RICH EXPERIENCE

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How did you become Rich Experience? was it a choice or just an occupational hazard?  I developed a love for the synthesizer listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer and Electric Light Orchestra as a kid.  Specifically Keith Emerson is my music hero.  I traded in my High School Band clarinet for my first synth a Korg Poly 61M when was 16 and started recording music with my friend Derek Wu (of Recent Photo) under the band name “Food”.  15 years later in 2002 we were roommates in Wicker Park, Chicago and I was bored out of my mind constantly watching him perform the Open Mic at Innertown Pub.  I started shooting my mouth off about performing the open mic on a keytar because I said that playing keyboard behind a stand would be “lame” and finally set a date to do it.  I wanted to do something that I would like to see and was completely different from the standard open mic fair.
Procrastinating until a few hours before the show, I ripped the guts out of an old electric guitar and velcroed a small keyboard to it creating a make-shift Keytar – connected to a massive Yamaha EX5 keyboard/synth for sound.  (I still to this day use the rack mount version, Yamaha EX5R as a sound source)
After hanging out at the Open Mics for so long, I knew that the best songs come from deep in your soul, from truths you know and love.  I also wanted songs to be short and to the point to avoid what I would consider being “boring”.  I quickly wrote “Happy Cheese” and “Skateboarding” then rushed to the open mic.  I signed in as “Rich X” which evolved into “Rich Experience” because I continued to write songs about my experiences.
What was your first concert experience and what about it is most vivid to you today?  I never went to see shows when I was young.  Most bands I liked were prog rock from the 70’s and no longer touring.  I saw Yes for the first time “in the round” at the Rosemont Horizon for the “Union” tour in 1991, that blew me away, they had 8 band members on stage.
I saw Midnight Oil in their final US tour at the House of Blues.  Peter Garrett was one of the greatest frontmen of Rock in my opinion.  The guy sweats profusely looking like he is covered in oil.  His stage energy was off the chart.
RICHexpWhat instrument did you start on and which one do you today feel most comfortable playing? I started playing clarinet in High School band, I never really liked that instrument.  I started playing keyboard specifically synthesizer when I was 16 and started writing songs with my long time friend Derek Wu in a 2 person band called “Food” which much later became “Mant”.  Mant played a few gigs, notably we had a great show at Lounge Ax in 2000 a week before it closed.  In Mant I had 3 keyboards, a drum machine and a sequencer on stage (very Keith Emerson like), with Derek on Bass and vocals.  We were playing electronic alternative before it became cool.
When I started playing Keytar and singing as Rich Experience I was done with sequencing and drums machines.  The additional electronics seemed to be more limiting than without.  If I could not play it with my fingers I did not want it on stage, I wanted to be a minimalist. Not locked into a drum machine or a band, I found I could use “time” to accentuate the songs.  Being able to slow, speed up, or pause on stage at will, was very freeing and connected me with the audience.
I love playing keytar.  Keytar has obvious disadvantages over a horizontal keyboard like stability, maximizing playing with both hands, and easily looking at the keys while playing.  Advantages of keytar are mobility, and easy access to pitch ribbon and modulation controls.  Mobility is huge for me.  When I perform in my other project “Lisa Lightning Band” I run all over the stage and even jump on a trampoline while playing.
Additionally in 2005 I saw the flute scene in the movie “Anchorman” and thought “I can do that!”  So I bought a flute and taught myself to play.  I dig the all metal construction and the fact I can put it in a backpack to bring to parties.  I play flute in the “Flabby Hoffman Trio” occasionally.
Lie detector test in play: where would you say your musical heart truly lies? BZZZZT  BZZZT  Ouch!  You would think from my music I was into “They Might Be Giants” or something similar.  But I’m a 70’s prog guy at heart which is kind of the opposite of minimalist.
