BITS & PIECES with Robert Rich

BITS & PIECES with Robert Rich

Image by Dixie Chan

The first album you bought?

I think it was “Chicago Transit Authority” around 1971 or so. I was about 8 years old and I liked the song “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Ironically I’m still really interested in watches and timekeeping, so the thoughts behind the song still resonate, and that album wasn’t a bad beginning for being a music lover.

The last album you were addicted to?

Daughter “If You Leave” – I just discovered the band in late 2015, immediately attracted to the brooding fragile mood. Great songwriting, with a few extra layers of thought hiding underneath.

A movie you can always watch?

Andrey Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” – I have often talked about the importance of Tarkovsky’s films upon my own aesthetic. When I first saw one of his films around 30 years ago I felt as if he had been spying on my personal dream life. His blend of humanism, yearning for meaning, gentle doubt and shadows echoed my own inner life and artistic direction.

A book you couldn’t stop reading?

“Mind of the Raven” by Berndt Heinrich. I am fascinated by other species and how they think, not to mention the puzzling ways that humans think, and I wish I could bridge my understanding to appreciate other life forms as if I were one of them. For the last two years or so, I have been offering snacks of raw peanuts to our own local crows and they have come to trust me (a bit) and follow me around town when I walk. This gives me such joy, to have some interaction with these wild companions; although I remain cautious to respect their wildness and their social structures.

The weirdest thing that has ever happened to you on stage or in the studio?

Perhaps the oddest concert experience happened at an old theater in Pittsburgh PA when a strong rainstorm started outside, and the roof of the theater began leaking very heavily directly onto my gear, which was set up on stage, after I had completed my sound check. I was in the lobby getting ready for the show, and the owner of the theater casually came over and said, “Oh, the roof is leaking a bit, you might want to check your gear.” I ran over to the stage and found a cascade pouring right down on my mixer, which was blinking on and off, LEDS flashing randomly. I yanked the power, moved all the gear out of the water, and spent a half hour pulling the mixer apart. I sent a friend down the street to buy a hair dryer at the local drugstore, and blow-dried the inside of the mixer. After 10 minutes of that, it seemed dry, I rebuilt the mixer and … it worked. On the same night, the group opening for me broke one off their large glass bowls they used as instruments. The owner mentioned later that people say the theater is haunted. I replied by saying maybe all those creaking sounds come from the roof getting ready to collapse, and perhaps they should try repairing the building instead of believing in ghosts!

A favorite piece of equipment?

My MOTM modular synth. It has been a work in progress since 1999, and remains one of the places I can explore for new sounds that resemble the abstractions in my head. Another wonderful new instrument that I am only starting to get acquainted with is the Haken Continuum, one of the first electronic instruments I have played that feels truly expressive, although the sound programming is rather arcane and playing it requires new skills.

A description of your music you’ll never forget?

“A music-scape that oozes with primitive life, as if pulsing from the swamp itself. . . A time traveller searching for the aperture that looks back to Eden.” (Calvin Ahlgren, San Francisco Chronicle).

Robert Rich’s latest album, Filaments, was released early 2015 through his Soundscape Productions imprint.

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