Over ten years ago, Richard Berndt left the country to pursue his dreams of becoming a rock star in the big city. The goal posts may have shifted, but the journey is no less fulfilling.
Richard Berndt- Musician- Found at Sea, The Resistance, Cities of the Red Night.
How long have you been actively creating music for a wider audience?
I’ve been playing music for about 15 years, pretty much since I started playing guitar I have been trying to write my own music. I didn’t really start gigging as such until probably 1999. So although I was writing for quite a while before that, I didn’t play music to an audience until later. I have been playing around various Sydney venues for about ten years now.
Your first band was one formed in Orange, NSW as a teen. What was the story behind this ambitious adventure?
Well, basically a lot of my friends played music. There isn’t much to do in the country and everyone was either into sports or playing music. So there is actually a lot of musicians in my school and some of my good friends played as well and we all started pretty much the same time. We kinda started from scratch so it just seemed natural we would all play together and then form a band out of that, so that’s what we did. But there was nowhere to play and we were pretty terrible- we didn’t have much of a repertoire. We played a high school talent competition and that was about it, we basically just jammed in a garage.
Please define the role music plays in your current life and how it influences your approach to daily life.
It plays a huge role. I think because I have been doing it for so long, it’s kind of ingrained in me to just do it, so I rehearse a lot. I am in three bands. I rehearse probably once a fortnight on average with each so I have at least one or two practices per week. It takes up most of my weekends- its typical it’s on Sunday. The rest of the time I like to pick up the guitar and noodle around a little bit, try and record things or work on recordings, and I am always kind of thinking about music as well. It’s all consuming really. It’s a pretty big part of my life and I guess it does kind of dictate how often I might go out or how I spend my money or any of those kind of things because I have to fit that in around music.
Do you believe there is anything uniquely Australian or culturally significant about the works you produce? If so, how so?
I don’t really think they are uniquely Australian. My influences are far too wide to be considered just Australian. I try to listen to as many things as I can and to be honest more of my influences are British and American. Culturally significant?- sure I guess I try and write about things I experience or see or feel, and a lot of those things don’t see the light of day really. I guess I try, I guess I think all artists, if this is not too wanky a term, try to create works about things that inspire them and things that affect them. So I think in some ways, it’s not just about the individual person, it’s about the environment they are in and the wider world as well. I have written songs, not just about personal things, not just people, places and events, but also social commentaries and political views as well. It’s not that I set out to do one kind of thing, I think it’s more a process of writing what comes out, what affects and moves you.
How is your work relevant to contemporary Australia?
Well, I guess from the point of view of being an Australian really. Although my songs aren’t strictly about Australia or about things which happen so much in Australia, I am talking about my experiences and these things come from being and comes from growing up in Australia I guess.
You are actively participating in three formalized bands, Found at Sea, The Resistance and Cities of the Red Night as well as working on a side, jamming project. What is your role and influence on each of these different processes of collaboration?
In Found at Sea, I play the bass. I don’t really write for that band and when I first joined that band, I had that in mind. I joined it on the premise of playing bass and just play. Because I have played in a lot of bands where I have been the main writer or one of the writers as well as playing guitar and shouldering a bit more responsibility and I have found that quite stressful in a way. It’s hard to kind of explain to people and dictate to people what you want things to sound like. With Found at Sea, I wanted something simple and fun. Just play in a band with good songs and play bass and try and make that sound good. Obviously, I throw in my two cents in regards to the business side of things. In regards to recording and gigs and all that kind of stuff, I try to put an input into my arrangements and how they should sound as it’s my playing, and give opinions more through my music. So Found at Sea I see as something I take really seriously because I think they are a really good band but I see my role as more being there to try and make it work from a bass perspective than trying to be a creative force behind it.
Cities of the Red Night is kind of the opposite to that. I write pretty much all the music by myself. A lot of the songs are songs I had written years ago and I never really thought they would come out and see the light of day, so cities has been a real challenge for me. It took me a long time to get the band up and running and find the right people who could work on it. I found a lot of people, but it never really worked. I kind of took it personally. I thought people didn’t like it. Which lead to me thinking is what I am doing any good? But now that Cities has happened and it is sounding good, I am really, really pleased with it and I am really proud of it. It’s great because people like it, and the people whom I work with on Cities make it sound better than the way I could have ever imagined. It’s so much better than being by myself anyway, it’s really, really cool.
