Several years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ricky Humphrey, accomplished and successful musician in his own right. Presently, I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to meet up with Ricky once again, along with his musical partner Luke “Skyscraper” James, as the duo known as “This Twisted Wreckage.”
Their current album, The Way Ahead Is Clear, is a fabulous production heavily rooted in Goth, post-punk, and darkwave. Overall, it’s brooding and moody; yet some tracks are driven by a manic beat, with even some synths thrown into the mix, offering various points of aural interest for a wide audience. Personally, I hear the influence of Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, 69 Eyes, The Cure, and The Chameleons in the melodies, and Peter Murphy meets Andrew Eldritch meets Jyrki69 meets Peter Steele meets Robert Smith meets Mark Burgess in the vocals. It’s an amazing outcome.
I recommend you fire up some candles and incense and turn off the lights before listening. The ambiance will definitely enhance the experience.
Once you become more acquainted with them through their insightful, frank, and unfiltered answers offered below, be sure to check out “This Twisted Wreckage” music on https://thistwistedwreckage.bandcamp.com/
Missparker: The burning question for me is, where did the moniker “This Twisted Wreckage” come from?
Ricky: I can remember hearing Luke singing the line and This Twisted Wreckage just stood out! It sounded so right for what we were doing; it sounded like nothing I had heard before and in this broken and fragile world that we live in, not to mention the fragility of the human mind and people living with disabilities, body dysmorphia etc… it just seems to encompass all those things and is a powerful statement.
Luke: Ricky and I had this almost mystical musical connection right from our first collaboration. To be honest, we were so busy and blown away by what was happening that I don’t recall us even discussing a band name for a while. One of our early songs was called BACK UP AGAIN–an anthem to getting back on your feet no matter how many times you get knocked down–and there was a line in it that ran: “Down in this twisted wreckage where nothing is clear.” Ricky immediately jumped on This Twisted Wreckage as a possibility for the band name. As we try to be brutally honest about the state of the world, while tempering it wherever possible with positive messages, re-building from This Twisted Wreckage made immediate sense. Coming up with a band name can be one of the most frustrating, time consuming, and disagreement-sparking parts of starting a band (in my experience, at least), so the fact that the name arrived organically seemed to perfectly reflect the way we create the music.
MissParker: You both come from fairly diverse musical backgrounds—so, how did you guys meet and hook up to form the band This Twisted Wreckage?
Ricky: It was via the internet–Facebook, in fact. I had contacted Luke and to my surprise, he responded. We spoke of his early days in Fàshiön and bands that he had toured with. I then purchased his book, which is an absolute delight entitled, Stairway to Nowhere. We went back and fourth with our communication, Luke doing his thing, me doing mine; then on the 23rd December 2019, a young lady below us (we live in a two storey apartment block, a converted barrack) committed suicide and blew us up. She had filled her apartment with gas canisters then ignited them. This left my wife and I homeless for four months. During that period we stayed with our neighbours who had very kindly put us up. All I had to my name were the clothes I was wearing and my MacBook. I happened to have a few unfinished Nature Kills tracks that I had been working on and contacted Luke to see if he would be interested in collaborating. To my delight he said YES! To date, we have still not met in person, but we have a great relationship and I really do consider him as one of my best friends.
Luke: A friend of mine, Dave Harris, who was the frontman of a later version of the band I was in in the early 80’s – Fàshiön – suggested I check out Ricky’s music. Ricky was in a band called Ishkah, a kind of chill/trance band. I was heavily into bands like Thievery Corporation and Dreadzone at the time and I immediately loved Ishkah’s music. At some point I contacted Ricky and asked him if he would be interested in collaborating on a piece of music. Little did we know that it would lead to This Twisted Wreckage and an ongoing journey that has produced over 90 recorded pieces of music in the last two-and-a-half years.
MissParker: Is this collection your first album together?
Ricky: EI8HT was our debut. It just happened to be Luke’s lucky number, but the title came about as there were eight songs on the album. I then remixed and reimagined those songs and CULTIV8 was born. Not really a follow up, more of an exercise to see how far we could take things.
Luke: Our first album came out last year and is called EI8HT. The Way Ahead Is Clear is our second album
MissParker: The vocals are so emotive and dark. Who is the main voice?
Ricky: That is Luke. For some reason I have the chorus on the title track The Way Ahead Is Clear. I do a few backing vocals here and there, but otherwise it is all Luke. I have never worked with anyone with such depth to their lyrics. In TTW we have songs that will make you laugh, songs that will make you cry–there is no subject that he won’t tackle.
