FEATURE RICKY ROSS
Former Deacon Blue mainman Ricky Ross is going it alone. Alastair Mabbott watches the first solo flight.
hatever you say. say. ‘yes. please'. There‘s a table of immense length. every square inch covered in dishes of prawns. vol-au-vents and fancy nibbles with names that only catering professionals could even guess at. And the only liggers not swarming around it are over at the bar grabbing as many bottles of buckshee lager as their pockets will hold.
The spread is in honour of Ricky Ross. who is circulating in its midst. his strangely haunted expression drifting between knots of retailers. press and radio people. apparently oblivious to his own video playing on a king-size screen in the corner.
Having cut himself adrift from Deacon Blue two years ago. he's going through the rigmarole necessary to establish himself as a solo artist with a single. ‘Radio On‘. and an album. What You Arc. his first recording for Epic. lt’s
14 The List 3| May- I 3 Jun 1996
unmistakably the work of Ricky Ross. but lent
an increased raunch factor by the presence of
Mick Slaven. incendiary guitarist from the Glasgow trio The Leopards. The songs that aren't sparkly rockers are reflective and drenched in pedal steel.
Eventually. its maker is coaxed over to a sofa. amidst discarded paper plates and other foody detrittis. to be teased about such matters as Deacon Blues decline into sartorial madness in the name of post-modern irony (this gets a mere cuff on the side of the head — let off lightly. really) and quizzed about how he rates his chances of sweeping up a ready-made audience
of old Deacon Blue fans and going straight for
the mega-platinum jugular with his first solo album. He‘s having none of this. either.
‘l came into it with my eyes open.‘ he says. ‘Basically. it‘s a 99.9 per cent failure rate. But I think that. on the other hand. I didn‘t have any option. I'm a songwriter. That's what I do. And
I want to make records. I think the most honest thing to do is to make a record under my own name. When I wrote the song “What You Are" -r it‘s not about me — it seemed the most apt title for the record. because to be what you are is the most honest thing you can do. and is something that I've always tried to do.’
In all honesty. then. what‘s the lowdown on the —- no doubt rancorous -— break-up of his old band'.’ "There's no real story about it. I always felt. along with everybody in the band. that we were going to make a certain amount of records and then stop. It‘s as simple as that. really.‘
It seems longer than just two years since Deacon Blue split alter eight years and four albums (live. if you include a compilation now well on the way to triple-platinum status). ln that titnc. Ross has kept his head down. He and Epic decided against releasing an album last year so that he could put more work into writing it. and also because the staggerineg successful ll’ltulct'cr You Xuv Not/lure was still hovering around the charts. .-\s well as honing the songs for What lint (lIY’. he was commissioned to
‘I always felt, along with everybody in the band, that we were going to make a certain amount of records and then stop. It’s as simple as that, really.’
write the music for :\lan Spence's play about the Timex strikers. ()n '/’/u' Linc. and ended tip writing almost an album's worth of material for it. the first time he'd ever written anything to order. but possibly not the last.
The pic-publicity trumpets lll’luu You Arc as containing Ross‘s most personal songs — those he couldn't write in the context of Deacon Blue. Which seems a bit funny. Deacon Blue never struck most people as being [HI/H’I‘Xﬂllul or. um. stand-offish.
‘Yeah. I know. I think I could have done anything I wanted to do and the people in Deacon Blue would have supported that. But I think there was a barrier there for me in that it wasn't my band. it was a communal thing and it was hard to be over—personal. l‘unnily enough. the first record. RUf/l/(llt‘ll. is the most personal record I ever made. And. in a sense. this is the next one that is personal. I really didn‘t start off this record with that intention. lt‘sjust when I'd finished writing all the songs I thought. Wow. I didn‘t think I'd get to all this stuff.‘
A lot of ‘this stuff‘ is related to the stage fright he developed in the latter days of Deacon Blue — ‘I felt almost unable to cope with all my expectations about it’ -- examined in songs like ‘Jack Singer" and 'Wake l’p And Dream‘. And he gives vent to his feelings about the hollowness of being a performing seal on the rock treadmill on a song with the almost self— explanatory title of '(iood livening. Philadelphia'.
‘lt‘s a true story. We actually did play in Philadelphia. l was in a bad mood and we did go to the all-night cafe. Basically. when I was in l.os Angelcs for the first time. I came across a bit of rock cliche -— as you do over there -— and it made me think about the whole thing. I thought. “(iood livening. Philadelphia” it is Spinu/ 721/). it's a paraphrase from S/u'nu/ 721p. So.‘ he laughs. ‘I had to say it the first time I played Kirkcaldy . . .'
llis name's Ricky Ross. He hopes you like his new direction.
Ricky Russ plttvs [vi/1g 'l'ul's. Hum/(tr 4 Thursday f)./u/1c.