Thursday, September 23, 2004 Sits Down With Mr. Razzcocks!

Through a mutual acquaintance, was fortunate enough to start a correspondence with Paul Dufour, aka Mr. Razzcocks. The original Libertines drummer, Paul's work can be heard on the 'Legs 11' demo. Paul stays active with the European jazz quartet 'Venus Edge', and is busy with a number of other recording projects. Here are some highlights from our correspondence:

You've been playing drums for years. What experiences stand out for you?

When I first started gigging at sixteen (I'm fifty-five now--so way back when!), I was working with a band that every week supported The Who (pre 'Pictures of Hilly'), Donovan, Tom Jones, The Hollies, P.J. Proby, The Merseybeats, and a bunch of other bands over a whole summer period. What stands out from that period of music in Britain ('65-'75) was the individuality--the wealth of different musical ideas and approaches, and the sharing of musical ideas--musicians getting together to jam. Fewer musicians and bands work this way now, I suppose because the musical scene is different in England.

What drummers/musicians have had the biggest influence on you over the years?

Drummers? Where do I start! I suppose for me jazz is the highest musical art form, because it involves a high technique, and yet it throws that away and says 'be creative, improvise'. So I hope this doesn't sound snobbish, but I'd have to say Elvin Jones. He died this year at 72, whilst on stage playing! I met Elvin at Ronnie Scott's in London on several occasions--the most wonderful drummer. He was into polyrhythms, or additional rhythms that wrap around a basic rhythm, which give the music a floating effect. That was his style when he was playing with John Coltrane.

I recently completed a CD of world music entitled 'Visions of Rhythm'. This has led me to work with a great percussionist named Mamadi Kamara. We're now working on a track in London at Odessa Studios with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. It's exciting--Airto has recorded with everyone: Miles, Dizzie, etc.

Technically you're a jazz drummer, so the Libertines connections seems a bit strange. Then again, The "Legs 11" material is quite a bit different than "Up The Bracket"...are you proud of that demo? How did you become involved with the group?

I may be a jazz head, but I've always enjoyed playing a variety of styles–blues, rock. It's all experience!

How did I become involved with the Libs? I'll tell you, but realize you’re one of a lucky few!

I was partner and friend to Gwyn Mathias, a brilliant recording engineer/producer. We met in '75 at Berwick St. Studios--he was working with Cat Stevens and The Sex Pistols. We got together and ran Odessa Studios for five years. Gwyn is still running it. He phoned me one day to come and do three tracks with a young band that had booked studio time. Of course, they'd turned up with no drummer! I turned up and we played through the songs and recorded them. They were rough, but they had a quality that I hadn’t heard in a while–an originality, a freshness, interesting lyrics, and musical angles which sometimes made no sense! That was The Libs.

At this time, there were three songwriters: Pete, Carl and John. I was left with the rhythmical element. I stayed with them for two years or more and in that time I recorded them as much as I could. We worked all the usual free London venues and built up a name. I left when I could afford it no longer--we had no management, etc. Pete and Carl signed to Rough Trade when I left. John isn't involved in that. I still keep in touch with John...

At the moment I have 16 tracks (including masters) of The Libertines while I was the drummer, and I'm thinking about doing something with these. The "Legs 11" stuff is just some of the demos that I sent out for the band to get a deal--somebody, somewhere got hold of that!

Not proud of any of the 'Legs 11' tracks, but compared to 'Bracket'...well, the later stuff just isn't my scene!

I think a lot of people thought this bit in the Libertines bio:

And they employed a 70 year old drummer called Mr Razzcocks who used to be in The Sex Pistols (that's what he told them anyway).

...was probably just another one of Pete's tall tales. There's always a blurring of fantasy and reality with The Libertines, which makes them more endearing to fans who are on the outside looking in. Is it the same when you're on the inside?

That's just Pete's bullshit! When I knew them they were 20 years old and me 50--it was no problem--and that was the fun of it (no ageism). I’ve always been told 'never work with children or animals’--The Libertines were both!?! Pete, being a very talented wordsmith, always loved creating a mystique!

Did you leave the group when (former) manager Banny came in and instructed the group to write some 'punchier material', or had you already gone your separate ways? Have you met Gary? If so, what do you think of him as a person and/or drummer?

I was still in the band when Banny Puschti came in--just a young girl without a clue about music, working for Warner Chappell Music and wanting to manage The Libertines?!? I was at the tail-end. I just needed a paying gig, so I left the bullshit behind.

When I left and Pete and Carl signed up with her, she got Gordon Raphael in and said we want you to sound like The Strokes. The rest is familiar--she has been dumped and now Alan McGee is the manager. 'Punchier Material' meant rougher, quicker, fewer and more basic chords. In other words, crap!

I've met Gary once at the reunion gig after Pete got out of prison, so I don't really know him. He seems alright. I believe he uses a kit like mine--a Yamaha Custom Maple. They're a different band with him on drums. I have not ruled out working with them again under the right circumstances. The most recent history is blurred...

So you were at the reunion gig when Pete got out of jail. It seemed like a genuinely touching night. Would you agree?

I wrote to Pete in jail...I hadn't seen him since I left the Libs (1 and a half years?) and was concerned about his circumstances and situation. He sent me a nice return letter and we agreed to do a 'reunion' when he got out. John, being the professional he is, was at the gig early so we could rehearse...we hadn't played together for ages!

Pete and Carl turned up late--we went straight on to an enthusiastic crowd. Lousy sound, scrappy, half-remembered songs and arrangements...but the audience loved it. I played a set of all the songs we used to do when I was the drummer: "Love On The Dole", "Hooray For The 21st Century", "Music When The Lights Go Out, "France", "You’re My Waterloo", etc. A lot of people hadn't heard this stuff at the time. After my set, I came off stage and Gary joined them and did the 'Bracket' stuff.

As it stands now, Pete is in a sort of limbo, and the band are going to doing their touring/promotional commitments without him. What’s your take on Pete’s ongoing problems with drug addiction?

With Pete now--knowing him and reading various stories in the papers--it will go one way or the other. I really hope he can get out of the drug trap--he has a lot of support and a good family, etc. However sometimes it's the industry itself that does not help...the hype, the touring, recording, etc.

If Pete can get away from all that for a while, he may be repaired. I'm just sad about the waste of talent–he's an excellent songwriter and I love him dearly, but sometimes people go too far and there is nothing you can do. It's sad, I know, but let's hope Pete turns it around. thanks Mr. Razzcocks for taking the time to write to us. All the best Paul!