INTERVIEW WITH RICH KID EXPRE$$ MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST ROB RICHARDSON
Date: March 16, 2020
FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T NOTICED, SLEAZE ROXX PRIDES ITSELF ON PROMOTING AND SUPPORTING NOT ONLY THE GREAT BANDS THAT EMANATED FROM THE ’80S, BUT ALSO AND PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANTLY, PROMOTING AND SUPPORTING THE OFTEN LARGELY UNKNOWN NEWER BANDS THAT ARE CARRYING THE TORCH BUT WITHOUT REAPING THE MULTI-PLATINUM SALES LEVELS AND FINANCIAL REWARDS THAT THE OLDER BANDS BENEFITED FROM. RICH KID EXPRE$$ IS REALLY A ONE-MAN SHOW CONSISTING OF ROB RICHARDSON WHO HANDLED ALL OF THE INSTRUMENTS ON THE “GROUP’S” DEBUT ALBUM AS WELL AS THE PRODUCTION DUTIES. IF YOU LIKE CLASSIC ROCKIN’ ALICE COOPER, ODDS ARE THAT YOU’LL LOVE RICH KID EXPRE$$!
Sleaze Roxx: First off, congratulations on Rich Kid Express’ debut EP. What really impressed me is that you handled virtually everything from all of the instruments to the production, and the EP still came out great [laughs]! That is somewhat unusual as I always find that people who end up doing everything on an album usually end up falling short somewhere. On Rich Kid Express’ EP, everything sounds great. What made you decide to handle everything on the EP and how did you end being so proficient with everything?
Rob Richardson: Thanks Olivier… I appreciate that. I’ve got to be honest. It’s a long process. I took my time and made sure to go over a lot of the details I would’ve probably overlooked in the past. To give some insight, my whole idea early on with Squib Kick Records was to write / record and produce my own material. In the past, as a drummer in bands, I’ve always helped to write songs and write melody lines and such. Once in a while, I’d write a guitar riff here and there. I knew that if I learned the craft of recording — engineering and producing — I would be much happier doing my own things and I’d fall in love with it. That is basically what happened. When I was eighteen, I almost signed up to go to Full Sail Academy in Florida which at that time was a pretty popular school for recording and music industry stuff. I’ve always been creative and feel that is just part of my personality.
If I can’t be creative, I sort of go stir crazy within myself [laughs]. I recorded the EP at my home studio — Squib Kick Sounds — using a lot of different in-the-box and outboard gear and mixing in Logic Pro X. Over time, I’ve developed my own processes and and techniques that I’ve learned by years of watching YouTube! Seriously… I studied, studied, studied different methods and ideas. I read books on recording and how to get certain sounds. I jumped in neck deep! I took my time with each song and tried to develop it to a point where I said what else can I do, or have I done too much? You can drive yourself crazy wondering ‘Should I add anything else?’ There has to be a stopping point where you go, ‘Okay, it’s done!’
So just making sure the tracks were recorded and performed well, and then once I was happy with the tones and final mixes, I pulled the plug on it! I sent it off to my good buddy Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s a real pro and my ‘go to guy’ for getting my music all shined up. He did the mastering session and it was ready to go! Having his ears on the final polishing of the music is critical. You can get so used to hearing something over and over and you don’t hear something missing or a frequency that needs adjusting. Dave handles that job and I’m happy to work with him.
Sleaze Roxx: If you had to rate your skills on vocals, guitar, bass and drums, for which one would you consider yourself the most proficient, then second, third and fourth, and why?
Rob Richardson: Yay! A rate yourself question. These are always tough [laughs]. First off, for the record — Ace Frehley was my hero growing up, my favorite member of KISS and the reason I wanted to play guitar. So instead, I got a drum set at [age] 13 from my grandfather and I decided keeping time and beating on stuff was much easier than learning guitar chords. My fat fingers don’t like cooperating sometimes! I took lessons on the drums for six months and taught myself the rest of the way. Played to records, ’cause it’s much easier to learn that way. Drums are natural and easy for me, so that gets my highest ability ranking at “one.” I’ll never be a fancy drummer, who plays all the wild licks — but there is something to be said for having a good meter and being solid behind the kit. I’d have to say maybe vocals are “second.”
