Marky Ramone

As Marc Bell in DUST, he helped pioneer Heavy Metal music in the early 70s. He later changed his name to Marky Ramone and became a member of one of the most iconic bands in history. See what Marky had to say about DUST to MER.

MER: The two albums that you recorded with Dust, Dust and Hard Attack, are being rereleased. Why have you decided to put them out again now?

Marky: They were originally on a label called Karma Sutra Buddah, and another label, Repertoire, bought the label. Sony Legacy eventually bought the rights to some of the stuff on Repertoire and my friend works at Sony and everyone was into the Dust albums and suggested we remaster and rerelease them. The previous version hadn’t been mastered properly so we got the chance to go back and put that right. Now the album is twice as loud and much more powerful sonically.

MER: Were you involved with this reissue?

Marky: I was there in the mastering house with the guys from Sony and supervised the process. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it back for the first time — it sounded amazing. I’ve played it in the studio, in my car, on my home stereo, and on a boombox to see how it sounded, and it sounds amazing. We’ll also be having a vinyl edition coming out that’ll be numbered and collectible, so that should be pretty cool.

MER: Did you have access to the original master tapes for this project?

Marky: We couldn’t find the original master tapes, but we did have the original reel to reel so we mastered the album from those. We didn’t remix it as it wasn’t necessary.

MER: Did you have any problems with those tapes, bearing in mind they are nearly 45 years old?

Marky: It was incredible that we were able to find both of those tapes as one was done at Electric Ladyland and one was done at Bell Sound Studios, but they were in surprising good condition.

MER: Did you come across anything in the vaults that you considered adding as bonus tracks?

Marky: Not really, although we did do a couple of singles that we couldn’t find initially, but we located them eventually, however, it was too late to put them on the forthcoming CD. If there are curiosity seekers who want to hear more, we might put them onto a second pressing.

MER: What about live recordings? Do you have any of those anywhere that you might release one day?

Marky: I wish we had. Back then to record live shows you needed access to expensive equipment and that wasn’t available to us then, which is a shame. There is some visual footage of us playing, but no audio track to go along with it. Now everything is on YouTube, but I wish we had this technology back then.

MER: Your first album, Dust, came out in 1971. When did you first form the band?

Marky: We wrote and recorded the album in 1970 and released the first album in 1971. We already had the material ready for the first album as we’d been together a couple of years or so before that.

MER: How old were you at that point?

Marky: I was 17, nearly 18 at that time. I had to go to summer school as I’d fucked off to play my music and missed so much school. We were all young, but we played with such maturity and intensity that you couldn’t guess that we were just a bunch of teenagers at the time.

MER: How long had you been playing the drums?

Marky: I started playing when I was 12 and what I had learned and absorbed up until that point resulted in the first Dust album. I didn’t just like Rock drummers, I liked Jazz drummers like Joe Morello from the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Buddy Rich. I liked Tommy Williams and Mitch Mitchell from Hendrix’s band was a Jazz drummer. He went down a notch and played Rock ‘n’ Roll.

MER: Were you self-taught?

Marky: I never took lessons because I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t even afford to buy a drum set. I pieced together a kit with a snare, hi-hat and bass drum and toms. I worked as a delivery boy delivering prescription drugs to save money to buy pieces for my kit. I hammered away on these cheap drums for a while until my father said that I had something there and he said that if I was serious he’d buy me a decent set. They pitched in and I got my first proper set and I practised 4 or 5 hours a day. I used to cut school when no one was home so I could play. I had to leave before my parents came home and then come in again so they thought I’d been to school.

MER: Who were your influences at that time?

Marky: We were definitely influenced by the English bands like The Who, Cream, and The Kinks, and bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin who came along a little later. We also loved Hendrix. There were elements of Metal in all those groups. Then Sabbath came along and solidified Metal in England with their first album. We’d actually already written our album 6 months before the first Sabbath album came out in America. There were only a handful of Metal bands in America. We were a bunch of kids from Brooklyn who loved music and we were lucky to have been brought up during those times with such great music around us. We loved The Who and we thought Leslie West was an incredible guitarist and Mountain were a great band. There were definitely Metal elements in them even though the term “Heavy Metal” hadn’t been coined yet.

MER: Your follow up album Hard Attack, came out a year later. Did you have a lot of material left after your first album that you were able to use or did you write the whole album from scratch?

Marky: Everything that we wrote for the first album ended up on that album. Everything that’s on the second album was written for that; there was nothing left over from earlier that we used — they were all new songs. Richie and Kenny became better producers — with the help of our engineer they honed their skills and I thought we did a great second album. I personally prefer the second album, but others prefer the first one. It was raunchier and grittier. You could tell the difference especially with the drum sound. We used the advance from the label to buy better equipment and you can tell the difference in the quality of the recording.

MER: There was some real diversity on your records too.

Marky: We had different tastes. I liked the Blues: Elmore James, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf. We all liked different genres and incorporated different elements into our songs. Kenny Aaronson brought some steel guitar into the songs — he was only 18 years old, but he brought that to the band. We even brought in a string section on one song.

