The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
INTERVIEW RAGDOLL LEON TODD DECEMBER 2013

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2013 - RAGDOLL'S LEON TODD

 

CHECK OUT SOME GREAT LOCAL MUSIC...

RAGDOLL

IS POSSIBLY AUSTRALIA'S FINEST UNSIGNED ROCK BAND AND MAKING A BIG NOISE DOWNUNDER

LEON TODD TALKS TO THE ROCKPIT ABOUT MAKING MUSIC, GUITARA AND THE MEANING OF LIFE...

READ OUR REVIEW OF 'ALL I WANT IS EVERYTHING' HERE

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW AND FRESH THAT YOU HAVEN'T HEARD BEFORE THEN AUSTRALIA'S RAGDOLL IS A BAND WITH A WORLD-BEATING SOUND THAT WILL QUITE SIMPLY BLOW YOU AWAY. HAILING FROM THE WORLD'S MOST ISOLATED CAPITAL CITY - PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA THEY HAVE BEEN ROCKING THEIR HOMETOWN FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS NOW INBETWEEN SHARING THE FESTIVAL STAGE WITH SOME OF THE BIGGEST BANDS IN THE WORLD. IF YOU CHECK OUT ONLY ONE NEW BAND THIS YEAR - MAKE IT RAGDOLL



 

 

Mark: Ragdoll has been around causing mayhem in Western Australia and even ventured out on a couple of US tours but for those who aren’t familiar with the band can you recap how it all started and bring us up to date?

 


Leon: I met Cam (drummer) met and started playing together around 7 years ago and we’ve stuck together through several different bands. We met Ryan singing in a cover band and that was really the catalyst for what has become Ragdoll. Two years, three EP’s and tens of thousand kilometres later here we are!

 


Mark: How would you describe your sound? How do you view yourselves and what’s the best compliment you’ve been paid to date?

 


Leon: A fan recently described us as “hair grunge”, which is paradoxical in a way yet very apt. We try to represent all our favourite elements of the rock music we like; melody, groove, power and a lot of energy. We certainly don’t try to sound like anyone but ourselves!

 


A lot of people comment on how full and powerful we sound for a three piece, which is my favourite complement; hopefully it’s a reflection of how much time we put into our arrangements!

 


Mark: Is there a story behind the band name, or is it just a very cool name?

 


Leon: All I will say is it has absolutely nothing to do with the Aerosmith song of the same name!

 


Mark: You play quite a few shows locally, but you’ve also played a couple of tours in the Midwest how did you find the American fans?

 


Leon: I describe it to anyone who asks this way; in Australia, people go out to drink and party and if there happens to be a band then they’ll check it out. In the Midwest, people go to see a band and party and if there happens to be an open bar, well then the party just got a lot crazier!

 


We love playing at home, especially regional shows in WA where people are incredibly supportive, but the sheer enthusiasm of our fans in the USA blows me away every time.

 


Mark: What are your best memories of playing Festivals like Rocklahoma?

 


Leon: They’re actually some of my fondest memories, personally and musically. The sense of community between all the bands is wonderful and we get treated very well by our fans and peers alike. We’re incredibly fortunate to get to see some of the places and meet some of the people we do, let alone to rock out with a paddock full of crazy Americans!

 

 

 

 

Mark: Your latest EP ‘All I Want is Everything’ was released on tour in the US last year are you pleased with the reception it has received? And how did it compare with your previous releases?

 


Leon: The reception has been really positive which is always gratifying. It’s certainly our most sophisticated musically, lyrically and production wise and as a representation of the Ragdoll sound we couldn’t be happier with it.

 


Mark: You write much of the music and lyrics for Ragdoll, when you write a song how does it start? With a few lines or as a guitarist is it always the music?

 


Leon: My role is to bring in the bare bones of a song which the three of us then work up. The riff based songs, like All I Want, Break You or Tell Me (off our Here Today record) tend to start with the music, whereas a song like Irreplaceable or Astray come from a vocal melody or some lyrics. The three of us and our producer Troy Nababan all have a lot of input before we can say a song is a finished Ragdoll song. We want people to play our songs over and over and get into the meaning behind them.

 


Mark: Tell us about some of the tracks on the EP: The video of ‘All I Want’ is amazing can you tell us about the song and the story behind the video?

 


Leon: That song came together very quickly; we wanted to write a heavy riff based song that you can pump your fist (or other appendages!) to and is immediately catchy, but when you delve a little deeper isn’t exactly what it immediately seems. That’s something I love about bands like Queensryche; they’re so musically visceral but they draw you in and make you think lyrically.

