Interviewed by Alan Gilkeson
Newly signed to Metal Blade Records with his band CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED, most of you will remember Richard as the former drummer for Death, Iced Earth, Control Denied, Leash Law, or Burning Inside. Then there are those who came to learn of Richard’s other "talents" on the Howard Stern show. We catch up with Richard to see what he’s been up to recently.
Hey Richard, great to talk to you. I don’t know if you remember but when Iced Earth was touring with Megadeth you and I had a conversation about the greatness of Thor?
Yeah, I remember that absolutely. I think we talked about his movies, like THE EDGE OF HELL (we laugh)…
Remember he rides on the bike, looks at the camera and puts his fist up….
Then he fights that octopus monster at the end.
It’s funny you remember that…
Absolutely, how could I forget a conversation about Thor. I think you’re the only person I ever discussed Thor with.
So when did you decide to start doing music at this level again Richard?
Probably about a year ago. I did a drumming special for the Howard Stern TV channel, that’s where I work. I wrote an original song for the drumming special on Howard TV and it got a real positive response. It was just an instrumental but they started playing it on Liquid Metal on Sirius/XM radio. A lot of people really liked it so it kind of inspired me to write more music. I’ve been writing for a couple of years now and the good response to that instrumental kind of convinced me that maybe I should do a full album. That’s kind of what tipped it off.
Does Howard’s possible retirement have anything to do with you pursuing music again?
No, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to have something planned in case he does retire. I’m really hoping that Howard does keep going because I love this job, but music is something I love too. I do a lot of things on the side besides working for the show. I do stand-up comedy and some acting in films, so music is just another one of my passions. It had been a few years since I did something in music so I’ve been itching the last couple of years to do something again. It’s not really because Howard may possibly retire, it just so happens that it’s happening now. Music is tough. Even if Howard did retire I’d have a hard time making a living just off music. I tried that before and it’s very hard. This is just something I’m doing for the passion of it and because I’ve been writing all this music and I love recording in the studio, and playing Metal.
Do you think you lost some of your chops from not playing on the road as often?
Well the stamina is probably not there like it used to be because I used to play drums from two to three hours a day by myself and then two to three hours with a band, everyday, plus I was younger. Definitely the stamina probably isn’t where it used to be. That’s something I’d have to build back up before I went on tour. The chops are still there because I’ve actually kept playing drums the whole time since I got the job with Howard. I still play a couple of hours about every other day, and then a little more on the weekends. So I’ve made sure to keep my chops up. As you get older you have to work a little bit harder to play as fast and for as long as you used to. Getting ready for the album I’m playing about an hour and a half a day, so the stamina’s definitely coming back.
Where do you practice, in your little apartment?
No I practice at a place called the Sweatshop Studio in Brooklyn and also at a drummers school called The Drummers Collective here in Manhattan. There’s some cool options. It’s definitely harder to find rehearsal space in New York because you don’t have the option of setting up a drum kit in your apartment but I still am able to have two different places to go and practice.
What type of sound are you going for on the new record and are the songs all written?
The album’s all written, and I wrote pretty much everything, but when I go in the studio myself and Jason Suecof will kind of re-work the songs and change what we need to change, and he’ll beef up the guitar riffs because he’s an amazing guitar player and I’m just kind of an average guitar player. I can play well enough to write music but I want him to take the riffs and make them even better. The sound I’m going for just comes from me sitting down and playing guitar and whatever came out that I liked, I used. There really wasn’t a particular sound or style of Metal I was going for, just kind of what I feel. I’m a fan from everything from Death Metal to Power Metal to Viking Metal, so I guess it’s kind of all thrown in there. There will be blast beats but there will also be real melodic singing, maybe some Death Metal type singing. It’s hard to describe because it’s just a mix of all the different music that I like.
You’ve definitely got some top musicians here to prove that you’re taking this seriously.
I’m extremely lucky that I’ve been able to tour with some of the best musicians in Metal and pretty much in all of music. When it came to putting together a band it was hard because I know so many great musicians, there were so many possibilities. I wanted to get people that were kind of as busy as I am. Jason’s a busy producer. Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens is very busy with his other bands as is Steve Digiorgio. Plus I am very busy with my day job with the Howard Stern show. I wanted to find other guys that understood that. They wouldn’t be relying on me to be out on tour all the time. Those are guys I am huge fans of as well. I’m a huge fan of Steve’s bass playing, I have been since I heard him play with Death on the HUMAN album. I’m a huge fan of Tim’s singing since I heard him with Judas Priest and I got to jam with him in Iced Earth. He sounded incredible every night singing. Jason Suecof and I have been writing songs together for ten years or so. I’ve known him for a long time from living in Florida and I actually lived at his house where his studios are, where we’re going to be recording the album. Jason and I and Steve and Tim all work really well together so I know It’s going to be really fun and go really smoothly.
Are you all going to meet up in the studio is it going to be all sending stuff to each other?
Yeah, we’ll all be meeting up in the studio in Florida. Not all at the same time. I’ll go down for a few weeks with Jason doing drums and guitars. Then Steve will come down to do bass. Then Tim’s gonna come for a week and a half to do vocals. So we’re pretty much flying everybody to Florida to record.
Were there any other labels interested in The Charred Walls of The Damned besides Metal Blade?
