Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 04 August 2009 20:50

1. Richard would you like to talk us about your musical background (guest studio appearances , recordings ,etc.)

  I played the rock scene of the southeastern United States for a good part of the last 12 years.  When the bottom fell out of the US melodic rock market somewhere in the 90s I played fraternity house parties to keep myself out gigging...  playing lots of covers.

In the mean time I have also done a lot of the backing music and backing vocals on tribute songs that Versailles Records has used for recording artists to perform over.  Artists such as: Jake E. Lee, Tony Harnell, Jason McMaster, Paul Shortino, Dave Ragsdale, Jimmy Crespo, Brad Gillis, George Lynch, Gilby Clarke, Stevie Rachelle, Jim Martin, and a few others.  We did a tribute to 80s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, a tribute The Cult and a tribute to Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

I do the recordings in my spare time, at my house on 3 ADAT recorders.  For percussion, sometimes I use a sequencer and sometimes I get Dave Campbell the drummer of my band to do it. I have friends that occasionally contribute bass guitar to some of these tracks.  I play as much of the guitars as I can get away with and then the keyboards, if they are easy enough.  If not, I use a sequencer for the keys too. 

I mail off tapes of a rough mix of the songs to the artists. Then they record their parts and send the tapes back. 

When all of the songs for a particular project are ready to be mixed I fly to a real studio (John Schwabb studios) in Ohio and Mix them down with a great Pro Tools engineer named Joe Viers.  He also helped mix my record.  We actually did that at the same time we were mixing the Lords of Karma, a Tribute to Vai/Satriani CD. That was quite a busy 5 days.  I’ve been, sort of, the Engineer/Producer of these records and it has been the best learning experience of my life.  I’m very thankful to Jake at Versailles for trusting me with what I have contributed.

  2. How did you contact Versailles Records ?

  I saw an ad in Metal Edge magazines’ metal wire a couple of years ago, for a record label that wanted to put out a record showcasing unsigned bands, paying tribute to 80 hard rock.  I felt like I had the perfect band for that.  I e-mailed Jake Brown, the president of the label, and then he called me.  I played him some songs on the phone and he instantly loved my singers’ (Ross Stephens) voice.  Jake asked if we could do two songs for the record –which we did.  As Mudbone, which was our touring name for the fraternity band, we did “Wait” by White Lion and as Straitjacket Smile, which was the name of the band Ross and I had been in prior to Mudbone, we did Photograph by Def Leppard. The band, which also included Dave Campbell on drums and Jason Keller on bass, could not agree on which songs to do so we let Jake pick the songs. 

Jake and I developed a great working relationship and he has included me on every project ever since.  This led to my doing a solo record.

  3. You have a new album , please let us know about it

  Murder and The F-Word: It’s a concept record that I started a long time ago.  I never actually intended for it to be a solo record but it felt right at the time so I went with it.

Roughly five of the songs were written as standalone songs and then I realized I had the skeleton of a story and I filled in the blanks.  It was a good way for me to raid my 4-track tapes and old discarded songs for cool parts.

The story is about a guy that is followed around in high school by this dorky girl that he eventually falls in love with.  She matures (mentally and physically) and begins to realize that the guy she loves isn’t maturing with her.  She severs ties with the guy but won’t let go completely.  He’s fun to be around but codependent.  She continually hurts the guy to the point where he snaps.  He stalks her and kills her, which at this point in the story he feels is exactly what she wanted from him.  The murder makes headlines. The guy becomes egomaniacal and continues to spiral into nuttiness. He is institutionalized -where he is kept drugged, dreaming of this girl and questioning his faith in anything.  I never made it quite apparent whether he was actually seeing her ghost or just dreaming, but somehow in his stupor he gets released from the nut house.  He realizes he doesn’t want to live without her so he jumps off of a bridge.  Knowing this poor guys’ luck, the fall into the water only hurt and he survived...  We’ll never know.

  4. The album is separated in 5 parts , why that ?

  The songs were all written intentionally to flow well into each other.  The sections were titled as chapters in a book to show where we were going next in the story. 

“Fame, Faith, Farrago,” which includes songs 7 through 12, originally had the working title “New Man Medley.” I wanted to show that in his mind, he felt that he really had changed and done what his ex had asked – which was become a new man. In working on the song I realized that all of the other elements (Fame and Faith) were popping up, so I changed the title.  Incidentally, “Farrago” means Medley.  And all the chapter titles start with an “F” which goes along with the title of the record.

