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Richard Kendrick

We have good news rock fans, there are actually new artists coming out these days that have integrity. They stick to playing the music they love, damn the current trends. This month we are pleased to put the spotlight on Richard Kendrick, a gifted guitarist and songwriter who just released his debut solo album “Murder and the F Word!”, it’s great stuff for those who grew up listening to guitar heroes, Richard doesn’t care what the radio is playing at the moment, he knows the kind of music he loves and he delivers it. The album I found out during the interview is in fact a concept album, which listening to it after learning that fact really takes things to a new level beyond just being a great guitar rock album. So strap yourself in and learn more about Richard Kendrick and his new CD and then use the links to check out the music and purchase the CD for yourself. 

RNW: Hello Richard, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. This interview is for our series “Debut: New Artists You Should Know about”. We will be primarily talking about your new solo album, but I wanted to give our readers a chance to get a little information on your background. You’ve played in various bands since 1989. Can you tell us a little about how you got into music, your career thus far and what inspired you to do a solo album?

Richard: I got a guitar and a little Pig Nose amp for Christmas when I was maybe 7 or 8... Some time in the late seventies.  My parents were trying to discourage my desire to be a drummer I think.  I did not start trying to play the guitar until maybe late 1981. 

I played the rock scene of the south-eastern United States for a good part of the last 12 years or so with a few different bands: Dark August, Straitjacket Smile, Mudbone and a couple of others. Over the years we opened for bands ranging from REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Cheap Trick and Foreigner to Lillian Axe, Zebra, Pantera, and Lizzy Bordan. 

When the bottom fell out of the US melodic rock market, somewhere in the mid 90s, I played fraternity house parties to keep myself on stage.

I have also done a lot of the backing music and backing vocals on tribute songs for Versailles Records. We did a tribute to 80s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, a tribute The Cult and a tribute to Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

I have backed artists such as: Jake E. Lee, Tony Harnell, Jason McMaster, Paul Shortino, Dave Ragsdale, Jimmy Crespo, Brad Gillis, George Lynch, Gilby Clarke, Stevie Rachelle, Jim Martin, and a few others.

As far as my inspiration to do a solo album goes, I had a lot of songs sitting around that I wanted to record at some point with my band.  I had actually been halfheartedly working on a concept record that included these songs, off and on, for years.  However, my band was in limbo over the last year or so and I had been doing a bunch of work for Versailles Records.  Jake, the president of the label really liked what I did with “Edie (Ciao Baby),” on the Cult Tribute CD that we had put together.  He new that I had this music that I had been working on and suggested that I put it out.  When he gets an idea in his head he goes for it. He worked on me and convinced me to do it.  So, while we were woking on the Vai/Satriani disk I was also doing my record. 

RNW: You are signed to Versailles Records. Previous to your solo album you also contributed music to Versailles tributes for the Cult, “The Second Coming - A Millennium Tribute to 80’s Hard Rock /Heavy Metal” where you covered Def Leppard’s “Photograph” and White Lion’s “Wait” and more recently you contributed to the Steve Vai / Joe Satriani tribute album. How did you hook up with Versailles and what made you decide to sign with them?

Richard: I saw an ad in Metal Edge magazines’ metal wire a couple of years ago, for a record label that wanted to put out a record showcasing unsigned bands, paying tribute to 80 hard rock.  I felt like I had the perfect band for that.  I e-mailed Jake, and then he called me.  I played him some songs on the phone and he really loved my singers’ (Ross Stephens) voice.  Jake asked if we could do two songs for the record –which we did.  As Mudbone, which was our touring name for the fraternity band, we did “Wait” by White Lion and as Straitjacket Smile, which was the name of the band Ross and I had been in prior to Mudbone, we did Photograph by Def Leppard. The band, which also included Dave Campbell on drums and Jason Keller on bass, could not agree on which songs to do so we let Jake pick the songs. 

Jake and I developed a great working relationship and he has included me on every project ever since.  This led to my doing the solo record. 

RNW: Did you find it difficult to do the cover tunes for the Versailles tribute CD’s?