With the Resistance, it’s kind of a bit of both. I joined the band in a similar kind of role as I see Found at Sea. I came in to play and play the best that I possibly could but not necessarily to write. But the longer I spent in the resistance, the more it changed and some of my material is part of our repertoire now. Resistance is kind of in between somewhere between Cities and Found at Sea- I don’t write that much but I do write some things and I do try to put my own musical flavor when we try and create things as well.
What do you gain as an individual creatively by being involved in three very distinct formalized bands?
When I first started playing, I was really, really driven and I realized over time that unfortunately, unless you are one of the bigger bands, you just can’t work that often. I found that really frustrating. I wanted to be able to try and play every week or every two weeks, rehearse every week and write all the time and it didn’t happen. So that stressed me out and I think rubbed off on the people I was playing with too you know, sometimes not always in a good way. So I just found playing in little side projects here and there, it helped get the creativity out. Not just wanting to be out there making music but also to work on different aspects of my musicianship. For example, playing bass in a band is quite different to playing guitar in a band playing your own songs in a band compared to someone else’s is different again. No matter what instrument I play, I feel well rounded because I am writing as opposed to just adding my bits to existing songs and collaborating which is another thing again. I think I am quite happy now with playing, I feel like I am achieving more as a musician. I try to do a lot of things, write and play. I think having lots of different projects really helps me get over being frustrated by not being able to work on music as much as I would like. It helps with broadening my playing too, it gives me the chance to do lots of different styles of things, and I don’t think that would work in cohesively in one project anyway. I mean, I enjoy playing bass and I enjoy playing guitar, but I can’t do both in the one band so automatically I have to play in two bands. I enjoy playing in three bands and even though it’s a lot of work and a lot of juggling, I think if I had the time, I would probably even play in more. The two sides of my musicianship that haven’t been explored or exploited that much are playing blues- I really like playing blues but I have never really done it but it has a huge impact on my style- and I also like to play acoustic folk because a lot of stuff I have written leans to that and I have never really done anything folk, normally it has only been a stripped down acoustic version of a bigger band I was in at the time. My thought is if you are interested in a lot of things then you should pursue them and a lot of the time you just can’t do that in the one project, especially if you are not well known.
Cities of the Red Night is your own instigated project. Can you describe how that came into being and the reason behind it?
Cities is a strange kind of band to me. All the music that I have ever played, regardless of whether it is guitar or bass, all of the bands I have played in until now, for want of a better term, have been alternative rock. However I have always listened to heavier music, yet I have never done anything with it. I found myself listening to the heavier kind of music and trying to write in that style. So over time I found I had a whole bunch of songs that were just sitting there. I started concentrating on that really hard. I had all this stuff here and thought I want to see if this works, and so I started tidying some of it up and writing more and more and I have tried to meet people to play it with. I don’t really know anyone who plays in that style so I auditioned for bands and I tried a few things to try and meet people. And sometimes it would sound good and sometimes it was terrible. It’s a weird mix, Cities. I don’t consider it a heavy band but it has heavy influences in it. It’s also got some really mellow influences and you don’t see that that often. A lot of bands tend to be mellow and poppy or really heavy and hard- they don’t seem to mix it up that much. And Cities does that, and so I found it really hard to find people who could get it and at times it was really frustrating. It took me a couple of years so some of the first songs we did and some of the writing are almost six years old now. And the first person I met was Matt, the drummer. I met him a couple of years ago through Faster Louder. He was into all the same sort of musical stuff and so we had a jam in his backyard. It just sounded really good right away, he understood what I was trying to do and that was a really big moment for me. Actually meeting a really good musician, who enjoyed the music and understood what I was trying to do. It was just awesome. It was really strange too because he lived next door to my best friend. So yeah I met Matt and then I didn’t know what to do about a bass player and eventually I got Dan to come and play. I had played with Dan quite a few times before and knew he liked that style of music also. I wasn’t sure he would be into it or not, but he came along and he was into it and then the three of us played together for a while. Then we started looking for a singer. Eventually, through Drum Media, we found Joh. It took us a long time to where we are but I am really happy with it.
When your co-contributor to CoTRN, Matt Horam left for Melbourne, what were some of the challenges you faced in finding a replacement?
