—————- How did you get hooked on rock & roll?   I’ve always been drawn to music that has either a really catchy melody or something that gets me pumped up. Back when I was younger the iTunes library at the house was riddled with tons of classic rock bands from my sister and brothers tastes (Zeppelin, Sabbath, Hendrix, Beatles etc.) so before I even had my own music player these guys had been priming my brain. I think the major turning point was when my brothers friend Eric had popped by the house and pulled up the music video “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 2006. That ended up dragging me down the rabbit hole of music and becoming a musician, and I can honestly say I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t discovered RHCP.
———- What’s your favorite live album of all-time?  I haven’t listened to too many live albums, more so watching live concerts on YouTube. I’ve probably clocked a few hundred hours of watching live Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts, so if I had to pick one (which is tough) maybe I’d say “RCHP Live at Slane Castle”, “RCHP Live at Pinkpop 2006” or “RHCP Live at Pinkpop 1990”. In terms of CD’s, Iron Maiden’s “Flight 666” is pretty solid. Brady and Nick introduced me to Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous” which I also thought was excellent.
———- Is there anything about the band that could have only emanated from Winnipeg? or Canada for that matter?  A crippling fear of being attacked by a bear, a large wolf, or a pack of coyotes whilst leaving the jam space. 

——— Was bass your first instrument?  Years back my brother had a guitar laying around the house that I would pick up and mess around on. I’d actually watch RHCP’s “Live at Slane Castle” on my computer and try to learn certain licks by ear and play along. Later that year I asked my parents if I could rent a bass, to which they replied “they’d think about it”. At Christmas there was a bass starter kit under the tree, and my mind was blown.

————- How did Moon Tan come together?  The band originally emanated from Nick Knock’s desire to start a cover band along with another singer at the time. I heard about the band from a guitar player who I had jammed with a couple times. I auditioned along with him, and I got in, but he was not selected. Nick’s Dad (who is a music teacher) knew the music teacher from the city of Gimli, which is about an hour away from Winnipeg, and that music teacher recommended a guitar player from Gimli High School – Brady. Brady auditioned and was selected. Eventually we decided that we wanted to do original material, and ended up parting ways with the original singer in the process. After a few years of enduring a revolving door of Kijiji-sourced singers, I decided to take on the task of singing. We’ve been truckin’ ever since.
———— Originality aside, did you guys have a vision for yourselves a definable brand or is it all natural?  I can only speak for myself, but the main thing I’ve always focused on is creating music that I actually like listening to. That’s the most important thing to me. Everything else is secondary. The live presentation developed from us wanting to make our shows more of an experience, and in turn THAT has naturally led to us developing into more of a definable brand. In my opinion people go see shows, watch movies, play video games etc. to de–stress /  have a good time / seek inspiration / escape reality, so if you can do a good job of providing an opportunity for this with your brand then you’re well on your way. We have some interesting ideas for live production we would like to experiment with in the future. 
————— What do you think Moon Tan fans have in common socially?  They’re all heavily into Baccarat. Other than that, lots of them seem to like Rush, prog, sci-fi, be musicians themselves, or have a genuine love for rock n’ roll.
————– What gets you off more — writing, recording, or playing live?  1,000,000% writing. Sitting alone with nobody around, my laptop & Garageband open, and just freely creating with 0% judgement but my own.
————— Since you have a prog rock thing going on, is there any pressure to do shorter numbers for more airplay or a ‘hit single’?  It’s interesting, because in all honesty I don’t really see Moon Tan as a prog band, but people who watch us tend to categorize us in that way. I guess that brings forth the question: “What is prog?” Maybe I don’t even know.. haha. I find my natural songwriting style is actually in a pop style format, perhaps disguised by the odd time signature here and there or a flashy lick from one of us. Circling around to the question with all that in mind, you need to give the song enough time to mature and finish, and if can we find a way to do that in 17 seconds, we will.
————- You guys won Indie Week last year in Toronto and got to play in Manchester as part of your bounty: how did it go in England?  England was fantastic. It was our first international gig, and we received tons of great feedback from everyone over there. I think I ate a whole margarita pizza every night for six nights straight, and Brady and Nick we’re hooked on the fried chicken. We are definitely planning our return as we speak, so fans of rock – and vendors of margarita pizza & fried chicken – beware!