Richard: No.  “Photograph” and “Wait” were recorded on 16-track 1-inch tape witch was a little limiting if you want to reproduce something and do it justice but the song were pretty easy to put together.  I used to play “Wait” in a cover band so that one went together quickly.  All the rest of the songs have been pretty easy to knock out as well.  I enjoy it.

RNW: Your music has a big guitar sound, much in the vain of the great hard rock scene of the 80’s. Do you find it difficult to find an audience for that kind of music in this day and age with the charts ruled by music that relies a lot less on “expert” musicianship? And what do you think of the current state of music? Do you think kids are being short changed?

Richard: Sure, I think that it is really difficult to find an audience for this kind of music.  I do see it rolling around some, but not enough.  If I worried about the state of the music biz too much I would pull my hair out.  I did my record without giving a lot of consideration to sales or who would like it.  I needed to get those songs out of my system.  They are a little bit of departure from what my bands sound actually seems to be.  Although we played a few of these songs over the years, the band leans a little bit more in the direction of a Firehouse or BonJovi. 

And yes, I really think kids are being short changed by what’s out there.  You used to able to go see a band at a club and really get a good show.  You don’t find that anymore.  Everything is so scaled down now. 

RNW: Who are your biggest music influences?

Richard: Queen, TNT, ELO…  There would be a large list if I kept going.

RNW: Now I’m going to ask you about each track on your new album “Murder and the F- Word”. If you could tell us a little about each track, any funny stories behind them, their deeper meaning or anything you feel people would be interested in knowing about the songs. 

Richard:  The record is a semi-autobiographical concept album.  It is divided into sections, and titled as chapters in a book to show where we were going next in the story.  The Chapters are: “Fiancée” (songs 1-3), “Forsaken” (songs 4-6), “”Fame, Faith, Farrago” (songs7-12) “Flight” (song 13-15), and “Finale” (songs 16 & 17).

“I Know Why”? 

In this song we find out where the main character and the love of his life met.  She is a nerd named Sherri that pursues him till he sees her beauty and falls in love. After a while he feels that she is the most real person he has ever met and becomes quite codependant..

This was the last song written for the album.  I needed an up-tempo tune that gave the main characters a background.  Also, before it was written, the second song on the disk would have been a ballad.  I felt like that was too soon to slow things down.  Anyway, I wrote the music, did all the programming and recorded it.  I wound up re-writing all the lyrics while I was in the room singing it. 

“One Life Stand”? 

I wrote this song after a fight I had with my wife (before she was my wife).  I was feeling guilty and it inspired me.  The song is about knowing that our man wants to spend the rest of his life with Sherri.

“Don’t Fly Away”? 

This was the first song written for the record.  I wrote it back in 1989 after one of several break ups I had with the female that inspired much of this record.  It is about going to Pensacola beach, late one really windy night, and flying this red kite we had in the trunk of the car.  It was a very sweet moment…  Full moon, really cliché, but perfect. 
In this song he is concerned that the relationship is on the rocks. 

“Start Again”? 

I struggled with this song.  I had these verses, an intro riff, a solo and a bridge that I really liked but I could not find a chorus that put across the point of this song.  I new I was working on a concept record by the time I was writing this one so I was confined lyrically. 

The point of this song was to show that Sherri was breaking things off and give her reasons through the eyes of our hero.  They were out of high school and growing apart.  She was turning into a babe and being pursued by men that had more to offer her than he could give.  He was not maturing and she wanted him to become a “new man”.  She did not handle thing the right way and kept herself in his life just enough to make him think there was still a chance.

“Sherri’s Song ”?

I wrote the first part of this song with a friend of mine back in 1989 or 90.  He had been seeing a girl named Sheri and they broke up.  The song was originally called “Why Am I Missing You.”  I was listening to a lot of Stryper at the time this one was written. 
I later added on the end of this song, which was actually about my situation and decided to protect the innocent by calling the song Sherri’s song.  The song got another thorough re-write lyrically when I was squeezing it into the story.  It is about how the guy can’t take the separation and isn’t dealing well with not possessing his girl.  The lyric, “… it should have never come to this…” tells us that he has decided that if he can’t have her, no one can.