That was really, really hard. We had gotten to the point where we were sounding really good in my opinion. We had done a few gigs and we were starting to work and starting to sound really good so when he left, it was really hard on all three of us. Because Matt, he is kind of the life of the party personality wise. He makes everything really fun and funny and he’s easy going and it’s really cool to play with someone like that. But also for me personally, he was the first person I had met that got it and understood it and encouraged it. He was kind of like an ally in a way. So when he left I wondered how am I going to find someone who is going to be able to replace this guy? I knew already on a relationship level I couldn’t because, even though everyone is their own person, he is a real individual, a really cool guy. So the rest of us, we felt sorry for ourselves for a little while and then we put an ad in the Drum Media and tried out a few people and yeah, we had no real luck. We couldn’t find anyone who could technically play Matt’s parts or play to the music and also finding people who were as into it as we were too. It was like I went that whole thing again, like when I was trying to start the band, not being able to find someone to do it, but also with the added pain of knowing I did find someone to do it, but now he was gone. It was pretty bad. But when he came back, it was amazing because it was like we were sharper and shaken up because we had really missed him and it sounded really good. Everyone was really enthused by the music again after he came back. I started writing more again and working on songs more, writing new material and securing gigs again. The relationships you have in a band are hugely important. Unless you have a super clear vision and are completely assured of your own direction yourself, you rely not only on the quality of people’s musicianship, but also their interest and enthusiasm. There are some things in music you cannot dictate to people what you want you know, they just have to get it, or they don’t.
CoTRN features some personally challenging and intricate guitar work. Was this something you aimed to include into your music and if so, what was the personal motivation behind such a move?
I didn’t set out to make it hard, it just ended up that way. I have thought about this a lot. Because I am not really a singer, my guitar style is not one where I sit there and strum chords. I end up playing things that are intricate and different and interesting to me. I also write mostly on my acoustic, which I think comes from living in a place where I couldn’t turn up the volume very often. I didn’t set out to make it hard, it’s just I have always written like that and yes, the stuff in Cities could be seen as the most challenging stuff I have written, but it’s just because it seems to be that way. I just played what interests me and I guess for something to interest me it has to challenge me and maybe it ends up looking or sounding hard because of that, I am not sure. It’s not a deliberate thing at all, I am just trying to play music. You must remember I wrote this stuff in my room with no one else there and was trying to write music that held my interest and therefore I did try to challenge myself and make it sound kind of cool. I just wrote what came out.
If all creative practitioners can be defined as ones who are engaging in the art of storytelling, what is the story you are trying to tell with your contribution to music?
I am trying to tell my own story really. I mainly write music, I don’t write lyrics so much. I don’t consider myself a singer, I consider myself a song writer and I do write lyrics and I do write songs but I mainly write music because I am more of a guitarist than anything. I am not that confident about my singing abilities so I haven’t gone out of my way to pursue opportunities to sing and because of that, I have probably neglected lyric writing as well. Some may even say I have neglected to stick to conventional song structures and such have focused more on making it weird and interesting guitar wise. I am just trying to tell my own story you know and I think you can do that through music as well as lyrics. Musically you can try and tell a story and sure it’s not as immediate or evident as when there are lyrics present to listen to but I think every piece of music can make you feel something and take you on some kind of little journey.
What story inspired the song “The Wolves of Chernobyl”?
That’s a funny one. I wrote the music, and in Cities, when it all first started, a lot of the songs did have lyrics. I started it having complete songs, not to change them, and just have people play them. But as I started working with the guys in the band, I relaxed on that because I realized I didn’t want to dictate to people what to ding and stuff. Also, I felt better and much more confident about my music and less controlled. So when Joh came in, I stopped giving her lyrics to sing and started letting her do her own thing and Wolves is a classic example of that. A lot of the music was pretty much all written or semi written all the way through and we would work through it, try and make sense of it, and then the lyrics come last. Lyrically, the story that Wolves is telling is really up to Joh. We haven’t really talked about it which is kind of strange because I write the music and she writes the lyrics and a couple of the songs Matt has written the lyrics for but we don’t really talk about what we are writing about. We just let each other do our own thing. We just seem to inherently trust one another to do our own thing and we don’t feel the need to talk about it too much. When I wrote the music I don’t think I had a theme for it as such, I don’t even think I wrote lyrics for that one. Joh just did it. I don’t know, maybe ask Joh because she sings it but… well… its obviously about Chernobyl. And nuclear power. And power in general, some kind of social theme.
What story inspired the song “You’ve been looking”?
