Richard Strange - Doctors of Madness - Interviews - Soundblab

Richard Strange - Doctors of Madness

by Bill Golembeski Rating: Release Date:

Perfect Past

Bill Golembeski: Let’s start with the new box: How is this different from the Ozit releases?

Richard Strange: It’s everything, and more, with brand new liner notes, bonus tracks, rehearsal tracks AND it has been beautifully remastered

Did you have any say about the Ozit cd releases? Were they from master tapes? The liner notes were from your autobiography. Are there new notes and information? Did you have more involvement with the new Perfect Past?

I have had much more involvement with Perfect Past, from Day One. The Ozit release messed around with the running order of the tracks for reasons I never did understand. This release is faithful in every way to the original concept of the albums.

Am I right to say this looks like a really classy package?

You got it in one!!

I know there are demos. Are there more live versions?

Rehearsals, live, demos you name it, you’ll get it!! Genuine never before heard tracks by the bands in their pomp!!

Are other members of the old band involved? Obviously, Stoner is gone.

Urban Blitz and I toured Japan with Susumu (bass) and Mackii (drums) from the Japanese band Sister Paul last year, and they really rock! We will be touring the UK with them this May June, and Japan again in September. The energy those guys bring to live performance reminds me of the rush we used to get on stage when we first started. They are mighty!


1976 – 1978

Were you glam? What was glam? “Waiting” sure sounds like punk to me. The same is true for the song, “Doctors of Madness.” Listen to that rhythm track and vocal delivery. Were these songs punk?

We were Glam after glam and punk before punk, that was why everyone found it so hard to categorize us, and still do. The closest I have heard is that we are the missing link between Roxy Music and The Sex Pistols. In a way its meaningless, because we were like nothing else…but it will do! I say perhaps we weren’t Jesus Christ, but we were sure as hell John The Baptist!!

There are Bowie comparisons. I love “Suicide City.” But when I listened way back then, I heard Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople and Peter Hammill/ Van der Graff Generator. Was I wrong? Were you in that “outsider” group that really didn’t fit in any category?

Just a note: I think “The Moon Upstairs” from Mott’s Brain Capers is the greatest rock song ever. The album is no slouch either. And Peter Hammill’s Nadir’s Big Chance is a precursor to punk.

Like all Artists, I soaked it up…and if anything, it’s the influences that infected my writing and our performances of the stuff that was out there before all that- Brel, Burroughs, Pop art, film noir, Velvets, you know the point about the Doctors is we were never really about MUSIC, we were about The World, or at least OUR world.!

The Sex Pistols opened for you. What was that like? Nascent punk rockers were in your audience. Were you aware of your impact?

Yea I knew I was looking for a new career in a new town! Someone had just moved the goal posts and we were 3 years older than them- and that’s a whole generation in Pop Music.

Your lyrics, especially in songs like “Marie and Joe” and especially “Out,” certainly didn’t fit with the times. Were you an innovator?

As Chou en-Lai, Mao Tse-tung’s Prime Minister said on being asked in the 1960s about the importance of the French Revolution, which had happened 200 previously, “It’s too soon to say!”

Did The Doctors say all they needed to say? Could they have existed in the punk moment?

I think the fact there is so much interest in our work 40 years later suggests we succeeded artistically. If we had succeeded financially we may have become a parasitic caricature, squeezing every last dollar out of what had once been a great band, and that would have been a sad way to be remembered.


And the Rest

But you have made a life as an artist. How did you succeed?

I teach music students sometimes, and I say to them, “There are two sorts of artists in the world- those who say ‘yes’ and those who say ‘no’. You have to dare to fail in order to succeed. Many don’t. They are too traumatized by the possibility of failure that they never leave their comfort zone. I instinctively say “Yes” to everything and then find out “how” later! My passport has variously described my occupation as Musician, Actor, Curator, Writer, Teacher and Adventurer!

What is your greatest teaching moment? (Yeah, I taught kids for 32 years!)

Taking 3rd year BA degree Music students to art galleries for a year and then having 6 of them deliver Fine Art projects that used sound as part of the submission for their Final Major Project- sculptural, filmic, installation work, immersive, interactive…so exciting for me when I saw they had really pushed themselves into unfamiliar terrain after seeing Bill Viola or Ragnar Kjartansson or Janet Cardiff’s work. On a professional level, I suppose being made Creator in residence at Hong Kong design Institute and being awarded Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) were also very pleasing to this South London Comprehensive kid!

You did some work that concerned the painter John Martin. I wrote a research paper on the guy years ago and have stood in front of his huge paintings in The Tate. Did you have a personal affinity with his work? What other work have you done with museums?

That’s fascinating! I love John Martin and was commissioned by The Tate Britain to curate an event inspired by and referencing the “John Martin and The Apocalypse” show a few years back. We installed Cabaret Apocalyptica in gallery 9 (The Pre- Raphaelites!) and styled it like a cross between Alphaville, The Road, Mad Max and Blade Runner!   Kate Tempest, Gavin Turk, Rene Eyre and Richard Wilson (the sculptor and noise maker) all took part. 3000 people came on one night! And The Pre-Raphs survived!

Will there be a Doctors reunion with the release of Past Perfect?

Yes!! Those of us who are still able! Very much looking forward to it. (see tour dates below)

Have The Doctors of Madness been “recalled to life”?

Totally!!!! I feel vindicated all these years later. Listening back to the records, as I have done a lot recently, they still sound fresh, and more relevant and pertinent than ever. And, gratifying, still as impossible to categorize!


Tour Dates

May 16th    London, Lexington 

May 24th    Leicester, The Musician

May 25th    Stockton on Tees, Georgian Theatre

May 26th    Scarborough, Market Hall

May 27th    Leeds, Brudenell Rooms

May 29th    Watford, The Flag

May 31st    Birmingham, Hare and Hounds

June 2nd    Byline Festiva,l East Sussex     *Richard Strange Solo Show

June 3rd    Chadwell Heath, Essex The Chadwell Arms, 

June 4th    Brighton, The Prince Albert

July 28th   St Leonards on Sea, The Kino    *Richard Strange Solo Show

August 31-September 12th  Japan Tour.


Perfect Past: The Complete Doctors of Madness is released May 5th on Cherry Red Records.

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