Interview with Luke and Ricky of This Twisted Wreckage and Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
Ricky Humphrey (RH): We are the microscope peering into a very fragmented and destructive world. But we also want to cast a ray of light into the darkness and lift those who were once feeling down, lift them up, stand them tall and get them dancing, get them singing, get them living! We fill the void, that Bowie left and we build the bridge between Steven Wilson and Porcupine tree. We are not The Cure but rather a remedy to this 21st twisted wreckage, add to that, a sprinkle of CHIC and stir.
Luke skyscraper James (LSJ): For me this Twisted wreckage is about chemistry. The musical chemistry that exists between Ricky and me is a microcosm of the chemistry and understanding that can, and indeed needs to exist between people in the wider world. Our music is about rebuilding a better, more equal way of life. And reflected in our music is the need for honest examination of the things that don’t work. We also like to put out music that people can dance to, because you might as well have some fun while you’re doing all this critical self-examination!
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
RH: I have had an interest in music for as long as I can remember. Even as a small child, playing with Action Man, I would pretend the machine gun was a guitar. I have always loved listening to music and have always been open to many styles/genres. My first real band started with my best friend from school aged 14. I took a job in a garden centre on leaving school, so that I could get HP (Higher Purchase – LOAN) to buy a Roland TR909 drum machine. Whilst at the Garden Centre I met a guitarist from a heavy rock band ME262, our interest in music created a bond and we are still friends to this day. We have been in several bands together, but he has struggled with his mental health throughout, so never lasted the distance. I was the bassist with the band RISE for 15 years, we supported Kula Shaker, Tiny Monroe and Audioweb to name but a few. I embarked on a solo project entitled Nature Kills and realised very early on, I don’t have a voice. I later connected with ‘A.J’ a singer based in Scotland, and we collaborated on the project Ishkah (which is still a live project) and released an E.P. entitled; Distant Realms, back in 2018. This Twisted Wreckage came about after an online conversation between Luke and I. It’s the most fun I have ever had, and find Luke so easy to work with, he has a very positive outlook and a sense of adventure, he also has a great work ethic, not to mention a very funny guy. I am really excited about what we have done and where we are going.
LSJ: I’ve loved pop music ever since The Beatles but it was really Jimi Hendrix that made me decide at the age of 14 that I wanted to become a guitar player. I played solo singer-songwriter gigs in pubs clubs in and around my hometown of Birmingham, but it wasn’t until I saw The Clash that the spark became a fire.
From 1978 until 1980 I was the lead singer and guitarist in a band called Fàshiön music. We were signed to IRS records and toured both the UK and the USA, opening tours for The Police, U2, B52’s, Squeeze, John Cooper Clarke, and a host of other seminal bands of that time.
In 1980 I quit the music business and the pursuit of fame. I needed the freedom to just be a musician. It hasn’t always been an easy road but I always got to make my own choices about what and how I played. I’ve played in pretty much every kind of band you can imagine, absolutely none of which you will have ever heard of. From house blues bands in San Francisco bars, to the only punk band in town in Charlottesville VA, to a rock band in Bordeaux France, to an alternative guitar band in London, and so on. I gave up the pursuit of fame in order to pursue the life of a musician. In 1988 I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and am now a US citizen.
I First heard Ricky’s music with his band Ishkah and immediately loved their music. Ricky and I communicated about a possible collaboration. The day after Ricky sent me his first composition, a close friend of mine took his own life. I remember arming a microphone and playing Ricky’s track and the emotion that his music released took me totally by surprise. In one take we had our first song, Forgotten Summer. It was a sign of things to come. Ricky’s compositions have a way of offering me the freedom to truly explore both melody and lyrics.
Rarely have I experienced the musical chemistry that exists between Ricky and me. There is no ego involved, everything we do is about what best serves each particular piece of music. I think that that, when combined with his phenomenal composition and production skills and my own long and winding journey, creates something really special. Even though I’ve never met Ricky in person (yet), I consider him one of my closest friends. After all, I am primarily a musician and we understand each other as musicians.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
RH: My first real influence was Mick Karn and Japan. The songwriting was just so very different from everything else, they were either behind the curve (early albums) or ahead of it, but I loved it all, and Mick’s bass literally spoke to me. From The Comsat Angels-Steven Wilson, I take inspiration from many areas. Bowie has become more so of late, maybe due to his passing but quality will always stand out amongst the endless barrage of noise that is the formulaic throw-a-way pop.
LSJ: I can remember landmark musical moment stretching back to 1966: The Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, everything Jimi Hendrix ever recorded, then The Clash and Sex Pistols, then Nirvana, more recently Twenty One Pilots. But I find as I get older that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places. I like to think that I’ve finally shrugged off any of that stupid snobbery about what constitutes and what does not constitute “good music” Good music is good music. Great music is being made all over the world right at this moment – and mostly by people who will never become famous.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
RH: Success with our debut album Ei8ht would be wonderful and to have This Twisted Wreckage out there performing live would be awesome. To continue to develop my skills. I have recently acquired a Chapman Stick – Railboard and have already contributed to a few of TTW songs and I am loving it! I just feel that I am continually learning… Everyday, whether it’s in the studio, playing an instrument or putting together a video, the school of life is open!
