For many years Duncan was bassist and sometime vocalist for one of the most underrated Pop/Punk bands on the planet called The Boys and last year stepped out on his lonesome to begin a new journey in his life. His first album 'Little Big Head' has just recently been released.
S4L: So, you have a new album out called 'Little Big Head', is this your first as a solo artist?
DR: Yes. I never imagined that I would make a solo record. I was always committed to The Boys and never had the confidence to say "I'm going to make a record of my own". It was only because other people said to me "you should make a solo record" that I did it, people like ex Boys drummer Vom Ritchie and Honest John Plain.
S4L: It appears that various members of The Boys have been putting music out under their own names for many years now, how come it's taken you so long to do finally get an album out of your own material?
DR: I didn't have any songs for a start! I was never a major songwriter for The Boys. I tried to write songs when I was younger but found it really hard. It never entered my head to try until John Plain, who was making a solo record which eventually became The Mattless Boys album, asked me to write a few songs.
I loved the writing so much and found it so easy that, after that album, I just kept on going.
S4L: After so many years in the business do you still find joy when it comes to having to sit down and write a bunch of new songs and then go into the studio to record them? What songs in particular from the new album are you particularly proud of?
DR: I love it. When a new song comes together and I get it recorded for the first time I can't stop listening to it. It's like having a new baby that you can't stop staring at. Drives my wife and daughter mad!
I'm so proud of the whole album that its hard to pick one song out. The song which closes the album, Rolling On, is special because its about my whole life in 3 minutes. It's also one of the songs I play piano on which I'm still amazed I can do.
S4L: Listening to the album there is still a bit of a Boys feel to it, was that a concious thing or is that just the sound you enjoy the most, that kind of poppy punk type sound?
DR: I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons I suddenly found it easy to write songs is that I stopped worrying about what is fashionable or what other people might think. In other words I started writing just for myself and writing the kind of music I like, about subjects I wanted to write about. And the music I like most are songs with a good tune, rocking guitars and plenty of backing vocals and harmonies. I've tried to go for a different sound to The Boys on the album but there's bound to be a big Boys influence because I think The Boys are great and I love the records.
S4L: Did you get a band together for the album and is that the same crowd who are going out to a few live dates with you next month?
DR: I wanted to make the album very personal and so took the decision to play most of it myself. I play just about everything: guitar, bass, keyboards, lead vocal, backing vocals. Vom Ritchie plays drums and there are the odd guest appearances from James Stevenson (Chelsea, Generation X, Gene Loves Jezebel etc) who plays some great guitar on a couple of tracks, Big Nigel Banks who adds some slide guitar and the producer Tony Barber who put a little bit of guitar on a couple of tracks when I wasn't looking ;).
I've put a band, The Big Heads, together since and that's who are playing live with me now.
S4L: Do you feel anxious at all about how your solo material will be received and about how those live dates will go? Also, do you still get a kick out of playing live? You've been doing it for many years now, does it every get stale for you or is every show an adventure you look forward to?
DR: Before the record came out I was really anxious but now I'm not at all because the reaction has just been so overwhelmingly good. It's so great getting everyone's feedback from all over the world and really exciting to see the cds going out and the number of video hits going up on You Tube. (Check out the video for 'Montevideo' by clicking this link")
I love playing live as well. It's something I've always found easy to do. I become a different person on stage. This big headed show off comes out from goodness knows where and I have no idea what I'm doing or any control over it. At its best, when they know the songs, it's almost as if I can play the audience like a musical instrument. It's all I want really, just the ability and wherewithal to play.
S4L: The poster for your up and coming tour says "former frontman of UK punk legends The Boys" - am I reading too much into that or have you set yourself apart from The Boys and now focusing on your solo career?
DR: I left The Boys a year ago just before I started recording the album. The last concert was in Osaka, Japan so, yes, it's all about spreading the word for Little Big Head now.
S4L: You recently played in Germany? How did that go? You seem to be well liked over there? Does it excite you that people still come out to see you?
DR: We've played two tours of Germany, a couple of London shows including the 100 Club and Leafest. The reaction has been great. The new songs have gone down so well, I've played a couple of Mattless Boys songs and, of course, it's always great playing some old Boys classics.
I'm really lucky that The Boys' name gives me the ability to play live but I sense that it's really going to build with a new following in the future. I'm really, really grateful to everyone who comes along.
S4L: The Boys released some brilliant singles and albums back in the late 70's, why on earth do you think that the band were not bigger and more known? You always seemed to hit some bad luck with your record companies, did that dishearten you or did that just spur you on to do the best that you could do when you had the opporunity to play live?
DR: I think there were a number of reasons why The Boys were not as big as they should have been. There was certainly bad luck involved like Elvis Presley dying when we had the same distributor and our album had just been released. Part of it was down to ourselves though. Drinking and the search for a good time was always high on the list of priorities for The Boys.
S4L: Are you amazed at how the music of The Boys has stood the test of time and is being discovered by younger audiences and spoken of as being an influence of some of the bands who are currently in the limelight? Did you ever imagine when you first put out 'I Don't Care/Sick on You' that people would still be listening 35 years later?
DR: When we recorded our first album I imagined that we would be bigger than The Rolling Stones so I'm not at all surprised that those early records are still being listened to.
When The Boys got back together in 1999 after an 18 year break, though, I was amazed that there was this following all around the world, From Japan to South America, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA etc.
I really like hearing the bands, big and small, all over the world covering the songs. It's flattering to hear groups like Green Day using riffs and chord changes taken directly from Boys songs. There's nothing wrong with borrowing musically. Anyone who's any good has done it from year dot.
S4L:Do you have a favourite moment/record/gig from those early days of The Boys?
DR: It's quite hazy to be honest. Touring with The Ramones was great because they meant so much to me. I remember a festival at Mont de Marsan in France where The Clash, Damned, Jam, Police, Dr Feelgood and we were playing. Heady days. Captain Sensible fell off the stage and was carried off on a stretcher. He sat up halfway to the ambulance, jumped off and ran away from the chasing ambulance men.
S4L: Do you have a favourite artist and album/song that has been part of your soundtrack4life down through the years?
DR: If there was just one record to take to a desert island it would be The Ramones second album 'Leave Home'. Hard choice between that and The Beatles 'White Album' though.
S4L: After years in the music business if you were given the opportunity to share three things with up and coming bands that will help them in their journey what would those three things be?
DR: Don't crap on people. Good manners and consideration are free. It's easy to get bigheaded when everyone's saying you're great.
Try to be as good as you can be.
Try to enjoy it.
S4L: Lastly, if Duncan Reid of 2012 managed to find a time machine and went back to 1977, what would he say to Duncan Reid as he is just starting out his recording career as a piece of sound advice?
DR: Don't sign to NEMS record label because Polydor are going to come along in a few weeks wanting to sign you and when they can't they will sign The Jam instead! Other than that there's nothing I could change so I wouldn't bother.
photos courtesy of Duncan Reid