INTERVIEW: Rob Lane (Straight to Video, Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts)

Interviews 2020 Midnite City Rob Lane interview TCC teenage casket company

photo by Stephen Curry

If you love Pop Culture, especially that rich Pop Culture of the 80’s like I do then Rob Lane’s ‘Straight to Video’ Podcast is one not to miss. I met Rob online in the early days of the Rockpit and saw him play with his and Rob Wylde’s ‘Teenage Casket Company’ on a few occasions when I got back to the UK.  Mr. Wylde is of course now fronting ‘Midnite City’ who were in Australia in March. Last time I saw Rob Lane (or Laney as he is known) was at a show in London, but we’ll get to that later. What follows is more of a chat than an interview, and we cover everything from his early inspirations to his current projects, including of course his ‘Straight To Video’ Podcast but also his current band ‘Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts’. So set the clock back 40 years for a trip back to the 80’s.

 

Rob: “Two check… one two”

Mark: You’re not on stage now mate!

Rob: (laughs) Have you got me?

Mark: I can hear you great.

Rob: Nice!

Mark: First things first can you remember the last time we met face to face?

Rob: It was probably the Rick Springfield gig right?

Mark: It was, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, many moons ago on one of Rick’s rare trips to the UK.

Rob: Go on scare me with how many years ago that was?

Mark: I can’t remember, 2013?

Rob: (laughs) You know better than me mate!

Mark: I think I’m right.

Rob: “Two check… one two”

Mark: You still there mate, or is this a golden comedy moment?

Rob: Are you there Sir?

Mark: I am, it must be the Coronavirus, I’m blaming that for everything. I must say though you are looking rather professional whilst I look rather…um, unprofessional!

Rob: (laughs) It’s all a big blag I have no idea what I’m doing!

Mark: (laughs) That’s two of us then I’ve been making it up as I go along for the last eleven years!

We did actually have a few technical difficulties but soldiered on!

Mark: OK I think we’re there, if this doesn’t work we shall revert to sending messages back and forth by pigeon!

Rob: Alright!

Mark: (laughs) Shall we start at the beginning or with your latest venture? I know we’ll just jump right in. The first time I heard from you was when you sent me a package from ‘Trashpit Records’ which not only included the Teenage Casket Company album but also a band from the East Coast of the US in Albany ‘The Erotics’ – two bands I’ve loved ever since.

Rob: That’s classic era Trashpit!

Mark: It was. Apologies first of all for cancelling the other day, I managed to get an hour with Gunnar from ’Nelson’ for my series on the albums of 1990,so thanks for rescheduling.

Rob: No problem mate I was looking at the albums from 1990 the other day after you emailed – Holy Shit! There were some good albums.

Mark: Yeah it was a good year wasn’t it! You always think of the 80’s – around ’85 – ’88 as being the hotbed of Hard Rock but for me ’90, ’91, ’92 were all good years.

Rob: I mentioned it so many times on the Podcast and I can’t remember who first said it but they said the first two years of the following decade are the best years of the previous decade, and I thought, you know what, I’m gonna agree with that!

Mark: You know what I think they’re onto something! Definitely the 70’s and I can go with the 80’s and the 90’s – all great years.

Rob: I looked at your 1990 article – you imagine if someone said all those albums were gonna come out in one year! What!!

Mark: And the sad thing is they’re all in my collection! It’s interesting doing the research because every year I get surprised by hen certain records came out.

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: You’ve been doing your ‘Straight to Video’ Podcast for a while now and I’ve checked out a good few. It’s very professional and very enjoyable, and you’ve had some great guests.

Rob: Thanks mate, I’m just blagging it as I said. I’d been thinking of doing a Podcast for about 5, 7 years and the technology side of things has always terrified me.

Mark:  know what you mean but like everything it gets easier as technology gets more accessible and user-friendly. I once recorded a show ion a voice recorder in a walk in wardrobe in a storm in Esperance with the rain and thunder lashing down. That was quite an experience, these days we use a more conventional desk and studio set-up!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: Let’s start with a few big questions – who is on your bucket-list as a Podcaster?

Rob: I have got a list actually, I’m kinda aiming at the people that got me into this. I’d love to get Kevin Smith on one.

Mark: Oh yes, The Comic Book Men.

Rob: Yes, he was on the first Podcast I started listening to, I love all his films. They’re really entertaining from a Pop Culture pint of view.

Mark: And Teenage Casket Company, a very, very fine band who should have been much bigger? I just thought I’d throw that one in there.

