Riding The Low
Live at The Grace, London
Paddy Considine doesn’t need to be doing this – he’s busy enough with the day-job. Over 20-odd years, the actor has built a career that carefully straddles prestige TV drama and selective Hollywood appearances, British indie films and personal passion projects: two films to date as a writer/director, the award-winning Tyrannosaur and Journeyman.
And right now, another landmark gig – Considine is almost at the end of the epic filming of House of the Dragon, the prequel series to Game of Thrones. It’s been shooting for the best part of a year. This father of three has more than enough on his plate.
But at the same time: Considine does need to be doing this. He’s a man of ideas and imagination, of drive and defiance, of passion and power. An artist who, now, knows exactly what needs to be done, precisely what needs to be said, and completely how to do that for maximum impact, salvation, escape, and joy.
So, yeah, Paddy Considine absolutely has to be doing this: making music and singing with his rock band Riding The Low. More than that: 15 years since forming the now five-piece with some old mates from in and around his hometown of Burton upon Trent, Considine is making the music of his life in new album The Death of Gobshite Rambo. Its 12 rich tracks present reckoning and relief, excavation and celebration, excitement and transcendence. In managing to both dig deep and rock out, Considine and his bandmates have created something truly special, a cohesive body of work that stands up as album and statement.
As he tells it, the album’s title predates the band itself. “Gobshite Rambo is a name I gave to the darker side of my psyche,” says Considine. “But this gobshite wasn’t really who I was, it was this character. So the title is about a rebirth: the death of one part of you and the birth of another.”
Even more specifically, the powerful title song is about the afternoon his father died. Paddy’s dad loved Lee Marvin, even looked a bit like him. That day, Paddy was sitting in his dad’s chair, and spotted a book he’d given him about the Hollywood great. Flicking through the biography, Considine read a chapter about how Marvin would experience depression after filming. “His psychiatrist told him that was the time when he had to do his fishing and the things that fulfilled him and kept his mind occupied. They called that period of time ‘riding the low’. I looked at my mum and said: ‘That’s the name of my band.”
By his own admission, Paddy Considine is “not very good with years or things like that”. But one date is clear: 2006. That was the year he filmed Hot Fuzz with old friends Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. But more importantly (no disrespect, lads), it was also the year he formed Riding The Low.
He’s been in bands since he was a teenager, but mostly playing drums and definitely not singing. He’d certainly never written any songs. Then one Christmas, his wife got him an acoustic guitar. “I knew three or four chords and from those I started writing songs – about 20 or 30 little sketches over the first few months. I didn’t even know I had that ability. And I had no intention to be a songwriter. “But there were a few things in the universe that determined it. One of them was when I first discovered Guided By Voices. That was a game-changer for me as an artist. When I first heard Bob Pollard’s lyrics, and the songs on Alien Lanes, it blew my head – songs that were a minute long, two minutes. And I thought: there’s no rules or boundaries here – you can just jump in and express yourself.
“So that started to shape the way I started to write songs. Bob has always been an influence on me, not directly when you listen to the songs, but just how he changed my head about the rules of the game.” Inspired and freed, Considine got stuck in.
He connected with bass player Richard Eaton; they’d been friends since were 14. Eaton brought in guys he knew, first guitarist Chris Baldwin, who in turn brought in Dan Baker, another guitarist and the final piece of the current line-up is drummer Jake Brown. The idea: let’s get in a room, let’s learn the songs, we’ll record them, make a CD, “and that’s that itch scratched. But it didn’t do that – once we got in the room, it opened a massive door. When I heard the songs live, that these guys had learned them and were playing them, that was it. And about six weeks later we were playing our first gig in little place called Bar 15 in Burton upon Trent. That’s when the band was formed.”
Over the following decade, in between Considine’s acting commitments, the band got together as often as possible. They released two albums, What Happened to the Get to Know Ya? (2013) and Are Here To Help the Neighbourhood (2016). But great though those were, The Death of Gobshite Rambo – recorded in Wolverhampton’s Magic Garden Studios with producer Gavin Monahan (Editors, Scott Matthews, Robert Plant) – is an achievement of a higher order. It establishes its credentials firmly with the opening Carapace of Glass, an atmospheric blues-rock
confessional. “Carapace is about people suffering in their own little fragile carapaces. Not being able to deal with the outside world, and living in this protective shell. Finding a hiding place.”
By-Product of the Last Flats is anger and energy of a different kind, a glorious indie racket of the kind Considine might have listened to at Burton College in 1990. “It’s just a balls-to-the-wall song, a real punky thing,” he says enthusiastically. “A one-idea, one-take thing. All the words came straight out and I never rewrote any of them. The Last Flats were in Winshill where I grew up, and nobody called them that but me. It was me saying: I am still these places and streets and pubs and fields. It’s a real punky jolt of a song.”
That sense of self and place, and the pearls and perils therein, is also at the heart of Crisis Common Stuck, an epic, expansive ballad that artfully evokes both Neil Young and Pink Floyd. “It’s very much about a kid growing up having labels on his back. That comes through in Tommy Hawk, too,” he adds of an Adam and the Ants-influenced track that features a tribal chant which translates as “the walking backwards man”. He continues: “How do I break the chain when all these ancestors are screaming at me? Tommy Hawk is about trying to process all of that, but doing it in a more cinematic way than I ever could making a film. To get these concepts in a film format would just be too hard for me. Doing them in music comes much easier.”
These, then, are songs not of despair but of defiance. You can hear that in The Last Great Wow, which begins with a clarion blast of brass. “It’s what you just said: there’s something defiant in the songs,” Considine agrees. “I get that from Guided By Voices, from albums like Under The Bushes Under The Stars – those are calls to arms. And the idea behind the brass is that it was some sort of gladiatorial arena we were about to enter. Because The Last Great Wow is death. And these trumpets are playing… It’s triumphant.”
The same feeling of swagger in the face of mortality is there in Wake Me Up When It’s Over, in part imparted by muscular strings in the mix and a spoken word contribution from the frontman’s friend and musical hero Bob Pollard. Truth Is All I Have is another big moment, a big tune that’s almost pop in its melody. “That started off more as a rock song, but I felt it just needed a little bit more bounce to it. But as a band I’m not afraid of that – if something comes out being a little bit poppy, then that’s the way we’ll go with it. We always just want to make it ours. We don’t try and consciously form any particular form of music. That doesn’t make us some sort of original avant garde outfit!” he laughs. “We’re a rock’n’roll band at the end of the day. We’re Riding The Low, and now we’ve just got an identity.”
They are indeed Riding The Low, a band of brothers, a band of equals and a band with nothing to prove other than to themselves: that they’re making the music that cuts no corners, shirks no truths, embraces everything that moves them and is determined to uplift the spirits.
“A lot of heart and soul went into it,” reflects Paddy Considine. “If I’m honest, this is the most important thing I do. it’s the only place I truly have a voice, apart from a couple of things I’ve made as a filmmaker. But I know in my heart writing music is my true home. It’s the only place I have that is pure expression.”
He is Paddy Considine, musician, and he absolutely, completely, devotedly needs to be doing this.