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Rick Ventura was in Riot, rock's unluckiest band: now he's back with Riot Act

Rick Ventura in an alley playing guitar with one arm held high
(Image credit: Dawn Chaffin)

From 1975 onwards, New Yorkers Riot became stalwarts on the UK’s hard rock scene, supporting Saxon and appearing at the first Monsters Of Rock festival in 1980

Plagued by business problems and devastated by the death of founding guitarist Mark Reale, they relaunched as Riot V in 2013. 

Riot Act are a separate band formed by Riot rhythm guitarists Rick Ventura and Lou Kouvaris in late 2019. Kouvaris died from coronavirus complications just a few months later, but we caught up with Ventura earlier this year.

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Riot were a part of some of the most important moments in hard rock during the eighties. What do you recall of the inaugural Monsters Of Rock? 

That was a trip! What a blast. It was like a mini-Woodstock. You’d look out in the audience and there was a sea of denim and leather – just like the Saxon song. I’ll never forget that experience. 

After you and Lou Kouvaris left the band in 1978 and 1984 respectively, what did you both get up to? 

Playing in bands, whether it was covers or just jamming. That whole era left a really bad taste in my mouth. It was a sad period. But I always had a glimmer of hope. 

The idea for Riot Act came when the two of you began making guest appearances with Riot V. 

That’s right. Each time we played with them we had a blast, and gradually things began to percolate, and then Lou and I were inducted to the Heavy Metal Hall Of Fame [as members of Riot in 2018 - they performed at the ceremony as Riot Act in 2020].

Many bands suffered during lockdown, your own way more than most. Lou was just sixty-six years old when he died of coronavirus complications. This was before the vaccine, right? 

Yeah. It was, like, a month into the pandemic. We had been so excited about the project. It was the first time we had played together, and each time we’d look over at one another grins were plastered across our faces. The only time Riot Act played live was at the Hall Of Fame, and that was just two songs.

Did you ever consider giving up? 

Oh yeah. I didn’t pick up a guitar for quite a few months. But eventually I realised I still had all of this music inside of me. 

A strong flavour of Riot can be heard in the single Wanted, and also in Right Between The Eyes. 

That sound is what Mark [Reale] and I were about. It’s hard-driving rock, and that never left me.

There’s also an undercurrent of bluesy hard rock. 

The bottom line is that Riot Act are an old-school hard rock band. That’s it exactly. It’s something that’s been missing in music. 

In August, Riot Act are special guests on Lillian Axe’s UK tour. 

Like I said, we haven’t played live since Lou passed away, so we are beyond excited to come over to England for our first shows in more than two years. 

There’s no rivalry between Riot Act and Riot V. Wouldn’t it make sense to streamline both bands into one line-up? 

That’s a wacky idea. One day we might even play together revisiting different eras of Riot music, who knows?

Closer To The Flame is out now via Global Rock Records.

Dave Ling
Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.