Rich Robinson – Interview by Francijn Suermondt
Pulled together by guitarist Rich Robinson, The Magpie Salute represents a musical union of swaggering rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic blues, and campfire-worthy storytelling, it also marks a reunion of musicians whose paths twisted and turned right back to each other. Now, these six individuals conjure magic on their full-length debut of original material, High Water I [Mascot/Eagle Rock], for August 10th 2018 with High Water II to come in 2019.
Fran from www.myglobalmind.com chatted to Rich to get the low down on making musical connections with old band mates, recording 29 songs in 21 days (Wowza!) and why it’s time get off your ass off the settee and to the turntable…..
FS) As a massive fan of The Black Crowes ever since I first ever heard ‘Jealous Again’ when living in LA in the early 90’s, it is a real privilege to talk to you today for myglobalmind.com, so thank you for giving me this opportunity.
RR) Oh yeah, thank you, absolutely!!
FS) You and your brother finally decided to call time in 2015 on The Black Crowes after 20 years. Why was that, did you simply want to move forward with your solo projects? Because it seems that you have managed to do both well since your first solo record ‘Paper’ in 2004?
RR) Well you know, Chris basically wanted everyone’s money, he was more important than everyone else and 24 years into our career, he really decided that he didn’t really want to have to deal with anyone else and he delusionally convinced himself that he was the most important and no one else mattered. And that’s why we ended the band….
FS) I’m so sorry to hear that …
RR) Well you know it’s the typical lead singer trapping of delusion that people go through, but it’s cool, because now we have this, it’s really exciting for me being able to play with these guys and write this really good record that we are all excited about and have a band where we don’t go down that road, do you know what I mean?
FS) Yes I understand and well …we all have a really great treat with your Magpie Salute album which I have been listening to today, and it is absolutely wonderful. And your band name The Magpie Salutes I love, as I am always one of those people that always salutes magpies…..I’m quite superstitious (both laugh). The members of the Magpie Salutes are yourself, of course, Marc Ford (previously the Black Crowes), John Hogg, Sven Pipien (previously The Black Crowes), Matt Slocum and Joe Magistro. Firstly, how did you all get together as a band? I hear that you called Marc initially?
RR) Well I was touring to support my last solo album ‘Flux’ and I had this show that came up that was in front of a live audience in a studio, we basically invited a live audience to come and sit and watch the recording of a live record. It was three shows, two sets and day, because it was a full day thing. It was a really cool thing that we wanted to do. But I wanted to try something a little bit different, the older I get the more I realise what a gift it is to play with people that you have this strong musical connection with and Marc and I had never had much of a personal relationship, due to the dynamics with the Crowes. That was another reason I wanted to reach out to him, so I called him and you know through his agent we said, this is what we are thinking of doing and Marc said ‘I will be there, I don’t care what it is!’ and I thought that was really cool. Then I reached out to Eddie Harsch, the same thing, Eddie said ‘I will be there’ and so they came down and they played and it was great and everyone realised there was something special there. So we decided to put the shows up for sale, then we decided to put a tour up for sale, then we did the record that we had all recorded and that was basically the birth of The Magpie Salute. And so that was the live record that we toured on all of last year and then sadly Ed passed away….
FS) Yes I saw that, it’s very sad, I’m so sorry for that …
RR) Yeah, but you know, we went out on tour and we celebrated Ed and everything else and everything we had done. And throughout the year we decided to focus on, you know, this new thing and becoming a band and we were like ‘Well that was cool, let’s do this for real, let’s make a record’ so we wound up making a double album, you know we recorded 29 songs in 21 days and we have ‘High Water 1’ now and ‘High Water 2’ will come out later next year.
FS) Excellent stuff! And you know I have interviewed the Dead Daisies a couple of times and I felt that with age they have put egos and stuff behind them and they are now just enjoying the moment. It seems to be more fun for people like them and yourself as now you have all the bullshit that goes along with starting a band when you are younger behind you …..am I right in thinking that ?
