RIPT rose out of the same Illinois scene that produced Cheap Trick a decade earlier. Finding their way and slugging it out in clubs through the late eighties they eventually released an AMAZING album and landed support spots alongside fellow hard rocking guitarists like ACE FREHLEY and Jake E. Lee’s Badlands. The album is available on SONY Records Dark Star label and is available on iTunes and Amazon.com for digital downlad. If you are a fan of bands like KISS, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC or Dirty Looks it will NOT disappoint you! We recently talked to resident crazyass and bassist Greg Utley as the band was preparing to reunite for some shows and new recordings, read on….(photo help from Mr. Jeff Aden, Todd Reicher and Tom Leu)
LRI : Let’s start here and now…..What has Utley been up to personally and creatively since Ript and how is it escaping all the ice scraping the rest of us are doing?
Hell, John … that’s fucking easy!
After the whole RIPT disintegration …. I moved to St Louis….got an awesome gig working for St Louis Music (talent relations) ,unfortunately I had my head up my ass and screwed up a pretty good life and got a stupid divorce.
Thanks to my sister who truly saved my ass and I will never forget what she did for me….. I picked up my balls, got my shit together and moved to St Pete, Florida for a clean start!
I am now head designer for Bay Stage Lighting…. I design events, stages, and lighting. Been part of everything from the salt lake city Olympics, to building a fucking Aztec pyramid in the rain forest………It’s in the blood I have to be part of some form of entertainment.
I try to come home (Loves Park, IL) every year, see Mom…some solid friends and family, the ones that no matter how long you’ re apart just pick right back up…..love it!
Then off to some CUBS games and Sams pizza…. You might laugh motherfuckers but you can’t get good pizza in Florida, and we all know there is only one Wrigley field!
When I was younger I could never figure out why my sister moved to Florida…. But now I know……NO SNOW!!!!!
I do not miss the snow, the cold or the lack of sunshine….. its March sunny and in the 80s! No matter how cool things are right now or how beautiful Florida is ….I wake up every morning expecting two things to happen…
#1 The cats in RIPT to play out that scene from The Blues Brothers…. Jake/ Nelson says to me …”we are getting the band back together, were on a mission from God!!!!”
Then we go finish what we started …….a total ROCK N ROLL DOMINATION OF THE WORLD!
#2 well number two is kinda personal.
LRI: I think even great people have at least one good divorce in them….I know I did….next question….I can remember sitting around talking to you and getting snuck into gigs as an underage rock writer thinking “there is nothing different about this band from any other band I’ve interviewed like Kiss or Metallica other than their bank accounts”….in my opinion you guys were rock stars….and then poof…gone….what was the breaking point? There was a lot going on….Wallys illness (Houck, drummer), DeCarlos ill timed departure (original RIPT guitarist) ….
GU: Thanks John…. You’ve always been a cool cat to us. I also agree….. RIPT is the real deal, ….we can play with any band and hold our own, if not own it….on stage or off!
As for what happened, this is a easy answer …only because I’ve had a decade or two to ponder what the fuck went wrong.
We didn’t have day jobs we had all quit working long before the implosion , so that doesn’t come into play. Drugs, women, fighting, money are excuses for pussy’s ……..they are fuel for great songs!
We can only look into the mirror and blame that fucker looking back. I totally believe Gregg would have never quit and Wally would have jumped right out of the hospital bed an back onto the bus lf the band as whole hadn’t lost our focus ….we stopped letting our music do the talking! What do I mean? …. In RIPT we would go out partying, and fighting, all night long, then get up and go to work. After work we would get down to the real fun and write a song about it!
RIPT was our way to vent. Pissed off about work or a woman, lets write a song about it. or we would have an amazing night, “spit on it” is a true story…. Lets write a fucking song about it!!! Everyone of our songs are based on something that has happened in our life, we would knock out a song a week, then do the most awesome thing I have ever done …. we had the honor to be the voice for the FANS, We got to go rock our songs for fans that worked just as hard as we did!
Then ???? Then We stopped writing, we didn’t have anything to say…When you stop breathing …..you die. We stopped writing!
LRI: The self titled record is getting a bit of a new lease on life with the deal you guys just worked out…..you probably could milk a few more sales with a bonus track or dvd tie in, but aside from Re-selling it to all the peeps who got it the first time, there’s a whole new generation happy to see it on itunes and Amazon? How did the idea to re-release RIPT come about and will there be new shirts, vinyl or more Stickers to replace the ones finally removed from all the light poles?
