INTERVIEW WITH EVERY MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE SINGER RICK RUHL
Date: February 12, 2018
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
ABOUT A MONTH OR SO AGO, I HAD THE CHANCE TO REVIEW A FANTASTIC ALBUM, CELEBRATING THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS RELEASE BY MEMPHIS ROCK BAND EVERY MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE ENTITLED ‘WAKE UP SCREAMING.’ IN THIS REVIEW, I TRIED TO PUSH THE ENVELOPE SLIGHTLY. I DID THIS REVIEW IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF MYSELF AND MY BAND AT THE TIME LISTENING TO THE ALBUM FOR THE FIRST TIME. IT WAS A GREAT TESTAMENT TO HOW THIS ALBUM HAD INFLUENCED A YOUNG GUITAR GOD IN THE MAKING, OR SO I THOUGHT AT THE TIME. OF COURSE, WE ALL KNOW THAT THINGS DON’T ALWAYS TURN OUT HOW WE PLAN.
AS I ALWAYS DO, I READ THE COMMENTS TO SEE WHAT WAS BEING SAID ABOUT THE ALBUM AND THE REVIEW. READER MICHAEL GULLEY WROTE AS FOLLOWS “I USED TO HANG OUT WITH EMN IN NASHVILLE REGULARILY. THIS CD STANDS UP TO ANY OF ITS CONTEMPORARIES. I WAS POSITIVE THIS ALBUM WAS GOING TO SKYROCKET THEM INTO STARDOM. FOR REASONS BEST LEFT UNDISCLOSED THERE WERE ISSUES. THEY MADE SOME CHANGES, RELOCATED TO MEMPHIS AND REINVENTED THEIR SOUND SOMEWHAT. I CAN TRUTHFULLY SAY THAT EVERY SONG THEY HAVE RELEASED IS GOOD. NO DUD, NO FILLER. I CONTINUE TO BUY EVERYTHING THEY RELEASE AND WISH THEM NOTHING BUT THE BEST.” SO WITH THIS BEING SAID I RESPONDED AS I USUALLY TRY TO DO, “MICHAEL THANK YOU FOR SHARING THAT STORY. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT I MAY CONTACT RICK RUHL AND SEE IF I CAN’T GET AN INTERVIEW WITH HIM DOWN THE ROAD. I’D LOVE TO TALK MORE ABOUT EMN. I MYSELF CONTINUE TO BUY THEIR ALBUMS. THEY ARE ONE OF THE GREAT, UNDERRATED BANDS OF THE ERA.” BEFORE I KNEW IT, I HAD RECEIVED A MESSAGE BACK FROM BILL CHAVIS, PRESIDENT OF THE BAND’S RECORD LABEL. “TYSON BRIDEN, LET ME KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO AN INTERVIEW WITH RICK. WE WILL GET YOU SET UP. THANKS FOR THE COVERAGE.” IT HAPPENED EVER SO QUICKLY. FOR THAT, I AM GRATEFUL.
WELL LO AND BEHOLD, HERE IT IS FOR GOSH SAKES. OF COURSE, EMN HAVE A FANTASTIC NEW ALBUM OUT ENTITLED ‘GRIND’, SO WITH THAT IN MIND, SOME OF OUR CONVERSATION COVERED THAT VERY TOPIC. ALSO, WE DIVED INTO THE PAST. OUR CONVERSATION WAS COOL BECAUSE I WAS INTERESTED IN A LOT OF THINGS RELATING TO OLD AND NEW. SOMETIMES, I WOULD JUMP INTO A DIFFERENT SUBJECT, BUT THAT WAS JUST THE FLOW OF THE INTERVIEW. I THINK YOU THE READER, WILL BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED AT HOW CANDID RUHL TRULY IS. RUHL WAS SUCH A GREAT, INSIGHTFUL GUY TO INTERVIEW. HE WAS AN ALL AROUND PLEASURE. I THANK RUHL AS WELL AS BILL CHAVIS FOR MAKING THIS ALL HAPPEN. PLEASE ENJOY!!!
Sleaze Roxx: Rick, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. Going right into it, let’s talk about the new album, ‘Grind’. What can you tell me about it in terms of production, writing, recording, etc? All the little details — you know — where, what, how, etc.
Rick Ruhl: Well… it started out as an experiment. I went to see Justin Rimer at his studio. I kept hearing his stuff. I liked what he was doing. I was curious to see if he’d work with an ’80s band. You know, see if we could work together. I played him “Loco Crazy.” He loved it. It’s 1000 percent different.
Sleaze Roxx: I find ‘Grind’ to be very modern sounding, but as soon as your vocals kick in, it has that classic EMN sound. It’s really a great combination. Was that the intention to make a heavy modern sounding album, but making sure it had the classic EMN sound?
Rick Ruhl: Well, you know, Justin played in the band 12 Stones. So he has a modern twist. He still let us stick to what we do. In the end, it all worked out. You still can’t get away from my red neck voice!
Sleaze Roxx: Originally ‘Grind’ was an EP that became a full-length album. What was the process that led to it becoming a full album?
Rick Ruhl: We took a year off. Some of the guys took time to pursue family life. We have been together the whole time. We never really took time off. I had Lonnie Hammer. Travis Butler came in. We decided right there to do something. Bands were doing these five song EP’s or releasing a single every couple months. We were getting a good response to the EP. Then Bill Chavis called. I’ve known him for years. He said “Let’s do a whole album!” So we recorded some new music. Put on some live songs. A couple videos. It’s the whole package.
Sleaze Roxx: As I am thinking about it, changing the subject slightly, I wanted to make mention that up here in Canada, the first two albums were not available. Only on import. Why was that?
Rick Ruhl: I had no idea. Wow.
Sleaze Roxx: Has EMN ever been up to Canada?
Rick Ruhl: We came close, but never made it up there. We are talking about possibly playing three places up there in July. We’re going up the east coast, than head up there. We’re actually going overseas soon as well. We’re making moves.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you guys ever play in Europe?
Rick Ruhl: No. Back then, we only did three tours in the States. We never got to do it. We’d fight with the label to get over there. Then we’d be out playing. We were down in Seattle when the grunge thing hit. You could see the change coming.
Sleaze Roxx: I always thought you guys would be a nice compliment to what was happening in grunge, but you were already labeled as a ‘hair band.’ I always hate how they term things. “Oh you guys look like a hair band. You’re done because grunge is popular”. In reality, you should just be termed as a heavy rock band.
Rick Ruhl: Just a rock band… We were more street with heart. We wanted to do songs that worked. We were the “Love Can You Make You Blind” band, but we weren’t just that. We are proud of that song, but the songs we loved were darker. “House Of Pain”, “Already Gone” — we loved playing those ones. At the time, things were changing. With the label, they’d give you money. Anything you need. Watch what you’re doing. Then all of a sudden, they won’t give you anything. Music took a turn from the first to the second record. A big turn. Even from the label. Back then, we always said you have to have a ballad to be valid. I just write songs by my gut. Do you gotta have a category?
Sleaze Roxx: Getting back to ‘Grind’, it is being released on a very cool looking green vinyl. Tell me about the vinyl pressing. I am assuming it’s a limited edition. How do fans get a hold of it?
Rick Ruhl: Go to highvolmusic.com. That’s Bill’s label. He’s doing it himself. I assume it’s limited. Two pressings I believe. I can’t believe vinyl is coming back. He sent me the green album. It looks amazing.
Sleeze Roxx: Being in Canada, buying vinyl from the US is a little pricey when you factor in our exchange and shipping. A $25.00 album becomes $50 – $60 dollars CDN. But I did just pay $60 CDN for the new John Corabi vinyl. I will bite the bullet on this one too. Just to get that green vinyl.
Rick Ruhl: You gotta have that Corabi album. I always tell people “That’s the best Mõtley Crūe record ever heard!” That record was kick ass. Corabi is a bad cat. I played a few shows with him. He burned me up all night.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the look of the ‘Grind’ album cover itself. The vinyl version has a slightly different cover.
Rick Ruhl: Yeah, we put this chick on it. We had this girl and said “Put that on it”. We’re talking about this devil thing. She’s on the kick drum now. We’re doing a video for “Snake.” We’re gonna put snakeskin on her.
Sleaze Roxx: So she’s like your Eddie from Iron Maiden?
Rick Ruhl: Yeah [laughs]… but better looking!
Sleaze Roxx: You guys already did a few videos. So another one? Cool! The “Loco Crazy” video is great.
Rick Ruhl: We’re probably going to do two or three more. We’re going to revise “Loco Crazy.” We’re working with the Motorcross people for the Ankle Savers. We’ll go back and work on it. Refurbish it. We did the three live videos for the Tora Tora/Patrick Francis benefit. He’s been having some health issues. We loved how they turned out.
Sleaze Roxx: You being a Memphis musician, I ran into another gentleman from Memphis a few years back at the Rock N Skull Festival — Todd Poole from Roxy Blue. We ended talking for a bit. When I started doing work for Sleaze Roxx, Todd was one of the first guys I interviewed.
Rick Ruhl: Todd is incredible. He’s one of the first guys I met when I moved to Memphis.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re originally from Nashville?
Rick Ruhl: Knoxville actually. I packed my stuff up, decided, “Do I go to L.A. or do I go two hours down the road to Nashville?” Nashville was the country scene back then. So I decided to head up to Memphis. It was lucky for me.
Sleaze Roxx: You spoke of the Tora Tora benefit. I mentioned Roxy Blue. You’ve done some shows together. Will there will be more of those shows down the road?
Rick Ruhl: That is the hope. It took us 22 years to play together. So who knows? We did that thing for Patrick. Everybody has big plans. Weather it materializes is the question. We did one in St. Louis as well. We all get along so well. We share gear. Have a good time.
Sleaze Roxx: Tora Tora just announced a new album with Frontiers.
Rick Ruhl: Yeah, they did some new songs last time we played together. They sounded great.
Sleaze Roxx: I’d like to maybe talk about a few of the tracks on ‘Grind.’ The lead off track “Loco Crazy” is oozing with coolness. What was the thinking on this song lyric wise?
Rick Ruhl: Well you know everybody has a “Loco Crazy” song. It’s about being proud of where you are from. It’s that pride. It’s saying “if ya cross us, we’ll cut ya!”
Sleaze Roxx: “Snake” is a pretty self-explanatory song. Was this directed towards anyone in particular? Can you give me an idea of your thought process in regards to this one?
Rick Ruhl: I think it was not about one in particular. It’s all in a bunch. Talking about how my woman watched me mess up so much. Her watching the other person be a fool. I started writing it, but being vague. When I announce it on stage, I say “I wrote this about girl and she was mean!!!”
Sleaze Roxx: “Blown Away” is a very cool song. It has a really earthy feel to it. What can you tell me about it?
Rick Ruhl: That’s a favorite of mine off this record. My buddy Jamie Mandrel was diagnosed with heart problems. I’d go over and he’d be staring out the window. We did the song. I brought it over. He got to hear it before he passed. It was a day of hanging out with my boy. It means a lot. I get teary eyed just talking about it. He was kin to the Mandrel’s.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh the Mandrel’s? Like Barbara Mandrel and the Mandrel Sisters? My Dad used to watch that variety show every week. My Dad was a country guy. We watched lots of Hee Haw too.
Rick Ruhl: Yes exactly. Oh I grew up on Hee Haw. I lived it [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: There is a very southern vibe in “Stand Up”, especially that very cool bit in the chorus. How did that section come to be and what was the mindset in terms of this song?
Rick Ruhl: That song was [written on] a Sunday after a hard week of playing and partying. The lyrics telling how it is. Saying, “Fall in line. Stop on up there!” We were hanging with Jim Dandy. We got to talking. “Wouldn’t it would be cool if you sang on the song?” He’s been doing this a lot longer than us. He has that voice. It fit. We got in the studio and said “Do what you want. Ramble on!” We cut what we needed. He used to play at a place called Foxtails. He was doing this when I was sitting in my bedroom looking at Playboys. Then we ran into Wayne Swaney from Saliva and he said “Hey why can’t I play on the album?” So we got him on the album.
Sleaze Roxx: Was Wayne in Saliva when Todd Poole was playing with them?
Rick Ruhl: Yeah. They were called Blackbone at first. Josie [Scott] used to see us play. He was clean cut. Wearing a white shirt, paisley flowered suit vest. Then they became a band. He changed his look. I knew it would happen for them.
Sleaze Roxx: EMN were originally signed to Arista Records. What do you remember of that signing? You must have a few Clive Davis stories to share.
Rick Ruhl: [Laughs] First story was us showcasing. We heard Clive is coming. We couldn’t find a place to showcase. We decided to use our rehearsal space. We got a couple Kegs. Got our friends to play opening for us. It was the worst show. Our set went good though. So Clive took my boots right off my feet. “I’ll keep these on my desk”. They were kept together with duct tape and guitar strings. They stayed there for about a year. After the album was done, we had to go to the offices to meet with Clive. Someone said “You can’t be late. You gotta look the part.” Well we showed up one and a half hours late. We were sleeping on the couch. We go into Clive’s office. Clive puts on the album. On his stereo, he turned it up so loud. We stayed there all afternoon. It was loud as hell.
Sleaze Roxx: That must have been so exciting. Sitting in Clive Davis’s office listening to your new album. This is the guy that signed Aerosmith.
Rick Ruhl: Yeah! Even after, I kept in touch with Clive. I always had his contact. I was working on some music. I sent him some stuff. He gave me good feedback. He didn’t shun me. He kept his soul. For someone that cool, it meant a lot. When we signed, people would say “Why you going with Clive?” We’d get offers from other labels. he would find out about it. He would put a better offer in. He wanted to do it.
Sleaze Roxx: About twenty years ago, I had a conversation with Black Star Riders guitarist Damon Johnson who was in Brother Cane at the time, regarding the song “Bad On Love.” I remember being backstage at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. I asked him about this song. His head popped up, his eyes got big, and then he proceeded to say, “Well they had this part, I came up with this.” It was a cool moment. What do you recall about that collaboration with Johnson and how did it come about?
Rick Ruhl: Well, when I came down to Memphis, there was this showcase. So we went down there. It was the next night we got to play. It was one of those things kind of like South of Southwest. They had a bunch of bands. We got to play at the end of that night. It was at a place called Proud Mary’s. There was about 900 people there that night to see us. We became affiliated with Damon because he was playing with the Delta Rebels who happened to be playing too. We got together and started writing. Damon is a phenomenal guitar player. Before the Rebels, he was playing in cover bands, so when he got out to do his own thing, he was incredible. We wrote that song. We were just sitting around. Myself, Damon, Steve Malone playing guitars. It’s funny — about three years ago, I was at SIR Studios. Damon was doing a tour. We’re rehearsing. All of a sudden, someone says, “There’s a guy here to see you. Says his name’s Damon Johnson.” He just so happened to pop in.
Sleaze Roxx: I mean just speaking of Damon’s work. I loved the first Brother Cane album. I love the tone of his guitar. The guitar solos are very thought out. His vocal — to me at the time, it was like Steven Tyler and Joe Perry all rolled into one.
Rick Ruhl: We had a couple shows with them. We went out with them guys. I’ll tell you another story about Damon. He was writing with West Arkeen — the guy who wrote with Guns N’ Roses. We were in the same hotel. Over the years, we’ve always seemed to land in the same spot.
Sleaze Roxx: When I initially got the first album, I was very impressed with your cover of Charlie Daniels “Long Haired Country Boy.” I just recently saw Charlie this past summer at the Opry. He blew everyone off the stage. Was this a song EMN had covered in the clubs?
Rick Ruhl: He’s been doing it awhile [laughs]. My uncle Jackie worked for him for years, started off small with him, worked up to his crew manager. I grew up with him. But yeah, we did it in the clubs. Every night, we played it. When we went to record it, Charlie was gonna come down. Then he called up and said “Next time! You guys got this!”
Sleaze Roxx: What did he think of it?
Rick Ruhl: [Chuckles]… He said “It was little bit much for me.” Today it’s our most requested song. It was supposed to be the next single, but that never happened. That’s okay. It’s getting a second life.
Sleaze Roxx: “If I had my way” from ‘Wake Up Screaming’ was written by former Autograph frontman Steve Plunkett. Was this a song EMN wanted to record or was it an attempt by Arista to possibly have a hit single on the album?
Rick Ruhl: That was “I sold my soul!” “Tobacco Road” was one of the tracks too, which had been done by David Lee Roth a few years before. That’s the one everyone remembers. We were offered a certain amount of money to do it. I learned a big old lesson. It was something they put us into. We were angry. We did that album with Jim Gaines. He’s an incredible producer.
Sleaze Roxx: I find that your version of “Tobacco Road” is a little closer to the original than David Lee Roth did. It has a bluesier feel.
Rick Ruhl: We wanted to make it bluesier than it was. But in reality, it wasn’t us. That’s what people remember though. Recently, we spent three days in the studio with Dave. He said “Man, is it cool if I hang?” “You’re Dave!” we said. He just stayed and hung out. He gave no input. It was unexpected. He was a really cool guy. He was one of my people growing up. He gets such a bad rap, but he was great. Growing up, him and Ed were the shit. I went to every show when they came through town. Every tour. ‘Fair Warning‘ was the best though.
Sleaze Roxx: Original drummer Jim Phipps came back to the band. How did that come about?
Rick Ruhl: Me and him are tied at the hip since we were kids. We rode BMX together. We had Lonnie in the band. There were some conflicts. That’s all I’ll say about that. Jim was in the background. He said “I want in” when he heard what we were doing. I stopped by his house on my way to Nashville. We talked. Two or three weeks later, he came in. He learned a bunch of stuff. We changed some stuff. He was back to himself. You know his mama used to let me sleep on her couch. When he came back, I said “You’re getting new drum heads and that’s all you get [laughs]!”
Sleaze Roxx: I am just curious as to what ever happened to Steve Malone and Mark McMurtry?
Rick Ruhl: Steve is playing in a cover band in St. Louis. At the end, he was done. He came right out of high school into the band. By that time, we were over each other, but not on bad terms. He was just done. McMurtry? I don’t know. I used to ride him pretty good out on the road. I love him but he probably hates me.
Sleaze Roxx: Are there plans to possibly re-release the past albums at some point?
Rick Ruhl: We’re trying to buy them back — the catalogue. Sooner or later, it will happen. ‘Smokin’ Delta Voodoo’ — that was our biggest songwriting growth. I’m looking forward to it being re-released. At the time, Perris Records didn’t have the push. Not in a bad way either. ‘Delta’ was us going through our experimental stage. Testing the waters. With ‘Deeper Shade Of Grey’, we had two weeks to write and record. They offered us two weeks to get in there and record the record. We were so fried when we mixed it. We just came off the road and went into the practice room. It was a whirlwind process. When I came to do ‘Grind’, it was time to make it count. Every second was important. I knew what to do and not to do. Sometimes you learn things the hard way.
Sleaze Roxx: Rick, I want to thank you so much talking to me. We gotta a lot of great stuff here. Hopefully, I’ll get down there to see you guys at some point.
Rick Ruhl: No problem, but we will hopefully be up there this summer. We’ll see ya then!
Every Mother’s Nightmare‘s “Loco Crazy” video:
EMN (Every Mother’s Nightmare) newest single “Loco Crazy” from the June 19th 2015 release GRIND.
Every Mother’s Nightmare‘s “Blown Away” video:
Blown Away Official Video. https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1009009887 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZYYUXZ4/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk2 Every Mother’s Nightmare EMN Records 2015 GRIND Video by Sky Shot Productions Michael Gilbert