THE RED DEVILS Return, 25 Years Later!

image of The Red Devils band standing on cobblestonesTHE RED DEVILS – (RE) – UNITED!

The re-formed Red Devils stopped off on their European tour to play the Borderline in London. After a storming set, a microphone was placed on the table and the boys from Backwater Roll Blues Band sat down to talk with them.

DEANO MATHIAS – So Pete, this must be a really big thing for you? Being that the Red Devils are your favourite band to front, it must be amazing for you?

BIG PETE – Well yeah, it’s sort of gone full circle, well, I started out because of the Red Devils. Then I did a gazillion tributes through the years with a lot of different people and a lot of Lester’s old bands

DM – Yes, you started the Lester Butler tribute band many years back with Matt Schofield on Guitar, didn’t you?

BP – Yes I did, but never with any of the Red Devils. I had played with Paul a few times but never with the Red Devils, because they were a closed book and they didn’t have any desire to get back together because they ended up in a bad way with each other. So then the 25th anniversary of the record came along and a lot of talk started going around. Billy Gibbons got involved and a lot of other people got involved and the ball started rolling and we all started talking and we did the first three gigs in June, we only rehearsed for a few hours.

DM – You know the set anyway. You don’t need to rehearse do you, after all, you already know all the songs!

BP – No, we didn’t really need to. We just played a few songs and we were like ‘Ok, we got it’ we just made a set and just started working on that, then we did the gigs in June and then before we knew it July was booked, basically, it was that easy.

DM – That’s great!

BP – Yeah! and now we’ve played for a lot of people. A lot of people have seen us in Holland, the U.K, Ireland and Germany.

DM – It’s just incredible, obviously, you are planning on doing more? Doing some more gigs next year, coming back and doing this again.

MIKE FLANIGAN – Yeah! I mean, who knows? Really I think the thing is, is like we all did this because we all wanted to do it. The timing seemed right, it seemed unlikely when they first called me and they were like ‘hey’ do you want to do this reunion and I was like ‘I haven’t picked up a guitar you know, in like twenty years.

DM – Yeah! Here’s Paul Size, I’ve waited so long to meet you, come and sit here.

The Red Devils backstage at the Borderline, London

JOHNNY RAY BARTEL – I think the music is as valid today as it was. Tonight, was really hot!

BARRY PETHERS – Can we have some bass talk as well? I just need to ask this man. For a man who plays electric bass that sounds as though he should be playing an upright. What’s the score here? What are you doing differently? You’re playing a four string but it sounds like you’re playing a five string at times. Can you tell us what you are doing?

JB – Well, I’m just copying Willie Dixon, what would you do?”

DM – Ha! Ha! Great answer.

BP – So you’re using the low ‘B’ yeah?

JB – Well no, I’m copying Willie Dixon and Jonnie Baz from the Blasters. But just for ZZ, I’m using the little ‘B’ on this trip, just to play the last note of the songs. Because we do a lot of songs in ‘D’. I used to use one of those hip shots, ‘D’ tuner like dropped ‘D’ on the ‘E’ string but instead I just tune the bass to low ‘B’ now and I avoid that ‘B’ string for the whole set until we play the last note of a song in ‘D’ so then I get a ‘D’ note so I’m really playing the whole show on three strings.

DM – Ha! So that’s the secret!

JB – So Dusty like, plugs into something that makes him go five octaves lower than Captain Nemo ha, ha-ha!

PS – I’d just like to add that this wouldn’t even be happening without Mike, we knew Dave Lee couldn’t do it because he’s got arthritis and stuff and that really sucks and he hurt his hand when he was younger. But when Mike joined the band earlier in the 90’s to replace Dave Lee we knew the only guy that could do it and luckily he could do it. He said he could do it and he’s doing it! We love him!

DM – And he looks so cool too haha!

image of Deano Matthias and Paul Size from the Red Devils
Deano Matthias and Paul Size

PS – The best thing about it all is that he had one guitar that was in the closet for twenty years. He doesn’t even have a backup guitar! He had a Strat for twenty or thirty years just sitting in the closet.

MF – The same guitar I had with the Red Devils the last time I played guitar. I put it in the closet and then when I got the call, I pulled it back out and just dusted it off.

DM – Billy Gibbons did that pinstriping on the Les Paul?

MF – Yes he did, I like using the Les Paul because that was Dave Lee’s thing he had the Les Paul and they just sounded right together.

PS – Yeah, you know, if we were both playing Strats, and we did on that tribute, I didn’t know who was who when I was playing. I was like is that me or Mike?

DM – Yeah, it’s great the difference between the Humbuckers and the single coils.

MF – Yeah it’s muddier.

DM – Definitely.

MF – So Billy came out with the Gold Top.

DM – It’s a nice big rhythm sound. It really locks in with the rhythm section, with Humbuckers it’s really fat and really locks it down.

BIG P – Well it’s a combination of those guitars and those amps you know.

DM – Those marble amps?

BIG P – Yeah, I had them built especially for the guys. Yeah, those amps are great. Just guitar and amps. And Flanigin just uses the pedal for the organ sound.

MF – Yeah, it’s something Gibbons gave me, it’s by Strymon.

DM – Yeah, Strymon are cool pedals.

MF – You know, when they called me about doing this, I was like, well you know, it sounded great because I wanted to see all the guys. You know, because I hadn’t seen them all in a long time. The driving force for me to do it was just to see the band get back together. But the biggest thing for me was to see Paul play guitar.

PS – Yeah! His whole thing was like ‘I want to see you play man!’ back when I was just a kid and I quit school, literally the very next day I brought my 1st guitar. My mum took me to the pawn shop. I bought my guitar from Glynn’s pawn shop, and Mike worked there. He was the older guy who liked the blues too. I was just a kid.”

MF – Paul was just a kid, but he could play the guitar and he sounded just like Buddy Guy.

DMBig Pete, are you doing Lester Butler justice?

BIG P – Well you’ll have to ask the guys.

PS – Yes, he definitely is, he is doing Lester Butler justice 100%. I couldn’t play like that unless Pete was delivering, and he is.

DM – Did you know that award-winning band King King named themselves after the Red Devils King King album?

PS – Yes, I heard that. I also heard that Backwater Roll named themselves after the Red Devils song and E.P Blackwater Roll.

DM – Yes we did but we just dropped the ‘L’ off, so it’s Backwater instead of Blackwater.

PS – So, Backwater Roll yeah? Ha! Ha!

image of The Red Devils bandDM – Ha! Ha! Yeah, that’s right! I’ve just got to say, Big Pete, for me, I don’t know anybody else that could have done this role, so, thank you, Pete!

MF – When we got together for the first time to play, nobody knew what it would sound like or feel like because we hadn’t played together for such a long time, but it sounded just like the Red Devils because once you have Bill Bateman and Jonny Ray and Paul which is the heart of it, those original guys!

DM – Absolutely!

PS – I wouldn’t have done it without those two, nobody else sounds like that.

MF – As soon as the three of you get together, it just sounds a certain way. It’s the Red Devils man! Well, Dave, Jonny Ray, Bill and Paul and of course Lester, formed and created something, the five guys, and the mould was set. So when we came together and even though Dave Lee couldn’t make it, and obviously Lester is no longer with us, there’s a pattern there. So you always know what the Red Devils are, there’s no guesswork, and you’ve got the original members and so far for me and Pete, and even when I did it back then, you know what it is. There’s no guesswork.

JB – It’s kind of like you can tell the rhythm section is going to be Texas. But the cool thing about our band is that you have Paul, and Paul’s from Texas and the best thing about Texas guitar players is they are completely unpredictable. So, I think I’m hearing some T Bone but then you get Peewee Creighton. You never know what this man is going to play.

PS – I love going off on a riff and Jonny’s just like what are you doing?

JB – That’s the problem, I kinda have to pay attention to what I’m doing, I want to watch Paul but I mess up, it’s kind of like playing bass for Jimi Hendrix if you don’t pay attention to yourself your gonna wander off and go woah!

PS – Yeah, because I’m doing everybody, I’m blending licks that I’ve made up on my own, Otis Rush, Jimmie Vaughan, BB King, Buddy Guy, I’m adding them all. Then I get this little thing I’ve done myself.

JB – That’s why Billy Gibbons likes us. He said you know your guitar player! He’s absorbed all those guys but he’s made his own sound. He doesn’t sound like most people that play lead guitar in a blues band, you can hear their main influence, you can hear that No.1 guy they love, but with Paul, you kind of can’t pick who he likes the most.”

PS – I’ve gotta add that’s my dad. I have to say this because my dad loved everything. My dad loved classical, he loved… haha, and you know what my dad’s favourite song was? Ha Ha, ‘I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt’… haha… that was his favourite song. He also loved Abba and the Sound Of Music, he loved everything. There were certain rap songs he liked and I think I got that from my dad, you know it’s like I love everything.

DM – Well, thank you guys, I’ve waited a long time for this as I’m sure everybody has. Please come back and do this again and hopefully next time there will be a studio album.

PS – Yeah, all of our stuff has always been live so we haven’t had a chance to create yet. We really do need to get in a studio for two weeks and really create a new record.

DM – You absolutely need to do that, it’s the next step, we all look forward to it. Thank you, so much, guys for everything.

For More Info – BIG PETE


image of a T-shirt from The Red Devils band
The Red Devils t-shirt

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