Even I question that, but melody line creation is one of my favorite things. I’m not a songwriter that writes the melody first and then puts the song or chords around it. I do it reverse. I write the music first and put the melody line in afterwards. Figuring out how it’s gonna fit is the fun part. Vocally, I’m a raspy voiced singer, almost like a Bob Seger style or Peter Criss from KISS. When I try to sing smooth, I have a little different tone to my voice. Some people have said I sound like a mix of Ace and Gene from KISS. On the Rich Kid Express EP, I actually hear a little Stephen Pearcy in my style and tone in the upper ranges. You mentioned Alice Cooper… I just try to sing within the confines of what I can do and do [it] correctly. I don’t want to blow out a lung trying to sing higher than I possibly can. I’ve learned how to harmonize with myself and my abilities singing are getting better each time I do it. But I’ll never be a nice, lovely voiced crooner. I lack a lot of vibrato in my voice and tend to sing straight on. That is probably something I need to work on.
I guess “third” would be bass and guitar playing… Honestly, I’m still learning everyday how to play guitar. I am not technical and I don’t know the correct formulas for chord progressions and scales. I just do what sounds good to my ear. It’s not always proper, but I do what I do. I’ve asked guitar player friends for help, gotten advice on how to do things better. Sometimes my much more proficient guitar buddies laugh at my riffs or my playing and tell me how ‘unorthodox’ it seems. But that is just the innocence of not really knowing how to properly attack the instrument. So I’m learning and getting better all the time. My leads are slow and melodic, because I physically cannot play fast. I just do what suits the music and my ear and hope I stay in key with everything. If I was rating my guitar playing on a school grade — I’d be a fourth grader [laughs]. Bass is much easier — root notes and runs to go along with everything. A little more in the pocket playing. Only four strings! I like bass a lot.
Lastly, my biggest accomplishment is learning the keys as well. There is a lot of underlying keyboards on the Rich Kid Express
Sleaze Roxx: In my review of the EP, I made references numerous times to Alice Cooper. Do you find that your singing is close to Alice’s vocal delivery and what are your thoughts about the Alice Cooper influences on the EP?
Rob Richardson: I like Alice Cooper, but more of his mid/late ’80s era. Especially like when Kane Roberts was playing guitar with him. ‘Raise Your Fist And Yell‘ is a great album in my opinion! Underrated! I think my song ‘Just A Dog’ comes off most Alice Cooper-ish in the verses. I can totally hear that being an Alice style. But when I originally wrote the song, I had a Glenn Danzig idea in my head for it. It was supposed to be mean and aggressive sounding. The attitude song from a male perspective. The song evolved differently as I began singing it. It changed a little but I like where it ended up. As far as Alice being an influence, I haven’t listened to a lot of his earlier stuff. I mean I like “Under My Wheels” and “Cold Ethyl”, [and] of course, “School’s Out”… He’s got a few songs I dig. “Lost In America” is a cool sounding tune, I like that. But I haven’t given him much listen over the years and his band now is incredible! I’d probably like his modern stuff. OK… you’ve convinced me to give him a new listen with open ears [laughs]! He is a music icon. Any resemblance of my sound to his sound is very flattering in its own right. I appreciate you saying that and take that as a huge compliment.
Sleaze Roxx: It definitely was a compliment! How long did it take you from start to finish to come up with the songs and record the EP?
