Q&A With Rusty Egan
Never one to shy away from the ups and downs of his life, Rusty Egan tells us in his own words about the journey he has been on as he celebrates his 6th decade in the music industry.
Q. First up, how are you doing during this COVID-19 nightmare?
A. I write a daily blog covering that..
Q. How old were you when you first started playing the drums?
A.14, I was sent away to school so I picked up on the guitar and sang in the church when no one was around. I liked the echo and reverb. I sang John Lennon, Bowie and I liked Janis Ian ‘At Seventeen’ and it was easy to play Labi Siffre ‘It must be love’.
Oh, and the Troggs ‘Wild Thing’. I can play basic guitar and piano.
Q. Your late brother Martin was a very popular man within his own circle, did you ever work together on any music projects?
A. Martin was Introduced to Bono by me in Cork in the late 80's. I had reunited with him after 20 odd years. He was a rebellious, literary well educated, self educated I might add, person or a scholar. A man of many words and well read. He found my attraction to simplicity like opening a book and not reading it. We would discuss what I liked about certain musical artists like Kraftwerk or Bowie and he would say, ‘Grand Rusty, you have impeccable taste’ but his soul was in verse, poems, stories of younger and I was all about the future so sadly, no. We both loved Van Morrison.
Q. Are there any budding talents from the Egan family you’d like to tell us about?
A. Oscar Egan has learned how to produce, write and program enough from working with me and for himself. When I push him into unchartered waters he feels unconfident. He has seen me write and create from nothing, yet it has not made him confident. I know he has learned enough and will eventually find his soul.
Q. When you were DJing at The Blitz, did you feel something big was going to happen on the music scene?
A. I have always been a loud mouth and I was described in many 80s articles as the loud mouth Rusty Egan. What I did at The Blitz was simply play the music that should be played and the music we wanted to hear. DJs played American soul and funk and we all followed the same shops and magazines.
Q. When all these ‘Wannabes’ were coming through the doors at The Blitz, who stood out for you and made you think they’re going to be big?
A. There were no Wannabes, we were all collected during the days from the shops, college, hair makeup, music or magazines. Everyone just felt that The Blitz was the ONLY place where they were really with the people who were into the same ideas for a career. You can’t say I am a pop star before you even made a record, but you could say I am a star just waiting to be discovered as George and Marilyn would reply when asked what career they would like. Me, I would say I was in a band that never toured but were going to make videos and that’s what we did.
Q. Bowie must have raised a few eyebrows when he walked through the door?
A. I was not there that night but he came because everyone he did know told him it was really cool and so were the people, sadly I hear they all lost it as Bowie was our teen Idol and we were after all Bowie fans, so it’s like Numan popping into your party, everyone was gobsmacked.
Q. You will have so many fond memories of The Blitz, if you had to pinpoint one favourite moment, what would it be?
Q. Back to the early days of Visage, was Boy George your first choice to take lead vocal before Steve Strange?
A. George was an amazing person. At 15, he was such a strong personality and hated me because he really hated Steve. Steve was in a position because of me and he used to belittle George at every opportunity. The rivalry was also good because George with no money, living in a squat could still make an entrance to The Blitz and Steve would admit defeat on many occasions but bitch as well.
In fact Steve was my choice because I went to see him with The Photons so he had actually been in a band. George had auditioned for Bow Wow Wow I believe, but I had no idea he was a singer. He loved reggae and soul so it would not have worked.
Q. Sadly, you and Steve had many spats especially in the final years of his life. Do you regret not putting all the ghosts to rest?
A. I had no spats at all ever with Steve during our years as best mates and working relationships but looking back, it's obvious he was dishonest and so many things had been stolen from my house. He never paid the rent for the 1st year, he collected the money at The Blitz and after our costs, I paid our rent. He always had enough to go out and buy clothes so he was not telling me the real door income.
Also we were ok about the royalties because we were NOT getting any. I was telling Steve in 1990 - 1995 - 1999 etc... that he could get music publishing from Warner Chappell as our agreement was a renewable deal. I gave him the best deal, the same as me. Anyway, the record royalties were NOT coming and UMG would not respond to my emails. In the royalty department I found out about, there was this bloke called Adrian Bullock who also ignored my emails so I eventually spoke to Steve about some TV Show and an agent called me and asked if I would go on a TV Show for Steve, and btw did you hear Steve got a big payout from UMG?
