prominent player on the early 21st Century music scene, NYC based
Richard X. Heyman strikes pop-rock gold with his 2017 solo
album Incognito. Richard Heyman reemerged in
the pop resurgence of the late 1980s and early '90s and has gone on
to release a range of rock-based pop solo albumsas well as considering
the music hes made, live and on record as the drummer / vocalist
with his band The
Doughboys, who he's known since
way back in the 1960's. While
he was still high school, Heyman with the Dougboys went on to open
concerts for The Beach Boys and The Buckinghams. A drummer and a versatile
multi-instrumentalist, Heyman has been compared to gifted pop giants
like McCartney, Rundgren and even cult-pop hero Emitt Rhodes. While
also echoing the spirits of rock legends like Dylan and Springsteen,
Heyman skillfully cooks up something uniquely all his own on the 14
track Incognito. It sounds like the 2016 U.S. presidential
election cycle might have influenced the music on Incognito, yet
as Richard explains in the following interview, "The
country seems to swing back and forth, like a pendulum. I dont
think the political campaign or election had a direct effect on the
writing of these songs. It was more subtle. I didnt notice the
effect until after the songs were done. Theres a certain tension
and a touch of darkness that crept into the material. As they say,
nothing is created in a vacuum. I was inhaling the air like everybody
else and when I exhaled, there were a bunch of new songs. If youre
an optimist like me, you never lose hope."
CD features informative liner notes by John Branning, and
while no lyrics are printed, they are available and are well worth
reading along with the music. Assisted by his wife and band mate Nancy
Leigh, on Incognito, Heyman rocks up a storm, playing most
of the instruments himself with the aid of musicians appearing on
the occasional bass, cello, horns, backing vocals and even trumpet.
Pop aficionados have been hip to Richard X. Heyman for years and the
2017 CD release of Incognito will please long time fans as
well as providing a solid introduction for the uninitiated. www.richardxheyman.com
presents an interview with
RICHARD X. HEYMAN
I was looking at that excellent hi-res version of that pic of you
in the Incognito CD packaging crossing Delancey Street. I imagine
Ratners to be right across the street! How has New York City
changed for you over the years? Where are you living in the city now?
Has it gotten easier or harder in the city? What subways do you live
Richard X. Heyman: One of the major changes in New York City
is the closing of so many music venues, starting with the Fillmore
East and the Anderson Theater, both in the East Village where we used
to live. I performed at CBGBs countless times, along with doing
gigs at places like The China Club, Trax, The Bottom Line, etc. Local
businesses come and go. Some survive the increasing rents, others
arent so lucky. NYC always had an edge to it, but that's part
of what makes it interesting. Like Frank said, "if I can make
it there, I can make it anywhere." Nancy and I live on the
Lower East Side, near the F train line.
mwe3: You were saying how the 2016 election influenced the
song cycle on Incognito. Does that kind of political upheaval
give you, as a songwriter, even more to write about?
Richard X. Heyman: The country seems to swing back and forth,
like a pendulum. I dont think the political campaign or election
had a direct effect on the writing of these songs. It was more subtle.
I didnt notice the effect until after the songs were done. Theres
a certain tension and a touch of darkness that crept into the material.
As they say, nothing is created in a vacuum. I was inhaling the air
like everybody else and when I exhaled, there were a bunch of new
songs. If youre an optimist like me, you never lose hope.
What do you think happened with the 2016 election and what are your
friends in the city saying? I dont think theres ever been
a precedent for such a kind of election. Was the title track Incognito
a direct statement on the presidential campaign last year? It seems
like persecution is on the upswing again.
Richard X. Heyman: All I know is it must be a drag to live
in a state where you know your vote doesnt count. That goes
for either side of the political spectrum. I wish more people would
cast their votes. The powers that be should make it easier to vote.
Spread it out over a few days, so people have a better opportunity
to get their votes in. Incognito deals with injustice
and its aftermath.
mwe3: A Fools Errand has a great indie rock
beat that takes me back to my original safety zone of the 1980s and
early 90s such a great time for new rock but you really nail
the song. Do you consider it one of your catchiest?
Richard X. Heyman: Im glad you enjoyed A Fools
Errand! For me, its almost more 60s influenced than
80s. But then, I think a lot of the more melodic pop from the
80s and 90s was an homage to mid-to-late 60s songwriting.
mwe3: You and Nancy make such a great team in the business
and music side. How did you meet Nancy originally and to what do you
attribute your successful partnership?
Richard X. Heyman: Nancy and I met down in Bethesda, Maryland
in 1976. I had just moved there and had placed my name and number
with a booking agent in hopes of securing a job as a drummer. The
first call I received was from a woman who needed someone to play
drums for a New Years Eve gig. Long story short, the woman was
Nancys mother Helen. Nancy and I met and hit it off big time.
