INTERVIEW WITH RICH KID EXPRESS SINGER, DRUMMER, GUITARIST (AND MORE) ROB RICHARDSON
Date: November 30, 2020
Photos: Rob Richardson
IT’S UNUSUAL TO HAVE AN ARTIST OR BAND RELEASE TWO STUDIO ALBUMS WITH DIFFERENT MATERIAL IN ONE YEAR, AND EVEN MORE UNUSUAL TO HAVE TWO QUALITY RECORDS FROM AN ARTIST OR BAND IN ONE YEAR. HOWEVER, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE ONE-MAN BAND RICH KID EXPRESS HAVE DONE THIS YEAR WITH THE RELEASE OF THE EP ‘BUBBLEGUM RADIO’ AND FULL-LENGTH ALBUM ‘PSYCHODELIC.’ MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST ROB RICHARDSON IS THE MASTERMIND BEHIND RICH KID EXPRESS AND HE SPOKE WITH SLEAZE ROXX FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS YEAR BUT THIS TIME TO PROMOTE HIS LATEST “CLASSIC STYLE HARD ROCK” RECORD ‘PSYCHODELIC.’
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your debut full-length album ‘Psychodelic’! What struck me is that you just released Rich Kid Express’ debut EP ‘Bubblegum Radio‘ back in February 2020 and about eight months later, you have ten new songs recorded and released for a new album. That is very unusual in this day and age. When did you write the songs for ‘Psychodelic’ and what prompted you to release a second album in 2020?
Rob Richardson: Thank you Olivier. It was a lot of work, that’s for sure! Yeah, after the initial response and reaction to the ‘Bubblegum Radio’ EP, I wanted to get right back in and follow up while I had a little momentum and interest from fans. If you don’t try to capitalize on some positive vibes, people can forget you pretty quickly. My goal was to turn around and get the album done as efficiently as I could, within a shorter amount of time. Back in the day, KISS put out two albums a year and I thought that seems very possible if I have the ideas. I got lucky and had the ideas and the time. I gave myself a deadline and stuck to it. The songs were written between the end of February and all the way up till about late August. I originally had about 13 or 14 songs, but I had to just stop and say ‘What’s gonna really work here?’ I am pleased with the way it turned out and quite happy it’s been accepted well by radio and the fans so far.
Sleaze Roxx: Given how fast you come up with new material, can we expect to have a third record from Rich Kid Express in the summer of 2021 [laughs]?
Rob Richardson: I’ll be honest, yes… quite possibly [laughs]. I think if the ideas come quick enough and I’m not stalled for any time, I could very well have another record by late summer/early fall 2021. I have a couple ideas floating around that were not used on ‘Psychodelic’ and I still feel they are capable songs. Two of them are almost totally finished. Of course, it all depends on what I’ve got going on and how much time I have to devote towards it. But my goal would be to get something out again in 2021 from Rich Kid Express.
Sleaze Roxx: Thats’ great! How did you come up with the album title ‘Psychodelic’?
Rob Richardson: “Psychodelic” was a song I had ready just prior to releasing ‘Bubblegum Radio.’ But I didn’t feel it quite fit the EP. At least in the sense of those five songs, it seemed a little out of place. I didn’t have a title for it, but the music was completed, so I stuck it on the shelf for a rainy day. When I started working on the new record and I came back to this song, I knew it would fit in the context of the LP as a whole. I titled it ‘Psychodelic’ and wrote the melody line to the chorus of the song, I knew right then and there the title of the album was going to be ‘Psychodelic.’
Now some would ask, ‘Is that your favorite song because it’s the title track?’ The answer is no. It’s not my favorite, but to me, it’s one of the most different and diverse songs on the record. The keyboards are prominent in the song and there is a lot of underlying stuff going on. It’s just got its own flavor. Hard to put a finger on. Heavy at times like hints of Judas Priest, but then it’s like having The Cars crash in and alter the vibe of the tune with a poppier feel. The whole idea of the album is focused around a straight up, bluesy hard rock sound with a bit of looseness and garage rock undertones. Slightly sleazy, but hints of glam rock thrown in. I like to think of it as a dark humored, attitude driven, simple rock record.
