Doug Ratner & The Watchmen, or DRAW, are without a doubt the most exciting down & dirty rock n’ roll bands to emerge on the New England music scene in a while. With the release of their newest EP, “Lessons Well Learned” they have quickly become a force to be reckoned with. Their single “Bomb in the Backseat” recently hit #2 on Amazon’s Hottest New Release in Classic Rock, and it was Radio 104.1 of Hartford’s most requested song of the week for 4/29. Not bad for a local band from Springfield, MA. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Doug Ratner for a little Q&A. Check it out. Listen to their music. Buy an album. Share with friends! Thank you!
When did you pick up the guitar for the first time?
Well, I picked up my first guitar when I was 3 just messing around with toy we had lying around. But I started playing when I was 8, and began playing professionally when I was 12. This included jazz, hip hop, r&b, blues, rock, etc. I was exposed to all different sorts of music at a young age, and I’m very fortunate to have played in all different types of settings.
Who was your main influence to play music?
I don’t know if I can pin point one person as my main influence. The Allman Brothers Band was the first group to really fuel my fire and passion for guitar. The first concert I went to was the Allmans, and I obsessed over “Live at the Fillmore East” for literally 3 years straight, learning everything about it, both the music and the history. As of now, my influences are The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, and Green Day.
What was your favorite show that you ever played?
Probably at the Springfield Civic Center in front of 3,000 people. It was for the opening ceremonies of the Maccabi Games, and that’s a gig usually offered to major label acts, but they chose us because of our popularity in Western, MA and to represent the home turf! We launched in to our first song and there were about 800 kids sitting directly in front of us, looking pretty antsy. When we finished the first tune, I suggested that everyone get up and come to the front. And it was like a riot. All those kids rushed the stage, started getting really into it, a little bit of stage diving and pushing. And then some of our friends threw some matches that we use for promo purposes out into the audience, and the kids started lighting them and holding them up a la rock stadium style. Well, needless to say the fire marshall didn’t like this, and it got pretty crazy. That was just amazing.
What is your favorite song to play live?
It’s a tie between this brand new song “Piece of Mind” and “Bomb in the Backseat”. “Bomb” is real hard to execute, because its fast, dirty, and right in your face. But I love the message and watching people sing along with your lyrics is just amazing.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve experienced with being part of a band?
Connecting with the fans. Knowing that you have lifted someone’s spirits or given them an escape from everyday life is an amazing feeling. Traveling and being on the road is great also, because you get to play your music for total strangers and win them over. They see us walk in looking all weird in our red and purple jeans, leather jackets, etc. and think “what the hell?” but once we get on stage and start ripping, no more questions are asked.
What was the best show you ever played?
I really can’t answer that! I don’t know.
What do you hope your listeners take away from your music and lyrics?
On a basic level I just want them to feel an escape. To lose themselves and have a great time. On a deeper level, I want people to realize the type of change I’m trying to cause. Rock n’ roll is without a doubt one of the most important historic movements that has ever taken place, it’s broken boundaries of race, gender, politics, sexual orientation, class, etc. As of right now, I’m not seeing much music that is taking the reigns and pushing that message. That’s what I’m trying to do. Revive rock n’ roll back into a place in society where people can put their hopes into something greater, knowing that the music will never turn their backs on them.
NEW SINGLE: “BOMB IN THE BACKSEAT”
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE NEW SINGLE
We recently were banned from a popular TV show for playing it, and had all history of our performance erased from their website. They claimed that the management did not like the references to “explosions” and “blowing things up”. Though same may look at this is negative, to me, it’s a perfect rock n’ roll moment. History is littered with examples of “the suits” not understanding the messages of the lyrics and songs. GNR, The Stones, Ozzy Osborne, the list goes on… I wrote the song to portray the reality of our society; we’ve become too reliant on our technological devices and at a cost, we lose a sense of our humanity. The song shows an individual who is able to use his phone to harm people and blow them up. As scary at it is, it’s possible, and it damn well isn’t going to stop. That is rock n ‘roll; expressing the truth about society regardless of the consequences. If you don’t take chances, nothing great will ever happen.