Having taken an extended break from the music industry, Lesley Rankine has finally returned with new Ruby material. Working with her brother Scott Firth (Public Image Limited), Rankine released a new track online earlier this year (“Waiting for the Light”) and is currently putting the finishing touches on a full album. In a phone interview, Rankine discussed the return of Ruby.
What made you decide that now is the time to start recording again as Ruby?
“I probably should have done it a couple of years ago. My son is getting to that age now where he doesn’t need constant attention from his mother. So now I have time, and an overwhelming need to do something creative.”
Had you been thinking about music over the years? Did you do any songwriting?
“Yes, definitely, I’d been thinking about it off and on for quite a few years. Everyone around me for years had been saying ‘you’ve got to make another album.’ And I was saying ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.’ And then in 2008, I got my brother to send me some guitar equipment so that I could see if I could still write a song. I wrote one of the songs that is on the album from that. A song called “Pulling Teeth.” It was a really nice song, but then other things conspired to get in the way. Before I knew it, another three years had passed.”
Is Mark Walk still involved with the project?
“No, he hasn’t been involved since the last one, ‘Short Staffed at the Gene Pool.’ We kind of broke up on not very good terms during the last one, so it was never in the cards that we’d work together again.
Was there ever a question as to whether to continue to use the name Ruby?
Initially, I was questioning whether to use it after this amount of time. Specifically, because there are a lot of other Rubys around now. But it doesn’t really seem to matter, and it was my project to begin with, really.”
What are your feelings on the changes the music industry has undergone since the last album, with the growth of the internet?
“For the most part, I find it really exciting because it just seems to open everything up, and it’s not about genres of music anymore so much. I think that people’s tastes have become much more eclectic because of it. I think that people are more open to listening to different forms of music, and in a lot of ways it is a lot easier to find music. I don’t use Spotify nearly as much as I should. Every platform that you use is constantly giving you suggestions similar to what you’ve been listening to, so in a lot of ways it’s easier. And of course you don’t have the tastemakers at the gate anymore, the guards on the gate telling you what you should be listening to.”
What made you choose “Waiting for the Light” to be the first new track you made available?
“I think because it was really personal to me. I always just go on gut instinct with pretty much everything. And to me that stood out as a new track to go with because it’s very simple and very personal. And it’s a departure from the songs that I’d done before, it’s very minimal and very personal.”
How representative is it of your upcoming album as a whole?
“Nothing is representative of the album. There are probably four different types of songs; it’s a really eclectic album. There are a couple of songs that are kind of like ‘Waiting for the Light’ – quite dark and simple. And then you’ve got the kind of big, loud stuff. And a couple of very electronic, almost dance-type tracks. And there there are some much more subdued, acoustic type of songs. That’s the way I like it, I like doing lots of different stuff.”
How did the process of making the album compare to past releases?
“In a lot of ways it is very similar. When I did it with Mark Walk, we worked on two separate computers, in each others’ houses, basically. This time I have a computer set-up at my house where I started to write the songs and do a bit of the music and recorded the vocals. I was working with my brother, and he has a similar studio set-up in his house where he lives not far from London. We were just sending stuff back and forth in Dropbox. One thing that has changed in the last 12 years quite immeasurably is how easy it is to send stuff back and forth. Almost immediately you’ve got it on your computer exactly the same as the person who sent it to you.“
What effect do you think that long term collaboration has on the creative process?
“There is no chance of jamming like a band in a studio, but I never really like that kind of stuff anyway. It maybe allows you to be more personally expressive, because you’re in a room on your own. I was working with my brother, someone who I trust completely. You can just delve into yourself a bit more. Maybe sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. It lends itself to a different kind of artistry, I suppose, and allows you to be more personal.
My brother and I are close and know each other really well, so there was no getting to know how the collaboration would work. It just was what it was, as we were completely free and open with each other. It was possibly the smoothest working process I’ve ever had making an album and certainly the most comfortable. I’d really love to do it again. It was great.”
Is the album completely done now?
“We’ve mixed it and have a couple of things to tweak, and that’s about it. We’re going to master it ourselves with software, that saves about five or ten grand. It’s so cool, and it works really well.”
Did you have a strong idea as to how you wanted the album to turn out? How might it have evolved over the process of making it?
“I rely on instinct. One things just leads to another by way of a natural process. I always have kind of an idea of elements of song structure or elements of sound or aesthetics. I’ve got ideas that I want to incorporate, and they usually end up being there in some description, but not necessarily in the way I first intended them to be. Usually I have a mass of ideas floating around and eventually they find their place.”
Do you tend to have musical ideas ready before you start to work at the computer, or do things come about through experimentation?
“It’s a bit of both. At the most basic level, the computer is just a tape machine, a recording instrument that operates in ones and zeros rather than metallic tape. The software definitely leads you to experiment. You can sit around and making little squeaky noises until the cows come home. But really, the things that write the song is the idea in your head. As much time as I’ve spent mucking around with software I spend working with a mouth organ or a little toy instrument or an acoustic guitar. To me, they are just all tools to spark the imagination and get it down in some kind of melodic form.”
Will you be self-releasing or looking for a label to put out the album?
“I’m self-releasing. I don’t see the point in going with a label. Part of the reason I stopped doing music before was because I was so sick of the whole industry side of it. There were a lot of things that I didn’t agree with. I find the idea of self-releasing and self-promoting, and the one-to-one aspect with your fans, to be really exciting. It appeals to me more naturally than going through a third party.”
While the internet makes it easy to let existing fans know what you’re up to, the large amount of music out there can make it difficult to get noticed by new audiences. Do you have a strategy in mind of reaching out to new potential fans?
“I don’t, but my manager does. It’s just hard work, really, finding channels to get to the people who would be interested. I think the way it works is just brilliant. If you can tap into and use the internet widely and effectively, it’s just synapses in the brain all sparking off. People chat and talk to each other and it’s all word of mouth.”
Do you have plans to tour?
“I’d like to do live shows. I don’t think it will be in the near future, I think it will be towards the end of the year at the earliest. There are a few more things to go before that, especially because it’s all self-funded. And right now I only have me for a band! Me and a beatbox and a guitar wouldn’t really cut the mustard, really. I’ve got to get a band.”
Are you looking to have a full band, or rely heavily on electronics?
“A bit of both. I would really like to have at least a four piece band because of some of the bigger songs on the album, and stuff that I’ve done before. I think it really needs that.
Is there anything that you’d been listening to that you think has influenced the new material?
“I think there’s loads and loads of stuff that seeps into my consciousness, a wide range of music. Everything from Vaughan Williams classical stuff to Alt-J, Everything Everything, and everything in between, PJ Harvey and Radiohead, Jesus Lizard still, when that comes up on the iPod I jump with joy. I think it all just seeps in there, and I find all of it inspirational.”
In terms of the making of the album, was it different not having a label involved this time?
“I think I benefited by being with Creation, because they were very hands-off, maybe even more so than I would have liked. Sometimes I felt I would have at least liked an opinion. They were very much of the opinion that you go off and do your thing and then we’ll do our thing. It was similar with The Work Group in the states, as well. I’ve had it pretty lucky, really.”
Did feedback on “Waiting for the Light’ have an influence on you as you completed the album?
“It’s definitely gave me encouragement. If there had been a resounding ‘we hate this!’ from everybody it probably would have been a bummer. But I got a lot of quality feedback, so it really gave me confidence to keep plugging away, doing my own thing.”
To download “Waiting for the Light” go to http://waitingforlight.viinyl.com/. For more info, visit the Ruby website at http://www.ruby-lesleyrankine.com/