Sleaze Roxx: What about the album cover. How did you come up with that?
Rob Richardson: The cover was a mish-mash of ideas. Originally, I said to my buddy David Norman who did most of the artwork, ‘Let’s have a guy whose head is exploding with things he has no control over. Let’s make his head flip open and have stuff coming out of it like crazy thoughts and everyday things that make people worry. Things that would make you go psycho or wig out!’ It slowly turned into a ‘Twilight Zone’ style album cover and once I got the idea in my head about The Twilight Zone TV show, the cover started to evolve in its own way. I added a few ideas and then it just came about naturally. It’s a little cartoony but I wanted to keep it colorful like a ’70s psychedelic theme, mixed with Twilight Zone dark humor.
Sleaze Roxx: Why didn’t you include the single ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” on ‘Psychodelic’?
Rob Richardson: Good question. Here was my reasoning on that one. I originally did the single for fun to bridge the gap between the EP and the LP. I love the late ’60s, early ’70s bubblegum, power pop rock stuff. But I don’t want Rich Kid Express be known as a ‘bubblegum band.’ I will always have a few songs up my sleeve to cross that line when I want to, and give that early glam rock feel as well. I have a sweet spot for those styles. The single “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” was like a bonus tune if you should decide to download it or stream it. It’s like a B-side to a record. Collectible to some, forgettable by others. It was something I’ve wanted to do for years and I did it. I added my own spin to it and did it a little heavier. It was fun. But it’s not what Rich Kid Express is. This was supposed to be more of a hard rock album. So if you go out and look for it, it’s out there, but I didn’t really want to include it on the record. If you listen to “Kaleidoscope Caravan” and “Do It Your Way” off the LP, they have a bit of the ’70s glam vibe. I didn’t want to take it much further than that for this record.
Rich Kid Express‘ “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” lyric video:
Sleaze Roxx: How was the recording process this time around compared to the ‘Bubblegum Radio’ EP?
Rob Richardson: It was really much of the same. I honestly feel like ‘Psychodelic’ is just an extension of the ‘Bubblegum Radio’ EP. They both are right in the same ballpark as far as sound and style goes. I think they compliment each other well. There is definitely a definitive style and sound starting with the catalog of songs Rich Kid Express has so far. I’m learning more about speeding up my processes both on the recording end and the mixing end, so it was flowing pretty good by the end of the record. I found a few little tricks to speed up my work and it’s been a great learning experience. Usually, I have a rough guitar riff idea or a chord change that starts the basis of the song. Next, I get the drum parts down and once they are in, I go back and re-record the guitars in a more professional, clean way. Or as clean as I’m able to play [laughs]!
I figure out a bass line and then once all that is structured, I then start thinking of a melody line, lyrics, vocal patterns and such. I usually have all the music written before I ever think of a vocal melody line. Which sometimes is tough, because I might struggle for hours with an idea on how to sing something. But once it pops into my head, I can find a way to make it work and focus on keeping it catchy and hooky. For me, it’s all about simplicity. I’m a shallow thinker. My lyrics can be silly or funny — whatever works. I’m not going to come up with a ‘Shakespearean vocal line that solves the world’s problems.’ I’m going to write about the girl next door who gave me a naughty look and I liked it or how I struck out with a chick and ended up getting drunk instead [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: You wrote and performed all of the songs once again plus handled the production of the album. Was there any thoughts on getting some outside contributors this time around?