“Share This Tender Moment”?

This was originally called “Scream”I wrote some of the lyrics for this song in 1990, when I was playing with Dark August.  It had totally different music and sounded like King Diamond.  I was trying to write the heaviest thing I could think of at the time.  It was about a Stalker/Rapist.  Yeah, I know it’s a little warped but somebody has do it.  Anyway, I really liked a lot of the verses from that song and when I started working on the concept for the record I considered what it would be like to make this song personal.  Imagine stalking and killing someone you’re in love with.  Sound like OJ Simpson, but I wrote this before that fiasco.  I think our hero may have done more than just kill Sherri, if you know what I mean. 

“Don’t Touch”? 

The next four songs, “Don’t Touch,” “Questions and Prayers,” “Now I’m Alive,” and “Losing My Place,” were all written as a medley, originally titled “The New Man Medley.”   This is what inspired me to break the record into chapters.  I had already worked most of the songs on the album so that they would flow from one song to the next.   I changed the title of this chapter to “Fame, Faith, Farrago.” Farrago means medley.
 Getting back to this song… “Don’t touch” is the craziest thing on the album.  There is a lot going on in there.  There are two vocals that enter-twine, lyrically, throughout the verses and a lot of string sequencing.  My favorite guitar solo on the album is in this song. 
I really just wanted this song to be humorous.  If you listen closely coming out of the first verse, there is a lyric “Say Jim, Whoo!! That’s a bad outfit, Whoo!!”  I stole that from the first Super Man movie.  Some pimp says it to superman when he sees him coming out of a phone booth.  It was meant as an inside joke.  Friends of mine and I have always thought that scene was funny.
Anyway, this song is about a couple of things.  The choruses revolve around the fame that our hero is receiving because of all the press attention to his murder case and how his ego responds to seeing himself on TV.  The verses deal more with his asking Sherri if he has become the “New Man” that she had hoped for.  Obviously, he is institutionalized.  You can’t have a concept record with out that. Haahaa. 

“Questions And Prayers”?

He reflects a little on his relationship, slips further into a psychosis, and starts to reject his belief in god. 
I used to do a cover of “Talk To You Later,” by The Tubes.  The solo in this song utilized my interpretation for guitar, of the keyboard sound from their songs keyboard solo.  I always thought that was a crazy sound.  My wife hates it.

"Now I’m Alive”?

There’s lots of deep, hidden meaning in this song. Too much to explain. The chorus will not make since to anyone that doesn’t know me. Lets just say that the main character sees what Sherri did to him as just as evil as what he did to her.  Most of his dreams are about her and it’s making him crazier all the time.  He believes that she actually won their battle of wills but in his mind he also wants to deny it.  He doesn’t know if he’s coming or going, or even if she’s alive or dead.  This song is about confusion.

I know a lot of people think I lost my mind putting in the techno drum kit for this song but I felt like it really worked for the song.  I meant to add some distortion to the vocal on the verses but I got so busy with the two records I was mixing in five days, that it slipped my mind.  I was going for a NIN vibe.

The little waltz in the second verse is a reprise of the beginning of “Don’t Touch.” I almost named the album “Now I’m Alive” 

“Losing My Place”? 

He lives in constant drug-induced nightmares and desires to beg the only person he ever has contact with, which is the nurse that sedates him daily, to just let him stay awake.  She doesn’t care. 

“The Pieces”? 

This was comprised of the original guitar solo for “Scream” which became “Share this Tender Moment,” and the guitar solo from a song called “Taken Away,” which will never get recorded.  I liked these solos a lot and wanted them on the record.  I thought “The Pieces” was a good title because these solos were left over pieces of music.  Also, in the story, the main character is struggling to gain his composure and pick up the pieces. 

“How Many Times”?