Luke: I am the main vocalist. I’m very emotional and prone to dark thoughts, but sparks of hope fire in my darkness as well–they’re like beacons. I try to focus on the positive in my life, but feel quite merciless about expressing my fear, horror, and disgust about many aspects of life today. We do have happy songs though, as well … honest!
MissParker: In the intro to this interview, I mention some of the influences I hear in your music and vocals: Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, 69 Eyes, The Cure, and The Chameleons. How close am I, and did I leave anyone out?
Ricky: I, for sure, wear my influences on my sleeve. I do not try to hide them and want people who have a history with music to feel reassured that something new and familiar is happening.
The title track is a definite nod to Gary Numan, “Don’t Look Back” is a nod towards Fleetwood Mac; then, there are the more electronic influences of Depeche Mode, and towards the end of the album a bit of Chic. Of course, there will always be a bit of Bowie in there. They are subtle, but they are definitely there, and not intentionally either, it’s just in my DNA. I have a cauldron of mixed genre soup that I stir up to taste.
Then, Luke does what Luke does, and takes them to another level, adding soul, emotion, and power to the tracks, plus a bit of paprika and chilli.
Luke: I have been told over the course of many years that my voice is everything from lousy to brilliant. I guess I’m an acquired taste. But I‘ve always sung from the emotions that the music inspires or dredges up. That’s exactly how I sing to the powerful, emotive music that Ricky’s compositions inspire. Also, I’m 6’ 9” and I have a long throat so strange noises are likely to occur anyway! But I’d say my main influence has always been David Bowie. I never set out to sound like any particular singer. Between 1978-80, I toured the UK/USA with my band Fashion, opening for a lot of different bands (Name Drop Alert): The Police, U2, Duran Duran, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Stranglers, The Cramps, Squeeze, B52s, The Tubes–a good deal of whom told me I was a weird singer. To which I said (and say), thank you very much! When Lux Interior tells you you sound like a “g-ddamn weird maniac” onstage I at least took that as high praise. The highest praise I get now is when Ricky is happy with one of my vocal performances.
MissParker: What would you say drives the creative process behind the duo “This Twisted Wreckage?” In other words, what motivates you two to write music?
Ricky: We drive each other–we constantly push and raise the bar. I will present Luke with an idea, he will add vocals, then I will rework it if required or rewrite the track around the vocal. Ultimately, whatever serves the song. There are no egos here; we bounce ideas around constantly, we are both up for the challenge, and enjoy our creative process very much. There is nothing that we won’t try–try and fail maybe–but we will always attempt to improve or enhance on what we have done before.
Luke: The pure joy of creation. Ricky and I have both been through the “being in a band” ego mill, and suffered the horrors of the music business in the past. With This Twisted Wreckage, we have both managed to sublimate our egos such that what serves a particular song in the best way is the most important thing. No preciousness here! But, we are both keenly aware that we, as a species, are throwing everything away, and we want to point out alternatives–but also pull no punches, as far as consequences are concerned.
MissParker: Are the lyrics at any time collaborative?
Ricky: Luke takes care of the lyrics. To date, I have never felt the need to intervene or even suggest a rewrite. Luke’s lyrics just work. And when sung, you can tell that they are from the heart or the darkest recesses of his mind. I do, however, just purely out of finding a great vocal melody or hook impact upon the arrangement, a bit of Bowie-like cut ‘n’ paste, but that is once I have the vocal.
Luke: Ricky writes these amazing compositions that, often on first listen, have lyric and melody ideas bursting out of nowhere. It’s a totally 2-way street; but basically, Ricky writes the music that inspires me to write and sing the lyrics.
MissParker: What about the music/melody—do you ever team up to create it?
Ricky: On the whole, I put together the backing tracks, so the structure is in place, albeit temporary. Once I get a vocal, the arrangement may change. I may find a particular part in the song which is catchy vocally, and extend that or add completely new sections, so as not to interfere with the lyrical journey, but to give space for instrumentation. Luke does embellish with guitar here and there as he is an excellent guitarist and he plays a lush solo on “Safe For Us.”
Depending on what style we are aiming for depends on Luke’s input musically. He is such a gifted guitarist and therefore makes sense for him to play acoustic or flamenco guitar, and any of the more picked styles that he is so capable of. I am totally reliant on effects where guitar is concerned.
Luke: Ricky will often cut and paste vocals when rearranging and mixing the final version of the song. He has an uncanny ability to stop me running off at the mouth and get to the heart of the meaning and narrative of the song. It’s just another blessing about this collaboration–there are many!
MissParker: How did online distance meeting tools that evolved during the pandemic help or hurt the making of this album?
Ricky: Luke and I have only ever collaborated via the net, so lockdown, etc. didn’t impact us in the slightest. I am very comfortable in my own skin and space, and don’t crave to be around people, so lockdown changed very little for me. All I noticed was, the sky and sea were clearer and the air was fresher when I went outside.
Luke and I use Messenger a lot for communication and WeTransfer for file sharing. We do have the occasional catch-up on FaceTime; this usually includes Pete King, who is responsible for breaking us in the UK.
With regards to working together, this is it–this is how we operate and it works absolutely fine. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with dial-up anymore–what a nightmare that would have been!
Luke: Other than FaceTime, Ricky and I have never met in person, and yet I consider him to be one of my closest and best friends. There is a lot said about how the Internet separates and isolates and it can–BUT, in this case, it has provided me with a kindred spirit, a musical soul brother, and a bloody good bloke as a friend. As with any system, it all depends on how it’s used as to the outcome. Also Ricky has a very sophisticated production studio, Bomb Proof Studios, and the ear and musical sensibility to match the gear he uses. We do hope to meet one day and play music together in a studio or onstage. But for now, with Ricky in the south of England and me in Northern California, it’s something to look forward to.
MissParker: What does a typical music session between you guys look like? Do you meet at certain times/days and for a set amount of time, or is it more a spur-of-the-moment, got a creative itch I’ve got to scratch meet-up?
Ricky: You can’t put a time on creativity. Somedays, there is just nothing there!
Luke and I have always taken an organic approach to what we do. I/we don’t want songs to sound forced or contrived. Some songs almost write themselves, others can be quite taxing, containing great moments, but seem very difficult to develop. That’s fine–we have so much material that a track can be revisited at a later point. But the process nearly always consists of a backing track being created, forwarding that to Luke, where he works his magic, then it is back to me for mixing or reworking, whatever the song requires.
Luke: There is no schedule. It’s either like an avalanche or a waterfall or a sonic bombardment–we’ve sometimes completed songs in the space of two days. I don’t think we’ve spent more than a few days completing any particular song. Ricky has an incredible work ethic–never known anything like it–and that totally inspires me to get off my arse and step up whenever needed.
MissParker: Who handles the all-important production duties?
Ricky: I tend to deal with that side of things. Logic Pro X on my iMac is where it begins and ends, but we have had some positive feedback on the production, for which I am grateful.
Luke: I totally trust Ricky to handle the final mixes and mastering and am constantly amazed at what he achieves. Having been in bands for what sometimes feels like hundreds of years, I can honestly say that this is the best band I’ve ever been in. How lucky am I!
MissParker: So, about that body in the trunk we talked about earlier offline (laughs)….no, seriously, what’s next?
Ricky: I am a huge admirer of John Carpenter (film director/musician)–his influence creeps into all our darkest compositions–so film, gaming, TV, advertising would be great; this is an area that we are relying on Pete King for, to get us that introduction.
We do have another album awaiting release. We put it back several times, as we had interest from a record label, and the negotiations are still ongoing. If not resolved soon, we will probably release that ourselves at some point in 2023. In the true tradition of punk, it is 10 x 3-minute uptempo songs that are somewhat political and are questioning our impact on this beautiful planet.
And… We have two new projects. One is a kind of industrial in-ya-face affair, and the other an ambient jazzy vibe, complete with double bass. There is nowhere we won’t go, as long as it is honest!
Luke and I have the most fun doing what we do. We have both been blighted by the industry and the BS that comes from being in a band with multiple members. We have a real kinship, joining of spirits, if you like, and I consider myself to be very lucky to have this opportunity with This Twisted Wreckage.
And thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk with you MissParker–it has been a real honour.
Luke: We’d really like to get the body out of the trunk and into movie or TV soundtracks. Ricky’s epic sweeping compositions often sound like movie music to me–I think that’s why the lyrical imagery comes to me so easily and powerfully. But the main thing is that the creative process we have now is such an integral part of our lives that wherever it may or may not go, the fact that it is going and continues to go is one of the great joys of my life.
Thank you for talking with us, it was a real pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me, a new piece of music just arrived from Ricky…
It was an absolute pleasure to partner with Ricky and Luke of This Twisted Wreckage to relay information about them and their current album The Way Ahead Is Clear. I urge you to check them out on:
And, if you like what you hear (I’m certain you will), purchase the tracks for your own enjoyment here:
What a great interview! I especially loved learning about Ricky and Luke’s songwriting process. You’re right, for all it’s flaws, the internet makes such a collaboration possible.
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And I know you speak from experience, Benjamin, with all of the wonderful music you’ve created in collaboration with talented folks far and wide. Thank you so much for your kind words. xoxo ❤