On the eve of a new album (number 3) from Anarcho/Rap punk outfit with a social conscience, Rats From a Sinking Ship, and forthcoming tour dates, I caught up with main man Alex Lusty.
The new Rats From a Sinking Ship album is his main project just now having been in the studio recording at the start of the year and now mastering. Over the years, man of many talents Alex has been involved in a variety of bands and projects covering a range of music styles. I was interested to find out how he manages his time on these various and how he comes to write in a variety of styles for the different outlets of his artistry.
Alex Lusty – Man of many talents
The Ginger Quiff: You are a man of many talents and varied projects – the hip hop of Frigid Vinegar, Punk/rap of Rats from a Sinking Ship and also Happy Martyr, your collaboration with Polecats/Morrissey guitarist and solo artist in his own right, Boz Boorer to name a few.
How do you balance your time between them? Is Rats from a Sinking Ship your key focus now or do you still have plans for other projects?
Alex Lusty: Rats is the main focus but I guess that is because it’s the busiest. I’m a bit of a workaholic when it comes to doing my music, not when it comes to anything else I must add! But almost bordering on the compulsive obsessive. I have a very strict work ethic of record, release, gig, record, release gig. I hate not writing or performing and I suppose that’s why I have had quite a few different projects on the go in the past and have released so much with different acts. I like to try and release an album a year if possible
It also keeps me on my toes and allows me to write in various styles for the various vehicles. With Happy Martyr, for example, it’s been very hard the last few years to record or gig due to Boz’s commitments elsewhere and Rats has just taken over. Plus also it’s a challenge to make it into something bigger. We are already on the eve of the third album being released since 2015.
Happy Martyr is a very personal experience. This allows me to deal mainly with my state of mind, mental health, emotions and that broken, no, pulverised heart that never seems to repair. We could easily be on album 10!!!
Song-writing & inspirations
TGQ: What is your song-writing process? Do you start out with a plan to write a song for, say, Rats or does a song theme/lyric/melody come into your head and you decide which style it would be best suited to?
AL: A little from column A and a little from column B to be honest. There is no real method in the madness. I find lyrics can come into my head anytime really, when I’m out walking the dog I’m forever stopping in my tracks to type them into my phone so I don’t forget them. Also when I’m laid in bed and trying to sleep words start creeping out of the dark recess, so my ragged old notepad is never too far away.
TGQ: From what I know about you, I have a good idea myself, but who do you take your musical inspiration from?
AL: Anyone who knows me or knows of me will know this. Morrissey. Having seen the man 100 times and more I love him.
Other than that I grew up on 80s hip-hop, for me the golden era, Melle Mel, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B and Rakim and the Beastie Boys.
My other true love is Half Man Half Biscuit. Nigel Blackwell is an actual genius and should be recognised so. But of course he never will and he will remain from the mainstream radar for another 30 years.
A range of influences then, reflected in the song writing and styles across various projects.
One of the things I like about RFASS is that they aren’t afraid to tackle the issues of the day. Their albums to date have included many subjects which Alex is passionate about including mental health (Cheer Up), politics (Hang Him, Member of Parliament), war/terrorism (Drones, Kill One, Kill Two)animal rights (If you Must Shoot Animals Use a Camera) and that just scrapes the surface.
TGQ: With Rats From a Sinking Ship you write about some pretty weighty subjects – terrorism, war, mental health, animal rights to name a few. Is that a conscious decision or is it just a sign of the times?
AL: Oh definitely a conscious decision. I believe we are currently living in the blandest time for popular music. I have no idea of who is in the charts, for example, or even how they work these days, nor do I care, or do I know anyone else who does and that is sad. The top 40 and charts were always a big deal but now you can put on the radio or dare I say venture onto a video channel on the telly and everyone looks the same and what’s more everyone sounds the same, its just one long, very long, monotonous continuous empty song of nothing.
So with Rats I want it to be the antidote to all that, to show there can still be anger and intelligence in music. To prove that bands still have something to say and causes to champion. I believe music should be here to be used to raise questions and issues as well as have fun.