Who would you say is most to blame for your having come down with rock & roll pneumonia?  My folks were only 16 years old when I was born in 1970 so I had a pretty good record collection growing up. I would have to say Led Zeppelin was my first rock and roll love affair, but it was The Police who made me want to play guitar and be in a band.
What are your 5 favorite guitar solos of all-time?
Buddy Holly-“That’ll Be The Day” …Jimmy Page-“Whole Lotta Love”….Robert Quine-“Girlfriend” (Matthew Sweet …..Jim Babjak- “Girl Like You” (Smithereens)…..David Hidalgo/Cesar Rosas- “Mas y Mas”
What was your first guitar and what is your axe of choice these days? Do you collect at all?  My first guitar was my mom’s Yamaha FG acoustic, but I guess my first solely owned guitar was a Yamaha SBG200, kind of like an SG Special copy. Great guitar! My number one these days is a guitar built at our shop by Robert Daniel. it is a 1959 copy of a Les Paul Junior but with an ebony board, stainless steel frets and in cherry red. I don’t really collect guitars, I only have about 5 guitars that I play regularly and a few mutts lying around.
Outside of the household name brands, any new guitars on the market that have caught your eye at Third Coast Guitars?  My favorite right now are the Wild Custom Guitars. They are out of France and they have a really classic look with a twist and they are remarkably built.
Is the guitar ‘set-up’ still the life blood of the business or has that changed over the years? 
That has change a bit over the years. We’ve become more nationally known for our restorative work and for doing higher end repair. We do a ton more vintage restoration these days, but fret levels and set ups are still a big part of what we do every day.
What is the strangest client request (in terms of guitars) that you’ve ever had?   We get weird requests all the time! The most recent one is taking a Parker Fly guitar, putting in a Sustainiac, and acoustic Piezo pickup and a midi driver. It is going to look like an aircraft carrier inside! We have folks request to make their vintage guitars look like new a lot as well. I never have understood that but, as we say in the shop, “it ain’t my guitar”.
Music fills the air 24/7 there in the land of the cobbler: what 5 bands would you say have gotten the most shop air-time over the years?  With the advent of Internet Radio, we listen to all sorts of different stuff these days and rarely listen to stuff over and over again these days, but if you count the years of cassettes and CDs…
Yes (unfortunately for me, I hate prog rock)
The Darkness
Thin Lizzie
David Bowie
Gooey_DD-240Would you ever consider a Third Coast mobile app and, if so, what might it do?
I have thought about it! I think it would have a tuner, a few maps of guitar anatomy (like what each part of an electric and acoustic guitar are called, people get things like bridge and saddle mixed up a lot), maybe a chart of things to look for when buying a used or new guitar.
What Gooey record is the bands St. Pepper’s? …any plans to finish the White Album?
We are actually getting ready to release a new album called “Rodgers Park” We are going to release it for free on the interwebs and press vinyl for sale at gigs. Vinyl is cool again.
If you could smash any guitar what would it be and why? (have you ever smashed a guitar?)  We actually smash broken, useless guitars all the time! Manufacturers have us smash cheap guitars that have twisted necks and what not a good bit. There are some pretty good photos and a video of us playing “guitar baseball” on or Facebook page. We try to keep it light most of the time, it’s just guitars, it’s not like we are doctors in an ER. You have to be careful when you smash Ovation guitars since they are made out of that composite. It can bounce back at you and smack you in the head. It’s always nice to smash the Keith Urban guitars they sell on Home Shopping Network. Those guitars are such crap and they have Keith Urban’s Picture on them.
Can you provide a ‘state-of-the-union’ for the Floyd Rose tremolo?   The Floyd Rose is still strong! There is still no unit that really provides the tuning stability of a Floyd if you really want to get your whammy on. The Kahler is really good as well for that but Floyd Rose still reigns supreme. Coupled with the GraphTech saddles, there just isn’t anything that comes close.


RX at mutiny 1_0007
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”
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? ;)


photo by ROB GACZOL

What got you hooked on rock and roll?

Matt > I was a 3-year-old kid living on Long Island in 1977. One day, my 16 year old babysitter Donna (who I was utterly devoted to) shows up with a copy of Alive II by Kiss and has me sit down, listen to it, and puts that iconic gatefold picture in front of me. I had no chance! For the next ten years, there was no other band but Kiss for me. I wanted to be a rock and roll superhero.