Ah…. That’s a similar kind of story to the Cities situation. I had the music down and I had actually played it in one of my old bands, and that band broke up and I had this piece of music sitting there, doing nothing. I really like that bit of music so I bought it into the Resistance and I played it and just let John do whatever the hell he wanted with it. So it was similar to the Cities thing. I wrote it, I liked it, I gave it to John. I think lyrics should be left up to the singer because they have got to deliver them and they have to feel them and they have to believe them. I think it’s kind of strange to tell a singer what to do with the words so I stay away from that really. You’ve been looking I think, is some kind of relationship thing. It could be his experience, I don’t know.
Are there any experiences which you have had which regular themes within your creative works?
Hmmm… if I consider the songs that I have written as a whole, and I have written quite a few now, I don’t exactly know how many, maybe fifty or sixty, I would say most of them, the music is just about feeling. It just sort of comes out. I don’t really think there is a theme. You can think or feel whatever you want, depending on what you want to get out of it when you listen to it. I don’t think I have set inspiration for those songs. A lot of the songs which do have lyrics I have written more as a whole, and they are about certain experiences. A lot of them to be honest are driven from personal experience. Its first hand experience and like I said before, you write about impacts or what affects you so some of the songs I have written have been about family or friends or social ideas or political ideas but the bulk of it would probably be about personal relationships. Because although in the grand scheme of the world, personal relationships are not that important, on a personal level they impact you a lot. You can be affected by the things happening in the world to a great extent but you cannot always express that as keenly as say the experiences associated with a personal relationship because relationships are what sneak up on you more. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong morally, it just seems to happen that way. You can always write about a personal relationship easily, oh well not easily, but it can always inspire you to write.
The Resistance is the longest standing band within your current repertoire. What do you attribute to this longevity?
Uhm… we’re idiots? <laughs>.We are all mates, we were really good mates and we would have a gig every now and then and we had this inner drive because we seemed to enjoy playing together. But to be honest, over the last year or so that has started to deteriorate. We don’t always agree on things and also, there is frustration. You can’t just keep slogging away at the same level, playing at the same places and not get knocked by that. As a result, I think we have become a little bit frustrated and a little bit fractured internally. We have been going on for ages and I don’t really know how much longer it will go. Once that communication and that mate ship breaks down, which is the basis for any band, it doesn’t work. I think it’s important to stress bands don’t work on the promise of fame and fortune and to think that is ridiculous. If people have started to think like that, then their egos are out of control and they are doing it for the wrong reasons and they are not going to last. The only way you get bands to last is if the people get along and they enjoy playing with each other and they enjoy each other’s company. That’s the secret to longevity with a band. You have to love what you are doing and you have to be mates. Unfortunately, personal things, frustration or even the industry can erode that.
It is no secret there is division within the resistance- how do you as a band member view this division and what is your ongoing approach to it?
Very diplomatically. <laughs> I am pretty mellow. And mellow in all my bands, including Cities. I let people discuss things and say what they want and I never force my opinion down anyone’s throat. I just try and keep everyone cool and happy and enjoying things. That’s just how you have to do it. Sure, you can be opinionated and express your opinion when it’s needed but you can’t be rude, and you can’t be stubborn- you just can’t do that. So in that situation with the resistance, I try to approach things level headedly and try to get people to just mellow out and just enjoy it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have put a lot of time and effort into the resistance and I have really enjoyed it and I want to be able to enjoy it again. I don’t want this kind of crap hanging over it.
What are your long term goals as a creative practitioner?
I got asked this the other day, what are my goals with music and I thought about it. When I first started, I wanted to be able to play a Jimi Hendrix song. Once I did that, my goal was I wanted to play a gig at a certain pub and then I did that. Then I wanted to be able to headline that pub on a Saturday night and I did that. My goals are always shifting really. I’ve never been out for fame and fortune, I do it because I enjoy it. Being able to play and being involved in a band that gigs or records and releases something that gets played on the radio, albeit a couple of times. Long term goals I am always going to play, I know that, it’s just in me. I’ll probably be seventy and playing at some blues club and loving it. I am always going to do it. My long term goal is to play and enjoy it. If I get the opportunity to go overseas and play, or gain some kind of recognition for what I have done, without the expectations and traps of stardom and crap like that, that’d be good. I would love to be able to go overseas and play music, or tour around Australia and play music, and be able to live off that for a little while and have people know my music, to have it on the radio and have people like it, I think that would be awesome.
How do you support your ongoing living expenses and also maintain creative production?
