A Champion Chat With Rat Scabies
If you’re a long haul reader of this blog (Planet Mondo), you’ll know The Damned are ever-cherished favourites of mine. So a platinum-plated result then to spend an evening of pints and pizza with Rat Scabies, the legendary drummer with a roll call of credits that reads The Damned, Sid Vicious, Joe Strummer, Tony James and Jimmy Page.
‘One of the most personable blokes on the scene – no airs and graces with Rat, what you see is what you get’ is how Barry Cain describes him. All true and a thoroughly pretension-free, down to earth chap he is too. Rat, is now a fully fledged Grail-chaser and star of the soon to be seen special Rat Scabies Grailhunter. I met Rat, Rockmother and later Barry Cain at the Champion pub recently (thanks for the tip Cocktails) for a chat about his interest in the history and mystery of the Holy Grail and Rennes-le-Chateau………..
It’s not unusual for rock star’s to have hobbies – flying planes, racing cars, model train sets even. But a crusade to find the Holy Grail -that’s a bit special isn’t it. How do you go from drumming legend to Grail hunter..
I’m stuck with it ’cause of my parents. They’d been on a tour of the Rennes-le-Chateau trail, after the TV programme by Henry Lincoln from ’71 or ’72, so I’ve grown up with it all around me. I’ve always known the story really well: the priest, the missing treasure and the curse. When I left the band I had this idea for a film script, I renewed my interest in it again, I started writing it all down, once you do that you find out new things. You get to talk to people, they tell you stuff and it just ends up taking over.
Would you say it’s taken over your life now.
There’s a lot of it in my life now. A lot more than I wanted.
How would you describe a layman’s or beginners guide the Grail Mystery.
The trouble is there’s about three or four different interpretations of what the Grail is. Even if you want to the beginners guide that’s hard work, but to summarise – it’s either the cup used at the Last Supper that caught Christ’s blood at the Crucifixion. Or the other extreme is when it’s happiness beyond being satisfied with your life. You’re content, you’ve got to Arcadia.
Do you need or have to have any spiritual or religious belief to be involved
Well that’s my problem, and why I don’t really go for the cup of Christ, I’m not really a Christian I’m an Atheist – so, for me the thing of it being a spiritual awareness seems a bit more likely.
Is it a physical grail or an analogy to something else
I know where there’s about three physical grails.
What fake or genuine ones
It only needs one to be genuine. But, the thing is they all say they’re genuine.
Do you think it will ever be found?
It’s the journey – that’s more fun than arriving.
What about Dan Brown has he been a help or hindrance to Grail hunters.
He’s quite good at writing crime fiction – but pretty much everything in the Dan Brown novels has already been said by someone else Henry Lincoln etc. What’s good about it is, people read it and gave them a different take – that it’s good to question the physical version of events. I don’t necessarily buy into the whole Da Vinci, Mary Magdalene thing – because if that is the Last Supper and that is Mary Magdalene sitting next to Christ then actually they’re a disciple short..
Does your research spin into other areas
Oh yeah, you end up in Egypt or scaling a pot hole – in a lot of ways that’s why Rennes-le-Chateau is the important place. There’s a lot other belief systems. There’s a lot of new age Tibetan gong banging goes on down there, holding hands at midnight. But at the same time there’s people watching flying saucers coming over the nearest mountain ranges – not that I’ve seen any. Anything that’s left bank can be found down there
Is there an British equivalent to the area.
Glastonbury’s pretty close – there’s a few places around the world. Joshua tree in America where weird things happen
Do you look for lines or links between between these locations.
No, the thing is any two points make a straight line. People can whittle a shape out of most things.
It’s like the constellations isn’t it how do you make a bear or plough out of that.
I think human consciousness probably evolved around the same time somebody ate mushrooms and was lying there looking at the sky
You’ve got children, what’s their take on the mystery and Dad as a Grail hunter
They call it Rennes-le-Shithole.
Do they get involved
They quite like the place, some of them, because it’s beautiful – they like going down there and hanging out.
