Official website the ex Nazareth guitarist and Rock Radio host

Rankin Billy

THE SCENE: Holoway Sanatorium is a dark, forbidding edifice which dominates the skyline of the quiet village of Virginia Water, buried deep in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt. The ominous, archaic building looms hideously over the wary entrant as he mounts the great, grey stone steps, pulls open the heavy wood and glass doors and enters the ornate foyer. To the left is a harshly lit corridor strewn with dead and decaying leaves and clinging branches, like a mortified conservatory; to the right, a few rooms, bleakly illuminated, and scattered with debris indicating the sanatorium’s past history – as a mental asylum. The sanatorium finally closed its doors a few years ago and a set of floor plans suspended from an office wall is all that remains along with a discarded heap of patients’ admission index cards. Outside the wind howls bitterly, the air is petrified, dank and unwelcoming. And Billy rankin, guitarist with Nazareth, and now singer/songwriter in his own right has chosen to shoot his video here…

THE VIDEO: Billy Rankin has written an album called ‘Growin’ Up Too Fast’, signed a worldwide (except Japan) deal with A&M (Nazareth’s record company in the States) and is contemplating getting a band together to tour with this new material providing the album takes off satisfactorily. To give the thing some extra push he commisioned a video for the first single ‘Baby Come Back’, but was somewhat disenchanted with the response. Explanations, Billy… “I’ve watched MTV out in the States (Billy has just returned from a 10-week tour there with Nazareth) and every video you see’s got some long-legged blonde in it, you know? And every script I got sent was: Billy’s Girl! – she gets stolen by this guy and Billy goes out and shoots him up the arse! But I wanted to try something a bit different so I ended up writing part of it with the director, Pete Cornish. It’s just these two guys (Joe Normal & Billy Rankin, rock star) and the first guy is watching the rock star on TV. Eventually, the latter comes alive and out of the TV, and the straight guy ends up inside it! He can’t get out so he goes through all this nightmare thing! I’ve got another one to do for a song called ‘Rip It Up’, which is more of an album track, though it’s a rocker. I’m doing that basically for MTV – since it came out there’s no real need to tour around the States anymore to push your record.”

THE ALBUM: Billy Rankin joined Nazareth three years ago after fronting his own outfits around Glasgow (he belongs to the McLaine clan, incidentally, hence the tartan scarf and guitar!) and a spell alongside former SAHB guitarist Zal Cleminson. So far he’s recorded two studio albums with Nazareth, ‘2XS’ and ‘Sound Elixir’ (as yet unreleased in the UK), both of which he wrote for, and he also plays on the live ‘Snaz’ LP. During the recording of ‘2XS’ his writing skills were duly noted by some A&R men (from A&M) who were visiting Nazareth in the studios at Monserrat. They promptly offered him a solo deal, but “I turned it down at the time because I didn’t think I was ready for it. I write songs all the time and they’re all different so if I was going to do a solo album I wanted it to have some continuity, to sound like it was from the same artist going in the same direction. So I held off until I had that.” The result is ten songs that helter skelter along very much in the Bryan Adams/Rick Springfield vein only heavily daubed in rock ‘n’ roll. He’s a kind of ballsy Scottish version of the aforementioned stars, writing potential hits that drip hooks yet never forget they’re supposed to rock! Certainly, his songs are more commercially orientated than Nazareth’s output. “Yeah, I know what you mean; it’s more direct, I’d agree with that. But it’s not that far removed from the kind of power I’ve got with Nazareth, it’s got that natural power. Most of the tracks were recorded ‘live’, and all the vocals were one-takes and all the guitar solos I did as one-takes to try and keep the spontaneity. Basically the whole production was designed around the radio so when you hear it on the airwaves it’s gonna sound heavy as anything, like Billy Squier’s stuff.”

THE IMAGE: “The image the company wanted was a bit tricky because, at first, they wanted to do it as a totally new person that nobody’s ever heard of: say that I’ve spent the last 24 years up in the Highlands chasing sheep, things like that. But it soon became apparent that that wouldn’t work because the first bout of interviews I did it’d only take one person to go ‘Hey, don’t you play with Nazareth?!’ It’s been played down, certainly, it’s not a major selling point for the album. If the record takes off it’ll be on its own merits not because I’m a member of Nazareth.”

THE FUTURE: “I’m gonna get a band together in the States. When I recorded the album I used an American producer (John Ryan) but did it in England to get a European feel, though with an American commerciality – so I wanted the same when I get the band together, Americans who play like Europeans. There’s nothing definite lined up, it depends on how the album does. I’ll either go on a whistle-stop interview tour or get a band together, rehearse and possibly take a support tour, something like that. But I’m not gonna go and do the bloody clubs, that’s for sure! I’m not leaving Nazareth or anything, though… the only reason I would leave at any point would be when the band splits… but there might be times, if the solo thing takes off, when they’ll have to get somebody else in to do a tour in my place.”

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One response

  1. Harald Barthes

    hi billy, hope you’re fine and rock’N’rollin’
    Werner and I are waiting for new music from you
    we are very interested in your book, so could you please send me and werner an autographed

    February 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm

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