Rob: We did alright the people who got it loved it. It was convincing everybody else! (laughs)

Mark: I keep telling myself that in 20 years’ time people are going to discover that band and you’ll become like the Vincent Van Gogh of Popular music, reforming on stage as you hit retirement age!

Rob: (laughs) I’m happy to be a cult band. I think with Rob Wylde doing Midnite City now for a while it brought a renewed interest into the TCC stuff. Maybe in 5 – 10 years the albums will be going for silly money on e-bay and I’ll find some in the attic and finally make some money!

Mark: I’ll hang onto my signed copies then! (laughs) I was talking to Eric the other day from Eclipse and they released a 12” picture disc just last year and it’s already going for $100 on Discogs!

Rob: That’s insane!

Mark: There’s almost like a crazy ‘new’ collectables market that never used to exist, with all these things being released in so limited numbers they almost become instant collectables.

Mark: Now musically though TCC is no more and you’re doing something a little different playing with Ryan Hamilton, a bit of a change of pace, something a little different.

Rob: It is yes, but it’s weird when people say “Oh it’s totally different to what you’re into” but to me it doesn’t ever seem to be that way – I just like good catchy songs and good melodies and big choruses and that’s what Ryan writes really. It’s certainly not in the Hard Rock/Melodic Rock vein but it’s still Rockin’ stuff and it kinda taps into the stuff I was listening to in the 90’s – alternative bands like Soul Asylum and Gin Blossoms, all that kind of stuff which is what Ryan grew upon as well so that’s kind of the meeting point.

Mark: That’s right, it’s all about the song and how good it is, the treatment is just stylistic. I always remember meeting one of my heroes and one of the greatest songwriters Steve Marriott once in a pub in Nottingham, he’d been playing with a Packet of Three and I can never remember the pub, but it was near the fire station and at the end of the night the owner this old guy would come out on the mic at throwing out time which in those days of course was11pmand say “There’s a lot of things going on in Nottingham tonight…” and he’d proceed to reel off all the things you could still do that evening! It was brilliant.

Rob: (laughs) that’s what you needed back then no mobile phones or social media to tap into then!

 

 

Mark: That’s right it was so much better that way. It was Steve who said if you can make a song work with just a voice and an electric guitar you know you have a good song and I completely agree. And that’s a show I’ll always remember all my mates went down to Rock City to see this big band, I can’t remember who it was, and I was there alone at Steve’s show. In-between sets he came to the bar and stood next to me, it was one of the only two times I’ve been stuck for words. That guys wrote so many amazing songs. A hero. Any exciting celebrity moments for you in your travels?

Rob: Well I’ve always been a self-confessed fan boy I really have, we used to go to gigs and just hang around at the end. It was proper stereotypical stuff – we’d hang around at the stage door. The first time we did that was for Extreme at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. That was just by chance really, we were just walking to the Car Park and we saw a bit of a crowd around the stage door. And we thought “OK let’s go and wait for a while”. And in my head it was going to be exactly like you see on TV like the Beatles, where the stage door would open and they’d run through the crowd straight onto the bus without you getting to see the or anything. But it wasn’t like that. We waiting for a  while and when the door opened I just happened to be right at the front, Gary Cherone walked out and all I could do was shake his hand, I didn’t say anything. And that was it I was done. But back when Extreme were breaking they were so good with the whole fan thing. And after that one every time we went to see them we’d wait afterwards and they’d always stick around and sign autographs for people. I remember one time at the NEC there were lots of people and the band had this very intimidating tour manager Bob Dallas who looked just like Bob Carolgees?

Mark: Without the dog?

Rob: Yes, without the dog but with a very intimidating American accent who took no shit. So he said “Right everybody line up here.” There must have been 50 people, so we all lined up and the band went onto the bus and they let everybody come onto the back of the bus in an orderly queue to see the band in the back seating area and they signed everything there, it was just the coolest thing.

Mark: They played Perth a couple of years ago with Mr Big and they’re just as nice and still doing that for the fans.

Rob: Oh man, they’re Top of the game.

Mark: They are and Nuno is such a cool guy I saw him play with his solo band at a tiny club years ago.

Rob: Oh man, that guy sold his soul years ago he still looks exactly the same!