With great difficulty. <laughs> I have spent so much money on gear and rehearsals and petrol for driving to rehearsals and gigs and even wear and tear on your car- everything, I have spent so much money on it, I try not to think about it, it’s ridiculous. You gotta have a day job, it’s as simple as that. To be able to play music, you’ve gotta have gear, gear is expensive, you’ve gotta be able to rehearse, rehearsals are expensive, you’ve gotta be able to record, recording is expensive. You’ve gotta have a day job really to do all that. Even if you have a bit of success, a lot of muso’s still have part time jobs. There are not many bands who can make a good full time living out of just playing music unfortunately. You have to juggle work and music, it’s an expensive kind of funds draining business really. But you cannot get bogged down in that. I can’t sit down and think about how much money I have spent on rehearsals or whatever because it will just send me spare. You just cop it. If you want to play music, then that’s what you’ve gotta do. It’s just path of the course really.
During some of our previous conversations, fellow band member Ryan Linnegar has referred to Found at Sea as “his band”. Is there an element of Ryan taking the creative lead on the music of Found at Sea and if so, how does this benefit the band as a whole?
Strictly speaking it is his band. He writes his guitar part, his lyrics and his melodies and it always comes to the rest of us pretty much fully formed. We all slot in around that and I think we do that quite well you know we are a very intuitive band we don’t sit there mulling over parts. We seem to be able to play things pretty well. And to be honest a lot of our songs don’t change that much, once we get it they usually stay that way because once we get it, it’s a song. Yeah he refers to it as his band but it is his band. Its collaborative in a sense that we do our parts and throw in our two cents about the structure or how it links, we all have a say in that. But as I said before, I joined that band on the premise of being a bass player and walking into a band where I could collaborate that way. I didn’t want to be a writer and that suits me fine and in some instances it’s good to have one person with a clear vision of what they want to do. In my experience when all the people in a band are trying to have input, it can get a little bit muddied and tricky. It is kind of simpler in a way to have one person come in and say here’s a new song.
What negatives do you perceive in this approach?
The negatives to being the sole songwriter in any band is that you can repeat yourself a bit. I find that with the some of the stuff I write at least. The other thing is sometimes I don’t think you are getting the most out of the people you are playing with. You have to keep a certain level of openness towards the other people you are playing with, you can’t be too precious about your work or what you are playing. If you are too adamant with how things should sound, because you are not letting the other person in, they can sometimes resent that. Band musicians are not session guys, they are not there to be told what to do. A session musician is paid to do what you want him to do, someone in your band is collaborating with you. So let them into your songs because that’s what makes a band sound the way it is. So I guess the downside to that is maybe you can repeat yourself and not make the most of an idea because you’re not getting feedback.
Found at Sea acquired yourself and Nathan Easey after being established for a couple of years. How did this happen?
My understanding was they started playing when they were at school and they did a few gigs and the original bass player was doing it for a little bit of a joke. He enjoyed it but he wasn’t serious about it so he left. They had just recorded an EP before he left and they wanted to get another guitarist in to add some new stuff to it, so Nathan joined and I joined on bass not long after that. I think we both found out about the band through Drum Media – a lot of the musicians I have met have been through Drum Media ads and I think that goes for most people in Sydney. I think it was good to join a band that’s released an EP because it shows they are serious about what they are doing. You know they are trying to write songs and they are trying to record them. It was encouraging because they had a good outlook for what they wanted to do. When I first joined that band I was surprised at how young they were because I thought they were really, really good for their age.
What processes did you employ to become engaged into Found at Sea and their existing portfolio?
I didn’t listen to the old bass parts. I hadn’t really heard much of Found at Sea’s stuff anyway. I heard their EP but when I first started playing with those guys I just said to them, ‘look play your songs and I’ll watch your hands and I’ll play along.” That’s how we did it and once I got a feeling for the songs I started being a little more creative with my bass parts. I just listened to what they did and played what I thought would fit, I didn’t think about it too much. They didn’t really have a lot of recordings before and I didn’t see that much before so I didn’t really know what the old bass player was doing anyway. From what I understand he wasn’t really serious about it, he was just plodding along, no disrespect to him or anything but I don’t think he was approaching it like a bass player. He was just having fun I went in and did whatever I thought was right.
What sorts of things do you believe yourself and Nathan have added to Found at Sea over time?
