INTERVIEW: Rick Anthony of The Phantom Band 4

INTERVIEW: Rick Anthony of The Phantom Band

Rick_Redbeard (2)

Rick Anthony, more widely known as Rick Redbeard and lead vocalist of Chemikal Underground’s The Phantom Band, has been particularly busy touring and unusually releasing two records within six months.

Indulging in thoughts of more tours this year, festivals, yachts and Treasure Islandarrow, God Is In the TV talk to Rick Anthony about the band and his exciting projected plans for 2015:

After meeting at Vic Galloway’s Celtic Connections show at the CCA back in January, you have been busy touring including London, York, Manchester and Dundee… which venue has made the loudest scream about your show so far?

The London and Manchester shows were both great. I think because we have played both those cities quite a bit in the past we always get a good reception. The crowds there always seem to be a bit more, shall we say, expressive than some other shows. I think the atmosphere at a show is always quite dependent on the symbiosis between the performer and the crowd – the more a crowd seems to be into a show the more the performer will respond and a sort of upward trajectory is created. It’s up to the band to create the atmosphere in the first place of course.

Having recently played with Mogwai – fellow Chemikal Underground artists – you have set a collaborative precedence for 2015. How are you feeling about the year ahead and who else would you hope to perform with this year?

Well that was Duncan (Marquiss) and Andy (Wake) that played that show with Mogwai and Hans Irmler from Faust as part of the Musik/Reise performance. It was a cool show, fun seeing them onstage from the crowd for a change. I don’t know that collaborations are necessarily what we are activelyarrow looking to do but that one seemed to work out and the guys said they enjoyed it.

After years of going quiet and going solo under Rick Redbeard you recently released Strange Friend and Fears Trendingarrow: what kind of reception have you had to those? 

The reception for Strange Friend and this year with Fears Trendingarrow has been really good. We were a bit worried everyone would have forgotten about us but both got pretty good reviews and, more importantly, the response to the new stuff at shows has been great. When The Wants came out there were some folk who would look at us blankly waiting for us to play The Howling or Folk Song Oblivion. Now they still want us to play Checkmate Savage stuff but they have more fun in between.

With your break and side-projects obviously you have developed your sound, and progressed in those years; how do you think this has impacted on the band on the whole?

It’s hard to say. I think just taking more time refining material was a really important process. Coming up with a set of songs that we were actually really into and that were enjoyable to play live was very important for us. We were determined not to be rushed into anything and maybe meant that things took a bit longer. But like you say there were side projects and things going on during that period.

Had you stayed together, thrashing out more albums in that time, where do you think you would all be now? 


Well we did stay together to start with- there was no ‘break’ as such. This stuff just takes time. We finished a big European tour in mid-2011. We then moved studios and started writing for Strange Friend. I recorded a solo record in 2012 and released it in 2013. Our bassist lived in South Africa for 6 months and then we started recording Strange Friend in the summer of 2013 so although it seems like it was a big break to the outside, it didn’t seem like that to us at all. We don’t live and breathe The Phantom Band – we all have other interests and work that needs doing. Maybe if we’d hammered out another couple of records in 2011 and 2012 we would all own yachts but most likely we just wouldn’t be a band anymore and we’d have just released a couple of appalling albums.

With a plethora of names prior to settling on The Phantom Band, you were once Robert Louis-Stevenson. What was the rationale behind this?

Like a lot of what we do there was absolutely no rationale to it at all. Although I read Treasure Islandarrow recently and very much enjoyed it, especially the beginning.

Whilst we’re on the subject of literature: being the lyricists and cultivator of words in the Phantom Band, and as Rick Redbeard, which booksarrow have had the greatest impact on your musical storytelling and why?

Well, I think Cormac McCarthy’s writing is pretty great. I love his way of evoking imagery and landscapes and his ability to string a sentence out to a whole page with no punctuation. Outer Dark and Blood Meridian are full of that stuff. Lanark by Alasdair Gray is probably my favourite bookarrow although the concept of a ‘favourite’ anything is a bit stupid. I really enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude when I read it last summer. I guess magic realism generally is an influence. Trying to incorporate elements of uncanny and the strange into the real. Folk songs are full of that stuff of course so it’s certainly nothing new. I read quite a lot so it’s hard to keep track of the what and when and why of things that seep into my brain and come back out through the music.

Should we expect to see anything more from Mr Redbeard in 2015 or will we be embracing more tour and festival gigs from The Phantom Band over the year?

I have some things in the oven that should be ready towards the end of the year and there will certainly be more Phantom Band shows too. Festivals and others with any luck.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.