Rachel > I think I was always destined to love rock & roll. My parents met each other in a band and music always filled my home. But, when I was probably 4, my dad showed me how to use the old record player. I listened to a lot of Rolling Stones and I remember the first time I ever watched Mick Jagger perform. I was hooked. I loved that it was dark and exuberant, free and alive. All my first crushes were rock stars, Mick, David Bowie, Jimmy Page. It was just part of who I was from a very early age so I grew up idolizing people who made music. I was performing from about 4 on and it was a drug. I always felt most alive when I was making or performing music and rock & roll was always my first love.

How close is Roxy Swain to the band you wanted to create and how have you guys evolved?

Rachel > I mean, this is a hard question to answer. I think in terms of the democracy and the co-authorship of the music, Roxy is really strong. We all bring something to every song and I love that sense of community. That is definitely a long process that we improve upon with every song and every release. However, I think there’s always room to grow. I would hate to think that we ever reached the point where we were done and we’d reached some kind of ideal band. To me evolution is all there is – when you stop evolving, you’ve peaked and I never want to peak.

Matt > Roxy Swain has changed so much since we first started. Rachel and I have been working together since 2006, but when we were looking to do a band, we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do. The initial version of Roxy Swain was an outgrowth of a Chicago power pop band named Loomis, and much of the band’s first wave of songwriting was based on the influences Tom Valenzano, our first lead guitarist) and I shared. Our first album The Spell of Youth was written as an extension of the style of Loomis: a lot of late 70s-inspired power pop and rock and roll. I believe through a series of lineup changes and examination of our strengths we are very close to what we want to be doing now.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording?   

Matt > Our philosophy on recording is to capture the band organically. We prefer classic tones, simple (but purposeful), dynamic arrangement. We try to highlight the biggest strengths of the band – Rachels amazing voice and sense of melody, and the band’s overall performance and treatment. Generally speaking, we like to let the songs speak for themselves, as tracked. We shy away from a lot of digital processing and an abundance of compression. That being said, we aren’t necessarily wed to a particular process, nor do we think the band should sound exactly the same in the studio as it does live.

Rachel > I’m probably the least experienced with recording. I would say that I like to take a lot of time away from recordings to formulate opinions and I am very feel oriented. In other words, I will often fall in favor of a track that isn’t technically perfect but has a lot of spirit, character, and quirk. I also really refuse to listen seriously to anything I’ve recorded under bad conditions (crappy computer speakers or earbuds) because I know I will be frustrated and hyper critical. I like to walk away from a recording for a week, come back to it in the studio and make a judgment. I’m just a strong believer in the feel or the vibe of a performance over total proficiency. I don’t think I’m even capable of taking a track that feels totally perfect anyway. If recordings are too perfect, too massaged, they end up sounding robotic and they lose something intangible. I want to feel passion in a recording and I think sometimes passion and perfection go in opposition. Not always, but sometimes.

How does the songwriting process work for Roxy Swain?  

Rachel > Typically, one of us will start with the skeleton of a song, bring it to the band, and we will build it as a group. I’ve become increasingly aware that each of us have a really important role in this band when it comes to songwriting. Chuck Harling is a master arranger, Jeff Altergott‘s bass lines are so crucial because they are so interesting and organic, Matt’s lyrics and sweeteners make our sound ours, and I think my melodies come together with the other parts to create what has become our cohesive band sound. I don’t want to elevate us to be something that we aren’t, but I’m really proud of the ways in which we’ve honed our craft as a group. We work together well and we each add something unique and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of about the band.