Nathan is a really good musician and he comes from a kind of funny background of rockabilly but he doesn’t always play like that. He’s a really good guitarist and he’s got his own world thing so the guitar parts he comes up with are very different from what I would come up with if I was the one looking to write the second part. Same with my bass playing, I don’t think the way they would approach the bass would be the way I would. It’s interesting, we don’t just have our own instruments but we have our own kind of spin we like to put on things, we all come from different influences and backgrounds and listen to different things and that comes through without doubt in our four parts and therefore shapes the sound of the band as a whole. For example, if we all listened to the same bands and were influenced by the same bands I think it would be less original, less organic in a way. I think we add that. I think personality wise Nathan and I are pretty relaxed guys and we’re looking to have fun with it, to enjoy it.
In terms of recording music on the whole, what sorts of issues have you faced?
Financial- that’s the massive one. Recording is so expensive. I have always had a four track, almost as long as I have been playing music. I have recorded lots of things, but you can’t get anything good unless you got to a studio and you invest a lot of money in gear. That’s the really unfortunate thing, if you go to a studio and you haven’t got much money and you go to a cheap studio, it’s not going to sound as good as going to an expensive studio. You have to always rush through because you don’t have much money so your results can be good but they are not going to be awesome, not like it would be if you had the time or the big budget. So the main thing with recording which is the most frustrating is I have spent a fair bit of money on my own recording gear, just to be able to record my own demos and stuff like that and I am reasonably happy with the sounds I get but it is kind of annoying that you go into a studio where you can spend 5, 6, 8 hundred dollars a day to record and have to rush through it and not have everything be perfect.
What is the process you employ to gain gigs?
When I first started out in the first bands, I didn’t really know many other bands so it was cold calling pubs and booking agents trying to get gigs, hassling them for gigs and eventually you know you’d probably get a gig out of them. Over time I have made contact with and made more friends in other bands so over time, I have gotten more gigs that way. Actually, when I was first playing, I used to kind of hassle and book the gigs myself and I found it stressful and annoying and it bruises your ego a bit. They don’t really care what they sound like, they are more into how many people you can bring and you can play on bills with totally inappropriate bands because by and large the bookers don’t care they are more interested with how many people are going to come along. So you find yourself playing some strange bills on some pretty crappy nights all because it’s about how many people you can bring. Lately, it’s been a case of booking myself less and less and less and more and more and more on being asked by other bands to support or play with them and getting gigs that way and it’s been better I think lately. If you’re playing with your friends bands or bands you know then you know it’s going to be a more friendly vibe, the bands are going to be more compatible and you don’t have to deal with the stress of trying to get gigs out of bookers.
In what ways do you believe gigs help people gain access to your music?
I think it’s been the only way they can access it, apart from in the last couple of years, MySpace. Unless you have that money to do a really good recording and you have that budget back up behind you to get it out into shops or onto the radio, you are relying on people to just sort of stumble across it, see your bands name in the paper enough to get them to remember it, or get them to come to a gig through some chance, or on MySpace because they’re friends with some other band you may like.
Describe your dream venue and booking process.
I don’t know if I have a dream venue. In Sydney, I really like the Gaelic Club- I played there once and there weren’t many people there so I felt like a bit of a dick but it’s a really cool venue with the upstairs and downstairs and its all really close to the stage. The Annandale, The Hopetoun too is really good for smaller bands. I don’t want a venue that’s all shiny and polished and stuff like that, I want a venue that feels like it’s had music played in it before. I don’t know what my dream venue is as such. I think outdoor venues can be really cool too. I think my ideal venue is just one I play in and can see people have enjoyed it really, it doesn’t really matter where it is.
What are some ways you think the live music scene in Australia could be improved from a bands point of view?
More of them, more venues, there just aren’t that many. For a city the size of Sydney with this many people living here, there just aren’t that many venues. I wasn’t playing in the early nineties, so I don’t know what it was like playing back then but you hear stories about how awesome it was and how many venues there were and how many bands there were. It’s not like that anymore. Noise restrictions and people moving into inner suburbs and the high density housing and townhouses that seem to be popping up everywhere, noise regulations and all the costs associated with having a live venue, it’s just put all of the music venues off. It’s not longer all about the music now either, its more about how many people can come in and how many beers they buy and how much money the venue can make out of them. Which is fine, because they are running a business. But I think it would be really cool if there were some ways to protect that like making it cheaper for venues to put on live original music, making it harder for people who move into a venue to complain about noise and getting rid of some of that red tape in regards to public liability and licensing and all of that kind of crap.