What is your philosophy on life and how does inform your music? I performed gymnastics in college as a pommel horse specialist.  I trained for the olympics for a while, working out 8 hours a day.   I loved competing, but there were a lot a sacrifices.  After it ended, I never wanted to put that much of myself into anything ever again. I just wanted to take it easy and enjoy life with as little effort as possible and focus on my friends.  I’m currently re-evaluating “taking it easy”.
What advice would you give to a young artist struggling to pen their first song or two? The best songs come from deep in your soul, from truths you know and love.  Find and take that then distill it to its bare essence.  Add a catchy tune then smack the audience over the head with it relentlessly with no fear or mercy.
For me it’s cats, cheese, reptiles, science, crawl spaces, work and skateboarding.  I try to see myself from the audience’s point of view and don’t be boring.  ;)
Who are your 5 favorite ‘hard rock’ bands of all-time, and why? Emerson Lake & Palmer – 1970’s Keith Emerson, my keyboard hero, attacks the instrument without fear, literally with Knives and Fire.  I love his style and attitude.  My dad bought “Pictures at an Exhibition” on 8 track cassette at a garage sale.  That album scared the hell out of me.  I could not stop listening to it.
Electric Light Orchestra – Jeff Lynn songs with Richard Tandy on keyboard making some really out there sounds.
Yes – A collection of some of the best technical musicians ever.  Proof that there is no time travel that all their shows were not sold out.
Midnight Oil – Their early stuff was really hardcore in your face with Peter Garrett’s clean politically charged vocals.  Their later stuff became more melodic and pushed the envelope in many ways.  The local band “Depravos De La Mour” reminds me of them.
Underworld – Hey I dig techno also.
Your #50 on Reverb Nation for Chicago Artists; that’s saying something: Is that a function of effort, sheer staying power or the cream just naturally rising to the top? Ha!  It helps to be in the “Folk” category.  ;)  Although I did get a really cool letter from a cancer center that stumbled on my music by accident: “Dear Rich, I just wanted to Thank You for the experience. We are Case Managers at City of Hope National Research Cancer Center here in California. We work directly with Leukemia Cancer patients and arrange for their Bone Marrow Transplants and needs for when the come in and go home. Anyway, we just wanted to Thank You. One day, we were totally having a stressed out day, and for some reason, I typed in “Happy Cheese” into my URL. I don’t know if it is because we are a Research facility or what, but up you came, and off we listened. The rest is history. I forward your link to as many cancer patients as I can that I think can handle the humor of it all. My co-workers needed to have a bit of humor, , too. Thank you, Rich.
M’lissa Buckles RN”
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If you had a slick agent working the illuminati fringes for the ‘big break’, what might their Rich X pitch be? “This guy is like nothing else.  I’ve had this “Happy Cheese” song stuck in my head for 3 months now.  I wake up in the middle of the night and I can still hear it.  I think I may be going insane.  The audience either love his music or their brains explode trying to figure out why he is allowed on stage.  This “Maybe I Step on You” song makes me giggle like a little school girl and I don’t even know why.  It’s not even really funny.  And that “Happy Cheese” is about him losing his job and turning to drugs to ease the pain.  Why are they laughing and singing along?
There must be some kind of mind control device hidden in that crazy keytar.  All I know is if we can tap into whatever this is for product sales we will make billions!  We have our best men working on it.”
In an alternate universe, you are oft portrayed as a beloved sub-plot character on the Jetsons, arriving in a shimmering hovercraft to great aplomb …what did the producers choose as your theme song? Dude, how much hobbit leaf did you smoke when you thought up this question? ;)
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DUSTY WRIGHT

