Warrington, UK’s The Roughneck Riot are a little bit Celtic, a little bit rock and roll. Taking their cues from The Pogues, The Clash, Johnny Cash and Flogging Molly, this six-piece Celtic punk band features acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and accordion in addition to the usual guitar, bass and drums. The Roughneck Riot has shared the stage with artists such as Billy Bragg, The Damned and Sham 69. Currently in the studio recording their new album Night Train with The Reaper, the band recently posted the lyrics to the title track on their MySpace page. The words lie somewhere between Dropkick Murphys and Tom Waits, and if the music is even half as good, this is going to be a great record! I managed to catch acoustic guitarist/mandolin/vocalist Matty Humphries during a break from recording to talk about the band’s sound, their album and their plans for the future.
OurStage: I read that The Roughneck Riot started life as a four-piece punk band. How did you make the transition from four-piece punk band to six-piece Celtic punk powerhouse?
Matty Humphries: Personally I’ve always aimed to play Celtic punk, however when we first started out we weren’t the most talented bunch when it came to playing folk instruments and such. We had to let our last 2 guitarists go for personal reasons and I managed to persuade a few of our best friends to pick up a banjo, guitar and an accordion and for the past 7 months or so. With continuous advice and motivation from our good friends The Mahones, we’ve finally managed to focus on our sound, and since then we’ve never looked back!
OS: Even on your mostly acoustic recordings, you guys sound badass. What would you say to people who think that punk music can’t be acoustic?
MH: Haha, Thanks a lot! Well I believe that all the best music started out acoustically, from early blues, bluegrass and folk to gypsy jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, so why can’t punk be played in the same way? People like Johnny Cash always stuck to playing an acoustic guitar, but always delivered. It’s all about the energy you give when playing, not how loud your amps are or how distorted your guitar is. And of course our main influence besides punk is Celtic folk, which traditionally started out acoustic. Playing acoustic can also add so many different dynamics to a song, and change the feel completely!
OS: As a Celtic punk band, you must be over the moon to be playing with Shane MacGowan of The Pogues this December. How did this come about?
MH: The magic of MySpace!! We were asked if we were interested in the slot through a message from a promoter, so how could we possibly turn this down! In my opinion Shane MacGowan is one of the greatest song writers in history and has had a massive influence on us, and it’s an honor to share a stage with him!
MH: This was a great and unexpected thing for us, as half of the band didn’t realize we were signed up to OurStage! But it’s fantastic to know we’re being heard! And yes, Night Train with The Reaper is full of songs that are guaranteed to put “Travellin’ Man” to shame!! It’s a huge mixing pot of influences, from the obvious (The Pogues, The Mahones, The Clash, Flogging Molly) to some more unusual influences to our music such as Johnny Cash, The Urban Voodoo Machine and Tom Waits. Its going to be something we can be really proud of! We’re recording the title track for the album this November with Ex-Mahones’ fiddler Dave Allen in Banbury so it should be up on Ourstage by mid November!
OS: What’s next for The Roughneck Riot? Any plans to tour?
MH: I’ve just this week opened up a recording studio where we should be finishing our album which is all very exciting! And as for tour plans, yes! Hopefully early 2010 we should be touring Europe! Possibly with The Mahones and The Popes, which is another great honor for us! So hopefully we can get Night Train with The Reaper out across the water!!
Check out “Mutiny” from The Roughneck Riot’s EP Drain The Bar in the player below!