Part 1 – A Conversation with Richard Maxwell

Richard Maxwell has created and runs one of the most unique and inspiring creative musical arts and sciences program in the nation.

For me, it reminds me of the entry level sound recording program I went through in college, only Richard’s students get into the creative process early because of what he had the guts to create.

This program happens in an area of the school campus where they have their own section of rooms that is their facility. It’s made up of a larger classroom if you will that doubles as a performance room plus they have 15 Pro Tools stations and Pro Tools running in their A and B recording studios.

They learn how to be expressive without fear of judgement, they write songs, they mutually assist and critique each others work in a helpful, loving way and it’s magical to see what happens on a daily basis.

Richard is a loving, caring person who, by his own efforts and fortitude, has created a platform where he can give the students, his very best in regards to guidance, ideas and processes.If you love music, talking about music, the process of making music, what music looks like in today’s world, interested in how music could be handled in schools or always wondered how a single person can make a huge change in our education system, these episodes split into Part 1 and Part 2, are for you!

Enjoy, share and spread the musical love.

Richard Maxwell’s Links:

Richard’s Website:

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Podcast Music By: Andy Galore, Album: “Out and About“, Song: “Chicken & Scotch” 2014

Andy’s Links:


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Part 1 – Richard Maxwell Interview:

Joe: Hey, Richard, great to have you, man. I’m glad you could come on the show. And as you know, I’m a huge fan and when I reached out, I figured, you know, while we’re all in this COVID-19 thing, you aren’t quite as busy as you usually are. So I’m glad

Richard: Different

Joe: I was able to

Richard: And

Joe: Get you in here.

Richard: Different, busy? No, I’m I’m I am as I’m I’m as big of a fan of yours as you are always so kind to me as well. So

Joe: I

Richard: I think

Joe: Appreciate

Richard: A

Joe: It.

Richard: Mutual admiration society. But that’s

Joe: Awesome.

Richard: A

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: That’s a good thing. I’m flattered to be here.

Joe: So I know just from my own personal experience with you that you are a multi instrumentalist because I know that you and I have a kinship with drums for sure.

Richard: Yes, we do.

Joe: But that’s pretty much where my talent starts and stops. And then you go on to songwriting and playing guitar. And I’m sure you play the keys.

Richard: Yeah, but.

Joe: So.

Richard: Yeah. But to be fair, your skill you have in, like your little finger in drums eclipses my entire rhythmic independence and abilities beyond belief.

Joe: Now that you talk about being too kind, that’s too kind. Right.

Richard: Well, no. I mean, you are a masterful musician in your own right. Absolutely.

Joe: Well,

Richard: I am

Joe: Thank you.

Richard: A jack of all trades, master of none in some ways. But I think that I mean, for what it’s worth, the multi instrumentalist thing is partially due to the control freak nature of my personality, I think. I’ve had time to analyze this over the years and some of that I’d like you know, I’d like to be able to sort of be like, yes, I love playing all these instruments and I do. But some of it is because somewhere along the line, it was hard to find people that I felt like I could say, hey, let’s do it this way, you know, and some of that was because I was probably not probably I was really difficult to work with. I think myself. So I started just kind of trying to figure out ways to do it on my own. On the other hand, you do learn a lot when you explore other instruments. So there’s a lot of instruments that I will pick up and play badly just for the sort of joy of seeing what it does. What’s that? But I like that. I think I think I think musically, there’s something about process for me. You know, I’m I’m at an age where, you know, there’s a lot of “what ifs” in my life and in my career musically. So now, you know, it’s interesting because, like, I think you’re, you’re in, you’re at a point in your thirties where you like all of those things are sort of like, oh, man, if only I had. If only I had. And then, weirdly enough, you get to a point where you’re like, wait a minute, I actually now this actually means like artistic freedom. Which has been fascinating for me, and I know we also want to talk about, you know, the program at the school and stuff, but it sort of relates to it like, like you start to realize, like sometimes that’s actually more valuable. Like there’s a ya know, there obviously we all want to be Springsteen or Taylor Swift or whoever is that, you know, that that A-list group. Of course. I mean, who wouldn’t want

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: That lifestyle and and those opportunities and I think that anybody who says they don’t, is probably not being entirely honest. On the other hand, you know, I remember, I’ve been biking through this COVID stuff as much as I can so I, I have one ear with a couple different podcasts that I listen to and when John Prine died, when and if you know who he was or

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Not, is

Joe: Absolutely.

Richard: Really a brilliant songwriter. So there was this one podcast that was talking about him that had said something that just stuck with me. I was never a huge John Prine fan. I mean, I respected the guy, but they were saying how he looked at his career and at one point, the fact that he never had, like, that top 10 smash hit was a detriment. But then the music critic who, who’s pretty, pretty brilliant guy, he goes, yeah, but on the other hand, when you talk to people about his entire catalog, everybody’s like, yeah, but everything’s brilliant and not having that hit, like, he wasn’t identified by a particular sound or of particular time and he could always kind of do what he artistically wanted. I’ve become more fascinated by, by that than, than anything else. And I talk a lot about that with my students, you know, in their process to like, you know, that thing that you love is wonderful. But what’s like, what’s the step before and maybe what’s the step after? And are you and frankly, are you allowed to even take it? You know, we get very critical of artists and what we see on TV and on, you know, any video and YouTube now and everything else, but sometimes I wonder, you know, man, it’s that the pressure to sustain that, whatever that thing is for them. I don’t know. I know it sounds weird to maybe people would say, oh, he’s just copping out for whatever. I don’t know if I’d want it at this point in my life.

Joe: Yes

Richard: You don’t. I mean.

Joe: That’s funny because I’ve had the same conversation with myself. I totally in my heart and in my soul and to be truthful to myself, that’s all I ever wanted. And then it took me until I don’t think it was that long ago that I actually was able to look myself in the mirror and go, you just didn’t put in the work. You didn’t put in that extra thing to allow yourself to rise above to be noticed. It just, it didn’t and I know that, you know, I just I just never went that last whatever it was

Richard: Sure.

Joe: To get

Richard: But then,

Joe: It done.

Richard: On the other hand, you know that what’s the cliche about, you know, one. One door opens and another and one closes and another opens. I mean, you just you know, I’ve come to realize that. That that. Things happen for a reason like, like, you know, along the lines of what you’re talking about. So, like, I never took the risk to, like, go out to, I’ve been to L.A. enough times that I kind of have a love hate relationship with that city in some respect, I think, like everybody does. And places that nature in terms of the industry. But I never when I was in my early 20s, you know, I didn’t do the stereotype I wanted to but the thing of it is, is that I know now, looking back, if I’m like you’re saying, being truly honest with yourself, I’m truly honest with myself, I know for a fact that if I had gone out and done that, then, it wouldn’t, I would have, I would have destroyed myself, probably like I wasn’t going to hit it, like it wasn’t going to happen then. It

Joe: That’s

Richard: Just

Joe: Interesting.

Richard: It just wasn’t I wasn’t ready.

Joe: The.

Richard: I wasn’t you know, I am a very slow process learner. It takes me a long time. I guess I’m not OK with it, you know? I mean, I’m sitting in this, you know, not to sound funny, but on the other hand, I’m this is everyday for me where I am right now. Like,

Joe: Right.