Everyone learns from mistakes made when doing creative projects and endeavours. Can you describe a moment where you believe you made a mistake, the impact it had, and how you will avoid such a mistake in the future?
Uhm…Jesus. Mistakes in bands, I don’t know, I guess one of the biggest mistakes I have made is getting involved with other members of the band. That’s happened a couple of times, that’s a mistake, don’t do that. I think early on I was really driven and stubborn and forthright we how things should be. I think I was a bit of a…not a bugger to work with but a little bit difficult almost because I really wanted it to work and I was really into it and got frustrated by it not happening, you know? So I wish I was a bit more mellow about it in a sense, I guess that’s something. You just have to be mellow about it. You can’t let your frustrations or the angers in your personality spill over into the people who you’re playing with.
What sort of audience do you believe your music most suits?
I think single mothers and retirees? <laughs> Oh I don’t know. I think my style of playing may appeal to guitarists in some way because I am trying to do something that’s really original which is really hard because there is so much that has been done before. There’s always someone better than you, I am not trying to do something technical I am just trying to do something original. I guess I hope it appeals to other musicians because I am not just up there strumming away to power chords like some other guys do. I don’t know. I think the music I do and the bands I am in, well, I think they are all kind of serious sounding bands and reflect the music I am into. I hate novelty music, I can’t stand it, I think all music should make you feel something. Even though I don’t know what the singers in my bands are on about all the time and I am not really privy to their inner thoughts on those kind of things I think the music and the songs on the whole can be quite moving and interesting and can make you feel something. Hopefully the music that I play appeals to people who like that kind of thing. Sometimes I will see a band to just have a drink and have a laugh. But most of the time when I see music or listen to music it’s because I want to feel something so I guess you would term a lot of the music I listen to quite serious or reflective. I can’t listen to novelty bands, I can’t, I hate them.
MySpace is now a centralized reference point for musical artists of all kinds. In what ways do you think MySpace or other forms of centralized internet resources have assisted or impeded you with getting your creative message out?
MySpace is awesome- I haven’t had to send a demo to a booker in years. I just send them an email with the link to my site instead. It’s really good like that you know. You can put something up there and say it’s a demo and whatever or you can put up a really good recording and people will listen to it so you can just do whatever you want really. It’s so easy to change it. If you don’t like a song, you can just take it off and put a new one up. People might see your bands name in the paper and they can just type it and search it and find it. You can find other bands who do similar things you know, I have found some awesome bands on MySpace I wasn’t really aware of. It’s really cool. As a punter myself and I am thinking of potentially seeing a band and I haven’t heard their music, I go to MySpace and I might check it out, or if I am seeing a band that I know I might check out the supports. MySpace is really good like that. You know I was looking at the Metallica MySpace page the other day and it looks cool and its more fancy than other peoples, but then again it’s more of a level playing field. You have got multimillion dollar contract bands and they still have got to have a MySpace page, it kind of levels it out.
On your MySpace, you describe yourself as Guitarist, bassist, songwriter, occasional singer, very occasional drummer, vegetarian, animal lover, environmentalist, booze hound, and all round music lover. – how do you think these self identified character points and these terms you identify yourself with influence your creative work?
I don’t know if they really influence it, I think that’s more who I am. I see myself as a guitarist first because that’s what I have always done. I might be noodling away even though I might not be writing a song necessarily because I love playing the guitar. I see myself foremost as a guitarist and secondly as a song writer. I like to write songs and trying to make interesting sounding stuff into a complete song, I think that’s awesome. I’m an occasional singer because I am not that confident and wish I was better at it, and I do have some songs I would like to do eventually. And bass as well, well I love playing bass so I guess those things just describe me. I just do what I do really.
Does your identification with vegetarianism or animal rights issues come through in the music you produce and if so, how so?
Yeah … I have never written a song about vegetarianism or animal rights but I have written about social things and environmental things. It’s a really tricky thing to write about because how can you do that without sounding kind of cliché and tacky? The hardest songs I have written have been about that. As I said before, you write about what moves you and I have probably thought animals should be treated better than they are and not just wild animals, stuff like battery hens, stuff like that I think it’s terrible. I consider myself a vegetarian and I have never been able to write about that. I guess it’s just part of who I am and whilst it is something I have thought about from time to time, I don’t know how to write about it, I wouldn’t know what to write about it, it’s a strange thing to write about something like that.
Would you class yourself as a sensitive person? Do you think this influences your work and if so, how so?