There was one more factor too.  There are a few short songs that join things together that are part of the flow of the album and felt better as parts to a bigger picture.  “Reprisal,” which is part of the Finale, is a mixture of classically influenced pieces from all of the other songs on the CD.  If you listen closely, you will hear all of the parts somewhere on the record buried behind distorted guitars.

  5. What about the lyrics , were they based in personal experiences ?

  All of them. Except, I never killed her or went in the nut house. I had a pretty inspiring break up at one point in my life.  It has been so long ago now that it was hard for me to muster up some of that pain to use in the recording.

My wife was the inspiration for track 2, “One Life Stand.”  Five or six years ago we had an argument and I felt guilty about it.  She’s a sweetheart.

“Laughin’ Myself Goodbye,” the song about jumping off of a bridge, was originally a Straitjacket Smile song that my friend Phil Wang wrote when he was in the band.  I felt like it fit the story pretty well and so I asked him if I could use it.  I rewrote the main riff of the song and hopefully I did not ruin the song too badly.

I had to turn in lyrics for the artwork of the record before I was finished singing all of the songs.  As these things go, some of the lyrics were rewritten as I went.  I have the corrected lyrics posted on my website.

  6. Your music sounds like most of the late 80's bands , am I right ?

  Yes, I would say that’s fair.  I grew up on that stuff.  Actually, I tried to blend a lot of my influences into the recording.  I love bands like TNT, Queen, ELO, Winger, Dream Theater, Stryper... I could name so many.  I just did what I do (whatever that is) and the end result was F-Word.  I expected to be slammed very hard by reviewers for not sounding modern or not fitting into any particular AOR box.  I was never really concerned about that.  I was not doing this record for them.  I think, more than anything, releasing F-Word was just a way for me to get some of this pent up music out of my system and prove to myself that I could do something like this.  Now I can move on.

  7. You are a great guitarist but a good singer too , so you prefer the role of guitarist or singer ?

  Thanks very much.  I wish it were cool, in this day and age, to be a “Great Guitarist.”  When I was eleven I started playing guitar no less than 8 hours a day.  When I was seventeen, I realized there were millions of great guitarists.  Most of the time the one’s that were in working bands could sing.  And the ones that really had a grasp of harmonies were the guys that caught my ear.  I decided I wanted to be a well-rounded player that would have all the tools to be in a great band. 

To answer your question, I prefer being a guitar player.  Although, If I’m not gigging I don’t practice much.  In a band situation I love to sing harmony.  My singer, Ross absolutely puts me to shame.  We have played together for years, covering bands like Boston and Styx – Writing songs that are a lot more melodic and strait-forward hard rock than my record. 

  8. Have you ever tried to sing in your current band Straitjacket ?

  Yes, I used to sing a few songs.  I did “Don’t Fly Away” for years.  I also used to cover  “Love Gun” by Kiss.  I get the “you sound like Paul Stanley,” comparison a good bit.  I have done quite a few songs over the years.

We were singer-less at one point and I took over most of the lead vocals, but it wasn’t much fun.  We did one gig.

  9. Are you going to tour for your album ?

  No, I’m putting together the band right now to play gigs so I can pay some bills.  The brutal truth in this business is that melodic hard rock does not put buts in seats in the USA.  You have to sneak it right into their face.  They love it -they just don’t know it.  They’re not being programmed to know it.  During our shows we’ll be hitting them with Straitjacket Smile originals and maybe a couple of my songs.  We’ll see how it goes from there.  Maybe I’ll sell a few CDs that way.  I’d love to have the record distributed overseas.  I think it would be better received there. I’d love to play in some other countries as well. 

  10. Which are the future plans for Richard & Straitjacket ?

I’ll be talking with AJ Caruso, the other guitarist/songwriter from a past incarnation of SJS and hopefully, be working on an SJS record sometime this year.  We had a decent following in and around Louisiana and people ask me about the old SJS tunes all the time.  We have some great melodic rock songs and the songs deserve to be recorded.

I plan to continue to record music for Versailles Records as well.  I enjoy the work and the experience and I think it helps me get exposure for my band.  You never know what can happen in this business.


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