In this song he continues to dream about being visited by Sherri.  He thinks she is being cruel and still will not leave him alone to get over her. 
If you pay attention to the solo near the end of the song, you’ll hear that it’s a slightly altered repeat of the second-half solo from “The Pieces.” 

“Freedumb”?

I wrote the guitar solo for this one first.  After that, I just massaged it into a song.  I knew I needed a tune that was heavier than some of the others on the album and I needed to get this guy out of his padded cell somehow. 

I had written some lyrics that dealt with questioning religion a few years back. These lyrics were originally called “The Door.”  I was digging through some notebooks and found them.  I realized I liked what I had to say and wanted to use them. So, I tweaked the lyrics a little to suit the storyline. 

At this point in the story our buddy, the nut, no longer believes in anything.  He just wants to die.

“The Flood”?

This was originally, lyrically, to be the bridge for “Freedumb.”  In this one, Fate or God or Sherri or somebody… I have no idea who it is, lets him out of his cell.  But the cruelty of it is, they give him back his sanity as well.  He sees everything he has done.

“Laughin’ Myself Goodbye”?

“Laughin’…” was written by a friend of mine named Phil Wang.  He used to play bass for Straitjacket Smile.  We used to open our show with this one.  I thought this song, which is about realizing your fate is to jump off a bridge, fit the story, and was a nice way to tie this album up.  I rewrote the main riff and the solo, added a few vocal harmonies, and started the song acappella.  Otherwise, the song stayed unchanged from the original. 

By the way, most likely, our hero broke all the bones in his body and lived.

“Reprisal”?

This one is a mix of a lot of the string and piano parts that are buried throughout the record. I put it together in Sound Forge, on my PC, using ADAT tracks from parts off of the Album.  I had spent so much time over the years sequencing and agonizing over some of these pieces, that I wanted to make sure people actually heard them.  There is a huge amount of work included in this 2 minute song.  The beginning guitar stuff is the solo from “Laughin’ Myself Goodbye” backwards. 

“The Attitude Song”?

This is a cover tune of a song by Steve Vai.  I recorded it for Lords of Karma: A tribute to Vai/Satriani.  I have always loved this song.  How the hell do you write something like that?  I spent three or four days programming the drums.  This one was tough.  Don’t ask me to stand up a play it…

I got Jake to let me put it on here so I could have a bonus track that was not, in any way, related to the story.  It is also pretty impressive sounding - which is good if you need your ego stroked.  This is the only song on the record that I had someone play on.  I got my friend Jason Keller to do all that cool poppin’ and slappin’.  He is one bad-ass bass player. 
 

RNW: Do you have any tour plans to promote the album?

Richard: No, I’m putting together the band right now to play gigs so I can pay some bills.  I overproduced most of it anyway.  It would be pretty hard to pull off live. 
The brutal truth in this business is that melodic hard rock does not put buts in seats in the USA - especially in the South.  The people actually love it. They just don’t seek it out.  During our shows, we’ll be hitting them with Straitjacket Smile originals and maybe a couple of my songs.  We’ll see how it goes from there.  Maybe I’ll sell a few CDs that way.  I’d love to have the record distributed overseas.  I think it would be better received there. I’d love to play in some other countries as well. 

RNW: Ok this is a question I always like to ask in interviews. What is the biggest misconception that you think people have about the music business? 

Richard: That being signed means anything.  I remember when I was a lot younger going around wishing I would “get signed.”  Even if you do get signed to a major label your chances of doing anything, almost, do not exist.  And even if you have a hit record your chances of being developed beyond that, almost, do not exist.  I like the situation I’m in now.  I have a working relationship with a small label that is not in business just for the money.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to have a ton of money and hit records, but if that is why you get into music, you will have a crappy time.

RNW: Finally, what do you want people to take away from your music?

Richard:  I want them to know that I worked extremely hard on it and not to think I take the subject matter real seriously.  I’m just a guitar playing goof ball, and I hope that comes across in my songs. 

Want more?

Visit the Official Website for Richard Kendrick to get the lowdown on the CD.


Purchase "Murder and the F Word!" online



 
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