MER: You and Kenny Aaronson were quite a rhythm section. What was it like to play with Kenny?

Marky: Kenny is one of the best in the world. That’s obvious, he’s a very talented musician. Everyone wanted them to play with him from Bob Dylan, Billy Idol, and Joan Jett. He even auditioned for the Rolling Stones. He’s played with a lot of people. We grew up together and went to school together and hung out in Brooklyn; that’s how Dust started as we were in bands together before that. We were in bands together at junior high when we were 13 or 14 years old where we’d play churches, Bar Mitzvahs, and friend’s birthday parties. We’d play anywhere and everywhere so that we’d get better playing live in front of audiences.

MER: You had two great albums by the band and a killer line-up — why did you decide to split the band after your second album?

Marky: We fizzled out in about ’72. I feel that if we had been on a better record label that understood our music and a better manager that knew about the Metal genre, then I think that the third album would have pushed us over the top. I would have liked to have done that, but everything happens for a reason and we went onto other things. People still talk about Dust, though, even after all this time.

MER: After Dust split, you had auditioned for the New York Dolls. You made it to the final two and it was between you and Jerry Nolan. Were you disappointed to miss out on that?

Marky: Me and Jerry were the only drummers around at the time but Jerry knew them — he grew up with them. At the time I was very technical. Jerry auditioned first and he just kept the beat. Here I am after him playing triplets — doing all sorts of technical stuff and Johnny Thunders looked at me and shook his head, meaning that he didn’t want me to play that way and that I should keep it straight. They just wanted the guy to keep the beat not the guy that sets the show. But hey, that’s fate, it happens and we have remained friends.

MER: You are probably most well-known for your time with The Ramones. How did you end up joining them?

Marky: The Ramones at the time were waiting for Tommy to leave, or they were going to kick him out. They felt that it would be better for Tommy to leave so it didn’t come across that there was any rivalry in the group. Tommy ended up leaving and I was asked to join the band.

MER: You changed your name to Marky Ramone, which was the tradition in the band. Did you have an initiation ceremony to mark the occasion?

Marky: My grandmother used to call me Marky and there was also a kids TV cartoon character called Marky Maypo, and he was always on TV, so I said to the other guys that was going to be my new name. I still had my real name in there but with a “ky” added. I always sign Dust albums as “Marc Bell,” but Ramones albums as “Marky Ramone”. I’ll never change back to my old name as I’ve been a Ramone since 1978.

MER: You replaced original member Tommy Ramone who’d been with the band for four years at that point. Did you feel like the new boy or an outsider for a while or were you made to feel like part of the band right away?

Marky: I knew Dee Dee anyway and The Ramones used to come and see Dust before they were even The Ramones so I knew them already so there was camaraderie even before I joined. When I joined the band, of course I was the new guy, but I didn’t need to prove myself. I just had to play the songs well and keep it tight. I had to make sure I was doing what Tommy was doing and what Tommy was doing was basically what Ringo had done in The Beatles with the hi-hat, the bass, and snare drum, but faster. Ringo Starr and Dave Clark were my early influences and that’s where that style came from. I sat down behind the drums and did what I had to do. I was sent a tape of their live show and demos of Road To Ruin. I spent two weeks day and night on my little drum kit with my little boombox and I learned 40 songs.

MER: Your final album with The Ramones was Adios Amigo’s in 1995. Did you know at that point that it was nearly over?

Marky: Me, Johnny and Joey sat down in a hotel room around 1994 and had a discussion about our retirement, which would be in 1996, which was 20 years after our first album was released. We thought 20 years was a good run and that we’d go out on top and that we’d accomplished what we could do. It was the right time, it really was. Joey was getting sick at that point and the beginnings of his cancer were starting. It was the end of the band — that’s life and you just had to accept it. In a lot of ways I was relieved — we all were. The music lives on. Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee are no longer with us, but their music will always be with us through videos and records. They will always be remembered and my mission in the world is to keep the songs alive and that’s what I intend to do until my body can’t take it anymore.

MER: With the renewed interest in Dust, what are the chances of playing a few shows together?

Marky: The thing is this. I’m totally against bands that use the name of the group and only have one original member. I don’t think it’s fair to the public because they are paying money to see a band and not just one guy. Ritchie was the front guy, singer, and guitarist. If I replaced him with someone else it wouldn’t be Dust. Of course, me and Kenny are still playing and we were a great rhythm section together, but without Ritchie it just wouldn’t be Dust.

Marky: What about your biography? When is that due out? Marky: I’m writing my book, it’s 90% finished and has to be completed by June 1st. It’s written by a Ramone, not a family member, not a road manager, not a roadie, but by a Ramone. I’m going to critique all the other books and use a star system for their accuracy and their exaggerations. It’ll be out 2013 or 2014 and it’ll tell the true story of The Ramones.

MER: What else have you got lined up over the coming months?

Marky: I’m going to be busy out on the road playing all over with my new band and I can’t wait to get out there and get started. The albums Dust and Hard Attack are out now on Sony Legacy.

Visit for Marky Ramone news and tour dates.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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