Yes. Yes and Yes. I think I am way too over sensitive. I think a lot of my guitar playing came from me thinking about things too much or…I guess I was the kind of person who wasn’t out socializing much, I was sitting in my room trying to play guitar and trying to express myself through that. I have always kind of expressed feelings and that sort of stuff through music, more so than being out there and talking about thing with people.
A lot of your work includes emotionally charged lyrics and music. What role do emotional disruptions play in the creation of your works?
Well I think it’s all about what effects you really, so emotional disruption is hugely affecting. It could be a thought or an idea or an experience, whatever, things that move you are emotionally disruptive and therefore are the things you tend to write. They just come out.
What is your relationship with your country heritage in relation to the city you now call home?
Ha! I don’t know. When I left the country I hated it and I wanted to get out. Now I don’t hate the country so much. It’s just where I came from. I think from a musical point of view, as I said before I started playing music in the country where there was nowhere to play. I think it kind of drove me to play as well because there is not much to do out there and so I wanted to play to have something to do but there was no outlet for it. When I left the country, I came to Sydney to study at uni but I also wanted to do music because there is nowhere to do it back there, there’s no venues, there’s no real network of musicians to support. I wasn’t just escaping for my own reasons such as being bored there but because I also wanted to do music and I also wanted to have a go at that and I needed to be in the city to do that.
Are there any songs you have done to make a direct statement on contemporary Australian culture and if so, what were aiming to critique?
I don’t think I have any songs about Australian culture, I think I have songs about culture in general. I have some songs about the disparity of wealth and the exploitation of people and stuff like that. I guess that’s a comment towards Australia in a sense that we are a wealthy western nation. But it’s really kind of hard to write about that stuff without coming off sounding cheesy or self righteous. It’s really hard to write about.
What advice could you give to other creative practitioners in Australia that may benefit?
Don’t do it. <laughs> Nah- You have got to do it for the right reasons. You have to do it because you enjoy it, because it can be really frustrating at times and it can be really draining financially and time wise you make a lot of sacrifices so you have to do it for the right reasons, you have to do it because you want to. You cannot be driven to it if you don’t want it. And from a music point of view, it’s important to meet likeminded musicians and likeminded bands and listen to them and try and do things with them, you know. You got to enjoy it.
The Resistance parted company not long after the interview was conducted. When asked about his feelings about the band braking up, Rich said “I don’t miss the Resistance per se. I miss playing with Tim, and I miss playing with Leo. I mean, Leo and I have been playing music together for over a decade. He learned bass from me and I have been friends with Fox (Leo’s nickname) for so long I do miss the guy.”
On the band’s breakup, Rich had this to say, ”In my opinion, the final death knell for the band because we went and spent money on recording and no one could agree on anything afterwards or make any constructive decisions.”
Rich has also pursued his dream of being in a blues band and has joined Tome Stone and the Soldiers of Fortune, who have just recorded their first album. Rich also produces a music night in Sydney called Naked Creative and continues to jam with various musicians in Sydney.
POST-POSTSCRIPT @ Aug 2011
Rich is now busier than ever, and has 5 projects going.. Unfortunately the music night ended due to a lack of enthusiasm on the venues part, but his time is in much more demand with his bands anyway. Leo Kim ended up joining Found At Sea playing keyboards, and after the original drummer in the Soldiers quit, Tim Adderley came in, so Rich’s wish to play with two of his former bandmates funnily enough came into fruition.
Found At Sea are currently working up new material, and hope to resume gigging and recording their 2nd album in late 2011. http://www.myspace.com/foundatseamusic
Tom Stone and The Soldiers of Fortune are currently gigging and writing, and will hopefully launch their album before the end of 2011. http://www.myspace.com/tomstonesoldiers
Cities of The Red Night are unfortunately on hiatus as singer Jo has moved to Townsville. However they recorded a 3-track single before she left which they’ll reconvene to launch in October, and they plan to play and gig together whenever Jo is in town http://www.myspace.com/citiesoftherednightband
To fill the void on the prog side of things now that Cities of The Red Night are playing much less, Rich joined a new instrumental post-rock/prog/experimental band named Marosi di Buriana. They plan to start gigging before the end of 2011. http://www.reverbnation.com/marosidiburiana
In mid 2011 Rich got the call from an old friend to fill the now vacant guitarist position in the established Sydney pop/rock/indie band The Glass Ceiling, and he’ll be playing his first shows with them from October. http://www.myspace.com/theglassceilingsydney