I called Steve and said, I hear you got paid from UMG, he lied and said it was not UMG, he was paid something from something else and was doing Here and Now Tours as Visage. I then said ok, well you can do that stuff if it helps you but WE ARE OWED ROYALTIES and I spent a few more years trying to get UMG and Bullocks, who eventually caved in and sent us a list of all the royalties Steve had been collecting for 8 years. I called Steve and told him I knew how much he had taken and that John McGeoch had died. Dave was up north, I was struggling with 3 kids and we all learned that and it was wrong that he had taken our share. He said he thought it was all for him. Bullocks claimed he knew full well that they paid him on the understanding he would pay as instructed, each member of Visage on the list. Well as far as I was concerned he had STOLEN our royalties.
Q. Looking back on the disagreements with Steve, underneath it all, there seemed to be a brotherly love there. That shone through on Pop Goes The Band in 2008. You didn’t always agree with each other but there was mutual respect?
A. As I said earlier, I never fell out with Steve until I found out about the royalties going to him, and then to try to resolve it, we agreed to make album 4 and it was John Pitcher who saw he could take over Visage and milk it for every penny and pay Steve every month THAT WAS THE DOUBLE CROSS.
I did that tv show only for Steve as part of the agreement to make a 4th album and he could repay 50% of what he would earn to Dave, John and Me plus 2 guys on BeatBoy. John Pitcher agreed to register Blitz Club Records and Visage in SS and my name. I asked Midge and he said he was not interested in Visage and was happy for me and Steve to have it. Pitcher was a liar and a thief, and once he met Steve Strange, he knew he could pay off Steve to double cross me. Steve called me and said, I own Visage! I own Blitz Club Records! I will never pay a penny because I was Visage and you can XXXX XXX!!!!
Q. To date, 17 musicians are listed as Visage members, who actually owns the brand ‘Visage’?
A. We don’t care. Midge and I are Visage, Steve was the face. We never intended to be a BAND or TOUR. We wanted a visual person like Bowie /Grace Jones / Bryan Ferry. We would write the music and direct the videos [ Midge] so Steve was perfect. We even signed him to UMG and we had an agreement to split the royalties and that’s what Pitcher used to legally take VISAGE [SS] but all I say is listen to the music albums 4, 5, and 6, the remixes and all the rest, not one song is as good as Welcome to the Dancefloor . Even stealing Dreamer and calling it Dreamer I Know, that way it was a new song. All Pitcher! my gripe has always been Pitcher, and only SS for his treatment with the royalties.
Q. Many will link Rusty Egan with The Rich Kids/Visage or the DJ at The Blitz but your back catalogue shows a wealth of projects that you were involved in. You have opened the doors for so many over the years, your most popular being Madonna, is it frustrating when they bite the hand that fed them an opportunity?
A. As far as I am concerned, the music I have had a hand in and the musicians who I worked with all know my value. Like I said to John Pitcher, Hey! we own Visage now, you don’t! it's a Steve Strange album. There are no members in your Visage, only an ok singer! and you can’t write songs or make records like I can and that’s what it’s all about'.
Madonna was already a star, I just recognized her talent and I do that over and over. l just don’t make money. I make music and some artists like U2 have been wonderful to me and the remixes I did for them, I love em and their fans love them too. I wish I could work with them on the next album.
I DON’T GET OFFERS LIKE THAT but I do go get it myself.
Q. You are a champion of supporting and promoting Indie Electronic Artists from across the globe and we see so many come and go, what do you think is key for these artists to continue with their passion?
A. It's all coming very very soon! artists will survive from fans alone and they should be professional in all their affairs. The problem many people have in the music biz is, that it is a biz and the people at the top are talented at making money from music. The ones at the bottom have to play ball with them, well that’s over! You can do everything yourself and soon it will be very easy to make £100k from 100k fans, not the billions that Ed Sheeran reaches. We will be happy with 100k making the music we love. So it’s a choice, sell your soul for billions or stay true to yourself and have devoted fans of the music you love to make that a dream. So a lot of small acts do things with little money and say to me, it’s alright for you because you are already famous. I say, does that mean I can go to Metropolis studies, have videos made, no! I do the same as you and work from my home studio and get the tracks to the best I can, then I master them and boom they are quality and the artwork is great, all done for peanuts and on bandcamp like everyone else.
Q. You’re very vocal about the music industry in its current state, what is it that rattles you about it?
A. The manufactured rip offs stealing melodies, basslines ideas and everything is a steal. Ok, back in the 80’s people stole, like Stock Aitken and Waterman and they did it very well. Songs like ‘Trapped’ by Col Abrahams for ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley, but it dawned on you after you were told. Today you put on Dua Lupa’s ‘Physical’ and it's Olivia Newton John’s ‘Physical’, they don't even try to hide it!
All thieves! when they could be supporting Empathy Test, Fragrance, Tiny Magnetic Pets, Ryan Vail etc... They need the labels, so now the labels will be chasing the artists as the game is ABOUT TO CHANGE!