RR) Yeah, I mean you know I was 19 years old when we made ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ and we sold 7 million albums, it’s great, but no one is equipped to really deal with all that success at that age. And I think people make not great choices and they behave in not great ways and then you fuel it with ego and then a tonne of drugs. And I chose not to go down the drug route, because I saw the kind of psychosis that was effecting my brother and everyone else, but it had its own effect on me, it’s difficult for it not to have. But that being said, you go through the shit, you go through divorce, people in your life pass away and I think as you get older you have a different perspective that teaches you about gratitude and these type of things so I definitely think we are having a lot more fun than we did and we are a lot more disciplined in kind of staying away from that typical bullshit.
FS) I feel that ‘Sister Moon’, which has a very bluesy almost Nina Simone feel to it, is one of your favourite tracks from the album is this so?
RR) Yeah, it was a song that Marc had written on guitar and then John took it and put it to piano and sang this beautiful melody and when I heard it, I thought there is nothing I can really add to this, this is fucking great, it’s a great song and I’m really happy to have it under The Magpie umbrella, it’s a beautiful song.
FS) And when listening to the title track ‘High Water’ it made me want to just chill in Ashbury Heights in San Francisco in the 60’s….all the songs are very evocative of certain times and places to me, was this intentional?
RR) You know nothing I do is intentional, I believe in flow and letting things happen and you know, that is how I write music, the cool thing about the band is, I had this song and I brought it to the band and said ok ‘This is a rock n roll Nick Drake’ and everyone jumped on board and got it instantly.
FS) Yeah, I found that the album has got that lovely deep south quality to it, but with a modern twist that is giving us something else too, I found it really interesting in that way.
RR) That’s cool, that’s great, yeah
FS) When I listen to your solo work from ‘Paper’ right through to ‘Flux’, that beautiful Deep Southern quality is always there and you have kept true to your influences of those such as The Rolling Stones, The Allman Bros & Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have read that collectively and individually, they tell a story that is quite different from that of the Crowes…..can you describe to me what this solo story is you are telling through your music and how this compares to work from The Magpie Salute?
RR) Well musically I always write what I like, then I create a song, then I let the song dictate what the lyrics are going to be. So when the music is finished, I listen to it and whatever it pulls out of me melodically and lyrically, is what the song is. And that is how I have always written and that’s how it was done in The Crowes, I bought the musical element first then my brother would write lyrics to it and so that’s just how I have always been. But my solo work was kind of different again as it is me playing pretty much all the instruments except for drums and keyboard players also come in and play. So the way that I sing and the way that I hear the melody over my music is going to be a lot different to how someone else would, say my brother or John. So to me, what John is bringing to the table and how he hears things is going to be really different and you know, his mom is from Africa and his dad is from Sweden and he grew up in England, so having that sort of background, that cultural background brings something into the mix. But then you have Marc Ford, who does what he does on top of the music that I write and then you have Sven …..so everyone brings a flavour to the music.
FS) Yes, so you have a real melting pot of creativity there …..
RR) Yes exactly!
FS) You try to release vinyl often in your solo work, such as your limited-edition 7” single, of a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’. Do you find this way of listening to music is making a big come back in your experience? And will you be releasing ‘High Water’ on vinyl also?
RR) Yeah, ‘High Water’ is on vinyl and all of my solo work is on vinyl. To me vinyl is kind of key for a number of reasons, it is not just because it is better to listen to. I think it gives the listener a deeper appreciation for music. You know I think as humans we respect things that we have to work for and I think one of the biggest problems, at least in America, I’m not sure if it is the same in the UK, is the laziness factor, we don’t have to do anything, all we have to do is push a button on our phone and something shows up you know!
