Recent Music Reviews
Rising Stars Revisited - Richie Rivera
This is the first of a series of interviews with the Rising Stars bands and artists we have featured in the first ten years of GRTR! Here we catch-up with drummer Richie Rivera who was in Madison Paige back in 2002 when we first interviewed him but the band broke-up in 2008. He has been busy and is currently drumming for Avery Watts.
What are you currently up to? (recording, gigs, plans etc.)
Wow, Jason, so much has happened since we last checked in, let me see if I can get it all out there in one breath.... Right now I’m fortunate to be working with a slew of ridiculously talented artists. My primary focus is on AVERY WATTS, who blends metal, hip-hop and orchestral elements into something you’ve never heard before and has arena-level production live show that is the most intense thing I have ever been a part of (there are some YouTube clips floating around that will show you what I mean). He just released his debut full-length album called The Takeover, which everybody should buy right now! I’m also playing with KITTEN KUROI, who is a killer singer that mixes modern rock and R&B. She just released a single I played on called “Not Worth Sayin’” and I’ve laid down tracks for more songs for her that will hopefully be coming out soon. I’m also going to be playing drums for FRENCHIE DAVIS, who people know from American Idol and the first season of The Voice. If you’ve seen those shows, you know how good she is and if you haven’t, you’ll find out soon enough. On the other end of the spectrum, I played drums on the debut release by a cool folk band called THE BORROWER’S DEBT, which has a ‘60s Crosby, Stills & Nash vibe; great songs, killer harmonies, and even some banjo! I’m playing with brushes, but I still manage the occasional stick twirl! Then I just did a run of shows for a modern rock band from Australia called DIRTY LITTLE SECRET. We did the NAMM show out here in L.A. and we’ll be doing some festivals when they come back in June. There are more projects I’m playing on, but they don’t have names yet! I’m also diving headfirst back into songwriting, which is something I haven’t done since the MADISON PAIGE days and it’s been pretty rewarding. I’ve been spending some time in Nashville and am collaborating people who write for Keith Urban, among others. So that’s going to be a whole separate adventure on its own. Whew, that was a mouthful! I think I need to sit down now.
The next thing I know, I’m playing in front of 22,000 people with AVERY WATTS for the NBA halftime show in Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. But the real highlight was the next night, when Avery headlined the Roseland theater in Portland, which was the same theater I used to go to as a kid with my best friend, who was also a drummer, and we would watch bands and think how cool it would be to be on that stage one day. He passed away from cancer in 2000 and he left me his drum set, which is the same one I play to this day. So I got to play his drum set on that stage….and his parents were in the audience (as were mine). It just doesn’t get any better than that. One last highlight I can think of is that MADISON PAIGE did a reunion show at The Whiskey in Hollywood last year and it was a total blast getting to hang with all the guys again and play those songs. The band had broken up in 2008 and I was surprised by how many people came out. After playing other people’s music for the last few years, it felt very satisfying to play stuff I had written and got my gears turning a bit. It was a nice little punctuation mark at the end of the sentence.
How has the music industry and live music scene changed in the past ten years? How has this impacted on you and your music?
We have witnessed over the last 10 years the slow and painful death of the major label system. With the advances in home recording technology at the hands of Pro Tools, Logic, et all, you no longer need a major label to produce commercially viable album, which also means you no longer need a major recording studio either, as long as you have a good producer/engineer/mixer. With the advent of iTunes, CDBaby and Tunecore, you no longer need a major label to distribute your product, which also means you no longer need a brick-and-mortar store to carry your product, so say goodbye to your friendly neighborhood record store. With HD cameras and video editing software you no longer need a major label to make a music video and with YouTube you no longer need a major label to lobby MTV to play it (not that they play music videos anymore anyway). With Podcasts and other online press, you don’t need the editor of Rolling Stone to deem you worthy of coverage, nor do you have to wait a whole month to find out what your favorite artist is up to. The only thing a label has going for them these days is the deep pockets to get you onto terrestrial radio (though you can make it onto satellite and internet radio more easily) as well as other promotional opportunities, but those pockets aren’t nearly as deep as they were 10 years ago. And since nobody rides for free, in addition to offering a ridiculously low royalty rate, they’ll now take a portion of your publishing, merchandising and live performance income in what they call a 360 Deal (but I have other names for them). So the smart artist forgoes the entire shell game, gathers funds from fans, family, investors, etc and hires a team to perform all the functions that label would at a fraction of the cost and retains complete control over his career and his body of work.
In terms of the live music scene, clubs are trending away from live music and hiring DJs for dance nights instead, making it harder for bands to get booked, especially touring bands that are trying develop a following in an area. Bands can still sell their CDs and merch at shows, which is the only real reason for bands to have CDs anymore, but they need to be reasonable in their prices (and so does the venue in their mark-up). As for how all this impacts me, I think as an artist this is the most empowering point in the entire history of the music industry. You can make more money by selling less and probably be happier in the process. There are also a lot more licensing opportunities for music in things like video games, web series, cable TV, etc. But it all takes WAY more work than ever before so it has to be an all-hands-on-deck situation.
What is it that drives you as a musician?
Some will say it’s the desire to improve on your instrument, never being satisfied with what you’ve done, the quest for the perfect performance or song, etc. For me it’s none of those things. For me, it’s about this crazy, irrational and ill-advised burning need to get out what is inside of me. Like expressionism meets exorcism, without the split-pea soup. And as soon as it comes out, the burning starts building all over again. Whether it’s playing live in front of people or writing a song in my bedroom, there’s just this thing I have that I need to get out and when I am pursuing that, I am at my happiest and when I am doing anything other than that, it feels like I’m dying. So I guess the thing that motivates me as a musician is a preference for living. How’s that for melodrama?
How do you think the live music scene may look in five to ten years’ time given the fact that a lot of the 70’s and 80’s bands will have stopped touring by then?
Good question. The dirty little secret of the live music biz is that the so-called “heritage” acts (aka "rockers with walkers”) are keeping the concert business alive. People can say what they want about 70s and 80s “hair bands,” but the fact is that while the parents are going to reminisce about what was playing on the radio when they first made out with someone, their kids are showing up to the shows in Shout At The Devil shirts and painting their faces like Gene Simmons. The top rock tier of bands, like Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, KISS, Metallica, Aerosmith, etc. they are all selling arenas and even stadiums in some markets. The next tier of bands, like Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard, Journey, etc. are all doing solid business on their own, but do even better when they package together. People know that when they go to these shows, they will hear a night of hits and be able to sing along to every word. So what happens when these bands stop touring? I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine an arena full of people clamoring to hear “Pumped Up Kicks,” but I could be wrong. I wouldn’t want to be a concert promoter when that happens. Nor would I particularly want to be in the audience….
Message for your fans…
First, I’d like to congratulate you, Jason, and everyone @ GetReadyToRock.com on 10 years of getting the word out there about what’s happening in rock and to thank you for the generosity you’ve shown me over the years. The next 10 are just around the corner….
To the people reading this, I’m truly thankful to anyone who has followed me throughout the years wherever I have landed. The ride hasn’t always been smooth, but what’s a safari without the occasional wild boar to force the road less traveled? When people e-mail me or hit me up on Facebook to talk about a show that I played or a song I wrote, I humbled that people remember anything I’ve done and that it has in some small way affected their lives, even if it was just for 3 three and 45 seconds. Getting that reaction from people is what this is all about. I’d also like to thank Pro-Mark Drum Sticks and Evans Drum Heads for their unwavering support these last few years (buy their stuff and you’ll see why I won’t use anything else). If you like what I do, I encourage you to support the artists I play with. Keep checking up on me on Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, www.Richie-Rivera.com You never know where I’m going to end up next…and neither do I.