Rob Richardson: Nah, not really… I just wanted to continue to work on my own. I don’t want to depend on other people. One of the downsides to doing everything yourself is you may not be able to hear or feel a particular part like someone else can. You might miss out on a good opportunity to have a great part added to the song or a better idea even. On the flipside, doing it yourself is all about what you want and what you think. It’s all on your shoulders and you make the decisions right or wrong. I’m sure if I hired a better producer to mix the record, they may have gotten it to sound even bigger and more polished which is great in a lot of ways. But for me… what did I learn? I want it to be trial and error. This whole thing was to feed my creativity and make me work harder to be a better musician, engineer and record label guy. I don’t like being committed to other people and as I get older. I hate committing to anything! I only commit to myself and my family. Yeah, I have guitar friends that can come in and smoke up the fretboard if I wanted that. They could do my leads and help with writing riffs and such, but then it’s not a solo project anymore and it becomes someone else’s style and sound. I want this to just be me, Rich Kid Express.
Sleaze Roxx: I haven’t posted my album review just yet but I really like the song “Cross The Line.” It’s a simple song but very addictive and always a highlight when I listen to ‘Psychodelic.’ You seem to have mastered the art of building a song on a simple riff and letting the instruments “breathe” throughout the song. What is your approach to songwriting and do you agree with me that “Cross The Line” is the best song on the album?
Rob Richardson: I’m glad you like that one! That was the very first song I wrote for the record. I came up with the riff and thought it felt like a ’70s [Led] Zeppelin sort of groove, maybe even a “Say What You Will” Fastway style thing. That whole song is based around that one riff really. It felt catchy and the melody line and lyrics came right away. The overall song was basically finished in a matter of about two hours. I would have to say, writing the underlying keyboard/organ parts took me longer than anything. The actual recording of the song took more like a week just getting everything tracked out the way I wanted it. “Cross The Line” and “Pink Eye” were actually the first songs released to the radio about three weeks prior to the record coming out. The others were held back until release day.
I always felt “Cross The Line” was the true sound of Rich Kid Express. As mentioned earlier, I’m all about simplicity and making a simple song work. If you can write something catchy in 20 minutes, compared to taking two weeks to write a song that you still have to question the parts or progressions, you’re just wasting time. Ideas are incoming and outgoing in a matter of seconds. If you find an idea you like, work it and don’t deviate from it. Find what is good and build on it. If you constantly try to change it, or add more to it or make it more sophisticated…. now you’ve killed it. Just go with the flow. Because another idea will be hot on its heels and you have to grab that one too!
Rich Kid Express‘ “Cross The Line” track (from Psychodelic album):
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favourite tracks on ‘Psychodelic’ and why?
Rob Richardson: Different day, different favorite! All of the songs make up a collection. A record is a collection of ideas that flow and tell stories as you listen. The feel of a record puts you in a mood. The mood you feel when listening, gives the record its appeal. I like each song for different parts and I like the way certain things made me feel when writing and recording it. There are instances where I got very excited and said to myself, ‘That freakin’ rocks!’ I’ve told people before it’s like having more than one kid…. You love your kids with all your heart and love them equally. But some days, you click with one more than another, or one is looking for a hug, when the other is looking to push your buttons to make you mad. Each one has its own personality. That’s the fun of being creative. “Get Outta My Life” is all about attitude and I love the feel of it. “Cross The Line” is straight up rock! “RKR” is just a fun rocker with a bit of humor. I dig them all really. If not, they’d have not made the album in the first place.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you end up choosing the first single “Clock Strikes Four” for the record? Take me through your thought process in that regard.
Rob Richardson: Timing is everything. Let me say this first and foremost, I’m not political. I don’t like bringing politics and/or world crisis situations into a song to make people feel depressed or divide people in any way, shape or form. But when this song was written in early summer 2020, I had no idea what was unfolding with the pandemic. Politically, I had no cares or ideas of who would win an election. I had no idea what a circus America would become. Between racially motivated marches, riots, lootings, murder, fires, floods, hurricanes…. none of that stuff.