Richard: This is you know, I was I was in a position we were able to get a house built. And it’s not like it’s that fancy. And I’m not going to show you. I could show you what I’m looking at out my window. But like, if you saw like, there’s just gear and stuff everywhere, it’s a mess in the studio. But the fact that I’m able to sit in a studio every day, I have opportunities where I can make music on my own terms. You know, I’m thinking about everybody I grew up with and stuff like that, that’s, that’s not so bad. You know, I mean, I’m not like like taking a, like, sort of second place on that either, I mean, you know, I have I have friends, I have students who tour, former students who tour all over the world now. And I’m so proud of them. And it but it’s brutal, I mean, it’s just I mean, not even I’m not even talking about, like, the COVID stuff. I mean, just that lifestyle in general and trying to maintain that, I mean, it, it I did I did some of that, you know, like one hundred years ago. But, you know, it’s I guess, I guess maybe I feel lucky we live in a time where I can feel fulfilled in some ways.

Joe: Yeah, yeah, and it’s so funny because I just the last guests that I had on it, we actually talked for two and a half hours and I won’t do that to you. And it was I’m going to actually blame it on him because he’s such a great storyteller. But I had Nate Morton on who is the drummer for The Voice, and him and I have become good friends over the past few years. And, you know, we went through his early childhood then, you know, going to engineering school, of all things, and quitting it because it was he knew it wasn’t in his heart. Going to Berklee and then the connection that I’m making here was you talking about L.A., is he said that I knew I had to go where the gigs were of of the caliber that I wanted. I know I could have stayed in Boston, but I wanted to play on a hit TV show or I wanted to tour with the best of the best. And so he said, I just knew that that’s the only move that I had with the two things that he he points out the two biggest things, decisions he’s ever made in his life, even to this day was, number one, going to Berklee and number two, going to L.A. And without those combination of those two things, you wouldn’t be where he is today.

Richard: Sure, sure, Which

Joe: So,

Richard: Totally makes sense.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Which makes sense and for everybody, you know, and you’ve got to find your place in it. I don’t know. Who knows? I mean, we’re not that old. You never know. It’s, I mean, to me, mean and the industry is different now. And there’s, you know. I mean, because I work obviously I work with a lot of teenagers and a lot of 20 somethings and they’re all and they’re wonderful. But it is interesting how, like, you really can almost you can almost like feel the sort of like flash in the pan kind of vibe of whatever they’re, they’re currently into.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Which I don’t see that as a criticism. I just mean, you know. Sometimes you, you know, I wonder, like, yhere are certain artists or certain bands and, you know, they used to get like, you know, the joke was like the oldies circuit kind of thing. But at the same time, you look at what those musicians are doing and there’s something about the fact that they’re that they’re playing like, like I feel like that state, even with all the technology and I am a technology guy, let’s not kid ourselves.

Joe: Right.

Richard: At the end of the day, it can’t be about the technology. And I feel like there’s something, you know, like. And I know they have all kinds of ups and downs with personnel and issues of personality. But like journey of all the, you know, sort of like stereotypical cliche kind of bands in a way. But it is interesting to me that decades on, when you see them play they’re play like they’re actually are playing

Joe: All right.

Richard: Late. And I think that’s the right partially think that that’s a big part of the reason I think that people go and see the Rolling Stones play. Because they’re playing like like it’s not tracks, it’s not you don’t you know, you don’t go into their show going, well, they’re going to produce it this way or produce it that way. And I don’t think that has so much to do with age. I think that has to do with approach. I’ve become a big fan of all crazy things. I tell my students I always find this funny. I found myself a few years ago and I couldn’t figure out what it was. At first I would I would be in here like in the studio and just kind of like I’d be doing like paperwork or like just whatever, like just I wasn’t working on something, but I’d want happened in the background and I would find myself streaming from YouTube, live bluegrass. And I could not for the life of me, I don’t like, I’m not like a country guy, I don’t, what in the world is happening? You know, that’s like my having, like, some sort of, like, long, weird dystopian out of body midlife musical crisis…

Richard: I mean, like because I mean, I was, you know, my first musical love was classical and in prog rock. And then I got into rock and anything else. So like bluegrass is is just. We’re, we’re, we’re moving on in a chain that was so bizarre and then I finally figured it out and it was because it was pure, like it’s a bunch of guys and girls sitting with acoustic instruments, basically, and they have to play them. The instrument has to respond. You don’t get the benefit of, you know, all the other stuff if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. And I have that has become incredibly compelling for me. And now so I’ve been spending years and I don’t know if you want to get into this part of it or not. But I’ve been spending years trying to figure out a way to marry the two. How can you like my big thing right now is. How do you take like I love loopers, for example? The textures you can create. I really dislike the lack of in the moment control you have, though, with a looper, because once you do a loop, you’re basically stuck with it.

Joe: Right.

Richard: You know, you can stop it. You can start it and sign. But in real time, I want to sit down like, like when you sit down behind a kit, you know, I want the high hat to respond as I’m playing it, not in some prefabricated way that I can no longer alter in any way. So I’ve been working on trying to figure out a way to play with all of the layers, but have them respond to me like I was sitting down behind the kit and doing it organically or at a piano or on a guitar or just, you know, a kazoo. I don’t care what the instrument is but the idea that it responds immediately to me, that’s a more interesting use of all of this. So anyway.

Joe: What are you doing? Yeah. Not to go too far because we know, but it’s interesting now, what are you doing to do that?

Richard: So a lot of it has to do with um, figuring out ways to like, look what makes up the layer that you need. Do you know what I mean? So like like a loop for me, when I was like, you know, you there’s there’s people that are brilliant data. I mean, and that’s the other thing, too. You know, you’re you know, Ed Sheeran is a brilliant songwriter. He is gifted on so many levels and he’s kind of perfected the looping thing. You know, Tash Sultana, I don’t know who she is or not.

Joe: I don’t

Richard: You should definitely look her up. She

Joe: Work.

Richard: Is. Oh, my gosh. She is about the most organic looper I’ve ever seen in my life to the point where you can tell that something glitched or made a mistake. And it’s like she does it, it doesn’t stop. She’s so in the moment about the music she’s making and it’s it’s just frickin’ brilliant. It’s unbelievable. But the point is, is that, you know, you start to look at all these textures and you start to see some commonalities. And then funny enough, I, I started looking at, well, what do I really need? Like like when when I when a singer songwriter starts a loop performance, a lot of times, you know, they start with like a drumbeat kind of thing, right? And, you know, they’ve got their acoustic guitar and they’re doing all kinds of stuff. And there’s not I mean, it’s cool. But then it’s like, well, what is that really about? You know? And so I had gotten really heavy into Mumford and Sons, of all things. And I’m watching Marcus Mumford, especially when it’s just the four guys. Sorry, four guys [shows fingers]. And, you know, and the and he’s doing you know, he’s just got that kick drum and he’s got that weird little pedal mechanism for the tambourine. But it’s essentially he’s doing all that momentum off of a kick drum. And because it’s so well played organically, you can hear the rest of the drumkit, but you don’t actually need it. I know for a fact that you in studio work because, you know, I’ve talked about this. You have a less is more kind of approach. You know, you don’t have to you know, don’t get me wrong, we’re all fans of Neil Peart. I mean,

Joe: Yes.

Richard: You know, God rest his soul. The man was a genius on so many levels, but we’re not gonna be able to pull that off. Like, I mean, he he could he could fill the space and you didn’t go “Well, that was gratuitous.”

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: You know, that’s a I mean, you know, he’s like he’s not the only drummer. I think that could really get away with that consistently. Simon Phillips may be another one. But that’s just and that’s just just my opinion. But my point being, what I’ve basically been doing is I’m looking at the layers of what can you actually do and then essentially it’s a variation on voice splitting. So if I take a tone and I branch it out and I noodle with it and essentially process it in a certain way, you don’t necessarily know what it is that I’m playing from. But then it goes even further, and I promise we won’t stay too long on this. But just because this is where my brain goes,

Joe: That’s right.

