THE RICH GORDON BAND/Fife
If you like _ and _ then you will like The Rich Gordon Band. Fill in the blanks.
(Rich Gordon): If you like Joe Satriani and Frank Zappa then you will like The Rich Gordon Band.
Why should people take the time to listen to your music?
That’s a difficult question and not one I can answer easily without relinquishing the humility I usually conduct myself with.
As the band, I like to think the three of us offer something unique. We’re not really one ‘type’ of band – we alternate between lyrical and instrumental music and within that jump around between genres. Each of us brings something fantastic to the arrangement. We obviously do love the music we play, but we’re more focussed on creating something unique and inspired at the time of the performance, rather than just playing live renditions of songs. In essence, our focus is always about the musicality rather than the adherence to the recorded versions. Therefore I’d like to think this was appealing to music lovers who wanted to see a band playing for the love of music.
As for me, as a solo musician, I couldn’t really offer a sensible reason for anyone to take the time to listen to my music. I’d like to think people can appreciate the musicality of it, and I’d hope that the arrangements on the recorded versions, plus the mixing of genres, playing techniques, textured sounds and anything else on the non-musical front would be alluring. Mostly, I’d hope that the melodic/harmonic aspects make for great music!
Truthfully there is nothing especially unique about the music I write – I’ve yet to do something truly original. My music is simply another incarnation of stuff that has been done in the past. That said, I am particularly proud of most of the music I’ve written and sometimes find myself saying ‘Wow, I wrote that!’. That’s what keeps me listening to it anyway…
I think effectively my music is mostly targeted at guitar lovers who can appreciate what’s happening. It’s more of a guitar nerd thing, truthfully…
Who else in Scotland is floating your musical boat at the moment?
I worked with a band called Stuntman Mike recently – they came to play at the festival I organised and were fantastic, not just as a band, but they were also very personable guys too. Another band at the festival, called the Dirty Keys, were brilliant too, and I’m working with my best friend’s little brother – Robert Smith – at the moment. He’s an acoustic singer-songwriter. His music is fantastic and he has a natural talent on stage to be a great entertainer. Lastly, but by no means least, my very good friend Robbie Fleming is also a highly talented delta blues player and I’m helping him to record his first album. He’s very much inspired by the great slide and blues players – Robert Johnson, Rory Gallacher, etc. – but he has written some great and original stuff. I’m very excited about how that will pan out.
You’re a multi-instrumentalist, but best known for your virtuosic guitar work. What would you say to people who think that kind of music is over-indulgent?
I’d ask ‘What music isn’t over-indulgent?’. All music has a central focus: most mainstream music focuses on the vocal prowess of the singer (Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera, etc.) or what the words of the song are (anthemic numbers such as those by Coldplay, etc). Dance music is all about the beat, etc. I don’t see that as being any different to instrumental guitar music – it’s just the focus has changed to another instrument. I think people get too hung up on what is ‘acceptable and unacceptable’ in music, mostly due to what is defined by the vox populous. People forget that music is an art, and art by its very nature is the vision of the artist, and therefore we should be more accepting of what the artist’s vision is instead of trying to compare and pigeon-hole their music.
The guitar is generally regarded as being a ‘rhythm instrument’ in mainstream music and only rarely makes an appearance as a lead instrument in some songs – probably leading to its stigma of being an indulgent instrument (c.f. the hair metal bands of the 80’s). It’s easy to forget that in itself is a very beautiful and highly versatile instrument, probably the most versatile of all instruments given the seemingly limitless technology available for it now. We should let go of this concept that a lead guitar is meant only for people wanting to show off. Of course we still have people like Yngwie Malmsteen who can’t actually write anything without indulgent shred being a core theme, but he has always held true to what he loves – the guitar. He’s never tried to be anything other than Yngwie Malmsteen, and that’s something I really respect.
I do enjoy shredding at times – it’s a creative release and for me it represents an emotion I’m trying to convey in the music. I admit that I enjoy being able to do so from a ‘showing-off’ point of view, but the focus of my music more recently has shifted from technically challenging playing to interesting melody and unique composition. There will always be a place for speedy guitaring in my music, but that’s not what my music is about.
Truthfully, my music is a niche market – it will only appeal to a small demographic of people who like that kind of music. I’m fine with that because it means I get to write what I want and be who I want to be, musically, without worrying about what people think. It also means that those people who like and buy my music are doing so because they genuinely like it for what it is, not because it’s some sort of fashionable accessory which I feel more and more is where music is going.
If after that, people still think it is over-indulgence, then I’d probably say they should listen to something else because they’re in the wrong place!
You have also run your own festival, RG MusicCon 2011. How did that come about?
A friend of mine, Johanna Crossley-Zels, who lives in Sweden, contacted me earlier in the year saying she’d like help with booking shows in Fife as she was arranging a tour for herself. She invited me to put other acts on along with her, and from there the idea grew arms and legs and became a festival. I’d have compacted the nine dates into a shorter period but I wanted it to coincide with Johanna’s performances.
The festival’s main focus was to encourage live music in Fife – in itself live music is very limited here, mostly due to there being a lack of dedicated venues and a lacklustre enthusiasm to stage it. Hence why we find ourselves playing outside of Fife more often than in it! Where there are established venues or clubs, it tends to be very cliquish. I was hoping to encourage people to help promote music here and give smaller bands a chance to perform. I’d like to think we went some way to achieving that but we have a long way to go before it becomes a rip-roaring success.
The festival has opened up a new ‘leg’ of my business which I’m calling ‘RG Musicom Presents:’. This will be a means to promote live music events and hopefully continue helping bands and artists to find an audience. Also, with the recent shift in power in the music industry, I hope that in doing so we can help bands to be more empowered to forge their own careers and put opportunities on their doorsteps.
And finally, how do you like your steak?
Personally, I like it medium-rare, peppered and with a bit of béarnaise sauce. My brother Chris likes it charred, and I actually don’t know how Niall likes his steak, or indeed if he even likes steak.