Mark: (laughs) or maybe just good skincare…

Mark: Now let’s talk a bit more about your ventures, one of the things I’ve been following from afar, and they tell me it’s not really stalking if you know someone…

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: Oh wait there, maybe that was the definition of stalking. Anyway ’Straight to Video’ I have the first two compilations. I remember getting the first off you at The Diamond in Sutton in Ashfield when you and Rob Lane supported Mike Tramp acoustically. And of course that has led to the framing business ‘Arcade Frames’ where you take a bit of Pop Culture add a bit of magic and create some cool collectibles. Now to me that seems like a cool extension of the idea – it’s an interesting time to be setting out and starting your business, but some say that now online is a great opportunity?

Rob: Yes that’s what I’m hoping. My timing to leave my job of 21 years could have been better, but if I don’t do it now I never will. The ‘Straight to Video’ thing started maybe seven or eight years ago now, and I always say that I’ve been really lucky to have been in bands with very good songwriters. Even when I was in my first band we had a really good song-writer and it was something I never really got into r tried that much. But I always had that inkling to do a ‘solo’ record of some kind. And strangely when I think about it one of the people who perhaps influenced me was Ricki Rockett, can you remember the covers album he did one time.

Mark: Wow that’s a blast from the past. I’d forgotten all about it.

Rob: It was just basically a Ricki Rockett solo album but all covers with all guest players. So the idea for ‘Straight to Video’ was to get a band and cover movie soundtrack songs because the thing that got me into Hard Rock was the Rocky IV soundtrack, and the Top Gun soundtrack. All those great 80’s movie soundtrack albums. So that was the initial idea just to do a covers band specialising in them. But I really struggled to get a solid line up and I was talking to my friend KC Duggan who plays in a band The Idol Dead over here and he said why don’t you just do it as a record? So I gave it a shot, putting together a multi-supergroup, with me and my friend Micky Richards, he played drums I played bass and we got all different players in who I’d met over the years – different singers and guitarists. And that ended up as the EP you have then went on to be an album through the now defunct Pledge Music. Such a shame that whole thing went!

 

 

Mark: Well you say that but they went down owing me about $500!

Rob: And you never saw anything back?

Mark: Nothing. But it was quite interesting in that some of the bands came out and pretty much said “Hey we’ll look after you” and some of the bands, and I remember who they all are, didn’t even apologise they pretty much said “Tough luck, it’s Pledge Music’s fault” I thought that was quite an interesting way to treat fans, as they could have said “Hey we all got ripped off we can’t afford to wear this cost but we’ll get the stuff to you but can you help out with postage or the full cost?” If they’d said that I’d have had no problem but most of the bands that didn’t were signed to labels anyway and in my opinion that was part of the problem. So all respect to people like Donnie Vie who lost money honouring those pledges and Danny Vaughn who opened the can of words, but some big names should hang their heads in shame for passing the buck as soon as they possibly could.

Rob: My experience was nothing but positive.

Mark: I think you got in before they started ‘investing’ other people’s money.

Rob: I still keep my hand in with the Straight to Video though, I dive in form time to time and I’ll do something like a Halloween song or something, any time I’m inspired. It’s an ongoing project.

Mark: So have you got a Christmas song for us this year and if so why not!?

Rob:  I haven’t no, this year’s been crazy man.

Mark: What’s happened?

Rob: (laughs) Oh you know that thing the entire world’s been going through.

Mark: No, still no idea what you can mean? (laughs)

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: So the new venture, tell us about that!

Rob: As in the quitting work and moving forwards? Well it’s pretty much a leap of faith really. The job I was in was a printing Job and I’d been there since 1999 and it was a great place to work I could have easily stayed till retirement, but then I got thinking about everything that I do in my spare time as a hobby people make a living out of doing that so why not make it a job and focus on it 100% and see if I can get by. So I’m focussing on the podcast which as you know takes a lot of time as do websites and all that stuff.

Mark: Yeah it’s a huge job.

Rob: So there’s that and then I do the frame thing (Arcade Frames0 which I don’t get embarrassed about even though effectively I’m a 46 year old man who quit his job to play with Lego!

Mark: (laughs) I’ve been looking around all day wondering what film or album to try and have you make for me. Do you sometimes get stumped?

Rob: I do yes, I’ve got a catalogue now of what I think are cool frames. But every now and then someone will say “Can you do this one?” and you’ll have to figure it out. But I just buy the little Lego mini figures and workout the backgrounds. But I do want to get into some more customised ones. I’m working on a Van Helen one at the minute.

Mark: That will be cool.

Rob: And an Eddie Van Halen tribute as well.

Mark: Nice. And of course these days ‘retro’ is rather fashionable and you’re ahead of the curve –vinyl is back in a big way but also VHS and Cassette tapes! I had a few good years of relatively cheap vinyl shopping but those days are gone now!