Richard: Still, I had developed this hole and there’s some video and stuff you can I mean, I’ll send you some links and stuff of early, like prototypes of what I was doing and it’s fun. But it’s are real, first, I was a real pain to get a song prepped. Like the irony of the amount of time it would take me to get a song prep so that it could feel natural and organic was just like killing me. Like it, it became so creatively so, so I went back, I’ve gone back and I’ve read redressed it. And the crazy thing is, is so I started looking at instead of for the drum kit, I started looking at the relationship between the kick drum and the bass drum. And part of that was because at one point years ago, I had developed this really cool way to simulate what sounded like drums off of an acoustic guitar without having to play it as a loop like it was coming essentially off the strings, believe it or not. And it sounded really cool. And then I would do like some coffeehouse gigs or some, you know, whatever, some small shows and things, theater kind of gigs and stuff. And I realized that people like if they knew what I was doing, they’d be all over it. But just as a listener, it was like, oh yeah, he’s got backing tracks. An I’m like, no wait, you’ve missed the whole point. And then I realize. And then. And then you like and I know, you know, you perform all the time. You can’t really blame your audience if they if they don’t get what you’re doing, that’s on you. You know, there’s only so far you can go. Oh yeah. They didn’t understand like

Joe: Right.

Richard: I mean, it’s just, you

Joe: Right.

Richard: Know, you can’t play that game successfully. I don’t think anybody can. So I’ve gone back now and I’ve started to look at what really is required for momentum. And can I treat like for some reason, hearing a bass line off of a guitar? We’ll make that jump. I’m still trying to figure out how far do I go with the actual percussion sounds and things, but that’s also to me, part of it is I’m a big process guy. I come back to that all the time. This, to me is fascinating. I’ve been playing with this concept since before my oldest son was born. And I’m really, really freakin old. It’s been a long time,

Joe: No,

Richard: But

Joe: I

Richard: I.

Joe: Really friggin old.

Richard: Fair enough…

Joe: I

Richard: Off.

Joe: Don’t.

Richard: Fair enough, now you’re not. And it’s just a number anyway,

Joe: Right.

Richard: Even if you were. And even if I was. No. But seriously, you know, to me, it’s the process. I think that. That’s the fascinating part. I am reminded Mick Jagger has been asked how many times what you know, “How do you write a hit song?” And I love his response in certain in one interview. He’s like, “I don’t know and as soon as I figure it out, I’m probably done.”

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Like, I don’t want to know

Joe: Yeah, it’s interesting.

Richard: Why it looked like it. It kind of ruins the magic of it.

Joe: Right.

Richard: I think there’s great merit in, you know, I think art in all of its forms. And for me, it’s music is its own, kind of like its own living, breathing entity. And you communicate with it. And, you know, if you if it’s if you’re working with it collaboratively, it’s there’s some way, you know, these amazing things will happen. And if you piss it off, it’s like it takes its toys and goes home and then you’re stuck. And I don’t know what to do anymore. I mean, that’s but that’s that’s literally my my thing. Which maybe I don’t like I said, I can talk for like I went two and a half hours. I can so beat that Joe. I have. Oh my gosh. I love

Joe: So

Richard: The sound of my own voice.

Joe: That

Richard: I’m not going do that. I won’t do that to you.

Joe: No.

Richard: But I know what it’s like about the program.

Joe: Well, no but, but because we talked about a couple of things here, I’m just going to put. Just add my own two cents based on, you know, the whole looping thing for me. I also love and I’m enamored when I watch it done. The problem that I have when it’s in a live situation and I deal with it with the people that, you know, my other persona is being the owner of Onstage Entertainment, right? So booking a lot of entertainment in here in both Arizona and Colorado. I, I have to ask some of them that, OK, I don’t mind you looping, but you have to get into the song within the first, like, minute to loop the layer, you know, the layers. And there’s I don’t know, I don’t loop I mean, I don’t do it. So I don’t, I can’t tell them what to do and I can’t feel their pain. But if you’re going to do it, you got to be quick at it and you got to figure out how to get into the song quickly because people whose interest it just.

Richard: Well, you’re not wrong. I mean, that’s the other thing. I mean, you know, mostly, you know, you do the looping thing and it’s like the first time, the first song. That’s really a two and a half minute song that takes you 12 minutes to perform. And the audience is like, okay, that was cool. Three songs in and I can tell you this from experience. Some of this is because I don’t have the gift that certain people do for looping, which is probably why I gave up on looping in some respects, and now but now I mean, like again a door closes. This is so much more creatively interesting for me. But, you know, three or four songs in the audience is always like we’ve seen this trick before. We know. We know they. They don’t know what’s gonna happen specifically, but they kind of know where it’s headed. And I think some of that’s the lack of interaction in all honesty, I think that’s why you see some people like, you know, time. But the looping thing I’ve I. The one thing that fascinates me about Ed Sheeran is genius level songwriter, brilliant performer. Albums sound nothing like the live show albums are basically a band. Then he goes out by himself, which is very fascinating to me, you know, but on the other hand, I kind of respect it because that kind of I absolutely respect it because to me that’s using looping in an effective way, using technology in an effective way. But I’m with you. I, I can imagine, you know, that battle. You’re right, people don’t, but especially, you know, bars and clubs and stuff. There’s

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Only so they that you can go and. And again, I think one of the things I know I deal with this a lot with my students is, you know, there is a line that you have you have to accept the fact that if you’re going to go off on those musical tangents, that may be incredibly invigorating for you personally, you have to be willing to accept the fact that, you know, you may not get all the gigs you want. You know, or you may not get the type of gig that you think you deserve because people are going to you know, if that’s you know, if that’s not what the listener wants, that’s not what the listener wants. And then, then and then that needs to, but that has to be OK, too. I mean, I think, you know, I firmly believe it’s kind of like there’s two music industries in a way. There’s the industry that we see on TV that, you know, is, you know, is is the big influencers and stuff. And the award shows and everything else. And God love him for it. I like I said, I would love to have their problems, but then there’s all this other stuff, but isn’t going to make it beyond, you know, it’s going to play the smaller clubs and it’s going to be in in more intimate settings.

Richard: But that’s OK, you know what I mean? Like, that’s OK. And at least now that’s when you and I were growing up. You know, we were we were still of the generation where if it did come on the radio, you didn’t hear it. You know, or you had to really I mean, I can remember you would spend hours at a record store. Because you couldn’t return it. You know, I mean, you really chose carefully, you know, those, those you know that 10 bucks or 20 bucks or whatever it happened to be, you know, before we really got into the whole Napster opens up streaming for us. You know, world. You know, it’s a totally different thing in it’s interesting talking to my students about that, because some of them… It’s that they are still very careful and they’ll tell me they’re like, my time is valuable to me. And they’ll stay, but, but there’s still even with them, there’s still a sense of acceptable risk. You know, for, whatever, 10 bucks a month or whatever you spend for whatever streaming platform. I mean, that’s like, ya know, that’s insane to me.

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: I mean,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: That you can get pretty much every recording that exists for 10 bucks a month. Which

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Then also

Joe: It’s.

Richard: Begs the begs the question, is it worth being worried about signing the big record deal anyway? Because you’re not gonna make any money for it anyway. Maybe just go make what your heart wants you to make artistically. You know, 50 percent of not much. OK, now you are getting that much in the first place. But.

