Location: The Alwyne Castle, Islington, London
We drank: Guinness and Aspall Perronelle’s Blush Cyder
The number of meals Ricki devoured: 5
The Alwyne Castle had kindly reserved a table for us in a quiet corner. It was here that Jay Best and I sat on a Tuesday night, nursing a few ciders and anticipating the arrival of the infamous Ricki Hall.
I first became aware of Ricki through word of mouth. An array of hedonistic tales were whispered gleefully into ears, each more outrageous than the next. Ricki’s name was always slap bang in the middle of every extravagant tale.
As I waited for Ricki to arrive, I wondered what exactly I had signed up for. Would I be met with the anarchist from the glossy pages of fashion magazines or the humble former mechanic from Wolverhampton? Before I could ponder this for too long, the man himself arrived.
Fresh off of the tube from Brixton, Ricki strolled into the pub, trying his best to appear inconspicuous and failing miserably. Dozens of pairs of eyes followed Ricki as he made his way to our table. Looking every part, the off-duty model, Ricki was dressed casually in his signature white t-shirt, skinny jeans and a grey beanie hat perched on his head. He greeted us warmly with a hug and apologised profusely for being five minutes late.
Ricki eyed the Guinness that we had bought for him and a smile played on his lips. Inspired by the pint, he told us some spectacularly outrageous tales from his recent trip to Ireland, where he raised hell with rock band Wounds. With a glint in his eye, Ricki told us anecdotes that were so notorious that it would have put The Who (during their heydays) in the shade. Sadly, I couldn’t even begin to write them here, you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. But let me just say that Ricki had us gasping in awe, squealing in disgust and covering our faces with our hands.
Before we could commence with the interview, Ricki announced that he was starving and became engrossed in the pub’s menu.
Fifteen minutes later, Ricki was surrounded by not one meal but five meals; including fish and chips, wild mushroom risotto, calamari, a meat board and soup with bread. He also bought another round of drinks and repeatedly offered us mouthfuls from his selection of dinners. After the waiter had whisked away the small mountain of empty plates, we got down to business.
Ricki leant across the table and in his deliciously raspy voice that was laced with an undeniable Wolverhampton accent, said: “Eating soup with a beard is alright but the worst is eating cereal, especially Coco Pops. It’s alright to eat Shreddies because they have got a bit of weight to them; but Coco Pops are so light and because their brown I don’t realise they are stuck in my beard. I’ll be getting ready to go out at some point and then find some occasionally hiding in there.”
He added: “When I ate, I used to pin back my moustache with those grips that women use but I had to stop because it was fucking painful. They really pinch your hair, and my hair is so fine, it was unbearable.”
I told Ricki that his infamous beard was looking especially luxurious; he revealed that he has a rigorous beard care routine to ensure that his beard is always on top form. He said: “It looks like shit today because I have been travelling but I wash and condition it every day. I then put some beard oil and moustache wax on it.” Ricki then produced a small comb from his pocket and demonstrated how he usually styles his beard and moustache; it shouldn’t have been riveting but it really was.
Ricki swears by products by Texas based groomer the Bearded Bastard. He said: “I use his Woodsman moustache wax and beard oil. The Bearded Bastard has made me my own beard oil incense. He asked me what I like, I told him ‘oceans, forests, campfires, skateboard, fistfights, nosebleeds and rough sex.”
He added: “He took a few weeks to sort it all out and then he sent me these personalised bottles. The things I said that I like have been printed on them as ingredients! They have little wax seals and one of my tattoos printed on the bottles, which I thought was a sweet touch. So, now I use my own ‘Ricki Hall Fucking Beard Oils’.”
Ricki leant over the table and said: “In fact, I am wearing them now, fancy a smell?” So, that is exactly what I did. I sat there in a heaving pub in Islington, sniffing and caressing Ricki Hall’s notorious beard. I can happily report that it was as soft as the hair on a new born baby and smelled of an intoxicating concoction of whiskey, a roaring bonfire and honey.
I asked Ricki if this was how he seduced the ladies, by allowing them to smell his beard, he replied with nothing but a mischievous smile.