A Champion pub window, featuring W G Grace – who, appears as the face of God in Monty Python and The Holy Grail
How do you do your research – old bookshops, libraries, the British museum
Everything really. Visit a lot of old churches and castles. A lot of reading, various ideas . I end up with a lot of symbolism. A lot of similar things keep re-appearing re-emerging. Before people could read and write that was how they signposted something. Rosslyn chapel’s like a book full of them. Have you been there?
No, but it looks incredible.
The amazing thing about is Rossalyn is the way built. It’s brilliant. there’s no cement holding it together. It’s just perfectly cut lumps of rock. Some people have said it’s a showcase for the Masons. There’s a great deal of debate about it. The version I heard was it started out as Templar building but The Masons took it over.
Where have you met the most oddbods and bizarre characters Grail hunting or drumming with The Damned
Grail hunting. The first thing I realised was: just because I don’t believe it – doesn’t mean the other persons wrong. So when somebody tells me they’ve floated down a mountain side. I don’t believe it – but it doesn’t mean they haven’t managed to do it. There’s also a lot of one-upmanship and everybody wants to be the one with the latest theory and to have found something that nobody else has discovered.
Do you get splinter groups and spin offs
No it’s much more basic belief level than that. Like minded people stick together, so the ones that are a bit Sword and sorcery or get naked round a fire at midnight tend to go off for a ding-dong. I prefer practical things you can see, touch and smash a window with.
Any misconceptions you’d like to clarify?
People that try to debunk the theory of Rennes-le-Chateau and Saunier. The rest of it’s pretty much up in the air. You do get a lot of opinions.
You’ve made the trailer – what’s next?
Romo – To try and get it commissioned, although we are continuing to film.
Rat – A lot of the people involved like Henry Lincoln are knocking on a bit now, so it’s important to get them while they’re still warm.
There’s been plenty of good feedback on your style as presenter.
I find it really hard work. I’ve got a memory like a sieve. I’ll pace up and down for ten minutes over three lines.
Have you ever had a moment where you’ve thought what am I doing here.
The part in the trailer where we’re going down the mines – it doesn’t look anything like as rugged as it was. The floor is incredibly fine quicksand – and rocks with a lot of quartz in there, when the water comes through parts break off and it becomes like shards of glass. So you’re either sinking or cutting your feet. And every fifteen feet there’s a sandbank – so you have to drag this dingy over quartz, crystal and sand – there’s five of us in a two man dingy after the third bank the dingy’s leaking.
Is there anything you’d have done differently
Not really. I never really expected to find anything all I wanted from it was the good stories.
And that really helps, because everytime you talk to the villagers they’re a bit cautious. As soon as you say you don’t want to do a book about Geometry or UFOs they come round to it. By the time you’ve got end of a second glass of wine they start telling you stuff off the record. There are conspiracies down there – the whole village is in on something. You get to a certain point in a conversation and they’ll suddenly clam up. You get to too close to a certain subject and they change the topic.
Some of you earliest gigs where at the Mont De Marsan festival, which, geographically isn’t that far from Rennes-le-Château. Do you feel you’ve come full circle and are the French more tolerant too ‘outsider’ ideas?
Hmmm, not full circle, cos I was already Rennes aware when I joined the band, and to be honest I doubt if the French have become more tolerant to anything, other than the tourist trade
Your Grailhunting adventures have led to a book and film . Would you be tempted with working your stories and experiences into an album?
I have already include some esoteric (UFO’s in this instance) material in my music, anybody interested in listening should check out the track "Floydian slip" on my Myspace page Rat Scabies Grailhunter. In the meantime I’m trying to hustle up the cash to buy some new recording equipment so I can resume work on Sauniere the musical..
Are there any tunes or tracks that make you think of your experiences
Flipron’s Raindrops Keep Falling on The Dead – it could really summarise Saunier and his housekeeper’s relationship. Even though Flipron knew nothing about it they’d written a perfect background to this part of the story.
So an almighty thank you is due to Rat and Romo for making this meet happen, and to Barry for an evening of trading trench tales from the punk-wars with Rat. Which, is one of the most heady spectator sports you could ever wish to sit in on (although almost all are unprintable here)..
Rat Scabies will return with some drum talk at a later date…