Joe: Yeah, yeah, and it’s, it’s for them, you know, for all of us these days with the streaming part of it, it’s like drinking water through a firehose when it comes to the amount of content you can actually take in. Where you? Yeah, and you and I are talking. It’s like, yeah. Go to the right. You know, you you mowed for lawns. You have ten bucks to go buy the one album that you’ve been waiting to get

Richard: Exactly.

Joe: In.

Richard: Exactly, exactly. But

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: It made it so much more, you know, I cannot remember buying an album and not sitting down and listening to it, track for track, multiple times all the way through.

Joe: Reading all the liner notes,

Richard: Exactly.

Joe: Knowing

Richard: Exact.

Joe: Everybody who played on it every yeah,

Richard: Yep, yep,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Or like I can remember. I can’t remember what album it was, but I can remember buying an album, taking it home to listen to and then we like I remember my parents were like, we have we have something to go to in like 20 minutes or something. And I can remember sitting there thinking, ok do I put on listen, like the first two tracks or do I wait till I get homesick and listen to the whole thing? And I waited. You know, because there was something about that experience. And even now I find myself, you know, fast forward and, you know, I mean, it just did it. It’s I find myself with some of those bad habits a little bit that I wish I didn’t, necessarily…but it is what it is.

Joe: Yes. Well, and two other things you touched upon that I know you. You brought it up and it’s something that I deal with. But I took a position a long time ago and I started Onstage, that I actually don’t hire anyone that runs tracks. And I did it purely for the fact that I didn’t want any musicians being put out of work on basically my watch for lack of a better term.

Richard: Oh, that’s awesome.

Joe: So that’s just the position I took. And I don’t have anything, you know, like there’s a like I had a corporate gig. So when I say that, it’s really like the local type stuff. So I’m not going to, I’m not going to put a single guy in a resort and put a bass player and drummer out of work because he walks in with bass and drums on tracks and back and backup vocals. And, you know, these other people are sitting home and not working. But the caveat with that is if I there’s a corporate band that I hired out of Montreal, Canada, who had amazing tracks that they had built from scratch for themselves. Now, the difference between them is that every single track that they had, there was literally an instrument onstage playing it. So all it was for was for the thickness of the sound.

Richard: Sure, sure. Right.

Joe: There was literally not one sound on those tracks that did not exist as a human being on the stage.

Richard: Right. See, and I think that you’re hitting on something to me that’s really important, which is intent. Like, I think that gets lost in all of this because we’re so we’re so caught up in the spectacle. Or the site. You know, I was just at a wedding not too long ago for for one of my nephews and it was interesting because the band, the band was they were good. This is back in Ohio where I grew up, but it was lots of tracks. And it was interesting the way, you know, I’m sitting there picking the thing apart because that’s where my head goes. But the rest of my family’s just enjoying the sound. You know, almost to the point where, like I’ve seen deejay’s lately, do a thing, oh, sorry, my son’s come in and

Joe: Hmm

Richard: Interrupt

Joe: Hmm, hmm,

Richard: Here

Joe: Hmm,

Richard: For a second.

Joe: That’s

Richard: We have

Joe: Totally

Richard: To

Joe: Fine.

Richard: Apologize. My apologies, Joe.

Joe: No,

Richard: That’s

Joe: It’s all

Richard: My

Joe: Good.

Richard: Ex, Gray. He’s gone and he’s gone in for your drumming job.

Joe: All right, perfect.

Richard: His no, but I think I’m, you know, like deejay’s lately, you see them like they’ll travel with a drummer. And I actually think that’s a really good thing. You know, it’s, it’s, it is a little bit in the other direction, because I actually I respect that decision you’ve made and I actually I did not realize that that’s awesome. And I think, I think the world of professional musicians would be better off if more of the owners of these companies, such as yourself, took a stance like you do. But on the other hand, you come from this as a player. So you have a you know, I think some of this is, you know, that battle. You know what that’s, you understand on a different level. And nothing against promoters, managers and anybody else out there but a lot of them don’t. Is my as a you know, they’re well-meaning, but they don’t you know, they don’t get it. You know.

Joe: Yeah, we’ve talked about this a lot. You know that the success of what happened with my booking agency is the fact that I take the position and I also have the business acumen part of it. So I’m kind of a hybrid in a way where I can understand what I have to deliver to the end client and how professional all of that has to be and at the same time, I have to put my self in the position of the performers or performer, either one. And that, you know, when it’s really hot outside, they need shade and if it’s too hot, it’s just impossible to perform outside in Arizona. And yet, because we live in Arizona and it’s the desert, you know what? It gets freaking cold in the wintertime. So, and the fact that other than a singer who then has to worry about catching some sort of cold or bronchitis or something, that all the musicians use their fingers and as soon as your fingers freeze up, the performance goes downhill and everyone’s upset and it just doesn’t make for a good… So in our contracts, it’s very in-depth about, you know, needing shade and needing heaters in the winter and then if it’s too hot or too cold, that has to be moved inside. And we, had ad nauseum, I could talk about all

Richard: No,

Joe: This,

Richard: Of course.

Joe: You know, circumstances, but that’s the approach that I took.

Richard: But it’s interesting, too, because like as you’re as you’re describing all of us, I keep coming to the word legacy like like like your own sort of personal legacy and all of this like, you know, and I’ve known you now for years. So I kind of I feel like I, I. I can say this maybe with a little bit of insight, if you like. I know you to be like you need to be able to sleep at night like you don’t like it. But that’s important. Like, look, I know that, you know, some of that’s just because you couldn’t send somebody on a gig that you yourself wouldn’t feel comfortable taking, which I think is important, because, again, I think, you know, again, I deal with a lot of younger musicians, you know, a lot of teenagers, lot of 20 somethings with, you know, with the the college stuff folks that I work with, too. And, you know, you do have to kind of be aware, you know, the pay to play thing that goes on a lot. I see a lot of younger musicians that get really excited over gonna get this gig at blah blah, blah, blah plays. That’s awesome! Can you buy a ticket? Because we have to sell 200 of them

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: To get

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: The opening spot. I’m thinking to myself, I know I get it. I mean, I you know, I understand there are costs and everybody needs to be able to make a living and provide for themselves and their families. And I really do understand that. But it’s, there’s something off putting about like, like to me, I feel like art’s disposable enough, like it’s treated almost like a fast food meal sometimes that, that going into that world, I don’t know. I just, I just feel like, you know, one of the things I’m always telling kids is, you know. To me and this is this has always been my approach, and if I ever decide that I want to get myself out of this studio environment here where I noodle around, which I might, you know, in my midlife extended crisis of who knows what the heck’s going on right now. I actually had plans and then the COVID thing kind of hit. But that’s a separate conversation, I suppose. But no, but to think about, you know. We look at gigs, I think, especially younger musicians, they look at gigs in this context of, I have to get the gig for the exposure and the, quote, “fame.” But I also equally need the money from the gig, and I think that that’s in some ways, the problem. Everybody’s got to eat, everybody needs to. I get, I understand that. But I do think that when you can eliminate either one or the other from the equation, you actually give yourself more opportunities.

Joe: Yeah, it’s.