FS) It is a shame……
RR) Yeah! So when you buy vinyl you have to actually get it in the mail or you have to drive to the store, you take it home, it’s large, you look at it, there is a large piece of artwork there, you open it, it has the smell, it has the feel, there is a lot of information, it’s beautiful, you take it out of the sleeve, you get up off the sofa, you have to walk to the turntable and actually turn it on (both laugh) you put the needle on and then you have to listen vigilantly because it takes 15 to 20 minutes per side. And so it’s not 15 thousand songs you just put on your weird algorithm which will randomly pick songs on your Ipod and just play this shit. This is something that the artists wanted to show you, it shows that …..this is the journey I want you to go on, based on what I created, it’s not a service industry, it’s not for everyone, but if you are choosing to go down this path, go down the path. And also on a broader level, this also registers on a subconscious level to the listener, that there is something greater there that is involved, there is a huge collaboration of effort. Someone had to manufacture the vinyl, someone had to do the artwork, you know there is information about who wrote what…ah these people wrote these songs actually….there is a producer, there is an engineer, there is a studio, someone had to build that studio, someone had to build the instruments, someone had to build the amps, someone had to build the recording console, someone had to build the microphone and then … someone had to ship everything. You know, and that is where the human quality comes back in, where I think it registers with us on a larger level that there is a huge collaborative effort of thousands of people that actually works, to bring this to you. Maybe people will have a little bit more respect for it, because right now they don’t respect it, they buy a ringtone, download a track and say yeah whatever I don’t like that verse so I will cut it out, I just like the chorus. You know if people eat ice cream every day of their lives they are going to die and I think culturally we are dying.
FS) It is a throwaway society and I do feel sorry for the younger generation because I am old enough to have had to save my pocket money and wait for two weeks for an album to get to the store and have the anticipation of this treat to be in my hands.
RR) Yes, and it is the respect that comes from you seeing it as a gift, when you say …Wow I busted my ass for this because I mowed lawns to make enough money to go buy this record!
FS) Do you ever include Black Crowes songs in your live sets or do you keep them solely as The Magpie Salute numbers?
RR) Sometimes I do, but those are the songs that I wrote, I also play some solo songs, some Marc Ford songs, also a bunch of interesting covers. So we just kind of keep it moving and going, but the main focus is The Magpie Salute and our new record.
FS) And will you be touring alongside this album here in the UK? And would you be looking at possibly playing at a festival over here next year? I think you would love playing at the Ramblin’ Man Fair ..it would be perfect for you guys!
RR) Yeah we are coming over in November and yes we would love to play the Ramblin Man and we are looking at playing some festivals too!
FS) Do you have any influences that are a guilty pleasure and maybe not who your fans would expect? And what new artists are you listening to today?
RR) There are a couple of new bands that are really cool which are coming out, there is a band called ‘The Heartless Bastards’ and they are really cool. And I really like some of ‘Grizzly Bear’’s stuff, I like a band called ‘White Fence’ and who play cool Syd Barrett-y type psychedelic music, that guy came from more of a punk rock background from a band called ‘Darken My Love’. There is a whole lot of great stuff out there …but a lot of it is just under the radar.
FS) Because I am nosy, I want to know are there any other hobbies or projects apart from music that you enjoy? Cooking or gardening? (they both laugh)
RR) I paint, I have another show coming up in Atlanta on September 20th, I have had about 7 or 8 shows already of my work before. In Malibu, Toronto, New York, Atlanta, Connecticut ….
FS) Yes, and you have produced the artwork for some of your solo albums haven’t you?
RR) Yes, I did the artwork for ‘Paper’ and one of the Woodstock albums.
FS) And finally is there any other ‘hot off the press news’ you would like to tell us about ?
RR) We are going to announce the UK and European dates next Monday!
FS) Well we cannot wait to see you and thank you so much for your time today!
RR) Absolutely, you too, see ya!!
FOR THE FULL LIST OF TOUR DATES THAT SEES THE BAND IN THE UK AMONGST OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, CLICK THE LINK BELOW:
Our review of High Water 1 is HERE: