Often referred to as “the forgotten Ramone,” drummer Richie Ramone brought a harder and more aggressive playing style to the legendary punk band when he joined The Ramones in 1982. His handiwork can be heard on three seminal later Ramones albums, “Too Tough to Die,” “Animal Boy” and “Halfway to Sanity,” as well as the tours surrounding those recordings.
With the deaths of all four original Ramones (Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy) in the past decade, Richie Ramone is part of an exclusive club of rock ‘n’ roll survivors. Now he is touring the world to promote his legacy and debut solo album, “Entitled.”
Ever the punk rocker, Mr. Ramone reflects on his time with the band, signing pregnant women’s bellies and finally going solo.
Question: Tell us about “Entitled.”
Answer: It was in the works for almost two years. I’m really excited about it because it’s the first time I ever did my own album, which is kind of weird. It came out really good. We cut it in Nashville and mixed it out here [in Los Angeles] with Mark Needham. I waited a long time, so there is a lot of good stuff on it.
Q: What is the most common thing fans say when they meet you?
A: “Were you in The Ramones?”
Q: What is the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?
A: [A] pregnant belly. I was in South America, and a woman was pregnant. She wanted her belly signed. The sharpie marker wrote really good because the skin was so stretched — just glided right on. I was afraid to sign it at first. Didn’t want to hurt the kid.
Q: Did she get it tattooed later?
A: Most of them do. They come up and say, “Sign here,” and then they make it a tattoo. I’m going back to South America [to] see if she did that.
Q: When you joined The Ramones, they were an established group. Was it hard to be the new guy in the gang?
A: No. Joey was really open right away. He welcomed me with open arms. He was very easy to get along with. I’m kind of more on the quieter side when it comes to new people. I just sort of slid in, stayed quiet, and that kind of worked. It was pretty simple.
Q: Johnny was viewed as a dictator, telling everyone what to do. You brought your own style in. Did he ever tell you how to play, or were you free to play like you?
A: No, I did what I wanted to do. He never told me how to play the songs. He ran the ship there, but musically I played like I wanted to play. I played a little harder and more aggressive than the other guys did. I changed the sound on some of the records. A drummer will influence the whole sound of a band.
Q: Why did you decide to leave The Ramones when you did?
A: I just felt it was time to go. [I] wasn’t getting what I wanted to get. That was it. Move on. I was a kid then.
As I look back now, maybe I would not have left. Or maybe it wasn’t the greatest thing. But you just live with what you do, man. It’s cool.
Q: With four of the original members now dead, it seems The Ramones are more popular than ever. Has that affected you?
A: People still buy the records. They still sell. It’s pretty amazing.
When I quit the band, I became the bad guy. Now it’s gone full circle again. The fans really know the story. People get upset when you leave [the band]. They said things they shouldn’t. I just stayed out of it. It’s all come around now, and I’m really looking forward to this new record and world tour.