Richard: You know, like if you can, you know, and now I realize I’m in a very unique situation. I could take a gig or not just for the joy of the gig. And then one of the reasons why I started to think about I should really start playing out again just for my own sense of self and to noodle around with this not looping looper thing, to be perfectly honest with you in front of people, was because I realized I don’t really care if I make any money doing a gig. Of course, I would love to get some cash, you know, some money in my pocket for for for performing. But at the same time, it’s like you priority, you know what what matters? And I think that that’s part of it, you know, especially now, you know, because there isn’t you know, it’s really tough. As you know, being a gigging musician is really brutal and obviously right now it’s basically impossible,

Joe: All right.

Richard: You know, with with the situation we’re in. But I do think. Like, it’s funny, like I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of my, my students about the fact that I know and just a lot of people in general. There are some you know, this is horrible right now. I mean, it just it is devastating the live music industry, which is like, what, eight billion dollars annually or something at a minimum is just devastated right now. And all of the ripple effect of it is, is just it’s gutting. But I do think there is also some good possibly to come out of this. The number of people I talk to, younger people that are so excited at the notion of when I can go see another show, like the appreciation for it. You know, like when you’re younger and like you can go to any show you want, anytime you want, basically because you’ve got all your income is basically disposable and, you know, whatever else or even if it’s not but you can you can seriously prioritize it. You know, you not to worry about house and car and bubble on food. And I know some kids do, I’m, I’m speaking generalities, but just in general.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: When that’s been removed now. It is so interesting, the number of conversations I’ve had with kids that are like, WOW!, I’m just so appreciative of when I’ll be able to do that again. Or, or the realization that that because we would we talk about it all the time and might within my classes, like, OK, you go to that show. I don’t care what show it is. That person onstage, even if it’s a soloist, isn’t the only person involved in you seeing that show. They just aren’t. There’s no circumstance where it’s just them. And you start to really now understand how it all changes, you know? You know, or not changes but how, I mean, it’s gone right now, you know, and they’re talking about 2021 before major tours happen again, major festivals and things like that. I want to get all the pressing and down on stuff. But but

Joe: Oh,

Richard: I think. But I mean, it’s like you don’t already know this. I’m sure you.

Joe: I have. I have tickets to see the Doobie Brothers and the Eagles. Yeah. And and that the Eagles, I think, was supposed to happen in April. That’s been delayed, I think, until October or December and you know, there’s a good chance they’re all going to be moved until 2021 to just

Richard: Yeah,

Joe: Me.

Richard: It.

Joe: No one’s gonna want to go to a concert and sit, you know, six feet apart from the person they went with and sit, you know, have every other row with someone, it’s just it would be weird

Richard: Well, and

Joe: Because.

Richard: Not to even some more paranoid, but like I’ve been reading about different things about like I guess they did a study recently about that choir that had that rehearsal before anybody realized it was a pandemic. But then like 40 out of the 60 people that were in the choir wound up getting tested. They’re testing positive.

Joe: Oh, wow.

Richard: And they you know, I mean, it’s a horrible tragedy, I think like two or three of them passed away from it and the whole circumstance was awful and they were going off of all the information they had, which at the time was nothing. And I mean, the whole thing is a terrible tragedy. But out of that, they recreated the circumstances. They obviously didn’t infect people again, but they started to look at how singing and things of that nature, what it does to the transmission of a disease, you know, of a virus of this nature and then you think about people that like an event where they’re shouting or screaming or singing along and all this other stuff. And you just think to yourself, you know, how is this going to look?

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: You know what we know? I don’t know. It’s it’s, a it’s an interesting. If it wasn’t so devastating to the to people that I personally know and just to the industry that I’m aware of and the ripple effects of all of that, it would be just fascinating. But instead, it’s just I mean, it’s just.

Joe: Yes.

Richard: It is really. It just makes me really sad and I’m really grateful, like I feel weird sitting in a studio talking to you right now because I feel like almost like I’m, I’m unintentionally flexing and I don’t mean to be. It’s just, you know. I never thought my life musically would be in a place where I could feel musically secure more than most musicians out there in the world. That is such a bizarre moment of clarity for me. I almost feel obligated to be making more music right now. Not because anybody needs to hear it or that it’ll be any good, but almost because I feel like if I don’t, I’m being incredibly selfish, that I have the option to do it and I’m not

Joe: Right.

Richard: Taking advantage of it.

Joe: A.

Richard: I feel like, you know. You can believe this, but I feel like I would just do like such an ass, like if

Joe: Now I get it.

Richard: I feel like, I feel like I believe in karma. And I just, I just feel like I have I have an obligation, especially I’m about to head into summer, which changes up my teaching obligations and my, you know,

Joe: Yes.

Richard: Obligations of that nature. And running the studios are going to be very different for the foreseeable future, at least.

Joe: Yes.

Richard: Wrote

Joe: And it’s then

Richard: permanent excuse

Joe: It’s like, no, yeah. No. And I get it. And it’s in a lot of our talent is struggling. You know, that that I personally know and had, had helped to get a fair amount of work that they, you know, at times where they don’t have work and they’re struggling just to put food on the table and pay their car payment, keep a roof over their head. They now are sort of forced into possibly going into debt to buy a webcam and a microphone and and learn, you know, some sort of software if need be, or if they just end up going live on Zoom or Facebook or any of the streaming platforms. But, you know, they’re putting in there they’re Venmo and PayPal handles as a virtual tip jar just to try to make any sort of money.

Richard: Yeah, anything is

Joe: And

Richard: Anything.

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Mm

Joe: And

Richard: Hmm.

Joe: It’s it’s really tough. So, yeah, I keep brainstorming on ways to try to figure out a way to help. And I haven’t come up with it yet. I but I’m working on it. It’s not like I’m sitting here, I’m not you know, I’m lucky enough that I had a business where because at one point I was the seven day week musician, you know, I was playing, you remember, and

Richard: I do.

Joe: That’s all I

Richard: I

Joe: Did

Richard: Do. Yeah.

Joe: Before.

Richard: Yeah. You were impossible to get a hold of because it would always be like a message back, like dude I’ll call you later, I’m on, I’m like, you know, 17 gigs today.

Joe: Yeah, right. Yeah. But so I get it. Again, we go back to. I’ve I’ve lived it and I understand where it’s all coming from. Now I just have to figure a way to help and so that’s a struggle for me. But that’s that’s a whole like you said, it’s a whole different conversation. And the one last piece that you touched upon that I don’t want to forget is that in the conversation I had with Nate Morton, the drummer from The Voice, there’s a connector in L.A. that you may or may not have heard of that that I knew when I wanted to, you know, possibly get a tour. A guy named Barry Squire and Barry is basically the music matchmaker out there. So if Cher is looking for a band, Barry will put out the notice that Cher is about to go on tour and they need this, this and this. Same thing with Pink or any of those, Barry was the guy to basically piece these bands together in L.A. for these big tours.

Richard: Interesting,

Joe: And

Richard: I did.

Joe: And so now the listing and Barry puts these listings up now on, on Facebook and it’s obviously become a lot easier as part of the discussion I had with Nate, where it used to be, hey, you go to this executive’s office and you pick up a C.D. or tape, you learn these three songs on it, you come to this studio/soundstage on the Saturday at 1:00, you play the songs and we’ll let you know kind of thing. Now, Barry posts these things on Facebook and its he post the requirements. And, you know, everyone has to be pretty much for the most part, 25 or younger, you know, there’s there’s no none of these things that are going to take all these old dudes like us out on tour.

Richard: Right.

Joe: Her

Richard: Right

Joe: Or me

Richard: Now, of course.

Joe: Anyhow.

Richard: No, no, no, no, no, I’m right there with you. I’m

Joe: But

Richard: With you.