Our mutual admiration for The Beatles was the capper. Nancy and I
have a lot of common interests and peculiar quirks. When we both love
something, say, like a movie, we will watch it over and over countless
times. She's the only person I know who shares that eccentricity.
We like a lot of the same music, including Broadway show tunes. We're
both big Yankees fans and are both vegetarians and animal lovers.
all that common ground, though, I think it's the differences that
make our relationship solid. Nancy reads fiction, novels and murder
mysteries non-stop. I tend to read non-fiction, history and biography,
but we often will cross over when it's highly recommended. These differences
keep things interesting. Here it is in 2017... you do the math and
were still going strong!
mwe3: Tell us about your label Turn-up Records. How many albums
have you released on Turn-Up and is the label also home to your albums
with The Doughboys and tell us about the upcoming Doughboys and how
do you compare your solo music with the Doughboys albums?
Richard X. Heyman: Turn-Up Records is a venture Nancy and I
started early on to release my music. We've released 11 albums on
Turn-Up. My first EP, Actual Size, and my first album Living
Room!! were released on our old indie label, N.R. World Records
Unlimited. Nancy basically runs the business side. She also engineers
all the recordings except for the drums. We do those at Eastside Sound
here in the city. The Doughboys have their own label called Ram Records,
and we're about to release our fifth album Front Street Rebels.
simplify it, The Doughboys are more raw garage rock than my music,
which is more on the melodic and folky side of rock. Though there
are a few crossovers where I get down and dirty and the boys go a
little poppy on your ass!
mwe3: Was And Then written from a third person
perspective? So many can relate to your lyrics. Did you have someone
in mind for the subject of the video or is it imaginary? The guitar
figure has a kind of surf-rock beat to it. How many guitars are you
tracking on And Then?
Richard X. Heyman: And Then is a kind of told-you-so
song. You left me and youll be sorry, but deep down the singer
knows hes just blowing off steam, which is all you can do after
youve been rejected. Its happened a few times in my life
and I suppose its the gift that keeps on giving because these
lost love songs keep coming. As far as I know, there isnt any
video for And Then. But if there was, I'd cast Christina
Hendricks, who played Joan on Mad Men. I can dream, can't I?
guitars on that track are a Paul Reed Smith Starla guitar
through a Fender Vibro Champ amp with the vibrato cranked playing
the squiggly riffs, a Waterstone "Bobby-O" model playing
electric rhythm, the Dan Electro baritone playing the solo, and the
Martin Shenandoah playing acoustic rhythm.
mwe3: Gleam is a song for Nancy? Its a great
country rock song too with some cool finger style guitar in the middle.
Did some musical style or genre affect your approach on Gleam?
Richard X. Heyman: I was actually thinking a little more about
the Kinks on Gleam. Songs like Dedicated Follower
Of Fashion, Dandy, Party Line
those kind of 2/4 ditties. But the lyrics were definitely written
mwe3: Is there a New Jersey rock sound? If so its probably
the same sound on Long Island! So What is a great New
Jersey type song with its Springsteen / Southside Johnny vibe. Is
that a fair description?
Richard X. Heyman: Well I would say I was thinking more of
The Rascals or maybe Wilson Pickett. And Im sure they - Bruce
and Southside - were channeling those artists when they wrote and
performed similar R&B-tinged tunes.
mwe3: In Our Best Interest has a kind of McCartney
touch. Are you sharing the vocals with Nancy? There are some great
harmonies in the song too.
Richard X. Heyman: The inspiration for In Our Best Interest
was asong called The Name of the Game by Badfinger which
certainly has a McCartney-esque flavor, so yeah its in that
vein. Im doing all the vocals on that one. Though thats
Nancy singing the harmony on So What and Gleam.
After giving Her Garden Path and Lift some
good spins, Im convinced youre a big fan of the original
Byrds and the Strawberry Alarm Clock! You must have been quite a music
collector 50 to 55 years ago. Can you remember the first 45 you bought
and the first album or albums you bought? Each of those tracks are
excellent by the way.
Richard X. Heyman: Thank you! Glad you picked up on those.
I have three older sisters, so they had a lot of 45s that I would
listen to on one of those box record players. The kind where you had
to put a coin on the arm to keep the needle from skipping. All kinds
of 50s and early 60s music Chuck Berry, Dion &
The Belmonts, The Everly Brothers, James Brown, some doo-wop vocal
groups, The Five Satins, The Drifters, The Orlons, The Exciters, The
Shirelles. My big favorite albums back then were James Brown Live
at The Apollo and The Ike & Tina Turner Revue. I was
really into The Ventures, too. I believe the first single I bought
for myself was She Loves You by The Beatles. My sister
Linda had already purchased I Want To Hold Your Hand in
late 1963. The first album would be Meet The Beatles. As far
as favorite album picks, its very subjective and the choices
could be interchangeable.
mwe3: Whats your favorite Byrds album and favorite Beatles
and Stones album? I just made Facebook friends with the founded of
Strawberry Alarm Clock Mark Stephen Weitz. My first real concert was
Strawberry Alarm Clock and Buffalo Springfield, and Bobby Goldsboro,
who were the opening acts for The Beach Boys in South Beach April,
X. Heyman: For The Byrds any one of their first five or
six records could be a fave, especially the first two with all those
beautiful Gene Clark songs. I do have a special fondness for Notorious
Byrd Brothers which is a bit later. Theres something very
cohesive about that album. It just flows as a whole. The Beatles A
Hard Days Night is pretty flawless. I love Help!
John Lennons voice is so strong. I have to go with
Revolver ultimately. She Said She Said may be my
favorite song of theirs. The Stones I love Between The Buttons.
Out Of Our Heads is great but then all those early albums have
a certain magic.
mwe3: Tell us what guitars you used on Incognito? Did
you dedicate Miss Shenandoah Martin to one of your guitars?
Do you like to layer guitars in a song, both electric and acoustics
or are they separate fretboard domains to you so to speak? What are
your favorite strings for the Martin and your electrics? Do you have
a guitar endorsement and how about your favorite amps to use?
Richard X. Heyman: The main electric guitars are a PRS Starla,
a Fender Telecaster, a Rickenbacker 360 12-string, a Waterstone Bobby-O
and a Dan Electro baritone. They're all played through a Fender Vibro
Champ amp that goes into a Summit Pre Amp Compressor. "Miss Shenandoah
Martin" is obviously about my Martin Shenandoah that I've had
for 35 years. I used D'Addario mediums on the acoustic and D'Addario
11's on the 6-string electrics. I don't remember what's on the Rick
- I haven't changed them in years! All guitars are subjected to taste,
but you can't go wrong with a good Martin. As far as layering guitars,
it all depends on the song and the production. I often will double
the exact part so they can be spread left and right in the stereo
field. I have an endorsement with Waterstone Guitars out of Nashville,
who also make great basses, most notably for Tom Peterson of Cheap
Is broken love and ended relationships a never-ending source of material
for songwriters? Do you consider All
You Can Do to
be a sad song of sorts?
Richard X. Heyman: "All You Can Do" is about regret
tinged with bitterness. It seems, at least for me, that once you've
been dumped in a relationship, that memory can be harnessed into a
song years later, even decades. It's the music itself that tells me
what the song wants to say, so the melody and chord progression often
dictate whether it's a happy-go-lucky tune or a melancholy lament.
mwe3: Is Terry Two-Timer is another broken love
song? This track has a better sense of humor though. Is Terry
Two-Timer another track with a Jersey rock kind of Springsteen
Richard X. Heyman: "Terry Two Timer" is based on
a guitar riff over the one and four chords. Once I got to the five
chord, the title came to me. Then it was a matter of filling in the
why and how she got that moniker. I would say the influence was mostly
Little Richard's "Lucille" and maybe a little "Birthday"
by The Beatles.
mwe3: These Troubled Times gets back to what you
do best. Is that one of the newer Icognito tracks? Is that
part where the song character complaining about his shoes and then
sees the man with no feet a plea to stick it out and get through these
troubled times? Cool little piano solo near the end
a very effective kind of song.
X. Heyman: "These Troubled Times" is a combination of
two songs. The beginning I wrote several years ago but it needed another
part. The second section I came up with recently, so I stuck the original
song in front, like an old-timey introduction, or what the American
Songbook composers used to call the verse. The Beatles carried on
the tradition with "Do You Want To Know a Secret" and "If
I Fell." The song basically deals with the fact that no matter
how dire things get, there are others who have it worse, so just stay
positive and work through whatever is confronting you.
mwe3: Is Everybody Get Wise another newer song?
Is this song kind of the flip side of These Troubled Times
only taking a more proactive stance? How can we get wise in these
Richard X. Heyman: "Everybody Get Wise" is a new
song. It's about the proliferation of cameras in our society and how
we the public can keep tabs on the people who are supposedly protecting
us. Unfortunately it works both ways, as we have relinquished our
privacy via modern technology. Hopefully the ubiquity of our digital
devices can keep things on a level playing field. Maybe.
So now with Incognito out what other plans are you taking on
for the second half of 2017 and how do you plan on getting wise to
get out of these troubled times? Whats the secret to doing that?
Richard X. Heyman: I am going into Eastside Sound soon to lay
down drum tracks for my next album. It's going to focus on mostly
raw and rockin' material. The working title is "Between Pop and
a Hard Place." As far as the future is concerned, I live by the
old adage, life is short, and the immortal words of the late great
Warren Zevon - enjoy every sandwich! To that, I can only add, it's
easier to live it up than to live it down!