Potted History

Rack and Ruin
© Photo, Simon Marshall

And so, a potted history… The Band of Rack & Ruin was born because Mick Bisiker wanted an excuse to buy an electric guitar and Keith Butterfield was willing to play with anybody! Having recruited John Davis (bass and whistles) & Phil Wright (fiddle) and having been booked to perform at Heather Festival, the band found themselves drummer-less a week before the gig – at which point, in steps John Large. “At the first rehearsal of Rack & Ruin mk I, John’s input transformed the material and we knew straight away we were onto a winner”.

In it’s infancy, the Band of Rack and Ruin had supported several mutations due to the other musical commitments of the various members of the band – hence the variations in the line-up on the cassette album.

Ashley Hannis replaced John Large on drums. Chris Green doubled up on bass (as John Davis was finding it difficult to meet all our commitments while playing with the ceilidh band ‘Captain Swing’). Chris also added mandolin and piano to the live set when needed.

The album ‘Ball & Chain’ contains contributions from all the musicians who had been part of Rack and Ruin up to this time.

Shortly after the release of the album, Ashley had an offer he couldn’t refuse and went off to play for the sort of money that isn’t available on the folk scene!!

Luckily, Chris knew a good drummer and drafted Duncan Arrow in at very short notice to cover three gigs that Ashley couldn’t do. Even more luckily, Duncan fitted in straight away, liked the material and stayed.

“We had been faced with the imminent departure of Chris to University for some time, and while pondering who we could get to replace him, we fell upon John Brown“, says Mick.

John was a veteran of the Midlands folk scene and was familiar with most of the material, having played with Mick both as a duo and in various bands. However after 5 years of playing bass with the band, John then felt it was time to move on to pastures new. So – in 2001 – in steps Chris Radley.

Duncan and Chris had known each other for over 10 years, having played together in several bands during that time. Chris had never played folk music before but was nevertheless keen to get stuck in. “Mick’s own songs were fairly straightforward to pick up, but learning jigs and reels was something I’d never had to do before”, says Chris.

When Keith couldn’t do a couple of gigs back in September 2004, in stepped fiddle player Nigel Ward. Mick and Nigel had done a lot of duo work together. What with Nigel being able to play guitar as well as fiddle (and having a better set of speakers!), he was a natural choice when Keith announced his departure from the band, due to work commitments

Soon after, in 2005, the line-up of Mick, Dunk, Nigel and Chris went into Chris’ Dmusic Studio in Leamington Spa and recorded “Gone To…”.

This line up (pictured above) stayed in place for almost a decade until Duncan decided to pursue other musical projects. Since 2013 the the drum stool has been occupied by either Tom Bisiker or Alex Stott.

More recently, at gigs (and soon on recordings), Deb Gunby has been adding alto and tenor saxophone and backing vocals to the Rack and Ruin sound.

Currently Rack and Ruin perform as either a five-piece electric band or as an acoustic four piece band in venues throughout the UK.

The band are now back in the Dmusic Studio as a new album, featuring the current line-up, is currently being recorded for release in late 2018.