The Riffs (Andy, Duane)

Interviews | Feb 24th, 2005

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Who are you and what do you do in the band?
Andy: I am the Crusty sex-God, the best lips in the business, the dashing brass section! Oh, and my name is Andy, and I’m not ginger like Duane! I could say that I write all the songs and the music, but I don’t and the rest will lynch me if they read this. I do bit of it though, and I specialize at arranging, but not with flowers.

Duane: Duane ‘Nosh’ Matthews – Bass guitar, backing vocals, tallness, I am the love interest.

Can you give me some background about the Riffs?
Andy:This could fill an encyclopedia! Formed in 1989, LP “Who Want’s It?” released the same year. Tracks from this have been licensed to hundreds of compilations world-wide ever since, although not necessarily with the band’s consent. Front-man Aidan retired in 9/01, and the current line-up of Andy, Spen, Dave, Mark and Duane have been together since 1993. Other releases include 7″ vinyl in 1990 on band’s own label, OTFH, and a recent CDEP. “Spin Out” on a friend’s Greased Pig label. Toured all over the UK (inc. Scotland & Wales), Ireland, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Germany. We’ve done interviews on webs and radios around the world including Andy appearing live on California’s Ska Parade Radio (now SP Radio), whilst on a trip Stateside. The Riffs sound is unique, innovative, happy, bouncy and always now! That is why The Riffs have always been, and always will be a popular act on the Ska scene. If you’ve not seen us yet, you’ve missed out big style!

Duane: The Riffs are a bunch of drug crazed, psychopathic, social drop outs with nothing better to do than sit in a rehearsal studio all day getting stoned and playing the odd ‘ditty’. It’s good fun.

Ska has been slowly dying in the United States, how is the scene over in the UK?
Andy: We’ve had an influx of US band over here in last few years, but apart from the Bosstones and No Doubt hitting the top 20, not a lot else has made much success. Rancid, Green Day and the such have done okay, but they are obviously more punk. There is a big scene with young UK bands performing the Ska Punk style, but its still pretty underground. Unfortunately it has been like that for quite a while here.

Duane: I wouldn’t say it’s dying, it’s changing, that’s all. People said ska was a forgotten art in the 70s. Then came Two Tone and it was massive again, bigger than ever. What you might call ‘traditional ska’ is less popular, but there is so called ‘punk ska’ and ‘dance ska’. The influence ska music has had on the music world can no longer be judged on how many hits it has in charts. It has gone past that in the same way reggae has. It is part of the very fibre of popular music. Ska is now in the big melting pot with blues, reggae, hard rock, R n B, soul, thrash metal, and jazz. Every time you here an off beat in a record, or some little brass stabs, it is ska that made that possible.

What has been the best/worst moments while playing on stage?
Andy: There’s been loads of both. We’ve played to thousands, and we’ve played to 10. We’ve been fantastic, and we’ve also been shit! We’ve been perfect, and we’ve been very very very very very very drunk! When our founder member Mac Sax passed away earlier this year that was certainly a very low point for the band, but I think however that as a whole, we have more happy moments than bad ones. That’s why we do the band, cos we enjoy it and not because we want to get rich – although that would be nice!

Duane: Best moments? Can’t remember. Worst moments? Don’t want to remember.

Do you look up to anyone in the music scene?
Andy: Loads. All those old stars from JA that still perform but only earn marginally more than we do, yet deserve to be millionaires. Where would we be without them? I suppose some of my best moments must be sharing the bill with the likes of Laurel Aitken, Derrick Morgan, Skatalites, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, and loads of other I’ve forgotten (sorry). Then of course you have the 2-tone guys like Madness, The Beat, Specials, and Bad Manners who have been gigging solidly since day one I think! I admire anyone that plays their music live really from all walks of sound. Metal to punk, dance to soul, blues and funk.

Duane: I’ve got a lot of time for people who ‘do it all’. They play all the instruments, record the track, mix and produce it. Leftfield, Badly Drawn Boy, Groove Armada & Shaun Lee are a few. Then there are the people who have been doing it for years, have never made a penny and probably never will. They do it because they love it, because it’s who they are.

Can you teach me any cool cockney terms?
Andy: Whenever I hear anyone who’s not a cockney speak it, it sounds shit! Apart from what Duane’s said though you can have, frog & Toad = road.

Duane: Thre’penny bits = tits (or shits – diarrhoea), syrup & fig = wig, Barnet fair = hair, plates of meat = feet, apples and pears = stairs, Hampstead heath = teeth.

Which is better, Monty Python or The Young Ones?
Andy: Monty Python films are cool and are watched in our tour bus some times, but I grew up with The Young Ones and they are total anarchy with cool bands on every show so they win!

Duane: The Young Ones. The Flying Circus is just silly!

On a serious note, What are your thoughts about what happened on Sept. 11th 2001 in the United States?
Andy: I think Duane’s done that. Folk all around the world are pretty dumbstruck by it all.

Duane: I watched the whole thing live on TV, I saw the plane hit the second tower, live, and and I saw both the towers crumble to the ground, live. I was, and still am stunned by it! The sheer magnitude of what happened, still hasn’t sunk in. God knows how the people of the USA are coping. My thoughts are with them. The people who organized and carried out the 6,000 or so murders in America are very poorly in the head and should sit down with a hot water bottle.

Anything to plug, promote, final thoughts?
Andy: Yeah, buy our CD’s, visit our web (it will be updated soon, I promise!), and invite us to a venue near you. We are up for touring anywhere and with any luck will have a new album to go with any tour pretty soon. Cheer & Beers!

Duane: Nah, nothing to promote (apart from our forthcoming album and promotional mini-tour, dates as soon as we get them) and I don’t think unless I really have to. It lets in the bad things.