Ricki is a warm and mellow soul but we tested his patience when we brought out a small bag of multi-coloured beads that shone with glitter. In retrospect, I think that they may have come from a Barbie gift set. We asked Ricki warily if we could bead his magnificent beard. To our surprise he was game and patiently threaded seemingly endless miniscule beads onto his beard. He looked adorably ridiculous and we laughed together. One of Ricki’s greatest attributes is that despite appearances he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
A man who was sitting at a table next to us often joined in with our laughter and almost strained his neck, leaning into listen to what Ricki was saying. Throughout our interview, we were often disrupted by waiters and passers-by who wanted to get a closer look at Ricki. There is no denying that Ricki is captivating and definitely has a disarming charm, but I really appreciated the fact that despite people trying to distract him, he made every effort to devote his attention solely to the interview. He has a rare ability to really engage with you and make you feel as though you are the only person in the room, an especially desirable quality in an interviewee.
It was impossible not to notice the dozens of intricate tattoos that decorate Ricki’s body; he revealed that he has over 125 so far. He pointed out some of his favourites, which included Mr Men character Mr Messy and the McDonalds ‘Golden arch’ logo. However, not all of his tattoos are so whimsical. Ricki revealed that he has a solid black coffin tattooed on his body that covers up his tattoo of his ex-girlfriends name, he said: “I chose a coffin because the entire situation is dead, I thought that it was fitting.”
He also pointed out a cross which shows when he got his heart broken. He also showed us a tally chart tattoo that represents the number of times that he has fallen in and out of love, there are eight lines if you were wondering.
Many would say that Ricki’s look is extreme, so I was curious as to what Ricki’s idea of extreme is. He pondered: “To be fair, I spend a lot of time in Camden so everything is pretty much the norm to me. Actually, I just thought of something quite extreme, I saw this bloke who had slit his cock in half, like they do with the tongues. So from the tip, about half way down it is split in half, like a hot dog. See I think it is your body, so do what you like with it, but fucking with your cock is taking it too far.”
On the subject of his alternative, Ricki and I discussed his feeling towards the growing trend that made him famous. He sat back in his chair and pondered: “This is a trend in cities like London though, when I go back home to Wolverhampton people don’t really get it. Back home, they perceive it as only terrorists and homeless people have these beards. Back home people are always asking why I cover up my face with this beard, when I try to explain they just don’t get it.”
He added: “So the trend is good in a sense but the originality has been obliterated and sometimes people see me and shout things like ‘hipster’ right in my face or the worst is when they accuse me of copying another model who actually adopted the trend after me.”
A smile then illuminated Ricki’s face, he said: “It is funny that you should ask that, because I am considering changing my look a bit. I am trying something subtle, not too drastic. I am actually growing my hair out at the moment, I want it long enough so that I can tie it in a rough bun.”
He added: “I used to have that skin fade parting but now a lot of bearded models have it so I want to do something new and try and stay ahead a bit. If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t, you can always just go back to what you know.”
Ricki nostalgically told us the story of how he was scouted. He was walking out of Topshop in Oxford Street, after purchasing one of his signature white t-shirts, when he was approached. He smiled and said: “It was funny because it was the first time I had come to London on my own. I was still working as a mechanic in Wolverhampton at the time and was still wearing my filthy oily overalls.”
He added: “At the time, I had a Mohawk and a little curled moustache and looked like an old school porn star. They put me in a taxi and I signed to Nevs that day. I had to immediately move to London, so I was sofa surfing for around five months but it paid off. My first campaign was for Lyle & Scott and that paid for me to get my own little place and the rest is history.”
Before he was scouted, Ricki had never taken the thought of pursuing modelling seriously. He said: “I was working for the family business in Wolverhampton and that is how I always thought it would be. I still have to pinch myself, when I look back on what has happened recently. It is still strange to refer to myself as a model.”
Ricki has come a long way since then. He is revered in the modelling industry with many fellow models referring to his iconic status. He has gathered a strong following of over 100,000 on Instagram and if you take a peek at his comments, they are interesting to say the least.
Ricki’s eyes lit up when we mentioned his followers, he said: “I love them, they are hilarious. Some of what they say is full on, but it is a laugh. The other day I did read something a bit disturbing, a girl commented saying that I make her vagina cry. That was a good one, quite creative too. I’ve never heard that one before.”