Rob: Where did you used to buy your records from back in the day?

Mark: Why ‘Way Ahead Records’ of course Rob in Nottingham.

Rob: Obviously

Mark: I remember when it was a tiny little shop in Hurts Yard before it moved to the big place in James Street. Rob: Really

Mark: Yeah. It was a great place, I’d save up for weeks and take a five pound note in there and spend the day and end up with four or five albums or maybe some singles and picture discs.

Rob: Did you ever go to any in-stores? We saw Danger Danger and Thunder there.

Mark: Yes, I used to love when the bands came and signed stuff. I saw the Thunder one you were at, but there were so many – I remember loving meeting Love/Hate were great and Vain was great interestingly they didn’t play Nottingham only Sheffield on Tour with Skid Row. I took everything for them to sign! Years later we got back stage at The Whiskey me and my mate Glenn to catch up with Vain a mere 25 years later! When we got back they’d gone out for a meal, and we did briefly discuss nicking all their equipment but we decided it would have been a much less enjoyable night if we had as they hadn’t played yet! We did catch them later – lovely guys

Rob: Davy Vain was the first person to sign the Teenage Casket Company mailing list!

Mark: Was he really?

Rob: (laughs) It’s true! When we first started properly gigging in 2005 one of our first gigs was supporting Vain – they did a full reunion thing and it was the first time I pulled out the mailing list.

Mark: Nice one! The world’s changed so much for musicians since those days everyone is streaming now and the only way to make money is touring and now no one can tour!

Rob: It’s finding creative ways to make money if you’re a band that’s the challenge, streaming gigs like what Rob from Midnite City is doing are great. But you’ve got to be creative.

Mark: You have it was great early on with so many bands doing that but after a while I must admit I only stuck with a few who were doing something a bit different. It’s still great though as you can’t go out and do anything but because we got live music back now it’s proved one thing to me – you can’t beat a live band in a live venue and local acts are doing great over here.

Rob: Is there no restriction on gigs then?

Mark: 70% capacity at the moment, but we’ve been lucky – eight months without Community transmission in the West of Australia. Before we closed up the boarders though the last international gig we saw was Kip Winger and it was close – the borders closed two days after he left, if he’d just stayed a bit longer we could have kept him!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: And Chip from Enuff Z’Nuff only just made it back too – they were flying to Europe after Australia but those show got cancelled and he just got back to the US.

Rob: All legends.

Mark: They certainly are. So I set you up earlier in the week – I’m tracking down some of the artist who made my favourite albums of 1990 and I thought I’d get you on with your musical knowledge to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

Rob: Ok, I actually red your run-down, and I must admit I was quite surprised by your reaction to Poison’s ‘Flesh and Blood’ and Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie.’

Mark: Yes, not a big of either of those records, I thought the band’s had done so many better things.

Rob: They are actually two of my all-time favourite records – especially ‘Flesh and Blood’

Mark: Rob I think the only thing musically we’ll ever disagree on is Poison! (laughs)

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: I’m a holder of that unpopular opinion that Poison had as much to do with the demise of 80’s hard Rock as Nirvana did. Not because of them, but more that everyone tried to be like them but weren’t necessarily as talented, which brought this whole stack of inferior bands at the tail end of the decade.

Rob: OK. Who falls into that category?

Mark: Funnily enough I’m a blank at the minute! (laughs) lt’s all personal opinion anyway. So there was that and the fact that labels could licence Grunge from Seattle for next to nothing compared to the bloated budgets of Hard Rock bands. But I know you’re a big Poison fan.

Rob: (laughs) I know I always said that Poison were the band that made me wat to play in a band. I just thought they were the coolest looking thing I’d ever seen even before I’d heteenage casket companyard the music!

Mark: That is kind of in a way my argument! (laughs) I must admit that first record is great though. I did like the Bluesy one they did with Kotzen too.

Rob: Well to me ‘Flesh and Blood’ is like the bridging gap. I liked that one.

Mark: OK I guess I owe it to you to have a re-listen to that one. Who else is in there for the best of 1990?

 

 

Rob: Well for me Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ is sort of the quintessential Melodic Pop Rock Hair Metal album, it’s just chock full of classic song-writing in my opinion.

Mark: I do hate that phrase Hair Meal though don’t you? It’s one of those phrases that really badly describes the music and it’s quite a horrible label really.