Joe: But the instead of it being the old style that you and I are used to, which is, you know, bass, drums, maybe two guitars, keys and a couple of back, backup singers or maybe a horn section. Now it’s guitar, drums and a multi instrumentalist that knows Ableton. So it’s, it’s that and Barry and Nate were talking, they went to lunch a few weeks ago. They’ll always be a drummer because the visual part of it, of of that makes it look like it’s a band. So that that one seat, you know, thankfully, has not been necessary, eliminated as much as the others. But it’s just so weird and Nate and I were talking was like, I mean, I know I, I don’t know Ableton anywhere near that I could say I could do it to go get a gig and neither does Nate. But that’s the state of things right now. And then, and then Nate’s talking and he’s like, and if the band becomes, you know, popular and there’s more money in the budget, they don’t turn around and then start adding bass and guitar and keys that they add more production, they add dancers, they are they whatever. It’s just it’s so weird to me.

Richard: Well, yes, the idea of a show, it’s different, you know. That’s why, that’s why it still comes back to me of this idea of playing. And I think that, I don’t know, Like like, do you still sit down to play just for the joy of playing?

Joe: I, I do here and there, but nowhere near as much as I should.

Richard: Well, nobody ever does that as much as they should.

Joe: Yeah. And it’s like we

Richard: But.

Joe: Played a gig last Wednesday and we played out in the parking lot at an assisted living complex for

Richard: Oh,

Joe: The

Richard: Cool.

Joe: For the residents because these elderly people had not been out of this place for the last two months or whatever.

Richard: Oh,

Joe: They’re

Richard: My

Joe: Just

Richard: Gosh.

Joe: Going stir crazy.

Richard: Sure,

Joe: So

Richard: Sure.

Joe: There was four different jazz combos and we were setup out in the parking lot where the people could come out on their balconies and

Richard: Oh,

Joe: We played to

Richard: How

Joe: Them.

Richard: Cool.

Joe: Yeah, it was fun and it was cool. And at the end, like all the guys in the band are like, God, I so misplaying, like I just the hell with practicing, I just want to play because there’s that interaction on stage and anticipating where that that other player is going to next and just being able to interact and lock in with somebody. And because I left the gig going I really got to practice. And everybody’s like, no, we’re just gotta play, we just it’s more fun just playing. So,

Richard: Yeah, yeah,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: And that’s I think that I think there’s something about that visceral live element. You know,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: We it’s funny when, when when, when the COVID shut down happened, it sort of sent obviously a lot of chaos into the whole educational system, especially into arts education, which regardless of titles and everything else, I am basically running an arts program. You know, call it what you want, but it’s an arts program. And it’s been it was interesting what wound up happening very much and that’s why I truly thought I’m going to get all these kids that are just going to send me you know, here’s this recording I worked on at home, here’s this work and I’ve got a lot of those. I mean, that’s. And it’s great. But the lot of them, first of all, a lot of them, you know, you started to really see the demographic of the students and who had what available to them.

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Lots of posturing and

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: In high school certainly about that and that’s fine. But I don’t begrudge because any we’ve distributed gear as much as possible in that. But it was, you know, was interesting how a lot of them really enjoyed the live streams we did more than anything else. So we wound up doing our big annual end of year concert anyway. But we did it online on Zoom. It was clunky we were subjected to all kinds of elements related to streaming and what mics they had and Wi-Fi connectivity and everything else and yet in the moment, the fact that it wasn’t taped, that we, you know, like

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: I had some kids that played some sessions, that we just kind of watch the sessions on the screen, which was still cool and it was really awesome. I had one group that actually did go in and they pre-recorded their parts and filmed themselves while they did it and then we spliced it together into kind of like a live video and and whatnot. But most of it was a kid with their guitar, at the piano or whatever it happened to be singing. You know, in some cases it was just through their phone and imperfect, absolutely! But, it it had that kind of because you knew it was right then. And there wasn’t a well, we’re going to go back and fix it in post kind of option. It was interesting that, that, you know, you still got a little bit of that same charge. I mean, it was different because obviously you don’t get the you know, you don’t hear the applause in the same

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Way that you’re hopefully

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Getting you know, there wasn’t really production in terms of lights and stuff that we normally would do. But, you know, because I asked a lot of them, you know, should we be prerecording this and some of them are like, yeah, that would be better for me. But that was because of nervousness that they always have had inherently. You know, these are kids that don’t like to get up on stage, even though they’re wonderfully talented. They just may be, you know, at that age, they’re, they’re they get freaked out by it or whatever. But the vast majority wanted it live and in the moment, warts and all. And I found that to be very fascinating.

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: And

Joe: That’s cool.

Richard: We wound up, you know. We did a tie. I think we did. I think we did like seven or eight live broadcast. We’re still doing them. We’ve done a bunch of podcasts, but it’s been interesting watching the students. Their response, and maybe it’s not an entirely, like I’d like, I don’t think that I can, I always look at my own students and I go, I probably shouldn’t be lumping you in with every other teenager is like a generality because they tend to be a little bit of a unique and and if we’re being honest, I probably do have a bit of an influence on their approach

Joe: Right.

Richard: In that regard.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Hopefully a good way. But I do think it’s interesting, like what you’re saying, that there’s something about a live response, even if it’s remote, even if it’s from streaming, it still beats the just watching video.

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: There’s something. And organic and visceral about it.

Joe: Yep.

Richard: Which is

Joe: All

Richard: Important.

Joe: Right, well, you know, since we are now, you know, sort of talking about the graduation piece, I wanted to…so I always refer to it as CMAS and I think that’s probably what most of you do. But it’s Creative Musical Arts and Science program, correct? OK,  So this is happening at Arcadia High School here in, are we, this is considered Phoenix. You’re right down the street from me, right? So it’s Phoenix.

Richard: Yes, well, I’m yeah.

Joe: The border is. I don’t know.

Richard: Yeah, it’s Scottsdale Unified School District, but it’s technically in greater Phoenix we’re like I want to say, what’s 48 Street and Indian School and what is it? 56th is the line into Scottsdale.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: I don’t actually know. I mean, I’ve been at that school for, gosh, 20 plus years, if you can believe that…long time.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: I don’t know. I was long before my time how they managed to carve out that section of, you know why it’s Scottsdale and not in Phoenix Union, I don’t know.

Joe: All right. OK. So you just mentioned 20 some years ago, so when did you get to this school?

Richard: Ok, so let me see. How do I explain this? 1990 or something so I’m at the U Of A

Joe: Ok.

Richard: I have finished my second master’s degree in orchestral conducting, which I still miss, I, you know, if only for not having enough time in the day. Basically, I start working in Tucson at one of the high schools and a middle school, I’ve got an orchestra program that I love. I am always still for years and years and when I did it, I grew up in the Midwest. So as an undergrad and as a grad student and at different times and in different places, I was always gigging as a very mediocre drummer. I like to say I was, I was sort of the, the, would you want to call it? I brought the game down for everybody else, But um..but, you know, and so I done some touring, nothing, nothing fancy. So but I had done a lot of it, I loved the studio experience and also their stuff. But there was no at the time at least available to me, you only were really able to do that kind of independently and on your own. And there was very much this sense of, you know, we were we were talking before about two different music industries well, there were sort of like two different musical experiences. You had the experience you could have as a student. I mean, you know, you know, it was one thing and there were in it, it was great. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have such fond memories of growing up. And I still every now and then I am lucky enough, I guess. I’ve talked to my old high school band director a few times, he’s long since retired. He drives trains now, of all things

Joe: Wow.