Rob Richardson: One song dates back to late 2017 — “Bubblegum Radio.” I had written that, recorded it, had it mastered and then shelved it. I didn’t feel it fit anything I was working at that point and that song stood out as an oddball. I liked it, but held on to it for some reason. As I started getting ready to do the Rich Kid Express project, I went back to a few songs I wrote and re-listened to it. I knew if I reworked it, remixed it and re-recorded the vocals, I could give it a home. So that is what happened. In the context of the EP, “The Way She Rolls” was the first idea I started with and I began the EP in early August 2019 and I got finished mixing it just after Christmas in December 2019. It was a lot of hard work. There were two other songs in the mix for this session and I had thought about making it a full LP, but I opted to go the shorter route and just do five songs for now. The other two are 90% finished…. Just waiting on vocals and a mix but that is for the next project!
Sleaze Roxx: You have your kids Kayden and Ryan singing background vocals on the track “Bubblegum Radio.” How did that come about and how cool was it to have your kids involved?
Rob Richardson: Ahh, my knuckleheads. My daughter Kayden is 11 and my son Ryan just turned nine. They originally sang on the first version of the song in 2017. Of course, not quite in key and they were a little off-time. But it was great to have them on a recording with me. And I’ll bet in the future, they’ll sing along with me as well. I took their voices from the 2017 recording and mixed them with their 2019 versions. What a coincidence! Because they’ve grown up a little and their voices changed, they were actually harmonizing with themselves. It worked out great! So I have like three vocal tracks of them from 2017 on there and four vocal tracks of their 2019 session. It all just fell together. It’s almost like a family song. The Partridge Family! [Laughs] Ryan likes a little guitar rock, AC/DC… but Kayden is into her pop/dance stuff. Ugh. really?
I took them to see KISS in February at the Greensboro Coliseum. They loved it! I’m trying to get my daughter to follow Cassidy Paris, because she’s got a great pop / rock sense to her music. Only time will tell. The kids think it’s funny how I take an idea for a song and turn into a real thing. They’ve given me some ideas for songs and they are actually good little helpers. If you have kids, you know what kind of silly things they come up with.
Sleaze Roxx: Absolutely [laughs]! Kids can be very creative. How come your wife didn’t participate [laughs]?
Rob Richardson: She did participate in 2017. I got her vocals recorded. But she was a little shy about being in the studio to do it again. I have it mixed in with the kids’ original vocals from 2107. She likes AC/DC, Aerosmith and Pink, but she tends to like her easy listening music and her ‘mommy drink wine and chillax’ stuff. Americana, folky, laid back stuff. I get it… It’s good on a cool rainy day with the fireplace on. She’s supported me for many years slagging away in the clubs playing to 10 people till 2:00 am in the morning. Avoiding bar fights, waiting for me to pack up the drums, driving home as the sun came up. The best part is when you say ‘Honey, I made $25 dollars [laughs]!’ When we had kids, the brakes were applied. So she’s due her relaxation and sappy music I suppose. But she leaves the music to me.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the song “Bubblegum Radio”, although I have grown to really like it in the context of the entire EP, I really wasn’t that fond of it when I heard it as the first single. In addition, when I heard the rest of the songs on the EP, I was puzzled why you went with “Bubblegum Radio” as the first single since it’s kind of different from the other tracks. Why did you decide to go with “Bubblegum Radio” as the first single?
Rob Richardson: I did exactly what record companies used to do and it annoyed me growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the first single should be an ear catching song, one that people will notice. I would’ve been happy releasing any of them as a single. I feel they are all almost single worthy. But “Bubblegum Radio” was the most different sounding and had a vibe and feel that was going to hook the average listener. Maybe not the hard rockers or metal lovers but the average fan who likes rock and roll. It had the most commercial appeal and was the lightest song on the EP. It had a swagger all its own and was like a throwback / tribute to the old ’70s glam rock scene. That was exactly how the song was supposed to feel.