Rob: Well I guess with labels if I know what you’re talking about when you say it, its fine (laughs)

Mark: I guess it’s persisted, and you’re right everyone knows what it means, but most of the artists who were involved in music at the time hate the phrase. I mean it’s not really Metal, or most of it wasn’t but I’ll give you the Hair even if that suggests style over substance!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: I remember talking to Gunnar Nelson ten years ago and he told me then he was writing a book called ‘What happened to my Hair?’ and it was about the rise and fall of Hair Metal.

Rob: Now that would be cool.

Mark: I’d certainly buy it. Any others from 1990 that grabbed you?

Rob: Well I’ve always been a big fan of ‘Stick It to Ya’ by Slaughter, again the videos were so cool and there are some really great songs on there too. When I first heard ‘Up All Night’ I thought “What’s this>!” and Mark Slaughters voice is insanely good too and the imagery is great but it wasn’t till a lot later I realised who else was in the band.

Mark: Yes I have all that sort of useless knowledge in the back of the head still, rendered all the less impressive by Mr Google. It was a lot harder to find those things out before the internet.

Rob: (laughs) There were all the big hitters though in 1990, Firehouse, Winger, Cinderella, I think ’Heartbreak Station’ came out that year. On my list there were a lot of albums that I discovered after the fact too, maybe 5 or 6 years later – like The Posies – ‘Dear 23’ and Mother Lovebone also released ‘Apple.’

Mark: Yeah I remember loving ‘This is Shangrila’ from that album and often wondered what would have happened had Andrew Wood lived. All great records. I think one of my favourite releases was ‘Little Caesar’ whose debut came out that year and their singer Ron Young has to be one of my favourite people to talk to.

Rob: I actually first really started buying records that year and ‘No Prayer For the Dying’ was the first Iron Maiden record I bought. I was already into Def Leppard but like a lot of people I got hooked on the Iron Maiden imagery. The cool artwork and stuff, and that was my first big Rock Gig in 1990 at Derby assembly Rooms.

Mark: I remember seeing The Dog’s D’Amour at the Assembly Rooms. And I think I practically lived at Rock City in those days. It was a great time to be in the UK for Hair Metal – everyone was coming over!

Rob: I think I have a Rock City Gig Guide from 1991 – there was a monthly gig guide and it’s insane the amount of bands every week- you could be going to two or three gigs a week! Mr Big’s on there, Extreme, Enuff Z’Nuff.

Mark: I think I was pretty much out to all of those! Heady days there were international acts every week! And you’d get great double bills too – White Lion and Tyketto and The Black Crowes supporting The Dogs D’Amour would have been that year. Not a bit like 2020 of course!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: So let’s talk Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts – an album I’ve been listening to for months – it’s a great album, great songs, great melodies.

Rob: Yes it’s done quite well.

Mark: And one that everyone should go out and buy! And something we should all be checking out as well is that Podcast. Let’s get back to that Bucket-list!

Rob: Let me just pull that up! I’m just looking now, there’s not actually too many musicians on there. I’ve got Kevin Smith on there, Marc Maron who influenced me with his Podcasts. I’d like to interview Corey Feldman, a bit of a wild card, I don’t know how that one would go down. Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray is on that list too.

Mark: The Newport Beach band, nice. I hope you get them mate. As things stand at the moment of course you’re looking at a locked-down Christmas  as are many people across the globe but here in WA we have 8months with no community transmission. People are living their normal lives for the most part which means I reckon we’d be stuffed if we had an outbreak. I don’t even have a mask, heck I’m not even sure where I could buy one?!

Rob: You’d be all right mate, you’d still have plenty of bandannas from 1990 in a drawer somewhere?

Mark: Oh I have actually. They would be in my bandana drawer!

Rob: (laughs) you’re all set! You could be selling those things! If no one else has got them you could be outside the front of your house with them lined upon a table! (laughs)

Mark: I can do it!

Rob: You’ve been training for this for the last 30 years mate! Forget the guys with a bunker full of food, you’ve got a drawer full of bandanas!

Mark: (laughs) You say that as if having a ‘bandana drawer’ was an odd thing!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: And on that note I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, Good luck with the Podcast and we’ll catch up again soon! Lovely to catch up!

Rob: Thanks mate, lovely to see you , take care.

 

We did of course talk for much longer than that, but we’ll post Part two in the New Year! 

 

photo by Neil McCarty


You can check out Rob’s Podcast at the following links:

https://straighttovideo.buzzsprout.com/
Twitter @straight2vid | Facebook straighttovid | Instagram @straight2vid

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