Glenn Richards Interview

I had a chat with Glenn Richards, of Augie March fame, who is about to embark on an acoustic tour playing predominantly his solo music with Dan Luscombe from The Drones, to talk songwriting, the difficulties that face Australian musicians, books, rotting horse flesh, and the likelihood of an Augie March reunion.

So it’s been almost a year since the release of ‘Glimjack’, how do you feel about it currently?

Well it’s also been quite a long time since I’ve done any shows, so I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it that much. I’ve been writing for the next record and I’m waiting for this tour to happen, so I haven’t listened to it much and haven’t done all the things that you usually do because it’s been a kind of stilted release, there haven’t really been any singles from it or anything. I guess it’s become something of a hobby record in between Augie March stuff. I still feel good about the record, I think it’s a really fine record, it’s just not really keeping me busy.

You mentioned that there haven’t really been many singles from the album, and at fifteen songs it is quite a long album, is it meant as an antithesis to the singles music culture that we live in at the moment, what with iTunes and everything? I mean it’s a very complete record.

No, I never set out with that kind of intention. Every record I’ve made has kind of been intended to be a complete record and a listening experience, but there’s no way you can really convey that to anybody other than to force them to listen to it in that manner. But I think most musicians hope that that is the way people will listen to their records. Whether it’s a current trend in listening or not, I would have liked a couple more songs to be released and to be able to make clips and everything to actually get it out there, but it kind of seems like the label had no interest in that. So not much we can do about it.

You’re still playing with a band behind you, albeit a very different one. What are the main things you think differentiate your solo work from Augie March?

Look, the few shows that we have been able to do with a full band, just in terms of live dynamics, they’re all great players but in very different ways. I think it’s a much looser outfit, and deliberately so. The same with the actual recording of the record, the intent was not to over-rehearse it, and once we got a good energy down we went ahead and agreed that that was going to be it. It was more about fun I guess and trying to resuscitate our interest in live performance and that kind of worked, unfortunately it’s prohibitive to go out on the road with a full band if you’re paying everyone at the moment, so most of the shows we’ll be doing will be just me and Dan Luscombe acoustically. 

Has recording and touring the album been as reinvigorating as you hoped?

As I said I haven’t been able to get out there much. The times we did it were great fun, unfortunately I live in Hobart now so it’s a lot harder to hop in a van and I don’t have easy contact with everyone. I think what we’ve done has been a lot of fun and certainly worked, I just wish we could have done some more.

How has your songwriting process changed for your solo music?

Not at all really, it hasn’t changed at all. It’s not something that you simply flip a switch and decide that this is going to be with different musicians so I’m going to write differently, but I think probably what I let through was a little less organised and I guess I was less dictatorial about the way it was going to end up. In the past with a couple of songs I would have thought no that’s just not right for Augie, but with this group I let them through.

I know that you generally do play some Augie March songs at your live shows, how do you choose which ones?

Only when I’m doing it acoustically with Dan, we don’t play any Augie songs when it’s a full band. And when it’s acoustic you tend to do longer shows and it’s really just a matter of what Dan and I like to play on a given night. It’s fairly random, whichever ones we wanted to rehearse usually get through.

I read somewhere that you regret not taking a break from Augie March one record earlier, do you stand by that?

Yeah, I think it would have been a wise decision, and I think Augie probably thinks the same as well. I think it just seemed to take so long for various reasons to get our records out, a lot of the time the reasons were out of our control and when it came down to actually making a record it seemed like that was the rushed part of the process. That kind of worked in a negative way and I think that we’d probably had enough after the third full-length record for a little while and could have done with a year or two doing different things. So I think we left it a bit too late, but it’s no big deal, it’s worked in a nice way. Everyone at Augie is pretty keen to get back into it again.

‘Glimjack’ can be quite dark at times, for example am I correct in saying that ‘Turn On You’ discusses distilling alcohol from rotting horse flesh during the American Civil War?

Haha yeah. I think while we were touring American a couple of years back in the keyboard player related that fact to me, he was reading a book on the civil war and they called it ‘only joy’ which I thought was quite sad and poetic because they had so little to look forward to and were innovative enough to make alcohol from their dying horses which was horrific, but a nice image.