Richard: Which he just loves. Old, old military, retired guy, sweetheart of a guy, brilliant musician, far more, I didn’t realize his musical chops. This is another problem I have like I hadn’t like it takes me a while to realize something in the moment. Oh my gosh. The level of lost opportunity on my count two, like not tap into more of his experience as he came out of a military band experience but he had this incredibly open view of what music was for, even if he had a particular love of a certain style and what not. But I’m I’ve

Joe: Wait,

Richard: Got this.

Joe: Before before you leave, that point is just amazing that you just said that because I look at you and go, God, if I only had a band teacher in high school like you. My teacher, and God rest his soul, I think I’m sure he’s gone by now but I was just there doing it, collecting the paycheck,

Richard: Sure,

Joe: Going through the

Richard: Sure.

Joe: Motions. Just it was just the worst. And.

Richard: And it can’t. Yeah, I mean, I. I don’t know, I can’t speak to that. I mean, the educator in me says, you know, at a certain point you can it’s very easy to get disenchanted if you get wrapped up in it and you never know. I mean, you know, the further back you go. People that I get asked all the time, you know, did you have something like CMAS when you were in high school or whatever? And I can’t tell if they’re sometimes I wonder if they’re being sarcastic, if they’ve completely misjudged my age, if, you know, I don’t even know where it’s coming from. But, but the truth of the matter is, is that it’s not a matter of if I did or not, it wasn’t even an option. It just literally wasn’t a possibility. I can’t, I can’t fault Pete Metzker was his name, is his name or Jeff Bieler or Bob Wagner. I literally remember all of these people…West Frickey. They were brilliant! They didn’t, if they, if you would come to them and said, we have this idea and you described what I built with the CMAS Program, what I designed, honestly, I think they would have been like, OK, that’s really cool! We can’t, like we, if we could figure out how to do that in the architecture or the in, the in, the the infrastructure, if you will, of music education at the time, I really think they probably would have been like, OK, sure! Let’s do it! I don’t think it was an option. I mean, I really think that, you know, there’s a prospective element. I’m not that old but it does remind me a little bit of what I have conversations with students about classical music, for example. And I always tell them the same thing.

Richard: You know, you can’t, you can’t fault Beethoven or Mozart and say you don’t like their music because there’s no electric guitar. Because there wasn’t even electricity at the time. You can’t you know, you’re missing the whole point. You don’t think, like that can’t be your thing. In the same way when I have students who are very, very much of a more and this is fine too, but we’ll say a more traditional mindset. I’m like, you can’t look at a kid who wants to do like turntables and say that’s not a legitimate musical instrument. You do it, for the same exact reason because you’ve got to deal with intent, you just you just have to. And that’s the thing that like I said, I look back on those that band director and those teachers, all of them throughout all of my school years, as it were. And Dave Vroman, I mean, I could list all these professors throughout, you know, college that some of which I’m still friends with, which is really wonderful too, you know. Sorry, I, I have to I have to namedrop Molly Slaughter, I don’t have anyone to know who she is but just for me, I got to say it karma again, and there’s lots of others. Greg Sanders, Steve Heineman I’m gonna shut up now, okay…Ed Kaiser God, we would be here for a long time, but, but all of them would tell you…but, but the thing of his you is the best musicians are about intention. You know, Springsteen walks up onstage with the E Street Band and it’s unbelievable and then the band takes a break for a minute and he sits down with just as acoustic guitar and it’s unbelievable.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: And it’s I mean, look, the guy’s a genius. And I mean, that’s you know, you don’t need me to say that. But I think the reason it works in both settings is because of his musical intentions.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: It comes out different, of course, it comes out differently when you have more people and you can interact. And again, we go back to that visceral thing, but it’s about intent. And I think that’s what I’ve carried with me from all of those people.

Joe: Right.

Richard: I go on in any case, so I go, I go to Bradley University and become their first music educator, excuse music composition and theory graduate ever out of that university. I don’t, I don’t know if that’s like I have two distinctions being a Bradley, one is I’m the first person ever to receive that degree from that institution, which I’m very proud of and two, I was probably the most arrogant pain in the butt student that’s ever been through there in the history of that university’s music school. And it was a brilliant place, it was wonderful. They had an old Moog synthesizer, that had been installed by Robert Moog himself.

Joe: Oh.

Richard: But it unfortunately didn’t work. If I could go back now…know, you, you know, you always say if you know, if I knew then what I know now. But they allowed you know, they bought some equipment. We had, you know, an old Mac computer and we were able to do some sequencing and learn some bit. And I just kind of got bit by the bug of it. I just found it so compelling and so interesting. Didn’t know what I was doing, had a couple of microphones, couldn’t even tell you what they were. Probably a 58, like a beat up condenser, by whom…You know, I want to say there was a, I don’t know, I want to say it was like an old Rode or an AKG or something, but it was I mean, we you know, we didn’t know what we were doing. But freedom to explore the process. I mean, again, in hindsight, I see all of us greatest gift possible. Graduate, don’t know what I’m going to do. So the Youngstown’s, I don’t know if I’m gone too far back

Joe: No,

Richard: Or

Joe: No,

Richard: Not in the story.

Joe: No, no, no.

Richard: So I’m going to I go to university, so Youngstown State University. Partially out of desperation, partially out of you know, I didn’t, I was wandering in sort of like the the desert of my own immaturity and unawareness, you know? I just, I just I had this thought in my head that I was gonna be the next Leonard Bernstein. Not realizing that basically even the next Leonard Bernstein wasn’t going to be the next Leonard Bernstein because that world doesn’t exist. And it wasn’t like people were telling me that but it doesn’t, I mean, it just doesn’t exist. And and I didn’t, I wasn’t that guy. I mean, that’s, you know, kind of like what you were talking about before, which I disagree with your assessment of your skill set but we can have that conversation off of air sometime. But no, but, but in all seriousness, I mean, you know but I wasn’t that guy. I mean, that’s just that’s a reality, I wasn’t that guy. But while I’m in Youngstown, Stephen Gage, who’s another one of these sort of like ah ha moment people. I’d done a lit..I’d done some conducting. I even put together for my senior recital at Bradley, I put together my own sort of like mini orchestra of friends just for the heck of it. And I seem to remember Vroman, Dave Vroman, who was head of the music department, and that can be one of the main conductors there, I seem to remember him saying, you know, we could have like.

Richard: To help you out with this, like you didn’t have to, like, do it covertly here. He’s a guy I really did not appreciate nearly as much as I should have at the time, brilliant man, just brilliant, wonderful guy. But anyway, he, um, so but so Steve Gage basically goes, you know, I need a, I, I’ve got an opportunity for graduate student. And he was the band conductor is like, but you’ll also work a little bit with the orchestras as well. And you’ll get to do you know, you’ll get to conduct and I’ll teach you how to and he was my first real conducting teacher that I took seriously. I had taken conducting lessons as part of my degree at Bradley from John Jost of all people who, oh my gosh, that man has forgotten more than I will ever remember about conducting. But I didn’t, I didn’t, I was you know, I was a very, very immature, late teens, early 20s as an undergrad and just didn’t didn’t see it, didn’t get it, didn’t understand it. My own fault, nobody else’s. But in any case, so Gage, Stephen gets me involved in in conducting and then it’s like, OK, now what am I going to do with this? And I was struggling a lot between the composer and me and feeling like this isn’t right. I’m still playing drums where I can, but not really as much as I should.

