I’m not one to make predictions, but if I were to make them, my first would be to predict that Ragdoll will be the next big thing in the R’n’R world. As a big fan of trios (Rush, Cream, Police, King’s X, Green Day), these guys from Perth, Australia, definitely fit right in with the aforementioned groups. They just played Rocklahoma and the famed Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. Guitarist Leon Todd is a BEAST. This dude kills it on every track of their latest release Ragdoll Rewound and he was kind enough to answer Korea Guitar’s 20 Questions.
- How old were you when you started playing the guitar?
I started off early, learning a few simple songs and poses when I was in primary school. I got really serious about it when I was 13 and started listening to classic rock bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy.
- Who were your main influences when you started playing the guitar?
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore and Richie Blackmore all struck a nerve with me early on; guys who played with so much conviction and soul.
- What was your first guitar? What brand of guitars are you playing now?
My first guitar was an Erlewine Lazer, similar to the one Johnny Winter played; essentially a headless travel guitar. My main guitar now is a PRS SC 245.
- You just played Rocklahoma. First of all, congratulations, that’s a great gig. How did it go? How was the reception? What impressed you most about the weekend?
Thanks, Rocklahoma was a blast. It rained most of the weekend but we got lucky and had clear skies and played a fantastic set. I love playing to audiences in middle America, they’re always so enthusiastic and appreciative of what we do.
- Ragdoll Rewound is fantastic. It’s a compilation of your first two EPs, plus some live tracks. Why did you decide to re-release the two EPs as opposed to recording all new material?
Our first two EP’s are out of print, so rather than simply re-release them we wanted to take time to fix some of the issues we had with the original mixes and bring them up to the standard of our most recent release, All I Want Is Everything. Essentially Ragdoll Rewound is the definitive version of these songs, and having them remixed and remastered together makes for a consistent sounding experience.
- A lot of my favourite bands have been three piece units. (Rush, The Police, Cream and Kings X) Why did you choose this band format and what kind of limitations are there when you play live?
Firstly, you mention Rush and Kings X, who are two of our biggest influences; great stuff! We settled on the three piece format by necessity; it’s easier and cheaper to tour and it makes for a tight live sound. Rather than limit us I feel it frees us up to express our individual styles in a band format. We can really cut loose live.
- Your website offers the new album via Bandcamp and MP3 or FLAC downloads. Is there a physical CD? Do you miss the old days of reading the liner notes and lyrics as you listen to the album/CD/cassette?
We do have the CD available through our Bandcamp page and from CD Baby, and we’ve just signed a distribution deal in Europe. I love collecting cd’s and vinyl and pouring over the liner notes, lyrics and artwork. For me, that’s the big downside of digital music.
- If you could form a band with anyone, living or dead, who would be in it?
I’d love to sit in on a jam with George Clinton and Funkadelic. I saw them live this year and it was ridiculously fun and funky.
- What does the future hold?
We’ve just put out a new single, “Rewind Your Mind”, which we’re touring the USA on. We headline the Whisky in LA then head home to finish up writing and recording our next release.
- You are about to play the World Famous Whiskey A Go Go? What are your thoughts on playing such a legendary venue?
We opened for Skid Row there last year, which was a highlight of my career. I’m so excited to be back and to play there again; you can almost feel the music ooze out of the walls there. It’s a legendary venue for a good reason!
- There are a bunch of relatively new, great guitarists out there. Which new guitarists have impressed you?
The guys in Periphery blow my mind, I think they’re really changing the game for rock and metal guitar. A few guys I’m good friends with here in the states, RazorDave from Black Tora and Kenny Ende from Nasty Habit, are amazing too; guys who can shred but who play with so much taste. I’m really digging Joel Hoekstra from Whitesnake at the moment too.
- What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on guitar?
Play what you’re passionate about and don’t ever let anyone make you feel inadequate because you do or don’t like a certain style of playing.
- What is the greatest guitar song ever recorded?
Speed King by Deep Purple. Richie is still untouchable.
- What is the definitive Leon Todd song?
Our new single “Rewind Your Mind” pretty much encapsulates everything I like to do on an electric guitar.
- How’s life as a rock star? Recently, Jack White made some comments about how expensive and difficult touring is? Is it everything you thought it would be?
Rock stars don’t exist anymore; that cultural mantle has been passed on to the hip hop scene. While it’s harder than ever to tour, the upside is that you only get genuine, committed and passionate musicians giving it a go. The standard for live rock shows is really high at the moment, and I feel so lucky to be doing what I love to do.
- What’s the most non-rock/guitar music you listen to? Do you believe it is important as an artist to listen to a wide variety of music?
Two artists I’m really into are M83, who are about as far removed from rock guitar as possible, and Lana del Rey. I love anything with a good sense of dynamics and with great melodies, and I’ve found listening to a variety of music has really helped me develop my musical instincts.
- Can you tell us about your pre-show routine? What kind of exercises do you do to get ready for a night of Rock?
I try to eat well the day of a show, stay hydrated and to make sure my gear is ready for a night of abuse. I don’t warm up and I relish the challenge that each show presents.
- Do you have a chance to get out and check out whichever city you’re playing in? Which cities have impressed you the most from a sightseeing and fan point of view?
I try to do it as much as possible. My favourite experience was when I got naked on top of a mountain in Albuquerque while hiking!
- How’s the music scene in Perth and Australia in general?
There’s a thriving indie and folk scene and a pretty healthy EDM (electronic dance Music) scene, but rock music really struggles. We’re definitely a musical anomaly in Perth.
- Aside from Ragdoll, who should we be listening to from Australia? Which new bands (or older) bands impress you from your home country?
Hailmary are one of my favourite Aussie bands; great songs and fantastic live shows. At the heavier end of the spectrum, Chaos Divine are another favourite. For straight up rock’n’roll, Dellacóma, Babyjane and Massive are great too!
Buy their album: http://ragdollrock.bandcamp.com/
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ragdollrock
and Twitter: @ragdoll_rock
and Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrRagdollRock