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Jimmy Rip on Joining Punk Legends Television, Riots in Indonesia, and Playing with Mick Jagger

"It's about halfway though the show, and it's a daytime show, and I look up and all around the outside of the stadium we start seeing plumes of smoke.... There was a full on huge riot outside of the stadium."
October 18, 2015, 11:41pm

Television is one of the best punk bands to ever come out of the greatest punk city in the world. Tell me that the opening riff to Marquee Moon isn’t perfect. I dare you.

Jimmy Rip is a session musician and producer who has played with the likes of Mick Jagger, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Mariah Carey. He’s known Tom Verlaine, the leader of Television, since the early days from gigging around New York. Rip replaced Richard Lloyd in 2007. Last month Lloyd told The Stranger “I love Tom! I wouldn't have spent 35 years with him if I didn't honestly love him. But I can't deal with him anymore. It's like going to the dentist, playing with him.” We caught up with Rip at House of Vans recently, and chatted about Indonesian fans rioting at a Mick Jagger concert, the first year of desegregation busing in New York City, and Argentina being the last bastion of rock n’ roll.

Noisey: So what part of New York are you from Jimmy?
Jimmy Rip: Bellerose, Queens.

My mom's from Queens Village, via Greenpoint.
Did you go to Martin Van Buren High School?

No, I grew up upstate. Did you go to Martin Van Burn High School?
I did. It was great because I had gotten thrown out of Catholic school.

For what?
For having long hair. If they could see me now! I cut it twice, and finally my mother said you don't have to cut it again. That was Bishop Reilly High School, which doesn't exist anymore on Francis Lewis Boulevard.

Cool mom.
I went to Martin Van Buren High School and it was the first year of busing. They took all the white kids and sent them to Cambria Heights and crazy neighborhoods and made all the black kids get on the bus and ride over to Springfield Gardens.

And what was the first year of busing like in New York?
It was a pain in the ass. Kids had to get up an hour earlier to get on a stupid bus to go to some neighborhood to satisfy some crazy racial quota. At the time it caused a lot of tension. It caused a lot of fights. It was really strange. Nobody wanted to be where they were, they wanted to get up twenty minutes before school and go to school. It was great for me because all I wanted to do was play music and I got to meet a whole other group of kids, and after that I was always the only white guy in any band and I had the best bands in Queens. It actually was great for me because I would wind up going to rehearse in St. Albans, Cambia Heights, in Harlem. In that way it was good.

And what sort of music were you playing then?
Various psychedelic rock n’ roll. A lot of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone.

And how'd you meet Tom Verlaine?
In 1981, I got called in to audition because Fred Smith who plays bass in Television and Jay Dee Daugherty who's Patti Smith's drummer were going to be Tom's road band after his first solo record came out and Television had broken up the first time. He needed a second guitar player and I was playing in about 20 bands around Greenwich Village. That week I auditioned for Tom, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and Peter Frampton. I got Kid Creole and Tom. Frampton was the one I really wanted because I loved him at the time.

So you've made a career off of session work?
I did that until I recorded and toured with Mick Jagger.

When was that?
The first I recorded with him was in the Primitive Cool record which was in 1986. I was the bandleader and musical director for that touring band. We toured Japan, Indonesia, Australia. Then he went off and did Steel Wheels. After that in 1991 we got back together and made the Wandering Spirit record.

And you have some writing credits on that right?
I do. A couple songs. Should have been more, Mick! After I finished doing that I decided that was my favorite guy and favorite singer and my favorite kind of rock music to play, so I thought it would be good if I was ever going to make a solo record that that was the time, because I had already played with the best of the best. For me it wasn't getting to get any better. Howlin’ Wolf was dead so I wasn't going to get that gig. So I stopped doing session stuff and made a solo record. And I decided I wanted to produce, I couldn't stand being told what to do anymore, I thought I knew enough to tell other people what to do. So that's what I've been doing ever since.

And where are you doing that?
I've lived in Argentina for the past five years.

What's it like living there?
It's great. It's the last place, and I still travel a lot, to me it's the last place in the world where real guitar rock n' roll is respected and revered and kind of worshipped. Kids still aspire to be lead guitar players, which has vanished from the world. They want to be DJs or Youtube stars, not Jeff Beck. Down there every teenager has a guitar on his back, everyone's got a god damn band, people get into arguments about who's the better guitar player. It's still exciting.

Tell me about joining Television at the Central Park show.
Richard Lloyd got really sick. He had already said this was his last show, that he was leaving. But then he wound up in the hospital with pneumonia. It couldn’t really be moved because it was in Central Park, and the band didn't want to cancel. I had been playing with Tom since 1981 and they asked if I would do it, and I was like, “I don't know, take Richard's place with Television in New York at Central Park?” Nut I did it and everyone smiled and we had a great time. It was my first time playing with Billy. He's really a trip, he's amazing to play with, he's absolutely as eccentric and original and unique as Tom is, and the two of them together are an amazing combination if you can jump on for the ride and stay on the thing. Right after that they asked if I wanted to be in the band, and we didn't do a fucking thing for three years. For whatever reason they just were not booking shows. We did some shows in Brazil and that was really good. And then everyone realized that it can be fun. So we started doing more and more, and I think the band has played more in the last three years since they have in the 70's. It's been great.

And are you working on anything new?
The first year I was in the band we recorded like seventeen songs that are still sitting on a hard drive. I think Tom pulls them out every once in a while and works on them a little bit. They sound really good, they sound just like Television. We're just waiting for Tom to finish them. There's a really good record there, we play a couple of new songs every show.

Any tour stories you want to tell? Maybe since you brought up Mick Jagger in Japan, Indonesia, Australia?
When we played in Jakarta we played at a 90,000 seat futból stadium in Jakarta. The ticket price was very high. That tour was so five star, the best of the best. For instance when Mick and I landed at the Jakarta airport, Bill Graham picked us up in a Sikorsky helicopter and landed us on the roof of our hotel. And we walked down the flight of stairs and there was our room. It was literally that kind of tour. We were there for like a week before the show. The country was really poor, and I kept asking how much was the ticket, and I was calculating, and it seemed like a ton of money. Our opening act was a thirty-piece Gamelan band, which was a great opening act. But the stadium itself was half full. I was like, what a drag, but at that much money, there’s a lot of people, there's still 40,000 people. It's about halfway though the show, and it's a daytime show, and I look up and all around the outside of the stadium we start seeing plumes of smoke. So we're playing, and we're all looking at this smoke, and I go over to Mick and am like “are you seeing this?” Well they started a riot. There was a full on huge riot outside of the stadium. They were lighting cars on fire, every BMW or Mercedes they could find, they were torching it. About half way through the show they opened the gates. Free show. And all of a sudden the stadium was full, packed. When people were coming in it was scary. When they came in they really came in, and they were all crazy from lighting cars on fire. Until we saw that they were there to have a good time, it was a little spooky. I thought they might come and string us up for a minute.

Reed Dunlea tweets no evil.