In the first of a series of interviews,
guitarist Ronnie Simms talks about Gear, Beer, Zoofy and Flo.
When did you you first start playing guitar and can you remember what it was / where you got it from?
First time I ever had the pleasure of picking a guitar up was at the tender age of thirteen. It seemed to be the thing to do at the time as my international swimming career was coming to an end. There were a few lads at school who seemed keen to master the guitar, including me - Hendrix, Clapton, Page being our influences. The first guitar I ever purchased was from a shop in Lee High Road, Lewisham called "The Swop Shop". It sold everything from First World War memorabilia to gas cookers and also musical instruments. I bought this guitar called an "Airsteam Rosetti". A beaut at the costly price of £15.
A lot of guitarists wish that they had kept hold of their first guitar. Is it the same for you?
Yes, for sure. I thought I would customise it. It took me hours to cover the thing with Fablon. Bet not many people remember what that is!! All those bubbles, nightmare!
Recently on stage we've seen you with Strats and Les Pauls what are the main differences as far as you are concerned?
Both are classic guitars. I enjoy playing the Strat at home when I'm working on songs. It's such an easy guitar to play but for onstage, the power and tone of the Les Paul takes alot of beating.
For the Tech Heads what amps / pedals / strings do you use on stage?
For small gigs, I use a very easy to transport Mesa/Boogie combo. 20 watts of awesome power that can really kick arse, believe it or not. For larger gigs, we have a backline of 100watt Carlsbro stacks which really do the biz. Very versatile and underrated. For effects, I use a Boss ME50. It has all I require for my onstage sound and some. I use Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky strings.
What was the first real band that you joined and any memories of your first gig?
The first band...Ah yes, that would be "Deuce". I was 17 years old and our first gig was at Woolwich Town Hall. The support band were much better than us, which would not have been hard as it happens!! My main memory of that gig, apart from our band being crap, was watching from the stage my then girlfriend being chatted up by some bloke and not paying any attention to us at all!!!
When did you join SBB? How did you meet up with Steve in the first place?
I joined SBB in 1977, I think. Basically, jumped ship from Steve's former band "Evil Weasel" after being told my services were no longer required! Made a phonecall to him suggesting we try a twin lead guitar, harmony type band. He said "Yeah! why not". There by the grace of God go us or as they say "the rest is history".
Back in those early days the band wasa pretty self-contained unit, with its own van, p.a and crew etc. You had quite a hand in this I understand?
Yes, quite. The girlfriend who was being chatted up at the Deuce gig had a rich dad who had invested in this huge PA system. Totally O.T.T. We had the use of it at anytime. The problem was, we had to transport it. So he sold me this old BMC JU250 box van. It still had had the former owner's' company name on the side of it,"Lewisham Fridge Co", which over time got changed to Wisha Frig Co and other obscenities such as "Gerry is a W*****". That one always used to amuse the police! We named this van "Flo" because it flowed downhill but could never get up them! Also, for some reason, she was never keen on our then manager, Paul Newcomb - often breaking down with him at the wheel, and on one occasion, the windscreen totally shattered on the way to Reading. (Froze his nuts off that night, bless him!!) As Flo only had three seats our roadcrew (Howard and Barry the Boom) were often consigned to the back - which was always useful in case the shutter jammed.
What was your favourite venue to play at in those days?
Had fond memories of all the gigs we did but one stands out head above shoulders of them all. It was The Archery Tavern in Eastbourne. We had a great following there and the place was always packed.
What other bands were you into at that time, and has any in particular influenced the way you play?
I was quite a fan of American rock such as Styx, Rush, Toto and Van Halen. Can't say they had any influence on my style. My ultimate hero back in the seventies had to be Steve Marriott. What a showman and what a voice.
There is a rumour that it was you who almost started the craze of 'crowd surfing'. The only problem being that the surfer was actually in the balcony of The Rainbow and the intended 'surfing' spot for him was in the stalls?
Good rumour mate!! Mind you, the amount of alcohol we drank, it may be true!!
Was it time for the SBB (Boyce Band as it later became known) to call it a day when they did? Or do you think that they should have carried on?
It was time to call it a day. The band was exhausted and as Boycee always said,"The fun had gone out of the whole thing". Being so close but so far. It was time to call it a day
After the SBB disbanded where did you go from there?
I totally stopped playing guitar. Didn't touch one for fifteen years until the landlord at my local asked me if I'd be interested in organising a once a week jam night. This was in the West Sussex area and it was a success (a free pint to every musician that played - and for me... as much as I could handle without falling over!!!) With all these musicians, bands started forming and I got myself into a R&B/Blues Brothers band. I actuality started earning a little pocket money out of it! After all those years!!
You were very close to Trevor McBride [SBB original drummer who died a couple of years back] and got quite a reputation together for partying. What do you think 'Mac' would have made of the Hyde Park show and all the furore that went with it?
Trev would have loved every minute of the whole adventure. It was down to him that the whole thing happened anyway. He would have loved the radio interviews where his dry sense of humour would have had us in bits! I think for him it would have been a case of let's pick up where we left off 30 years ago. He would have definitely made a move on Jennifer Aniston backstage at Hard Rock Calling.
Are you a fan of Dr Who?
Yes, but give me Laurel and Hardy anyday.
You now live down on the South Coast of England - quite a way from your stomping grounds in South East London. Do you miss the buzz of London and do you get out often to play locally when the SBB are not gigging?
London is not at all far from where I live. Drive a couple of hours, take what I want from the City and then return to the peace and fresh air that the South Coast provides.
For a while, I was playing with a local band called "Zoofy and the Spoonfruit" as well as SBB but that finished last year... nothing to do with the name, I'm sure!
Do you prefer working in the studio or out on the road - and why?
Out on the road for sure. You see, I suffer from red light syndrome. When the light goes on, I go to pieces!!! Unlike One-Take Boyce!!
Earlier this year the SBB went out to Sweden / Finland and found a whole new audience. Are there any plans to get out to Scandinavia again any time soon?
Yes, there are plans for a return to Sweden. What fun!! It was like the early days. We played to completely new audiences who had only heard the material on radio or over the internet which was really exciting. We were blown away when the audiences started singing along with the choruses and we were treated so well by the promoters. Hopefully we'll be making an announcement about Scandinavia pretty soon.
You have another show coming up on Saturday 17th October with STRAY at The Standard in Walthamstow in East London. It must be still quite a thrill to get back to your hometown and play any message for your old mates who may be looking in?
Yes. We went out with STRAY last month and it was a fantastic night. Both bands on the bill works well and the STRAY guys are great fun. Musically the bands compliment each other but are not too samey, so the evening is quite varied musically but remains in the rock genre. Love to see you at the gig. I'll buy you all a pint and we can catch up with what's been happening over the past 30 years. That may take some time, so lets make that a few pints. Cheers!