Ripcord was founded in 1984 in Weston-Super-Mare, England by Steve "Baz" Ballam and John Millier. They threw together a line-up from the remains of Baz's old bands and recorded their first demo In Search of a Future in 1985. The music was abrasive, fast hardcore that mixed various styles to create a great, raw thrash sound. The band already had some of the songs that would be on the first LP. The original line up: Baz playing bass, John on drums, Malcolm on guitar and Jimmy on vocals, lasted only for this tape and a couple of shows. For the second demo tape Baz (who had drummed in his previous bands) played guitar and bass for the recording as Malcolm had left the band. Jimmy left soon after, and the band was back to a two-piece. In 1986, they recruited Steve Hazzard and Brian "Buzby" Birchell on bass and vocals (respectively) and immediately cranked out a third demo tape and started playing more shows. Their first vinyl release came soon after, a nine song flexi called The Damage is Done on their own Raging Records. They promoted the album with a tour that ended up not panning out well due to a sketchy promoter. Their fourth demo, 1986's Fast and Furious was distributed by the Manic Ears label and spread their fame further.
In 1987 Ripcord embarked on a more successful tour along with powerhouse hardcore bands BGK, Heresy, and the Stupids. They considered doing a split LP but eventually opted for a full length which was put out by Manic Ears (though pressed and distributed by Revolver). The record was returned from the pressing plant because there was unwanted noise seeping through between the tracks on side B. It turns out the LP had been recorded over an old Vice Squad session. After being corrected, the thrash masterpiece Defiance of Power finally came out in March of 1987. The cover artwork, drawn by Buzby, featured among other images a strange hayseed character carrying a large scythe and bottle of moonshine that would be adopted as an unofficial band mascot. Buzby and John wrote most of the record's lyrics. All of Buzby's songs but two dealt with issues of animal rights, from animal testing to the fur industry. He also wrote one attacking pregnant women who use drugs (at least I hope that's what it's about...) and one about skateboarding over old ladies. John and Baz's lyrics took on a broader political outlook, mostly dealing with anti-war sentiments. These issues, along with another anti-drug anthem, are expressed with seething rage over ultra-fast thrash.
After Baz recovered from a beating recieved during a show (many gigs were tense largely due to violent skinhead elements in Europe at the time), the band set out on a tour with Napalm Death. When Steve quit following this tour, Napalm Death's Jim stepped in to take his spot. The next tour with Heresy also resulted in a major line-up change: Buzby got the boot due to problems with Baz. Since they kicked Buzby out in the middle of recording the Harvest Hardcore 7" they turned to ex-bassist Steve for help. The EP marks the transition point in Ripcord's sound from a raw thrash sound to a more precision assault inspired by US hardcore. This was indicated by the two Boston bands covered on the EP: Siege and SS Decontrol (the latter only appeared on the US pressing). Steve's voice actually sounded a bit like SSD's Springa on a few tracks, and the complexity of the band's song writing increased along with the speed.
After being robbed of much of their equipment, the band bought new gear with money raised on a successful tour of Ireland. In 1988 they also recorded a session with John Peel and released a live album through the German "Your Choice Live" series. The band returned to their favorite studio in Holland to record their second and final album, Poetic Justice, which picked up where the Harvest Hardcore EP left off: manic, US influenced thrash. The insert acknowledged the new sound by including fake fliers that had Ripcord playing with bands like Minor Threat, Jerry's Kids, Siege, and Deep Wound. To the modern viewer however, the real fliers with bands like Heresy and BGK seem almost as awesome. The lyrics to this LP were also more diverse, mixing personal statements with political issues. The title track is an especially great attack on consumer culture.
After the LP, Steve decided to leave the band again and move to the States with his American wife. Four years after they began, Ripcord played their final show in Weston. Baz was already a full-time member of Heresy, although that band would also break up by the end of the year. Steve's marraige ended in divorce, and he sang in the band Spite (along with John) after returning to England. Jim went on to play in Filthkick and Cracked Cop Skulls. The others have been in various bands playing various styles over the years, and now Baz, John, and Jim have reunited to play in the thrash band Dumbstruck. The Ripcord discography, including the Peel Session and live set, have been reissued on two CD's: Hardcore covers the Buzby era, while More Songs About compiles the material with Steve singing. Both have been recently reissued so there's no excuse not to experience the might of Ripcord. Much info for this bio was cribbed from Graham Sleightholme's article in Short Fast + Loud No.6.
THE DAMAGE IS DONE 7" flexi (Raging Records, 1986)
DEFIANCE OF POWER LP (Manic Ears, 1987)
HARVEST HARDCORE EP (Raging Records, 1988)
YOUR CHOICE LIVE 10" (Your Choice, 1988)
POETIC JUSTICE LP (Raging Records, 1988)
MORE SONGS ABOUT... CD (Weasel, has "Harvest Hardcore", "Poetic Justice", radio and live tracks)
HARDCORE CD (Epistrophy, has "Damage is Done", "Defiance of Power", and comp tracks)
DIGGING IN WATER LP (COR/Manic Ears, 1987), "Single Ticket to Hell"
REVENGE OF THE KAMIKAZE STEGOSAURUS FROM OUTER SPACE LP (Ax/ction, 1988), "Lucky Ones", "Vivisection - Tortura Innecessaria"
Interview on Back to the Core
This is a very recent interview with later bass player Jim, about his days in Ripcord and their new band Dumbstruck.