 


Leon: The song deals with what I like to call ‘spiritual hedonism’ and the attitude that seems to be promoted so heavily these days; do whatever you want, be as selfish and materialistic as you like, just make sure you pay your respects to the powers that be and you’ll be fine. The video really captures that well, and I’m glad there’s a nice balance between the storyline and our performance. I’m super happy with how it came out and I still love the twist at the end; while that wasn’t our idea it’s still a very left of centre “Ragdoll” thing to do.

 

 

 

Mark: You always include a ballad on your EPs – on ‘All I Want’ it’s a great track called ‘Irreplaceable’ – an incredibly catchy if slightly off-centre song – what can you tell us about that?

 


Leon: It’s harder and harder as artists in the age of Spotify, YouTube and instant downloading to hold a listeners attention over an EP, let alone an album, so we do make a conscious effort to structure our releases in a way which is going to keep the listeners on their toes.  We’re huge fans of bands like Toto, Journey and Foreigner and there’s something emotionally cleansing in trying to write a ballad, which is why we tend to include them! Irreplaceable really deals with what we’ve all been going through in our personal lives and how being a touring musician can impact on your relationships with your loved ones. At the same time it’s produced to be uplifting and anthemic, and I still love watching people in the audience sing along to that one. It’s a special song for us.

 


Mark: One of our favourites on the EP is ‘Break You’ it’s one of the best Hard Rock songs we’ve heard this year – great riff too – had that one been hanging around for a while?

 


Leon: That one was very spontaneous; I picked up my Les Paul one morning and it just popped out at me. Ryan wrote the first verse and Cam came up with all the syncopated groove based stuff and we went from there. It’s all about the girl you love to hate, when you’re loving yourself!

 


Mark: You have three EPs out now – when is the album coming?

 


Leon: If you’re reading this and you run a record label, call me!

 

 

 

 

Mark: How would you describe a Ragdoll live show?

 


Leon: Intense, funny and at times athletic! While we’re pretty laid back off stage, on stage is a different matter. We have a lot of space to fill as a trio so we do enjoy jumping, dancing and flailing around as much as our audience will let us get away with!

 


Mark: You’re well known locally for throwing in some great classic covers – there’s some unbelievable stuff out there on YouTube of you covering Robin Trower, ZZ Top and an amazing version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ – what makes a good cover and how do you make them your own?

 


Leon: The great thing about covering a great song is just that; it’s a great song! We just try to have as much fun as possible and essentially become audience members ourselves.

 


Mark: What are your plans for 2014 and beyond?

 


Leon: We’re working on touring internationally again and hopefully hitting up some new states, territories and countries! There are plans to do another music video and hopefully start to lay the foundations for a full length release.

 


Mark: What have been your greatest challenges to date, and your favourite moments musically?

 


Leon: Being so isolated geographically is a constant challenge; the local scene is strong and supportive but it’s incredibly difficult for a band like us to break out to new markets. Overcoming this and getting opportunities to tour internationally and be invited to festivals like Rocklahoma makes it all the more satisfying though!

 


Mark: With technology changing so much over the last few years and seemingly not slowing, and TV force-feeding us the lowest common denominator, what hope is there for rock music?

 


Leon: Inadvertently this has caused the industry to move back to live shows and tours as a primary means to make money. So while it’s not on MTV anymore, it’s on at your local venue and due to the ease of accessibility to the lexicon of rock music, it’s better than ever. 

 


Mark: Thinking back to your early memories of music, what was it that firs made you decide you needed to be in a Rock and Roll band?

 


Leon: I grew up in a musical family and my earliest memories involve listening to my dad’s Black Sabbath and Status Quo records, but seeing the cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous” album and hearing the opening chord in “Jailbreak” really sealed the deal.

 


Mark: From what you’ve learned so far what is the most valuable advice you’ve been given so far as a musician?

 


Leon: Learn when not to play and when you do play, make it count. That and don’t do meth.

 


Mark: Can music change the world?

 


Leon: Music is always at the forefront of change; it occupies a place in our collective humanity that is inseparable from the human experience. Plus it makes those intimate moments in life all the more enjoyable!

 


Mark: If you could have been a ‘Fly on the wall’ for the creation of any great album from any period, just to see how the magic happened and it all came together, what would it have been for you any why?

 


Leon: I’d love to have seen the look on everyone’s face when Pete Townsend first tried to explain “Lifehouse” to the rest of The Who, then seeing the transition to “Who’s Next”.

 

 

Mark: What is the meaning of life?

 


Leon: Listen to Michael McDonald.

 

 

VISIT: www.ragdollrock.com

 

VISIT THE RAGDOLL MERCH STORE HERE

 

 

Leon Todd spoke to Mark Diggins December 2013

 

 

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