Richard: I am bit by the, I’m still so heavy into prog rock and I think that the world is revolving around, you know, the three gigs on the planet you can get in that genre, again just not reality at all. And so, on kind of a weird fluke, I wind up out at the University of Arizona to pursue a conducting degree. And, you know, there are several people that I get to work with there who are hugely important, influential. But Bob Billups was in charge of the orchestras and Greg Hansen was in charge of the band. Two diametrically opposed in terms of approach kind of musicians but interestingly, totally consumed with what ultimately will be my what I realize is my own thing, which I keep coming back to again, which is intent and process. I think both Greg and Bob would be the first tell you, they don’t fully understand what the heck it is I do, which is OK because I don’t know that I fully understand what the heck it is I do. But Greg has come up, he’s done clinics with my students. So we’re talking about like like the Yoda of like Wind band conducting, this guy’s been all over the world, who can make it, a wind band, sound like an orchestra and just do things, get, get, get it to work in a timbre way,

Richard: that’s just seems impossible. And do it in such a finesseful way. You know, he’s like, like he’s not a basher, like, you know, how you see, like the drummers that I mean, they’re wonderful, but they’re like the heavy, he’s not that. Greg was the guy that convinces you that, oh, my gosh, it’s like Jedi mind tricks with music. Like, he, he could do it, but, and but underneath it was his whole compelling thing about what is, what is serving the song. You know, I mean, it’s so much he would never frame it in the context of being like a studio musician. But it’s exactly what you have to be as a studio musician. What does the music require? And then he would basically move heaven and earth, to get that sound to happen. I mean, you know, a lot of my production technique, weirdly stems from him, even though I don’t think the man could point to a fader and tell you what it did, to save his life. You know, the only mics he knows are people named Michael, I mean, that’s literally I mean, he doesn’t, you know. But it was the music, this is, again, in hindsight that, you know, that kind of what does the music need, that approach, that’s, that’s impact things. And, and, and, that’s impacted how I teach and why the program exists a lot! Greg, oddly, and I’ve told them see, I’ve talked about he kind of laughed me off, but he is one of the biggest influences on what I do, even though he himself doesn’t write music and does, has never in his life really worked in anything in the world of pure commercial music or more what, was what’s called a more modern contemporary styles. And yet the connection is very directly there, it’s not a false compliment to him at all. But that musical priority, is so critical to everything. And the interesting thing and his legacy, not mine, his legacy to me is I see it universally in my most successful graduates. They have the same thing. It is so, that is become so fascinating to me. The other guy I do have to mention, just in my journey to making the program was the other conductor, Robert Billups. Bob, he wasn’t sloppy, but Bob was like, you could see, like he, I just, I can, I remember you would, you know, I would get to sit where most people couldn’t, so I wasn’t in the ensemble usually. I was learning to conduct so I would get to sit and watch him from like the back or sit amongst the ensemble and I could just see what he was doing. And he, this was the other thing that has stayed with me so much. He would just get a very thick beard like part of me always thought that if he could do the ZZ Top thing, he would.

Joe: That’s so funny.

Richard: But it just it wasn’t. It wasn’t it wasn’t gonna happen. But when he would get in front of an ensemble, especially an orchestra and I took this with me as I, as I went on into education, too, in that part of my musical world, he would try to I could never do it the way he did, but he would light up like you could literally see his. And it would be this huge beaming smile of you just had to play, even if you were playing some dark, moody, you know, symphony by, you know, some very depressed Russian, whatever, he would, there was just this joy that was infectious. And it wasn’t that his technique was perfect. It was very sort of imprecise in it, it had to flow about it and this looseness that I love actually in all music now. But more importantly, it was the joy, like just pure joy, for the moment, for being in it, like, you just it was otherworldly when you would see him see him do this. And the interesting thing was he was a violinist. And he had the same vibe, if you will, when he played, it was, it was, it was the common thing with him. It didn’t matter what he was doing, if it was connected to music in some way, he just oozes this joyful musical purity. So you put all that together and I’m teaching in Tucson, I’ve got this high school orchestra. I’ve got this middle school orchestra.

Richard: I don’t know what I’m doing. I am so still arrogant and convinced of myself in the worst possible way. I mean, you need ego, I mean, you need ego and anything and an education is basically the entertainment industry. and anybody who tells you it’s not is kidding themselves. But you need ego, you do in some ways, but but I was on a whole other side of that in a bad, bad way. So then what I was doing, my middle school for exam, and I’m still like this a little bit, I just don’t execute it the same way. I understand and heaven help me to all my colleagues and relatives and people. I get why you don’t want to do your English project. I get why the science class does not get you going. I never understood why picking up an instrument doesn’t appeal to somebody. Like it, just that my brain doesn’t, I’m sure you kind of have a similar. So I was like, I probably shouldn’t say this publicly, but I’m gonna, hopefully it’ll get in too much trouble for somebody who sees this. So it’s my very first teaching gig, I’m very, very green and very, very, just like I said arrogant but I had this huge middle school program, which I didn’t realize was a rare thing, like two hundred and fifty middle school students playing stringed instruments. It was nuts, violins, and not even like guitars, I mean, like actual classical

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: String instruments, it was insane.

Joe: Sounds

Richard: But

Joe: Scary.

Richard: A whole lot of them did want to. It was great! I think, I mean, I mean know, I couldn’t do it now, I’d, I’d be terrified now, but, but I could not get my head around the idea of you didn’t want to, didn’t want to rehearse, you didn’t want to play the music. So I had this thing I called it, my recollection is, is that one of the kids named it. But I may just be projecting because I don’t take responsibility for it. But it was called the Wall of Shame. And I had a row of chairs at the side of the rehearsal hall and my policy was, look, and I’m still not a good babysitter for my students. If you don’t want to participate, I don’t understand that what I need you to do is stay out of the way of everybody

Joe: The people

Richard: Who does.

Joe: That wanted right?

Richard: Right! So I had all of these middle school kids in my orchestra class sitting, you know, like, on the wall of shame and my rule was, don’t interrupt the other kids that were out here and it just got very, I mean, it was just it was absurd, it was bad, it was like it was terrible. And I don’t have a wall of shame now, I’ve been told since that you’re not supposed to do that somewhere, you know? But I might you know, I didn’t do get a teaching degree. I stumbled into it because of the conducting and the combination of Greg’s influence and Bob’s influence and, and really all their influences and frankly, wanting to eat and and not wanting the lifestyle I, I did some auditions for some pretty serious, you know, conducting positions and, and made it, at one time or another, fairly far along, and every time I would get to a point where I would either over just consumed by self-doubt, honestly, I have no faith in anything I’ve done ever, even now, I’m not saying that for false compliments, I just, that’s just my personality a little bit. I am very, very good sometimes at masking that but if we’re being totally honest, it ain’t there. But I also just you know, you would talk to people and I’d be like the brutal nature of the gig and this is where things started to kind of not unravel for me but I started to think about, you know, you start to realize, like, ok, just from a practical stand point, what do I do if there’s only a dozen or so conducting jobs in the world or in the

Joe: It’s

Richard: United States?

Joe: So true.

Richard: Stretch it out, you know, outside of the world of education, those are really tough. And the lifestyle that those people have to lead and, you know, you just, it’s a little bit what, there are certain musicians that like when you watch them play and you’re just like, well, yeah, no, I don’t have that, I don’t, I’m not that, you know, I’m just not that guy. And I’m not saying that to be silly. You just, I just it wasn’t, you know, fear, fear is, you know, it wasn’t right for me and I let it I let it overtake me. Who knows? But we are where we are.

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