I recently had the chance to catch up with my friend & hero Ralph Steadman. My wife Kelienne and I visited him at his home in England in late May. Ralph recently created the cover art for JKO’s debut album “Blue Sky Traffic”. If your unfamiliar with him, He’s well known for his art & books “I Leonardo”, “The Grapes of Ralph”, “Still Life With Bottle”, “Extinct Boids”, “The Big I Am” & his work with Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” which he illustrated. Ralph is without a doubt one of the greatest living painters, his style is instantly identifiable.
So Kel & I went to see him. When we arrived it felt like the mad hatters tea party. A beautiful long dining table with Ralph, his lovely wife Anna, daughter Sadie, my friend/collaborator William Donald McDonald & another cartoonist Martin Rowson (whose work is also brilliant). We drank multiple bottles of wine and shared some laughs. I had brought my Gretsch Dobro in hopes he would get out his Ukulele and we could play. Which we did. I played them “English Mufffin” & “I’ve Changed Too”. Ralph let me strum a Ukulele his mate Johnny Depp had given him. Johnny (who played Hunter Thompson in the Fear & Loathing movie) is narrating / hosting Ralph’s documentary “For No Good Reason” due for release in the fall.
Anna graciously let us tour the house. In the bedroom, Ralph has painted an exact replica of Leonardo’s Last Supper.
On the way to his studio, Ralph made some incredibly original noises on the trumpet (I believe he’s self taught) & oh the joy. Next he played us a recording of his version of the “Star Spangled Banner” most likely influenced by the Bush administration. Track 2 was a song I believe was titled “It Never Really Happened Anyway” in which Ralph is in a nice recording studio with some amazing musicians & Hunter Thompson unexpectedly shows up in a sampled phone call. A rock & roll tunesmith to boot!
I put on our new LP “VoLcanO” in its current state. Ralph’s always been so encouraging about my writing and my work as a guitarist. I’ll always consider him the one who gave me my big break. I basically wrote him a letter out of nowhere and he helped us with the album cover (which really helped us get noticed). So anyway, my hero liked the new stuff! I can die happy.
As for inside the studio, a picture is worth….well…you tell me!