I was shocked last night to read that Colin McQuillan, lead singer of Runnin’ Riot had died suddenly earlier in the day. I was shocked particularly because just over a week before I’d seen him at the Rebellion Festival, both at the bar and then on stage with Runnin Riot on the Sunday. He looked on top form, but according to what I’ve read he died in his sleep while on tour while supporting Lars Fredriksen’s Old Firm Casuals. The band seemed to be on the way up after an up and down “career” of over 15 years.
For me Runnin’ Riot are easily one of the best Oi bands to come out of the 90s and are up with pretty much any of the original Oi bands. Not exactly prolific but I guess quality mattered more than quantity. Their songs can be anthemic, angry, funny and even moving, with lyrics about working class life in Belfast, a cut above those of some of the more cliched bands of the genre.
I didn’t know Colin well but I did meet him a few times. One of the first times was when I had a stall at a gig and he bought a couple of CDs. I was doing some kind of deal on 2 CDs and tried to give him his correct change which he refused to accept. Feeling bad I followed him and tried to force a couple of quid into his hands, only to be told to fuck off! Generous in his own unique way!
I met him again when we were both staying at a mutual friend’s house. Runnin’ Riot had a gig in the evening, but their main priority on arriving at 10.30am was to find an off licence selling buckfast. A mammoth drinking session resulted in the band on stage at around 10.30pm giving a less than technically perfect performance, with Colin filling in a long gap with an accapella version of The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s Ghosts Of Cable Street. He came across to me as strongly opinionated (pro-trade union and working class solidarity, anti-fascist) but ultimately someone who just liked to have a drink and a laugh with mates. You could have a heated exchange of views but the next time he saw you he’d greet you like an old friend. He didn’t seem particularly bothered about promoting the band, getting in with the in crowd or hanging around backstage, he was there to enjoy himself.
The last time I spoke to him was when I bumped into him at a bar on the first night of Rebellion and probably my lasting memory will be the face of mock confusion and disgust he pulled when he was asked by bar staff if he wanted ice in his drink. I didn’t meet him often but it was always a pleasure, and it’s hard to believe that it won’t happen again. Condolences to the rest of the band and his family and friends.