LSJ: My only aspiration as an artist is to stay true to myself, and to become ever more open-minded. I don’t care if a particular effort fails musically (and certainly not commercially) but the fact that I tried it, that I gave it my all. That’s good enough for me, always has been, always will be. Having said that, and in all modesty, there is something so magical and special for me about This Twisted Wreckage, that I would like as many people to hear it as possible.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
RH: Working with Luke has been a ball, a real labour of love and I have enjoyed every minute. We connect, we appreciate each other, there are no egos. The material we have written and are writing has just taken my skills to another level and I am creating material that would not have happened without Luke. This Twisted Wreckage is a project that I am extremely proud of.
LSJ: There’s no denying that for me there was a unique musical chemistry between the three members of the original lineup of Fàshiön music. The same could not be said about our separate personalities! So, I once got to play to thousands of people opening shows for The Police, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Damned, and on and on, and I was very lucky. Great experiences for the most part – all in my book Stairway To Nowhere by Luke James but right now, the proudest moment in my musical career is my work with Ricky as This Twisted Wreckage. The 23 numbers we have put together in the last 12 months are the finest, most consistently exciting music I’ve ever been part of creating.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
RH: Ultimately, there is too much music, and that is not going to stop now. It is also easy to distribute online, so I do not see this changing any time soon. People just do not take the time to listen, really listen, really immerse themselves in music, it’s become fleeting, momentary has little value or worth, which is very sad.
LSJ: People have been predicting the demise of popular music, for one reason or another, since Ugg and the Cavemen first started bashing out hits on wooden logs and each other skulls. What doesn’t seem to change is the very small number of people who make wads of money from the efforts of musicians who are struggling to pay the rent. The false god golden carrot of fame is dangled under our noses, and off a lot of us charge with our eyes full of stars, lusting after Grammys. What needs to change in the music business is what needs to change in the world – we need to stop having the top 1% running things – we need power (and sharing) to the people!
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
RH: In the current situation that is not possible for us from a geographical point of view, with me in the UK and Luke in the US of A. But we have not dismissed the idea. If interest is there, we will make it happen.
LSJ: Never say never. It’s a dream of mine that one day Ricky and I will rock stages live and in person!
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
RH: I think that it is a shame for many of today’s listeners of music. I used to look forward to an album’s release. Sometimes, there may have been a two year break for a particular artist, so the anticipation and excitement were immense, especially with only music mags and the few TV shows that were available at the time sharing information. You would purchase your album, scrutinise the artwork, extract the inner sleeve and then place the vinyl on the turntable, a couple of pops and a crackle later and the journey would begin, it was truly a magical experience. Now unfortunately, we live in a throw away society and the peoples attention span has diminished somewhat. Downloading and streaming is a necessary evil unfortunately and we are back again to the big companies making millions whilst the creators of the music, who have spent years honing their skills and investing money into equipment are left with what 0.05 cents per stream! These are very difficult times for musicians/songwriters.
LSJ: I think sites like Spotify offer a great deal of false hope to so many struggling musicians. The hoops you have to jump through to try and get on playlists is demeaning and discouraging, and only works for a fraction of those trying. Get a million streams on something like Spotify and they might send you a check (eventually) for $57. You’re more likely to make money with some b.s. video about how to get on playlists and streams. I will never sign up to be responsible or a businessman. I’m a loud mouthed brat with a guitar, I just wanna make some noise!
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
RH: Orpheus by David Sylvian, because it’s perfect in every sense.
LSJ: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. And Wild Is The Wind by Bowie on Station to Station. Both are perfect to me, I get chills, they sound louder somehow whenever I hear them and they hit me somewhere deep in my mess of a heart.
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
RH: My experience has been this with the bigger labels of the day, they are out to exploit the artist for monetary gains, that’s fine as it is a business but don’t deny the artist what they are owed. Without their creativity the record labels have nothing. Time and again, I have experienced being ripped off by the industry, with broken promises and opportunities left in tatters.
LSJ: Just my personal opinion, but the vast majority of those who used to, and still do, run the music business are a bunch of power and money obsessed bastards, who could not give, a good goddamn about music or musicians as anything other than commodities . Off with their heads!!
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
RH: Right now, it’s all about getting the word out, that This Twisted Wreckage have their debut album Ei8ht available as a CD or download. Writing continues with Luke, I am rerecording the RISE back catalogue and Ishkah continues albeit , in the shadows at present. I am also working with a very talented young guy Karl Banks, I have worked on a few of his No Phace Project tracks now, bass and keyboards in the main.
LSJ: Since the pandemic retired me, I’ve become a musician 24/7 again. Right now I’m mainly working on promo for This Twisted Wreckage’s first album “Ei8ht”, but I did send Ricky a new song called Savage Teen Seventeen yesterday! I’ve also recently started recording a solo instrumental guitar album.
My collaboration with Ricky in This Twisted Wreckage (US/UK) is one of 5 online bands that I’m currently working with, all of which have, or soon will be releasing material. The others being: The Ghost of Luke James with Eric S. Anderson (LA), The Pull of Autumn with Daniel Darrow (CT), Castronauts with Mark Wilson (UK) and Shed with Robert Mag (NY).
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
RH: BandCamp and Facebook.
LSJ: Bandcamp to buy our music. Streaming the album will happen probably in the next month or so, but we wanted an opportunity to connect more directly with people who do, or might, like our music. Online (like Pete’s Rock News!) or our Facebook, YouTube, Instagram pages to learn more about us.
We both would like to thank Pete’s Rock News for this opportunity to share with you a little insight into This Twisted Wreckage and to wish Pete every success in the future.
Our album Ei8ht will be available from 1st May 2021 with a limited CD run and available to download on BandCamp. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Rick & Luke
This Twisted Wreckage links:
Band/Artist location – San Francisco California
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