You mentioned an American tour there, from your personal experience how difficult is it to break into the American market as an Australian artist?

I think we had a pretty different scenario. We have been over there three or four times with different labels, the first one was with an indie, the second one was with quite a large label. I don’t think the touring experience is going to be any different though, it’s very hard, you don’t have a lot of money, you’re pretty much driving through the night for a couple of nights on end. I think obviously if you’re a Jet or a Wolfmother or something like that and there’s a massive machine behind you then it’s kind of a foregone conclusion, but if you genuinely try to crack it from the beginning then you really have to spend at least a year there, there’s not much point in just doing a month or two there and then just hoping to get back another year. Even though it may develop a fanbase it’s just unsustainable, you just lose too much money. Distance is the biggest problem there.

Is there any Australian music that has sparked your interest lately?

I haven’t really been listening to a lot of new music. When I was still in Melbourne, as a musician you tend to make friends with other musicians, and generally it tends to be people that you share some kind of taste with. I think a really good band that happens to be playing in Hobart this Saturday are the Eagle And The Worm, I think they’re really fine. I haven’t heard The Panics’ new one, but I’m a great admirer of that band. You know, obviously The Drones are a favourite of mine as well. There are a lot of good bands out there.

A lot of your songwriting seems to draw on literary influences, do you have a favourite book or author at the moment?

Not especially, no. I think if I’m reading a lot, regardless of what it is I’m reading then by osmosis you tend to get into the habit of being wordier and more ambitious with your lyrics. It’s never really been an issue of a particular write rwith me, it’s more I guess the ethic of reading and then eventually it will come out. So no, not at the moment anyway.

Are you planning to play any new songs on your upcoming tour?

That’s a good question. I’ve actually been writing quite a lot. Dan is in Europe at the moment and I think he gets back a couple of days before we start the tour, so if I do it will be on my own. I’ll have to figure out whether it’s worth it or not. I don’t know, if you haven’t played a song live before then you tend to bugger it up most times, not that anyone is going to know. The other aspect of it for me is when you do play new songs people tend to record them and put them on the net so you have a really unfinished version of a song out there that you’re hoping to release in a year or so, it can take a little away from it. We’ll see, if I’m really happy with some songs it might be okay.

I have to ask, is there any yearning to get the old band back together?

Augie? Yeah sure. That’s always kind of been the plan, to take a year or two off and if everybody is still keen including the label then we’ll make another record. That’s if we can actually fund it and we have a label, then we’ll do that. I think there’s still plenty of people out there keen to see Augie, even if we’re just playing the old stuff. It comes down to what you’re writing and whether everyone is in a good frame of mind, and it looks pretty optimistic at the moment.

You must have done so many of these interviews, is there one question that you always wished you were asked that you never have been?

Not especially. But just recently a couple of young guys from Hobart who have since moved to Melbourne have been putting together a doco and interviewing people who have had reasonable success but yet aren’t really on the mainstream radar, which includes plenty of quality songwriters that no-one outside of a specific population would have a clue who they are. Their questions tended to be things like how do you assess the history of Australian music and the difficulties that are inherent in an Australian band trying to crack the market in their own country, and views on certain bands and why some transcend it and some don’t and I guess why it tends to be the more critically acclaimed bands that don’t make it. Good questions along those lines, so that’s something to keep your eye on, I’m not sure when it’s going to be released.

And finally, you’ve had some pretty amazing moments in music, from the fandom of Johnny Depp to having some Augie March songs included on an iPod given to Barack Obama, is there any one moment that really stands out as your favourite?

Haha I don’t know. It would be hard not to say playing the tsunami benefit at the MCG. Playing in front of 50,000 odd is pretty memorable. But on a personal note I did a duet with John Cale in Colorado one time out of the blue and didn’t equip myself very well, but it’s still a bit of a kick for me because I’m a massive fan of that guy.

Great, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.

Thanks Lachy. See you later.

Glenn Richards is playing with Dan Luscombe at The Toff on the 25th of August, as a part of a national tour. For full tour dates see here. Tickets are on sale now.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: