In 2013, Lesley Rankine returned from an extended musical hiatus with the first new Ruby music in twelve years. Now a duo composed of Rankine and brother Scott Firth (Public Image Limited), the revived Ruby initially released a single, “Waiting for Light,” and then a pair of EPs, “Revert To Type” and “Type 2.0” (remixes). A full new album, also titled “Waiting For Light,” finally came out this past summer. Having previously interviewed her back in early 2013, we caught up with Rankine to talk more about the album and future plans.
Did the “Waiting for Light” album take longer than anticipated to come out?
“Yeah, it did; I think because we decided to do a PledgeMusic campaign alongside it. So we kind of had to wait until that had run its course. I’d intended to bring it out a year ago, but I felt that since I’d released the two EPs I needed more songs to go on the album. I wanted to write a couple of songs, and that turned into four. By that time, it was October or November [of 2013] and nobody releases an album then. Then, we meant to bring it out in early Spring, but decided to do the PledgeMusic campaign, which delayed it another two or three months.”
With more time, did you do any further work on the material you’d already done?
“No, I don’t think so. We maybe did an extra mix of something, but it was basically writing new stuff. I ended up writing four songs, three of which are on the album, and the other is still ongoing.”
What made you do the PledgeMusic campaign?
“Really, it was to try to get some money together, because I’m totally self-funded and don’t have a label. I’m not really interested in being signed. I have two minds about the whole label thing. I think that in some ways it can help, but in some it’s just too much of a pain in the arse. I kind of like just doing it all myself. I’m a bit of a control freak, I think. So anyway, the Pledge campaign was just to raise a wee bit of money to be able to actually press some vinyl and CDs, and get a little bit of money together to get some kind of touring together, which we’ve done.”
Did feedback on the EPs have any influence on the additional material?
“No, I don’t think so. I think now I’m just preaching to the converted. There are not many folks coming up and saying ‘I don’t like that’ and there certainly aren’t people coming up and saying ‘well I like the drum sound on there, but that one should have been re-arranged a bit.’ If people said things like that to me, it might have influenced my ideas when it comes to songwriting. But really, with the way I write, it’s just all stuff that’s rattling around inside my head. And it rattles around for ages before it ever comes out into a song. I have ideas for combinations of instruments and sounds and production, and lyrical ideas. It just all exists in the scatter that is in my brain for six months before it ever sees the light of day.”
As the album is pretty varied, did you wonder how existing Ruby fans might react to some of the songs?
“Yeah, definitely. ‘Waiting For Light,” “And 5 & 4” and “Wetland” are probably my three favorite tracks on the album, and they seem to be the direction that I want to go now. They were the ones I was really interested in seeing if the more traditional fans like. It’s weird because it’s a very eclectic album, it’s all over the place, and some of it is keeping its toes in the past a wee bit. Then stuff like ‘Wetland’ and ‘And 5 & 4’ are much different. All of those songs I just named are really personal.”
Do you work with other musicians when performing live?
“It’s just me and my brother right now. I kind of like it like that. I would like a live drummer, but you have to feed them, and find more space in the car, and you know, give them somewhere to sleep and pay them. Things like that. So until I’m starting to play bigger places, it will have to be programmed drums. But it’s nice working with my brother; we have a really good laugh.”
Does your brother being in PiL impact the extent that you perform?
“Yes, yes! John Lydon needs to work around MY schedule! Just now we could only do these gigs [a short series of US shows] because Scott’s starting off with PiL again. So maybe I’ll have to get a stand-in at some point in time, I don’t know. I’d obviously much rather have my brother, but he’s got his day job to do.”
I’ve noticed that there are other artists using the name Ruby. Are you concerned about people getting confused?
“Well I don’t think they are going to get me mixed up with the Egyptian Ruby. She’s quite different, a completely different type of music, and wears much less clothing than I do. There’s a problem with Spotify, and to be honest I’ve kind of given up with them because I’ve contacted them loads of times to try to sort out my page. They’ll sort it out for a wee while and then it seems like they come along and pile anybody called Ruby in there. So I don’t know what to do, I’ve just kind of lost the head with them.”
I interviewed you in 1995 when “Salt Peter” came out and have you on tape saying “I am not Ruby!” Do you still see Ruby as the name of a musical collaboration, or you as an individual?
“I suppose it feels like it is me as an individual. It’s my thing, my outlet. But I much prefer to collaborate with other people to a certain extent. Things have a tendency to be a bit too one dimensional when someone just works on their own. I think it’s much better to have another head there, even if you don’t agree with them. At least they can argue with you, which is helpful.”
What are your future plans?
“I’ve got another half a dozen new tracks to get together for next year. And then our plan is to do a more extensive tour in the States. I think there will be a little thing in Europe first, and then we’ll be coming back over.”
For more info, visit the Ruby website at http://www.ruby-lesleyrankine.com/