I wanted to appeal to all the older rock fans who liked Bubblegum music and UK Pop Rock of the seventies. I love music by Sweet and that whole ‘Junkshop Glam’ era music. The stuff in the late ’60s, Bubblegum rock and Saturday morning cartoons in the ’70s. That was my life as a little kid. I wanted people to remember how that felt and how they missed it. It worked. “Bubblegum Radio” has gotten me lots of notice and airplay on stations that wouldn’t play the harder rock stuff. This is probably my biggest single to date. In the early ’90s when Extreme came out with “More Than Words”, people bought that up because of that song. But when they listened to the rest of the album, they were expecting more songs like “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted.” Well, I wanted to take that chance too and see if I could grab a bigger audience from the get-go. If I decided to put out “You Went Too Far” as the single, or “Just A Dog”, those have a certain sound that hard rockers would probably like…. but then again, [they] might say. ‘Yeah, that’s average. What’s different or new about it?’ Rich Kid Express would get lumped in with 20 other new bands coming out. Or, non-metal radio stations wouldn’t like it because it was too heavy of a song.
At least with “Bubblegum Radio”, it stands on its own as being different and there’s something nostalgic about it that people appreciate. If you hook them with that, then they will dive in to see what else is there. Maybe it’s backwards thinking? I don’t know? But so far, it worked out okay. The cover of the EP was done by my buddy David Norman. I pointed him in a direction and he went off on his artistic jaunt and came up with a really cool idea. His cover art has drawn lots of interest and I think it’s a focal point of the Rich Kid Express project. People see the cover and it’s very cartoony, but still eye catching. It fits in totally with the vibe of the band. It sets the tone for the EP. It’s like being a teenager in school again and listening to your favorite rock tunes of your youth. Nothing serious, just fun stuff!
Rich Kid Expre$$‘ “Bubblegum Radio” video:
Title track off the Bubblegum Radio EP by RICH KID EXPRE$$. Just a little tribute to the 70’s era of Glam Rock and Bubblegum scene. PRE-SALE @ Bandcamp – htt…
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite tracks on the Rich Kid Express EP and why?
Rob Richardson: Favorite track… I’m a sucker for riffs and hard rockers! “You Went Too Far” is my favorite song off the EP. ‘Just A Dog’ is probably second. But they are all special. When you create a song there is always something special about it. There is a little piece of you inside every part of those songs. A thought, a feeling… It sounds corny, I know. I have two kids. I love them both with all my heart. One day, I like one a little better than the other. One day, one kid pisses me off, the other makes me smile. The next day it’s the opposite. You’re proud of them all, you love them all. Some days some just stand out more than others.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re also the founder of Squib Kick Records. What made you decide to create your own record label?
Rob Richardson: I knew in 2002 after Heavens Sake sort of disbanded or I should say, I left the band, being signed to a major record label wasn’t necessarily the best avenue to go. The scene had changed drastically in the previous 10 years, and if you were in a hard rock band, it was hard to survive. We weren’t going to get signed and it wasn’t worth it to me to put my family through the rigors of that struggle when I could go get a real job and earn much better money. So I played in a cover band part-time for a few years called Busted Uncle. We played locally in North Carolina. In 2016, I thought I should start writing and recording my own music and I should form my own label to put the music out on. We were in the process of building a new home and I knew I wanted a studio built as well if we were going to that expense.
So the home was built, the studio was built and Squib Kick Records was born. ‘Small Independent Rock Record Label’ — that is how I like to describe it. I believe that major labels and the music scene has really changed so much in the last 30 years that it’s not necessary to be signed to a major label anymore. So I use Squib Kick as a way to promote the music I like and my ideas. If you visit the Squib Kick Records YouTube Channel, you’ll find projects and music that I’ve done over the past couple years. I’ve been involved with every project on there in one way or another.