Your new record If We Never sounds immediately comfortable – how do you view it in relation to your other musical incarnations?

Very personal and uncomfortably comfortable. The songs were written for me in most instances. Two of my friends died while I was recording it. My son’s godmother Patti and my best friend Buff. It made me examine my life, the life of men my age, my relationship with my family (wife, children, friends, etc.). In many ways, it’s a rumination of a middle-age man’s life; all the lust, love, betrayal, sorrow, joy, the finality of life. It’s no doubt my most personal effort as I’ve really examined my own ego and id on this one. (hear track “Sometimes I”)

How do you approach song writing for a solo release versus, say, GIANTfingers?

No difference, really. Just different players. Interestingly enough, this record began as the second GIANTfingers CD and the morphed into my own solo effort. I recorded some tracks with the band and then started laying down more personal tunes, very sparse, in some instances just my voice and guitar with a few embellishments. But I don’t know if I really approached this record any differently than any of my other records, song-writing wise. I don’t write a song and think of who will play what. I just let it flow and then decide what works for me vs. what may work better for GIANTfingers. I’ve always felt that a good song can be played just as readily on an acoustic guitar as it could be on a cello. Melody is (the) driving force.

Do you think the concept of a full-length record will be spun out in 50 years or stick like the symphony has, as a revered format?

Very good question. I think the full-length is dead right now. How many people ingest a full-length album today? I’d like to see that poll. We buy tracks. Artists like  CeeLo Green have been done well by releasing killer tracks like “Fuck You” or earlier with “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley that made folks stop and notice. And they were done before the albums were released. Besides, did it matter to the Beatles or the British Invasion bands way back when? Nope. They just released singles that got compiled into albums. There is just too much music, too much culture for people to pay attention to an entire album.  Much of my favorite hip-hop has always been best ingested by individual tracks and not entire albums. However, if an album is a magnificent effort and the songs flow into one another, then it rewards the listener like a novel or short movie. Even my own CD is stupid, even though it’s a concept album about middle-aged angst. I’d be a fool to suggest that anyone spend the 40 odd minutes to listen to it. But if they do, I hope they’ll enjoy the experience. I think it works best while driving or riding the subway. Ingest it like an audiobook. I also think that providing strong visual components for your music can act as a barker for your brand. Recently my video for the track “Secret Window” featuring the French actress Stella Velon won Best Music Video at the LA Film & Script festival. And the cover art was rendered by artist Jeff Zenick.

Do you see rock & roll as a reasonable raison d’etre?

Reasonable? No; necessary. Two guitars, bass, and drums. A garage. Some dudes that want to let it all hang out, and voila… Let there be rock! Rock and roll will never die. Long live rock! Rock is just like any other musical genre. Once you introduce it to the status quo, it will ascend, peak, descend, and then settle in to itself. Rock probably had its Renaissance during the late ’60s/early ’70s. Those bands and tunes have stood the test of time. Just like jazz in the ’50s, classical music in the 19th century. But then again, punk rock kicked it in the arse and it had a rebirth. Rap kicked it in the teeth. And on and on…

Did you have to fight or embrace cynicism to keep on keepin’ on?

Not at all. FIrst and foremost I have to be engaged myself. I don’t look at songwriting, or painting, or writing a great novel as any different. It’s all about the journey for any artist. You have an idea, you produce the idea in some format, and then feel compelled to share that idea with other people. Then you leave it up to others to embrace it or reject it. An artist need only worry about pleasing oneself. Any attention after that is extra gravy. But it’s easy to be cynical given today’s music culture. Especially when so many people feel that music has so little value that they have no qualms stealing it. I often ask these same folks why they don’t steal art off of walls. Normally they have no irrefutable rebuttal. Musicians need to make a living, too.

If you had to pick, what one year in rock is your all-time favorite? 

Wow, great question. Certainly my pre-teen years in the late ’60s defined me, and probably unconsciously informed my own musical style, my ethos, pathos, id, etc. ’69 to ’72 were memorable for me because my older cousin who was attending Kent State bought me Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin and introduced me to heavier music. I was already a Beatles fan, but Abbey Road was the album, especially side two, that made me appreciate the album as an album.  Wasn’t long after that I began ingesting Cream, Bowie, Dylan, Santana, Hendrix, The Doors, The Allman Brothers, Neil Young, et al.

Sometimes artists reach similar places completely unaware of one another and that cohesion is what creates a ‘scene’. Was there ever an artist you heard that made you think “yeah, that’s my scene man!”?