There were a few but the reason I went with Metal Blade is because I’m friends with Brian Slagel. He’s a really nice guy and I know in the Metal world Metal Blade is one of the most respected labels. They’re a historic label with all the bands that they signed, plus I’m also a fan of a ton of the bands that are on the label. That’s why I wanted to go with Metal Blade. It was a pretty easy decision to go with them.
Will you guys be doing any shows and touring?
It’s kind of wait and see. I’m sure we will but it’s going to depend on all of our schedules. Jason’s schedule is pretty much always full recording bands down there in Florida and Steve and Tim are always on tour with other bands. We’re definitely going to try and make it work, we just don’t know when. It’s something we’ll have to try and plan when we get ready to release the album.
Hopefully you’ll be able to do at least some festivals…
Yeah totally. I’d love to even do European festivals next year. I’m sure we’ll make something work.
Some of the early descriptions of what you’re doing now reminds me of what you did with Chuck in Control Denied where he used clean vocals. Is that a fair assessment?
Um, yeah, pretty much. I love Tim’s vocals. I love any kind of vocals. I love Death Metal vocals too. There’s certain Death Metal singers that sing very melodically even though they’re growling. I’m a fan of a lot of different styles of vocal. I wanted to do something with lots of killer harmonies and really melodic. Also Jason can sing pretty much any style of music too, so we might have him doing some back up stuff. We’re just going to go in the studio and see what happens.
Do you think about Chuck a lot? Was he a big influence on you?
Oh absolutely! He was pretty much my best friend the whole time I lived in Florida. I definitely think about him a lot. I really miss him. He was such a great guy and so much fun to work with. We laughed together a lot. Traveling together we had so much fun. It was so inspiring to see him, the way he wrote music, the way he would come up with guitar riffs. It was such an honor to work with him because I was a huge Death fan since high school back in Kansas in the late 80’s and early 90’s and I still listen to Death pretty much everyday. I definitely think about Chuck a lot. He’s definitely a huge influence on me and my playing.
Richard Christy was in DEATH from 1997-2001
Do you sometimes get bummed that Howard and other people on the show don’t really get the music you do?
I don’t really get bummed out. It’s just not their style of music. It’s not what they are in to. There’s a lot of music that they talk about, like a Bruce Springsteen album from the 70’s and who played on it, I have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s just different tastes. There are a lot of Metal heads that work at Sirius/XM radio. We have an awesome Metal channel, Liquid Metal, that I love and Eddie Trunk is here too and he’s a Metal genius, so it’s cool working alongside him. There’s a lot of people who do understand Metal around here. I don’t get offended when people that work here don’t know about the kind of music I play. Everybody has different musical tastes.
How tough a decision was it to leave music full time for the Stern show?
It was extremely tough. It was very scary. It was pretty much the hardest decision I ever had to make. It was one of those things where I just had to do it. I thought about it and figured I can’t go the rest of my life without at least trying to get the job with Howard because I would always wonder what if I would have tried. I didn’t want to live with that guilt of not knowing. I had to try. it was something I thought about for a long time. When I left Iced Earth it was only for an audition for the Stern show. I could have not got the job and been both out of a job and out of a band. It was something I felt I had to do.
Well successful people are willing to take that risk.
Well thank you. Life is full of tough decisions and that was definitely the toughest for me.
What about some of your other projects, particularly Burning Inside, will you follow up on them?
I don’t know what’s going on with that. I guess for now you could say we’re disbanded. Last year we put out a self release thing, an E.P. you can get on ITunes and all the download sites with some of the last music that we wrote, but it would be hard to get together because we wrote everything together. The thing that works great about this project I’m on right now, The Charred Walls of The Damned, is that I’m pretty much writing all the stuff and getting together with Jason to fine tune it. The logistics of doing Burning Inside would be tough and also the music was so hard to play that we pretty much had to practice about five nights a week just to keep up with it. It was so technical. With me living up here and everybody scattered it’s really tough to keep something like that going.
For a while you were considered on of the top drummers in Metal, did you ever feel that way about yourself?
Thank you… I don’t know, it’s weird. I guess I’m a humble guy so I never really thought about it like that. I just always wanted to play the best I could and help the bands that I was in. It’s definitely an honor when people say something like that. I was in Modern Drummer about a year ago and they listed the Death album that I played on as a great drumming album. I was honored by that and I appreciate that. I just always thought of myself as a guy who loved drumming and did it for the love of it. I never did it for attention or the hope of getting rich and famous. I just love playing the drums.
What’s going on with your comedy and how is the Richard and Sal Show coming along?
It’s really good and we’re kind of on hiatus right not. We just did two shows in Atlanta that ended our spring/summer tour. I’m gonna take a little break to do the album and we’ll see what happens. I’m kind of keeping my schedule open in the winter just in case we decide to do some shows with Charred Walls of The Damned. But I also want to keep doing Richard and Sal shows. We had a blast on tour. A lot of shows sold out. I love traveling with Sal, he’s pretty much my best friend. We have just a great time and I definitely want to keep doing that.
Do you think comedy and music would be something you could do together?
I’d keep them separate. It’d be hard to do jokes about whacking off at a Metal show. Doing a comedy show in a Rock club is very difficult to keep peoples attention. Sitting down in a nice comedy club is definitely the best environment for comedy. It’s tough to mix the two, although there have been comedy shows where there was a drum set on stage and I’ll do a five minute solo and people seem to like that.
Well that’s all I got Richard.
Cool, it was great talking to you again.