Traditionally the Rag N Bone Man was an individual who made a living from collecting the discarded debris of urban life to sell to scrape by a sort of living (writes Andy Wood). They were also known, not affectionately, as bone grubbers or rag gatherers and were predominantly found in poorer working class areas either operating on foot or from a horse and cart. I vaguely recall them still doing the rounds in the 70s though there was no horse and cart involved by then and they were pretty much a dying breed even by the late 1960s.
Lew Palgrave is a modern day Rag N Bone Man, collecting the debris of modern day life and re-working it into passionate, raw songs which he then travels around the country playing as a one-man band complete with percussion, harmonica and guitar. However, the appeal of the music lies beyond the visual novelty of being such a voluble one-man band as there are some excellent songs lurking behind the noise. The self-explanatory E.P. ‘One Man Band Brutal Trash Blues’ has four excellent songs, but it’s the final song ‘Sunnycidal’ which really grabs my attention with its almost pretty melody coming to the fore amidst the chaos and noise.
The Rag N Bone Man’s debut album Headbutts and Uppercuts has just been released on Petrol Bomb Records. Each track is a lesson in economy with not one of the eight coming in at over four minutes. It feels as though any excess flab or fat has been scraped from each song leaving them lean and vicious, full of raucous intent but also with a sense of dynamics and space to breath. This is pretty important as there are points in a Rag N Bone Man show where you can feel a little punch drunk from the sheer relentless power of the songs and performance so the attention to the song structure and variety of the sounds on the album make it a great piece of uneasy listening, best experienced with the volume up full. Both live and on record The Rag N Bone Man are not background music but are pretty much un-ignorable and pretty damn memorable as well.
Ahead of The Rag N Bone Man’s visit to The Cool Cat Club Lew kindly answered some questions.
You played as a duo in Ghosts of Progress previously. Was it a conscious decision to go solo after the Ghosts of Progress came to an end?
We got to a point where we had stopped moving, so it was a conscious decision to move on. Playing solo is a massive freedom so no decision was necessary.
When I previously interviewed you as part of a Ghosts Of Progress feature, you said you primarily saw the band as a live entity. Has that remained the case with The Rag N Bone Man?
Yeah, although I do enjoy recording a bit more nowadays.
Can you tell me about the recording of the album and the title? What was the inspiration behind the songs and the title?
To record the record I set my gear up and pretty much just made a racket for 2 days – all live, no overdubs, then sat down and listened back to it. I had about 15 tunes roughly, I got to the point at song 8 in the mixing process and I’d had enough of mixing, it was driving me mental and I felt like I wanted to chop my ears off so decided to put out 8 songs now and re-record another 8 later in the year for another record. I called it Headbutts & Uppercuts because that’s what the songs sounded like to me. Inspiration behind the songs…. Knife wielding jakeys, endless dole queues, date rapists, corruption, badly cut powder, social network cancer and failure.
Having witnessed you live on a number of occasions and listened to the album several times I have to ask, Lew, are you the angriest man in rock ‘n’ roll?
Ha, ha, I get this all the time. No I’m not, there is anger there don’t get me wrong but sometimes it’s easy to get passion and anger confused when we’re living in a world where people tend to be passionate about fuck all.
What has been the best/most memorable moment being The Rag N Bone Man?
I got to the point when the desire to fill a stage with noise all by myself became greater than the fear of being alone which is a huge freedom, so EVERY TIME I play I get there, so everything else is a let down compared to that.
And the worst / strangest moment?
Reading a review of my stuff in the NME.
What are your plans for the forthcoming months?
Being happy 😉
Anything else that you would like to add?
Looking forward to the show. Buy my record.
Here’s a video of the Rag N Bone Man live:
The Rag N Bone Man plays the Cool Cat Club on Saturday (4th May) alongside the Primevals and the Creeping Ivies.