You know I’m often inspired in the least likely places. Sometimes it can be a tiny jazz club in the Village or rock club or even a private party, but I think that when Americana hit in NYC in the late 90s it was a scene I really felt a kinship and bond with. Many of the bands played the same venues, sometimes sharing the same bill. That was also was period during the mid-to-late 90s where I was producing a series of Americana gigs at CB’s Gallery (next to CBGB’s) called The Front Porch Series. And if was often my band and 4 other bands sharing the night. Most of us waved the flag of roots-rock, alt-country, Americana. Then one day I was a playing a BMI showcase at the original Living Room and Ollabelle was performing before us and it was like, “Holy Shit! That’s it man, that’s the sound, that’s the vibe, that’s the band. That’s all of what I wanted to convey. I turned to the dude next to me and said, “wow, they should be signed immediately.” And he said, “they just were. T-Bone Burnett is bringing them in to CBS.” I was stoked for them because they so deserved it. They just nailed it! Ditto for early Daniel Lanois and his solo records and gigs.

Any goofy behind-the-scenes stuff at Creem that like to laugh about now?

Nothing goofy really. But I do have some cool rock and roll stories. One of my fondest memories involves riding around Glastonbury during the festival with Robert Plant. He was headlining the main stage that Saturday night and I assigned myself to cover that event while at the helm of Creem. I took the train up from London and met him at his hotel. We climbed into his Mercedes and he drove me around Glastonbury sharing stories of King Arthur and the Holy Grail and the Maidens of Tor. He then asked me if I was a Moby Grape fan. I was even though I was introduced to them much later in my rock and roll life. He proceeded to try to ring up Jerry Miller, one of the guitarists and songwriters in the band. When we got back to the festival, we caught some the Velvet Underground’s reunion set, some of Midnight Oil, hung out with the Black Crowes backstage, and then Plant finally played. He was magnificent, as one might imagine.

What is your take on the new media and where does Culture Catch fit in?

New media is now. As I say, “converge is the word.” Web content has converged with TV content. The content is delivered on multi platforms and devices. Most consumers have access to two of the three screens — mobile, laptop, and desktop. Most folks in America could care less what size the screen might be. Plus, you can watch your content when you please in any environment. CultureCatch.com was one of the first companies to actually produce and post audio podcasts and vidcasts/webcasts on iTunes when we launched 6 years. My show featured compelling, long conversation with celebs in all areas of the arts. I think because I had this great access I was able to draw attention to our website. So we were part of the birth of new media. We even ran the podcasting symposium at Macworld the year they launched the iPhone. It was quite the event. Apple has been very kind to us. Really helped promote our programming across multiple platforms. Ditto for Verizon Wireless and some other forward thinking brands. Just this week we were mentioned in the New York Times by Mike Hudack, CEO of Blip.tv, as one of his favorite shows on his network. Am I getting wealthy from it? Not yet. But I’ve got no gatekeepers telling me what I can or can’t program. As long as there are interesting artists willing to share their stories, I will keep producing my content.

Rumour has it you were once purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, how was it working with Prince?

No rumors, nothing but the truth! Yes, I was the only journalist to interview him in the early ’90s while I was at the helm of Creem.  He was then known as “the-artist-formerly-known-as-Prince”. I had agreed to a cover story with him, but I had to accept certain conditions. Interview would be conducted at Paisley Park, in person. However, I couldn’t bring a tape recorder, pencil, pen, crayon, et al. to document said interview. I would have to create an interview with my memory and creative moxie. I was up to the challenge as I felt he’d appreciate my humble Akron, Ohio roots. Hung out all day at Paisley Park. Met all of his band and folks that work there. Finally got to meet and hang with him towards the middle of the afternoon. He was too cool, a bit shy, but deep. A few months later, he ended up hiring me to publish and edit his fanzine New Power Generation. That lasted for a few years until he got distracted with other things.