2020 took on a whole new meaning. ‘Hindsight is 20/20’ my dad always told me. So I thought we wouldn’t make the same mistakes we’ve made before. Wrong! “Clock Strikes Four” was the absolute perfect song for the time. Lyrically, musically, and the video itself speak volumes about the whole world at the moment. The song fits the time. It’s a ‘sign of the times’ video for sure. That was the easiest video to put together and I thought, the song fits, election coming up. Let’s do it! The song as a whole has a very loose, driving riff that almost has a slight “Outer Space” by Ace Frehley feel to it. I love the energy and the message. But honestly it was too easy to pick that. I don’t do a whole lot of videos anyway. After all, it’s just me and do people really want to see me? Maybe? Maybe not?
Rich Kid Express‘ “Clock Strikes Four” video (from Psychodelic album):
Sleaze Roxx: You have marketed your music this time around as “classic rock” which I think is a fitting description. Was this always your intention or did you come up with that after finishing the recording of ‘Psychodelic‘?
Rob Richardson: ‘Classic style hard rock’ to be exact! This was my intention from the get-go. I wanted to find a niche’ that described what Rich Kid Express was all about. I worked up the promo material for the record and described it as ”70s/’80s style classic hard rock!’ That says what it is in a nutshell. I take ’70s and ’80s influences, roll them into a ball and then squish them into a piece of plastic [laughs]. Hey, there’s your CD! I’m not re-inventing the wheel. I’m not trying to create some new form of music that will enlighten the world or change musical directions. I just write and record what I loved hearing growing up, and I try to add my own little mischievous ideas into the mix.
I don’t want to sound like any one band or be compared to any one band, but I love it when people say, ‘I hear this on this song and I hear this on that song.’ Everyone interprets a song a different way. But when you have a connection with them because of that, that makes it special. I want people to like Rich Kid Express because it reminds them of the fun they had years ago, when they didn’t have to worry about so much stuff and had less responsibilities. Being an adult is tough. Growing up and growing old is tough. What makes you happy? What brings back that feeling of your younger years? My first thought is music. It puts you in a time and place in your life. I’m just trying to carve out a new spot for those looking for new music that sounds a bit older or retro like.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. I agree that music does serve as a time capsule of sorts. Obviously, the Covid pandemic has put a halt to many live concerts. Given that you are currently a one-man band, do you have any plans one day to play your songs live?
Rob Richardson: I get asked this a lot. I’ll never say never. I’ve always enjoyed playing live, and I think the catalog of music Rich Kid Express is building on, would sound fantastic coming through a huge PA system and blasting to a big crowd of people! These songs feel like they are meant to be played live! I would totally entertain the idea post-Covid if the situation was right and I had the right guys around me to play the material. I have so many musician friends, that putting a live band together would be pretty easy I think. Sure, it would be fun. But I’m also approaching middle age and I’m not as sexy as I once was [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Rob Richardson: I don’t know what my family would think and I have responsibilities now that are harder to put aside. So with that, I would keep an open mind and I would see how things develop down the road and what happens over the next year or two. Until then, I’m content writing, recording and being creative. Watching my family grow up and being at home with them is quite important and special to me. So we’ll just play all that by ear.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your plans for the future with Rich Kid Express, The Bad Somethings and Squib Kick Records?
Rob Richardson: The million dollar question! I know initially within the next few weeks my co-writing, guitar playing buddy, David Barker will be around quite a bit as we plan to put the sophomore LP together for The Bad Somethings. It’s been since 2018 when we last worked on a record together [The Bad Somethings’ self-titled LP]. He’s got a few ideas and I’ve got some that I’ve set aside for that project in particular. We hope to have a record ready by late March or April. We have that real KISS vibe going on in that band, and I think you’ll get a bit more grit from the next record as well as a bigger ‘power pop’ feel. Of course, the Coronavirus and crazy ways of the world may impede on the logistics, but we’re focused on getting something out early in the year. Rich Kid Express will have something come out later in 2021 as well. I don’t see myself slowing anytime soon to stop doing what I’m having fun with. As far as Squib Kick Records, just building a catalog of records and trying to find some ‘physical distribution’ partners for future releases. Slow and steady wins the race they say. Who is ‘THEY?’ [laughs]
Rich Kid Express‘ “Get Outta My Life” track (from Psychodelic album):