GU: The idea really came from Ian who is friends with the owner of Sony/DarkStar…..it turns out it IS who you know sometimes! So when he heard the CD I guess he freaked and thought it was time to re-release this rock n roll gem! New shirts, website, etc, etc…. are in the works.
The best part is………………. more RIPT music will be around the corner!
That’s funny about the Mayor passing a law to stop us from Promoting our band…..at least on city property.
What the fuck? I pay taxes, isn’t that technically my property???
LRI: You recorded the album in Illinois right?…..what are your memories of the process?…stories, struggles, any songs that didn’t make the translation from the live set to the studio? Also, were there any “Rocket Queen” shenanigans going on during the tracking? Be honest….
GU: Wow a LOT was going on during that recording…
All of our songs made the translation to studio ……it was the money that didn’t ,we ran out of cash…FAST!
Rock n roll ant no crime.
I love ya honey.
Mind your own business.
All had to get cut…..
The hard one to let go was rock n roll ant no crime …we had it recorded but Jimmy Johnson thought the lyrics were weak, we spent so much time trying to rewrite the lyrics we ran out of money to mix it!
Jimmy Johnson (producer) has always been a cool cat ….but at some point I wish we would have said tuff shit and recorded it the way we wrote it, to this day we still play the original version. The only thing that was bumming me during the whole recording was not having Jim McDowell around …. He was /is RIPT mentor we had always recorded with Jim ,but as the RIPT story goes we at times could piss people off, we had pissed Jim off, and we were to chicken to call him up and make things right, Jims attitude is missing on the CD. “I don’t like you” was a one shot take …. We were drunk, pissed at someone in the band for not showing up ….so we said fuck him let’s just record it without him. we did!
We played it back……we all looked at each other and we could feel we hit it dead on. it’s funny, we got drunk waiting around like 5 hours for someone to show ,said fuck it ,played the song one time …took 3 minutes and walked out the door……..SWEET!
The” huh” part on the CD with Gregg singing rock n roll ant no crime is that night …..
“Spit on it” …was awesome to record … it was kind of a party that day, we had our crew in singing backups, some female friends came down to give us…..”inspiration”, the vibe around that song was always killer, and yes the girl saying spit on it was……..our “Rocket Queen”
“Suspicious minds” ….I love Mikes guitar playing and the way Jimmy arranged the song ….awesome!
We also wasted about a day trying to put horns in……….what the fuck!!!
I think Dan Beck saved the day on that one ….he gave us the look of disapproval, so we cut the horns.
No matter how bad ass we thought we were , we always looked for Dan or Jim’s approval.
My favorite story was during the recording of “vomit” ….Mike was having a hard time hitting that lead, the feel wasn’t right …I was kind of feeling bad for him, I was about to go in and say lets come back to it tomorrow ,but then Jimmy says to me, you need to go in and piss him off ……Now, I know what buttons to push and what buttons not to push with Mike ..so I went in and pushed all the fun buttons and got that fucker pissed off….. he nailed the very next solo perfectly …..if you ask me one of the greatest solos of all time.
As Mike took his guitar off, Me and Jimmy high-fived each other and ran for our lives! (Laughs). I think Gregg and Mike are amazing guitar players and I love the sound of them playing together. All the rhythm tracks are all one or two takes and live ….if we couldn’t hit it in two takes we came back the next day.
Over all I give the CD a 9.5 ….. a 10 if we had the correct ending to “This is your Brain on rock n roll”.
LRI: You guys played some really high profile festival gigs and toured with national bands….you also played some goddamn shit houses as well (and some of those shows ruled btw)……..Of all the shows and touring you did, do any particular venues or bands you played with really stand out to you as highlights or better yet, lowlights?
GU: Every night was a highlight ….even when we played for just one bartender.
we played for a crowd of 12 thousand.
We were judges for a wet t shirt contest ….that only men were in!
We played at a strip club while the girls were stripping, then toured with a woman’s mud wrestling team as our opening act.
Some of us got arrested on stage, some off.
We got into a full on fist fights with heading acts
We got into a full on fist fights with people in the crowd
We played a gig for just 3 bottles of yagermister
We rolled tables through bar windows till we got paid
we were shot at …8 shots into our bus while we were sleeping
we played sick, hung-over, and divorced
we got banned from bars, radio stations ,and festivals!
I could go on and on ….the only lowlight is that it stopped!
LRI: There have been many amateur psych evaluations of RIPT, usually along the lines of, “Utley Smutley is the crazy one….Nelson is the dad/leader, Gregg the tech savvy music boy and Wally’s the brain….”
Now, I am not going to pretend I’m holding my psych degree just yet but to me, your singer Ian has always been the enigma….the anomaly, the quietly successful lead front man…..what is your take on Ian Serrano and what he brings to the table?
GU: My take on Ian Serrano….. Hmmmmmmm…..
Well outside of RIPT, Ian really didn’t hang with us much, which we let slide, because when it came to RIPT, Ian worked his butt off , he is a team player. He always brings a lot of excitement, energy and a willingness to do whatever it takes to kick some ass. We never had to worry if Ian was going to be a no show or be in a bad mood, he is always ready to rock.
I remember we did 61 one night stands in a roll, that’s… travel, play ,travel ,play, travel ,play… that takes its toll on your body imagine your voice. Ian only bitched one night out of 61, and sang great every night!
Ian might not like me telling you this….. but I think it’s cool that on most nights Ian will throw up before we go on stage because he is nervous ….that to me is a sign of a cat that cares!
The funniest fucking thing I have ever witnessed was Ian getting on the bus one night and introduces his new wife to the whole band …. But when he introduced her, he called her by his ex-wife’s name!!
Silence………silence…………………………silence …then she ran off the bus and we all lost it.
It gets even better ….. now about a ½ hour later on the bus De Carlo is teasing Ian about the whole wrong name thing, I’m outside the bus talking with my Mom and aunt my Mom keeps looking over my shoulder into the bus, then Mom says to me “when are you guys going to grow up?” and I turn around to see what she’s talking about … I see Gregg and Ian in a fist fight on the bus …… Ian I guess had enough of Greggs teasing…..next thing Ian is bleeding from a punch and they stop fighting, 15 minutes later we are all rocking on stage.
You NEVER forget the dedication Ian has and that’s why we let some of the strange shit he does slide.
Most singers are assholes…. Ian is not !
LRI: Besides playing in the band again you are still doing the industry thing with all the big lighting and production…As an insider to the “scene” of sorts….what has to be done to get rock up and breathing again??/
GU: Overall ….I can feel the live music scene coming back, because of the internet people are getting into all kinds of music again, which in turn makes people go out and see the bands live, no more do we have to be force feed bullshit music that the radio decides to play.
I live in St Pete FL and the turnout for live music has doubled in the last year or so. Go support live music!!!
If you want to change the scene you need to support the bands!
LRI: I saved the best for last Greg! I know you enough to know that we share a passion for a lot of the same bands like Angel, AC/DC and especially KISS….. .how did YOU get to be in the KISS Army, what shows did you have the pleasure to see Uncle Gene and Paul at and what is your opinion on the current state of the KISS union?
GU: LOVE IT!! KISS RULES! The second I heard Deuce on ALIVE 1 it was over for me!!!
My first KISS show was at the Rockford Armory ….RUSH opened for them.
I have seen KISS 31 times, met Gene ,Paul, Ace, Eric Carr and Singer ,Vinnie and Peter
Funny KISS story …me ,Dan Beck and Adam ripped off one of Bruce’s guitars from the clock tower….we were such dicks!
I also got a lap dance from a 6’ blond in Ace makeup ……..ya I felt strange ways!
I like the current lineup, just saw them and they were awesome!
I’m glad Peter is out ….he got really lame on drums….I wish Ace or Vinnie was still playing guitar.
My good friend Keith Miller is friends with Vinnie, he was just down putting guitar tracks down on Keith’s CD
KISS has been a true friend …always there for me!
LRI: Well, that’s it Greg, good luck with the new lease on RIPT and thanks for letting this little high school kid jump on stage 20 years ago to sing “Spit on It” with one of his favorite bands!
GU: You do realize that …neon Leon (our guitar tech) was getting head behind the PA during that, right John ?
RR: Ahh…..a little “Skullstorm” never hurt anyone……I’m sure her parents are proud….peace Greg