Matt > We currently have four accomplished songwriters and arrangers in the band, so everyone has ideas. In the initial phase of the band, Tom Valenzano and I came in with complete ideas, and we dictated those ideas to the band, which was all we could do at the time, but that approach didn’t optimize the band’s talents sonically. Now that all of us are involved in the writing process, our songwriting is rarely one person with a finished idea, and more often two, three or four people collaborating on a piece. On our forthcoming album there are instances of Rachel writing with Chuck, of Rachel writing with me, of Chuck and I doing a song together, and of all four of us collaborating. It’s really exciting to be in a band with a bunch of songwriters collaborating, because many of my favorite bands feature that. As we transitioned into the lineup we have today, the style of the band has really changed into an amalgam of Chuck, Rachel and I’s separate influences, which include my power pop, but also Rachel’s soul and blues, and Chuck’s rock, roots, swing and modern indie. As we have progressed, I believe that our songwriting blend has emerged as a distinctive hybrid sound that now fits all of us like a glove. There’s an aspect of all of us in there. Even though Jeff does not typically have the initial ideas, he puts his writing stamp on the songs with the incredible bass lines he comes up with. The most fascinating thing about it is that it’s continuing to evolve and push us in unique directions we never expected, which is evidenced by the sound of our third album. We are definitely getting weirder, and I like it.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?
Rachel > It’s really sad, but I grew up watching so much live music that I can’t remember my first real concert. My dad’s band played constantly and growing up in Texas, we attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo every year where I saw a ton of live music. I guess it’s kind of tragic that I can’t remember, but I think it was so present that I can’t pin point the first ever. I do remember seeing some big bands at a really young age and looking around at everyone singing along and thinking, that’s what I want. I want people to sing along and dance to my music. I was probably seven when that translated into writing my own songs (terrible, terrible songs) and performing them on my front lawn with my sister and neighbor for the other kids on the block.

Matt > I actually didn’t attend a concert until Junior High School, and that was an odd bill. My parents took me to see 80s Chicago radio personality Jonathan Brandmeier and the Leisure Suits at the Rosemont Horizon. A strange entry into concert experience, to be sure. My ears really just hurt the whole time! I had never seen anything that loud. By the end I was enjoying it, despite feeling rather deaf. I followed that up with seeing Rush at Alpine valley a couple years later. That was really cool.


What is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? 

Matt > My approach to playing live is to try to stay in the moment. My mind set pre show is often meditative as I try to pull myself into the present tense.

Rachel > Playing live is my favorite thing in the whole world. Honestly, I’m excited and often I just want to get up on stage. I don’t get nervous because I’ve been doing it for so long. I just want to get up there and I get really bummed when we get to our last song. I want every show to be memorable and I want to see people having a good time. I mean, half of playing music for me is sharing my art but the other half is sharing a moment with people, whether they are friends or strangers. When I see people dancing, singing along, smiling, it makes me feel honored and privileged and happy. Being on stage is a privilege and I just feel like every show is a blessing and an honor and I want to share a good time with the audience ….my approach to playing is live is to make try and give every performance and every audience all I have.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why?  

Rachel > I don’t know, I have so many friends that I would be honored to share a tour with, I can’t really see myself picking a big band. I guess if I’m being honest, I admire my father’s musicianship so much that I would probably want him along on the tour. Also, other projects of my band-mates’, both Roxy and other projects I’ve been involved in, like The Ye-Ye’s. I think I would surround myself with local bands because I think support of your fellow local musicians is really important.

Matt > In terms of currently touring indie bands, I would love a shot at opening for The National. Their songwriting has been a big influence on both Rachel and I. In terms of all time faves, this an odd answer, but probably Yes, if they ever went out with their 1973 lineup again. I love those guys. It would be a terrible fit stylistically but I would have fun just watching those guys play every night.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  

Matt >  King Crimson – Red, Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans and The Wrens – The Meadowlands

Rachel > David Bowie – Station to Station, The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers, The Replacements – Let it Be
Whats the best live performance you have seen by a local Chicago band?  

Rachel > My friend Heather Perry was in a band called Bring Your Ray Gun that absolutely killed every time I saw them play. I’ve always felt honored to be associated with her because she was one of the first women I saw leading a band as a songwriter and musician. She was the first person to make me think, I can do this. I didn’t have many female role models in the local scene before her. Anyway, seeing her play live has always inspired me. Plus she looks so cool on stage playing insane bass lines without breaking a sweat. They were a really tight band and I loved seeing them live.

Matt > Sludgeworth, final show of the original run, January 11th, 1993, McGregors in Elmhurst. The single best concert I have ever seen.

You two are separated in a horrible ship wreck, stranded on adjacent island and forced to leave messages in a bottle for one another: what does your message say?
Rachel: “At least we will have a lot of good experience to write from if we ever get off this island”

Matt: “I love you. Here’s the lyrics to our next song, “Stranded”” ~ ROXY SWAIN