However, all of the comments are not always complimentary. Ricki said: “Although the majority are positive there are always people who write hateful stuff, to try and get a rise out of me. They call me names and say I am disgusting or whatever. People give me a lot of unwarranted shit online.”
There is definitely a surprising vulnerability that can occasionally be seen in Ricki, however it makes him all the more endearing. After being prompted a number of times, he humbly tells us a tale that occurred last week. Ricki was shooting a commercial and after an arduous day, he arrived home exhausted and starving to discover that there was no food. He ordered fish and chips from a local shop but after an hour and a half they still hadn’t arrived. He recalled: “I wrote out a really evil email to them because I was really pissed off and moody. They sent an email straight back apologising and saying that the food was on its way but I wasn’t having any of it. Just then, the fish & chips came but not before I had ordered a second meal of pizza and pasta.”
He added: “So I sat there surrounded by all this food and I didn’t know what to do with it, it was enough to feed me for four days. So, I made a hot cup of tea and put a box of food together for the homeless man, who sits by the local library, because it was quite a horrible cold night. In the end I only had a few forkfuls of pasta and two slices of pizza and went to bed.”
Ricki is wary of people thinking that he is unapproachable due to his strong image. He leant in seriously, his gravelly voice noticeably softer. He said: “People often think that I am unapproachable and that is not true at all. People see me on the tube and sneakily take photos and then tweet me them later.”
He added: “That is crazy! They should just tap me on the shoulder and say hello. I am more than happy to take photos or whatever. I would love for people to come over and say hello more often if they see me, we’ll probably end up having a drink and a chat together or something. I would really love that!”
At this point an unidentified noise broke our concentration and we looked around to discover that the once heaving pub was empty, bar the staff and an elderly man nursing a solitary pint. We checked the time, only to realise that it was gone midnight and we had been engrossed in conversation for over four hours, oblivious to the time.
Ever the gentleman, Ricki bought us one last round and settled the entire tab. He then had to rush to catch the last tube back to Brixton, but not before offering a warm embrace and thanking us for taking the time to interview him.
It was then that I realised, Ricki had shattered any preconceived notion I may have had. So, if you are ever lucky enough to see Ricki in real life, I assure you that there’s a warm heart, a deliciously dark sense of humour and a real gentlemen hidden behind those tattoos and infamous beard.
Fifteen Questions We Ask Everyone
1. What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I scratch my balls, go for a piss and then fuck.
2. What did you want to be when you were younger?
3. If you could offer advice to your twelve-year-old self, what would it be?
Fucking study more, I was such a twat in school. So basically, I would advise myself to stop being such a dickhead in school.
4. You have 24 hours with no travel restrictions, how would you spend it?
I would travel to every state in America, I would make sure that I had a drink and a local snack in each state.
5. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you this year?
I shot a music video with Jake Gyllenhaal, he rugby tackled me in the middle of the street in the snow. At one point I was lying in between Jake Gyllenhaal’s legs, that was quite exciting.
6. The film you can watch over and over yet never tire of?
Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
7. What character can you relate to the most in any film, book or TV show and why?
Definitely Rudy from Misfits, he is played by the hilarious Joe Gilgun.
8. If you could commit one crime and get away with it, what would it be?
I would probably just become a rum-running pirate.
9. The song that always makes you emotional?
It is from the film This Is England, it plays when Lol gets raped by her dad. It is called Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi.
10. If you could spend an entire day with anyone uninterrupted, who would it be?
Johnny Depp! We could drink whiskey together, we wouldn’t even talk, I would just stare at him.
11. It is Friday night at midnight, where are you most likely to be?
On a Friday night at midnight I am usually at the Black Heart in Camden. You can find me slumped in the corner, with a whiskey in my hand, listening to The Smiths.
12. What is your biggest vice?
13. What is people’s most common misconception of you?
People that don’t know me, think that I am an egotistical and rude person. Those who actually know me, know better than that.
14. How would you like to be remembered?
I would like people to remember me as a man that never did any harm to anyone. I would like to be remembered as a charming vagabond.
15. What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
I cleanse tone and moisturise my skin, I use Kiehls oil-free moisturiser and face wash.
Follow Ricki Hall on Twitter: @RickiFuckinHall
Photographs provided by: