using their imagination. It’s actually not that hard.
Are there any more plans for Sister Witch? I was so pleased to see them play once!
I love the Sister Witch album and I love writing and working with Lux Lyall. We still write together
and we co-wrote a lot of her first solo album and I played guitar on it too. In fact, we just wrote a
song for my next album called ‘Let’s Fall Apart Together Tonight’.
I don’t think there will be another Sister Witch album as such but there will definitely be more
DRP/Lux Lyall music out there.
As an amateur musician, currently swapping between guitar and bass, I’ve been learning a lot of
your bass lines. Nerdy question; what’s your favourite guitar and bass, live and in the studio?
My favourite bass guitar is my BC Rich Eagle and Anna-Christina actually played that bass on the
‘Black Magic & True Love’ and ‘Vampire Deluxe’ albums and at my live shows. It has a really great
mid-range and doesn’t just take over the low frequencies like a Fender Precision might do. I bought
that guitar way back when Rachel Stamp got signed to WEA and I used it on the ‘Bring Me The Head
Of Rachel Stamp’ EP but it got stolen a couple of years later. Fast forward about 17 years and I was
looking on ebay and someone had it for sale! I recognised it because there was big chunk out of the
headstock where I’d thrown it across the stage at a gig, so I knew it was mine. The seller was a young
guitar dealer in Bristol who had no idea of its history – he’d just innocently bought it from a company
that had found it in a skip! I told him the story and sent him some photos of me playing it and I
luckily still had a copy of the police report from when it was originally stolen, and he was really cool
about it all and we made an arrangement for me to get it back. I was so grateful. Since then, I’ve had
the headstock repaired and I wrote ‘Suzi Q’ on the back in gold in tribute to Suzi Quatro who was the
first musician I ever wanted to be when I was a kid. She played BC Rich basses in the late 70s.
As far as six string guitar goes, my favourite for recording is my old 1972 Gibson SG Special with mini
humbuckers that I bought about ten years ago. It has a very unique sound, kind of halfway between
a Gibson and a Fender tone. The previous owner had refinished it in Cardinal Red, a non-regulation
colour for that guitar so I got it for not much money at all because it wasn’t ‘vintage correct’. I don’t
really care about ‘vintage’ or ‘all-original’, I just play something and if I like how it sounds and feels
then I’m happy to use it. That guitar was all I used on ‘Black Magic & True Love’, plugged into a
Marshall JCM 900 through a 4×12 speaker cabinet. I had the amp quite overdriven and I’d turn the
volume knob of the guitar up or down depending on how much overdrive I wanted. On ‘Forever In
Starlight’ I might have plugged it into a Roland Jazz Chorus or a Fender combo, I can’t remember
exactly, but something with a cleaner sound than the Marshall. I did the solo on that song through a
Mesa Boogie Mark 3 to get a kind of Santana sound. If you listen to that album my guitar is panned
to the left and the guitar panned to the right is Drew Richards playing a Washburn Idol Goldtop. We
did the same for 95% of ‘Vampire Deluxe’, except I also used a couple of different guitars to overdub
some solos on that album, and there’s the acoustic guitars too which were my old Encore plastic
back Ovation copy and Drew’s Washburn acoustic. Those two albums were, for the most part,
recorded live in the studio with the band playing all at once. We then overdubbed percussion, vocals
and a few solos. It’s a very simple approach but it’s amazing how effective and fast it is. I wish I had
recorded all the Rachel Stamp albums this way. I plan to do the same for my next album.
When I play gigs, I use a different set up which is my Fender Stratocaster through a Marshall combo
and I use a Suhr Riot distortion pedal that I leave on all the time. With that set up I can go from clean
to fully distorted just using the volume control on the Stratocaster. Some people find that an odd set
up but it’s pretty old school actually. It’s kind of how Brian may does it, except he uses a wall of Vox
AC30s all on full volume!
How was it to play again with Adam Ant recently? You and Will obviously played with him some
years ago. I’m guessing you fitted in pretty easily. Was he an influence on Rachel Stamp?
That recent chance to play with Adam again came out of the blue when Joe Holweger, Adam’s bass
player, got covid and Adam was due to headline a big festival. I got a call from Will asking if I could
step in and I was more than happy to. I knew most of the songs to play because, as you mention, I
had played with him previously. I had to learn a few more songs and we did one rehearsal and then
it was the gig in front of 10,000 people so no pressure, right?! A funny thing happened at that show
– people probably don’t realise but when bands do those festival shows with so many other bands
on the bill, you don’t get a soundcheck, you just go on and during the first song the band is usually
frantically signalling the monitor engineer to turn things up or down so they can get their sound
balance on the stage. The audience is hearing something else entirely that’s mixed by another
engineer who is in the sound booth in the middle of the field. Well, at that show we walked on and
kicked into ‘Dog Eat Dog’ which has a very prominent bass line and I just couldn’t hear my bass at all.
I turned around and went to the bass amp and turned it up and still couldn’t hear it and then
realised the amp wasn’t working! Luckily the bass guitar is fed directly to the front of house PA
system as well as the amp so the audience could hear my bass fine, but I couldn’t hear it on stage. I
had to rely on just knowing I was putting my fingers in the right place, but it was pretty nerve
wracking. We got it all fixed after that though… Then during ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ the entire
stage power cut out and all the amps and guitars and everything just went silent! The audience
started singing the song and it became this quite magical moment of us standing on the stage
waiting for the power to come back on whilst the crowd serenaded us.
Adam was definitely a huge influence on Rachel Stamp. I even stole some of the lyrics from ‘Vive le
Rock’ in our song ‘Ladies & Gents’ and we named a song ‘Pink Skab’ because when Will came up with
that riff I thought he was playing an Ants b-side! We used to cover ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ and ‘Fall In’
too. Will had been a huge fan as a kid but I got into Adam a bit later, when a friend at school played
me the b-sides to the singles. That’s what really got me, songs like ‘Christian Dior’ and ‘Physical’.
When we first played with Adam, I think he was impressed that we knew all the ‘obscure’ songs and
we could play most of them already. There’s a great video of us playing at the Scala and we open
with ‘Plastic Surgery’ and go straight into ‘Lady’ and then segue into ‘The Day I Met God’ and the
audience goes fucking nuts. They never expected in a million years to hear those songs and all that
was basically Will’s idea. Adam would just say ‘what do you want to play?’ and we would play it and
he would sing it. It was a pretty incredible thing to be a part of.
Would you consider playing in Europe, or post-B****t is it just too complicated/ expensive? It’s a
selfish question, as I’m based in France now.
I would love to play in Europe! I’m doing more shows now with just an acoustic guitar and I really
enjoy playing that way. My solo music lends itself to being performed in a stripped-down way. I’m
not sure if that answers your question? I guess what I’m saying is that I’m very open to offers if
someone wants to book me!
Interviewer: Martin Chamarette
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