There are many guitarists you meet and it doesn't phase you, but Richie Ranno is credited by so many of my musicial idols as an influence, it was an interview I had to do. Those who don't know the name Starz need to look them up, their first two albums were recently citied by Kerrang as the inspirations they were always meant to be, and as the band head for their 35th Anniversary it's truly a pleasure to present a rare interview with their guitarist here for DMG.
First of all Richie, thanks for speaking to us here at Daily Music Guide, it's great to speak to a musician as talented as yourself. You joined Starz in 1975, can you take us back to that time and how you got involved with them?
Well, let's see – When I was in Stories, we had Kerner/Wise as producers – same guys who produced Kiss. So, when we were in L.A., we hung out with Kiss and met Bill Aucoin (Bill passed away this past summer – R.I.P. to a great friend). The guys (Kiss) were trying to get me to start a new band and bring it over to Bill. I never did though. Couldn't find the right people. So, a friend of mine who knew what I was trying to do said that he saw an ad in The Village Voice that a band managed by Bill was looking for a guitarist. I went and auditioned & got it. They had been auditioning for a couple of weeks and couldn't find the right guitarist. They were called The Fallen Angels and had a keyboard player. After a month or so, we got rid of the keyboardist and changed the name to Starz.
2011 sees Starz celebrate their 35th anniversary, a big milestone for any band, do you have plans in the making to commemorate this?
You're right, hadn't thought about it. Any suggestions?
Your 1976 debut was a classic album, in many ways the most fundamentally important album of that decade; looking back did you suspect there would still be an influence present 34 years later?
Well, certainly never thought about anything back then but the moment I was living in. It was more fun that way!
Songs like "Detroit Girls" and "Tear It Down" sound a lot like KISS and Billion Dollar Babies, was there ever an influence there, I know KISS was recording Destroyer when you were recording yours?
Certainly Alice and yes, a bit of that 1st Kiss album. Lots of great songs on that album.
The tour for that album also saw you touring with Aerosmith, what were those days like, and do you have any fond memories of that?
I'm not sure I have any memories of that tour! Things were moving fast. It was certainly a lot of fun. Jeff Beck was on a few dates. That was a treat. I remember that the crowds instantly took to us. We got encores every night. I remember that Aerosmith didn't like that much.
Some of the songs from that album – such as "Live Wire" and "Monkey Business" – have titles used by bands that have citied Starz as an influence, namely Motley Crue, Danger Danger and Skid Row – do you think there's a suitable tribute there?
I guess. I've become friends with most of those bands. Bruno, Steve and Rob are real good friends. I was friends with Bruno before Danger Danger even existed. I think it's nice that some of these bands used our song titles – don't forget Poison doing a Fallen Angel – but, wouldn't it have been nice if one of them covered one of our songs during their heyday? Oh well, that's a worthless question because the past is just that – the past.
Who came up with the band's name Starz, and why this name?
The great, late Sean Delaney did. We didn't like it but he went and got a logo designed anyway. When we saw the logo, we changed our minds quick!
You also worked on the Gene Simmons solo album and, knowing you are a fan of KISS, can you tell us a bit about your experiences?
Sure, Sean was co-producing it and they finished it up and went to England to mix. When they got back they called me and said that Skunk Baxter and Joe Perry had played on Tunnel of Love but for one reason or another, the parts didn't work. So, they asked me to come in and do it. Gene listened to me play the solo and asked me to try a couple of different things but, basically I just played and they liked it and used it. Interestingly, both those guys are credited with playing on that cut.
Your follow up 'Violation' also shone through as another album to be respected and listened to, again, how does it feel looking back?
I like listening to it. I don't listen to our albums much but when I do put them on I'm always surprised at how great they sound all these years later.
You once said you had a live broadcast from 1977 in the Vaults, materials that remain unreleased, do you think this might change?
I think it's a bit late for that. CD's don't sell these days. We still have it though!
So fast forwarding to 2003, your reunion came out through an ultimately failed UK Club Tour, do you think you might come back to the UK?
You're right – we would love to but it's not up to us. There doesn't seem to be a promoter who would actually agree to pay us to come to the U.K. Go figure. ???
You've also re-released some of your classic albums through your website recently, what can you tell us about these?
They all sound great – Back in the Day is a collection of demo recordings we did before the 1st album. Those songs sound almost as good as the album itself. There are songs that never made it past that point. Interesting to any Starz fan.
So, looking at the future, do Starz intend on releasing new studio material?
I really don't know. We're talking about it but I think the music/CD biz is actually over. There are very few stores here. Everyone downloads songs now – 90% illegally and about 10% of the people are honest enough to pay for them. Imagine if that happened in another industry. Amazing how musicians get shit on, isn't it?
I don't want to end on that negative note – I don't expect that we would sell many CD's even in a great business atmosphere, at this point in time. Just one of those things.
We're happy to be playing together and still have people who remember us & want to hear us. We truly do it now for the same reason we did it when we started playing music as teenagers – for the fun of it and for the love of music!!
We just played in Texas this past weekend. It's like a high school reunion except with music. We all love to hang out with each other and to play music with each other onstage. Michael Lee, Joe Dube, Bobby Messano and our new brother in arms, Insane George DiAna & I are rockin' 'til the end of time!!!