Q. You said in the Vaughn George interview earlier this year that you had a vision for the music industry of tomorrow, what is that vision?
A. One website will be like a stats graph of a song, who wrote it and played on it and all the songs info when you click on it. They are also able to see the life of the song and the digital wallet will collect and distribute each person’s % to each person's wallet so you wake up and you made £50 that day. You receive the digital money and have pre programmed the splits when it arrives so you take 50% into your bank and leave 50% for your music expenses and taxes are deducted in each country as per your status i.e where you live. If you move to Estonia you will be taxed less anyway.
You can also watch a more detailed video from one of the co-founders of Ujo Music, Phil Barry.
Q. I class Spotify as a bloodsucker for indie artists, disgusting returns on plays. What format would you recommend for indie artists?
A. Well if tomorrow, they canned the deal and paid the artists 80% the labels already own, the PAST! it's the labels that are getting the lion's share, but any new music will not be on Spotify, so if we can get 80% as owners of our music, Spotify will pay us for our new music IF they want it. Sadly at the moment, they are the front leader but in 5 years time they will be just another streamer.
Q. Does it annoy you when you hear songs like Kelly Osbourne’s ‘One Love’, which is clearly a Fade To Grey rip off?
A. There have been a hundred! Chris Payne co writer is always telling me can you FUCKING BELIEVE IT and I say yes I can!
Q. When I see quotes like ‘my energy was moving with Simple Minds and U2 [ who were so wonderful to me they gave me back my faith in music] Is it safe to say you’ve had your fair share of the cut throat music industry?
A. I started Metropolis Music Publishing with my advance from The Visage Album, so instead of buying a flat, I signed Steve Strange – Rusty Egan, Marc Almond and Dave Ball to Metropolis Music. I had the French producer of Magic Fly - Jean Philippe Iliescu as my partner and David Lowe. Sadly, they were both liars and thieves.
Also, Peter Reinhardt the head of Warner Chappell Music was very close with JP and his wife Kristina and they planned to sell Metropolis Music to Warner’s and when I was on my honeymoon. David Lowe started the process of emptying the banks and selling off everything we had built up over 7 years.
Now I am very happy to tell everyone Warner’s are thieves who have stolen catalogues and mispaid artists over many years. I want to see a whole new transparent crypto based system take over music publishing’s where writers just manage it all online with a password and digital wallets, smart contracts with predetermined uses and sync.
I am just a whistleblower and my days are over for being an entrepreneur but it's coming real fast. Sadly the music companies have so much money, they will just buy the entrepreneurs who think he sold out for 5 million etc... but they are just showing the music biz how to CONTROL.
POINT IS DO NOT SELL YOUR COMPANY YOUR COPYRIGHTS AND KEEP THEM OUT.
Q. You’ve been a great ambassador via your show, The Electronic Family Tree (EFT), you’ve introduced a lot of artists to your circle of friends inside and outside of the scene but you recently wrote you were taking a step back. Is that decision based on you looking for new projects?
A. No! it's just been time consuming and now it’s established and helping lots of acts. The other DJs are all great and we now all have a scene to connect.
Renato at Artefaktor is doing great getting the music and the djs.
Q. You have a new show on TwitchTV ?
A. Yeah, I will probably pop up every week from my own room now I have got the hang of it.
Q. You toured with your good friend Midge Ure last year, any plans in the pipeline for another tour or album perhaps?
A. Midge invited me on a few dates and I suggested Tiny Magnetic Pets for the rest of the tour and it worked out great. Midge suggested Zaine Griff as singer and guitarist for Rusty Egan Presents – Visage 1980 -2020 40th Anniversary. The family of Steve Strange have sent legal notices saying you can’t use the image of Steve Strange etc... This is a family who were not sued for the THEFT of £118000 in royalties, and they were also invited by MIDGE as guests to the Cardiff show.
I praised Steve Strange on many occasions for his perfect frontman performances, he was the face of Visage, Midge and I were the music. We got the great musicians and we made the music.
As far as I am concerned, Midge, Chris Payne, Rusty Egan have more right to be Visage than the 12 other musicians in that list of 17 you mention, and Steve could have been 'Steve Strange former Visage' like Tony Hadley ex Spandau etc etc .... loads of people are ex but they claimed they are Visage. Well my lawyers are awaiting your legal letter and we have not spent a penny on legals because it's a mugs game!
Q. If you were to form a band today, what would be your dream line-up?
Well I already have Chris Payne who is my dream keyboardist. I would love Barry Adamson on Bass but Youth aka Martin Glover would be amazing. Mick McNeil, more synths and Kavinsky or FM 84 would be nice. I love Nina and Synthwave but then again, I love Jan Blomqvist so too many for a dream line up.
