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Baker's Dozen

The Quest For The Grail: Rat Scabies Favourite Albums
Ben Graham , March 7th, 2018 12:49

The former Damned drummer tells Ben Graham about seeing bands at the Orchid Ballroom in Purley, the appeal of repetition and variety in music, and how The Damned nearly got their own Monkees-style TV show

"I have this philosophy that if an album's any good it'll still be around in five years, and it'll still sound as good in five years as it does today, so I tend to ignore things that are having a lot of fuss made about them," says Rat Scabies of his approach to seeking out new music.

To be fair, if anyone has the right to play the long game when it comes to musical discoveries, it's Scabies. As drummer and co-founder of The Damned (with guitarist Brian James), Rat is the only band member beside singer Dave Vanian to appear on every one of the group's records throughout their 1976-86 commercial heyday, from debut single 'New Rose' (generally considered the first UK punk single) and parent album Damned Damned Damned right through to top 3 single 'Eloise' and the somewhat anti-climactic Anything LP. Indeed, Scabies' hyperkinetic drumming defined the Damned sound as much as Vanian's gothic croon, and although he may be considered the definitive punk drummer, the musician born Chris Millar developed his maximalist, drums-as-lead-instrument style as much through his love of big band jazz as heavy rock.

Today, Rat Scabies remains a busy man. A long-time-coming solo album is scheduled for a summer release and a fourth LP by his punk rock supergroup The Mutants is also on the way. But before either of those the third album by Professor And The Madman finds Rat once again providing the SoCal punk band with his unique style of drumming. Elixir III: Disintegrate Me also reunites Scabies with Damned bassist Paul Gray, who he played alongside from 1980-84, and on the classic LPs The Black Album and Strawberries.

Scabies' more esoteric interests, as documented in the 2005 book Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail, still exert a fascination for the 62-year-old musician, who retains his involvement with the Sauniere Society and continues to investigate and give talks about the various mysteries and conspiracy theories surrounding Rennes-le-Chateau.

"Missing letters from strange people and secret societies, yes, stuff like that," he says. "It's all good addictive stuff because it's like a party game, really. You never expect to find anything or win the prize but actually it's so much fun doing it and being part of it. I've had some really great times and a lot of adventures, and I've learnt a lot of things. I'd have never have gone to the Louvre if it hadn't been for my interest in trying to find this hoard of treasure somewhere, and you suddenly find yourself looking at medieval history and things like that."

Indeed, Scabies' thoughts on the attraction of hunting for the Holy Grail could equally apply to the search for new music to listen to. "I think that's part of the whole thing, the quest for the grail: it's the journey," he says. "It's looking for the grail that's the grail, not actually finding it. It's the things you find out while you're looking."

Professor and the Madman's new album Disintegrate Me with Rat Scabies on drums is out now, his solo album is released this spring. Click the image of Mr Scabies below to begin reading his Baker's Dozen choices