I couldn’t agree more regarding the music I hear in the “charts” today. When my kids listen to the likes of Capital Radio what I hear is insipid and tuneless. When one formula is found that “works”, there follows 20 identical songs. Music these days is more and more about how quickly the corporates can churn out the next track for streaming (not albums/bands/tours). And the best way for the executives to make a fast buck.
I read an article about why some of the big “hits” of today aren’t followed up with albums these days. It makes depressing reading – it makes me fear for the future of music. More power to the elbow of the bands still out there touring, releasing albums and railing against the “man”.
TGQ: So talking of song subjects and lyrics, with Frigid Vinegar, you have some pretty out there/bizarre lyrics. For example, I’m thinking of songs like “Strange Bill” complete with Grange Hill sample – what is going on there?
AL: FV was the first actual physical record I released back in 1999. The idea was to create a hip hop HMHB-esque project. There was real purple patch from 99-2001-ish with Lamacq, Peel, Wiley, Mark and Lard and Moyles playing me on Radio 1 but sadly and annoyingly I get itchy feet quickly and am always keen to try something else and in most cases I do and did.
But last year I finally got around to recording 8 new tracks to add to the 5 singles that were released so the debut FV album could finally be released albeit 17 years late. It also allowed me to tap into that bit of madness that constantly lurks in my head. Rats allows me to be political Happy Martyr a grown up and FV silly.
TGQ: Rats from a Sinking Ship are touring in the spring, what plans do you have for releasing “Fight the Future”? Or indeed for any other projects? Do you enjoy performing live?
AL: I love playing live, its good therapy and helps blow away the cobwebs that depression wraps around you. I like to get angry, like the feel the veins popping in my neck and throw all my energy into performing. It’s great to get those songs with their messages out there live.
Album three ‘Fight the Future’ see’s us moving RFASS onto the next level, there are more samples and loops used this time and the message remains the same. The Sun, Katie Hopkins, Trump, Boris Johnson, the Royal Family, Teresa May are just a few who get a kicking.
We have lots of shows throughout the year planned.
As for other projects, yes. Hopefully me and Boz will finally find time to record the third Happy Martyr album. My mind is constantly whirling and thinking of new things to do so anything could happen really!
Dates confirmed so far include 2 Scottish dates in Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, I for one can’t wait for the Glasgow show.
TGQ: When is the album out and what can we expect from it?
AL: Its released March 17th and we are having its launch at the Hug and Pint in Glasgow. Glasgow is my favourite place the play. We have a staunch, loyal true following who always make us feel welcome and loved. You can expect a collection of loud, heavy and angry ditties.
Expect a review of the new album on The Ginger Quiff in early March.
Here is a little sample of what you can expect from the new album – the video for “Cursory Rhymes” just released today.
TGQ: A final couple of questions about your own music and what you enjoying listening to. From your back catalogue, do you have a favourite album/song? Is there something that stands out as something you are most proud of? Why is that?
AL: That’s a real tough question but if I was to pick a song from every project I’ve released, band and solo then they would be:
- ‘Sleep Tight’ – Happy Martyr
- ‘Where You’re At – Lusty
- ‘God Shoots, Jesus Saves – Acarine
- ‘Terror’- Kienzl & Lusty
- ‘Most Things in Life Will Either Sting, Eat or Shoot You’ – Frigid Vinegar.
- ‘Kill One, Kill Two – Rats From a Sinking Ship
TGQ: Who is currently on your turntable/CD player/MP3 or Streaming playlist?
AL: I will be honest and tell you the last 5 albums I played:
The Best Of Herman Hermits
Morrissey – Bona Drag
Half Man Half Biscuit – Achtung Bono
Artic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am I’m Not
Nas – God’s Son
A huge thanks to Alex for taking time out of the recording and mastering of the new album to answer my questions.
I will be reviewing the new album, “Fight the Future” on here in early March.