The Bad Somethings is myself and one of my best buddies, David Barker. He and I have a long history together in Heavns Sake from 1995-2002. We write and record a lot of ’70s sounding stuff reminiscent to older KISS style rock. We put out a full self-titled album in 2018. Atomic Lip Bomb a just for fun thing with another buddy Jake Branscome. Ironically, David and Jake play together in a local North Carolina cover band called The Terrible Twos. I hope to eventually get some music placed into TV or ddvertisements. I have written a couple intros for some podcasts and done a little side work not so much related to just rock music. I know that music supervisors for movies and the streaming channels are always looking for music or songs, I hope to branch out and actually travel that road at some point and see if I can get any placements somewhere. If you hear of anything… let me know [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Speaking of The Bad Somethings, you and your music partner decided to reveal your true identities after first going under false names. Why did you first decide to use pseudonyms and what led you to reveal your true identities?
Rob Richardson: Well, this is a story that has a long winding road. So to make it as brief as I can, David and I came up with the idea of The Bad Somethings in late 2017. We had released two CDs when we played together in Heavens Sake and we missed recording and writing together. So we decided to try and record an album from my new Squib Kick Records studio. We were both unsure of the waters, and trying to record a full album in my studio was going to be a venture. We used professional studios in the past. So as a crutch and as a precaution in case it turned out awful, but even more so for fun, we decided to use ‘stage names.’ I was going to be Kenny Richie — Kenneth is my middle name — and David was going to be Leo Davidson because Leo is his middle name.
Well, that went off fine — we recorded, put together a nice little record and then the hassle started. We did some online interviews. We did some phone interviews. It was becoming more of a hassle to keep the stage names going because it just felt silly. I also thought in my mind, if Squib Kick Records only puts out music that the owner of the label is involved with, than how valid is the record label? Well, it’s REAL! I’m a registered business in North Carolina. It just so happens I release my own music. When Rich Kid Express came out and I billed it as my ‘solo’ record, we decided the stage names were going to be a thing of the past and we felt better about going back to our real identities, which is what we should’ve done from the start. We realized the mistake and wanted to correct it before the next record (EP) comes out. We are going to be working on that soon. The initial delay was because I was doing the Rich Kid Express project.
You can check out the ‘Bubblegum Radio’ EP at Rich Kid Express’ website.
Rich Kid Expre$$‘ “Just A Dog” video:
Fun dog video, for the song “Just A Dog” off the new “Bubblegum Radio” EP. AVAILABLE NOW! Spotify – http://bit.ly/RKEBGRadio Apple Music – http://bit.ly/AMRK…
Sleaze Roxx: How would you describe the music of The Bad Somethings?
Rob Richardson: A classic hard rock bonanza [laughs]! It’s a mix of influences from the ’70s and ’80s. We both love KISS and that is our common denominator, but David has a thing for Cheap Trick, Queen and The Beatles. I like AC/DC and W.A.S.P and anything that was on Headbangers Ball in the ’80s! So we mix it up and pull a little from all that stuff. We do things in that band 50/50 and it can be brutal sometimes, and magic when we are clicking! He’s a true guitarist! I have loved his playing style from the day I met him. Great tone and he plays like Ace and Paul, and Rick Neilsen.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s next for The Bad Somethings?
Rob Richardson: More than likely, we are going to focus on an EP. We’ve talked about four or five songs. We want to keep the ideas quick and moving. The more we can put out, the better the response. If we wait two years between everything we do, it’ll slow back down and you have to try to build it again. It’s just finding the time to do it. We started a couple songs last year, got delayed…. then just didn’t get back to it. I started working on Rich Kid Express. If people like Rich Kid Express, they will probably like The Bad Somethings too I’m sure. It’s not a far cry from each other.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, with all the hats that you wore for the Rich Kid Express EP, you must have been involved quite a bit in music in the past. You’ve touched upon it a little bit already but what is your music background?
Rob Richardson: I’ll mention my favorite bands and those that helped shaped my sound and styles. First off, KISS, Sweet, AC/DC, W.A.S.P, and Joan Jett. I also really like Fastway, Y&T and Britny Fox. Now I’ll give you quick rundown of my career. Ummm, don’t hold your breath [laughs]! It’s not too exciting.
1988 — Mistreater (drums)
1989-1990 — Wicked Wayz (drums)
1995-2002 — Heavens Sake (drums / vocals and released two CDs) and I also worked for Capitol Records / EMI Distribution during this time.
2003-2008 — Busted Uncle (drums / vocals)
2016-present – Squib Kick Records / The Bad Somethings / Rich Kid Express
Sleaze Roxx: What’s next for Rich Kid Express?
Rob Richardson: Currently in the process of recording a cover tune as a single. Coming up in the next month or so. Also will be working on the next EP as well. You can expect a bit of the same style stuff. Seventies glam rock and ’80s hard rock mix! Hopefully, the next batch of tunes can live up to what I have set as a standard now. That is the tough part so I hear with sophomore recordings. One reason I like concentrating on EPs is because I can take a small batch of songs and give them lots of thought and devote time to working on them. Sometimes when doing an album, you tend to rush the ideas and the whole process for that matter, because you’ve got nine or ten songs you are working on. You might end up settling for some subpar ideas. If you go at it with a smaller group of songs, you can concentrate more on making it the best four or five possible, and that also gives you a chance to put out more material in a shorter time frame.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Rob Richardson: For anyone who took the time to read this and all my friends / fans on Facebook and social media –thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to check out the music and for supporting rock and roll. I have made a lot of new friends through this music venture and I thank you all for your support. A lot has changed over the years from when we were all younger and the scene was new and exciting. Please keep believing in rock and roll, and support these new bands and the websites that bring you the news. They are the future of rock and roll. I grew up with great music and I’m doing my best to return the favor to people who still love that style of rock. We need to focus on the next wave of young artists and give support. Don’t be afraid of digital. We all loved albums / cassettes and CDs, but please don’t shun a band or a title you like because it’s only digital. Costs have to be kept in check. If there isn’t a demand for 500 CDs, don’t expect a band to make 500 CDs. Support them digitally and maybe down the road, they can produce physical products. It costs less for you to support them digitally, and have them put out more music, then to spend their money trying to make CDs that if they don’t sell, will be a waste of their time and money.
Sleaze Roxx: It feels like you are speaking directly to me with that last part [laughs]! Last question for you! What are your top three favourite albums of all-time and why?
Rob Richardson: Top three albums — goodness. That’s a tough one. KISS’ ‘Alive!’ has to be my all-time favorite. Whether it’s truly ‘live’ or not never mattered to me. The energy, the excitement that was a KISS concert, the overall experience of listening to that album takes me back to being a kid every time. I love the feel of the whole record. It is the definition of my childhood and the road map of my musical life. Second favorite album might have to be W.A.S.P’s debut album in 1984. When I walked into the record store and saw that album cover and read those song titles, I knew I was gonna like it! “I Wanna Be Somebody” was an incredible rock anthem that I still love to this day. It’s probably my all-time favorite metal song. It’s about believing in yourself and having pride in yourself. I can dig that attitude!
My third favorite album is a toss-up really. I loved Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction.’ It had a balls and was rockin’ as could be in a sleazy / street vibe sort of way… But I think I’ll have to go with Sweet’s ‘Desolation Blvd.’ I like every song on that album and I think Brian Connolly has a great voice. I loved their UK Brit pop sound and as they started to do their own music, they were innovators at the time. Love the ’70s glam rock era and ‘Desolation Blvd.’ is a great record, [and] underrated for sure.
The Bad Somethings‘ “Yeah Yeah Yeah” lyric video:
Classic 70’s/80’s style hard rock! RELEASE DATE: 10/26/18 Download/Streaming links: http://bit.ly/HN2tbsLP $5 – CDBaby – http://bit.ly/CDBtbsLP $5 – Bandcamp…