Q. You’re quite open about your life and your finances, and through all the ups and downs of life, you seem to have that get up and fight character about yourself. What is it that spurs you on?
A. I am open about everything because I believe we are not here for long and what happened to me was pure evil.
I spent 20 years penniless after creating a company that made millions for Warner Chappell. I had my studios, my nightclubs, my home and by 1990 I was homeless. I went into a homeless halfway house in 1995 and my son was born after I had been trying to see my daughter, stave off eviction, gangsters, loan sharks, the lot!
I got off the drugs and alcohol in Feb 2nd 1996 and bit my lip, stayed quiet and it got me zero. I started SHOUTING MY MOUTH OFF and people were appalled. All the artists I helped started to welcome me into their lives and a few old music biz people and a really good mate Charlie S bought a studio and built it in his bedroom and got me back in the studio.
It took 10 years to get me back to normal, out of debt, family ok, then my wife got sick and then I had 10 more years of insanity so 21 years on my album is about biting your lip. Ballet Dancer about losing my wife, Hero and Lonely Highway about nightlife people.
Thank you to my heroes, love is coming my way, will I ever be loved like I was! Love Can Conquer All is about the love we had, how we made it through homelessness together, no matter what, we loved each other to the end.
I want people to know what happened to me is nothing compared to Sly Stone and hundreds more great musicians. When the new way kicks in, it won't ever happen again.
IF YOU DO NOT TRUST ANYONE and only own everything yourself.
Q. You released 'Welcome To The Remix Vol 2' in October last year, but it hit a glitch in its early stages due to a copyright issue?
A. NO! I AGREED WITH ALL THE ARTISTS INC Sarah Blackwood’s management, all the terms were agreed.
My mate and manager was having a rough time in his private life and we had a lot of pressure going on with me wanting to make a 40 track album. Instead of letting me get someone to help, he insisted on doing everything. We also planned a trip to Ibiza to celebrate the end of the album and the U2 Mixes. It was a good year, we went to LA in Jan and we were feeling that the album was amazing. I had a few trips I really wanted to go on and I was invited to Vienna and Berlin. My manager insisted he comes along and it started to cause problems with promoters or friends and I was saying, I can stay with mates and do my gigs and I did not need a manager etc etc... but he insisted he was coming, bringing a girlfriend etc.. Anyway, Berlin turned into a crap trip and then Ibiza did not even happen and the agreements were not reaching the artists. Three times they were asked and the info of writers and credits were all last minute.
The album was meant to be September but it was moved to October and then it just about made it.. Then the management of Sarah emailed and said take the track OFF or they will have my album pulled down and they did! The 3 mixes were removed and that was it, I was done. My mate/manager then spent 3 months dismantling my life. We start again.
He is a wonderful bloke. We had some amazing times and like a marriage it's over and I am sure I will be slagged off to eternity for being a prima donna. No! I just want stuff done, if you say you are going to do it, is it too much to delegate.
Q. Any plans in the pipeline for a Welcome To The Remix Vol 3?
A.Well it’s a collection of all the tracks STOLEN OFF ME.
I will steal them back! they will issue injunctions and I will say great, can you pay me the 30 years of royalties you forgot to pay me!
Q. You’re always up for a new challenge, if there was one thing you could tick off the top of your bucket list, what would it be?
A. My bucket list would be to travel the world performing Rusty Egan Presents, plus Visage and all my collaborations. I’d also take on the road guest supports and they could perform with our band.
Q. I don’t want to make you sound old, but you’re into your 6th decade in the music industry. When you look back on it all, how would you sum it up?
A. I would say it’s been a long road of choices, the easy choice is like staying in the same job your whole life and the hard road is handing in your notice and going back to being broke.
I could not be the drummer in the same band for all my life or the DJ in the same club every night. I might be broke compared to my peers but I love my life, my music and what I do. I am only broke because I was robbed of the money, not the talent, the desire, the love for life and if I was in the same job or band, I would have given up years ago.
Q. Finally Rusty, thanks for taking part in this Q&A. It’s hard to believe that 40 years ago, I was reading the credits on the debut VISAGE album and fast forward to 2020, I’m putting questions to one of the iconic figures of that era so Thank You!
Anything further you would like to add?
A. 40 years ago, I was shouting about 25 bands who were going to change the music biz and I was being told Fade to Grey was not getting any support until Peter Powell played it but in France and Germany they went mad for it. I loved the music from both those countries, I was playing it in The Blitz, Jean M Jarre, Kraftwerk, Space and you know the rest, the sound of the 80’s had arrived!