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Richard Duguay leads us into temptation

Richard Duguay is a singer/songwriter and guitarist who has been in the Canadian punk bands Lowlife and Personality Crisis.  He also played with Duff McKagan in the 90’s as part of his touring band.  He has also collaborated with the Pagans and the Dogs as a producer and engineer as well as playing guitar and bass. Currently, Richard is playing guitar in the Spent Idols and more importantly, has just released a solo album called “Lead Us to Temptation” that is good ol’ dirty, sleazy, Johnny Thunders-esque rock n’ roll.  I checked in with Richard on a video chat at his home in Los Angeles.

Erin: Hi Richard!  How are you?

Richard: I’m doing all right.  How are you doing?

Erin: I’m OK.  I apologise for not having any make up on and looking a bit blah.  I have been up since 4 am.

Richard: I shaved just for the interview!

Erin: Why thank you! So, I saw you played with the Spent Idols last week at Fitzgerald’s in Huntington Beach.  How was that?

Richard: It went OK.  We are playing in San Diego Saturday with CH3 and Glittertrash.  It’s gonna be a great show hopefully.

Erin: I know you just realised your new solo album, “Lead Us To Temptation,” on February 5th, which I really like especially “”Take the Money.”  How did this album come to be?

Richard: A lifetime of pain, heartache and misery.  I’m kidding!  Sort of.  Since I got sober, I’ve been learning how to record and all that sort of stuff and I have so many songs that are backlogged and whatnot.  It just always seemed that I just wanted to spend my time just writing and recording.  I vowed to myself at the end of 2017, actually it started when Mike (Hudson , the singer of the Pagans,) died. Me and Johnny Witmer (The Crazy Squeeze and the Stitches,) drove out the night he died but we got stuck in traffic and he was not going to last long and we got there like fucking 15 minutes too late; he had already passed away.  So, it was obviously a pretty heavy evening.  The next day I had remembered somehow that we had done a version of “Runaway”, the Del Shannon song and I just wanted to get it done and put it out and musically speaking, close the door on that sort of thing.  I got it together pretty quick and I found a reasonable CD replicating place, within a week and a half and put out 6 songs.  Did you ever hear it?

Erin: Yes I did.

Richard: So I just realised I was being an idiot, not being lazy because I’m not lazy, I’m obsessive when I’m recording and I’m not thinking about anything else, which is probably a good thing!  Basically, I have this backlog with 3 full albums worth of stuff ready to go and I just decided this year, 2018, I want to put out a CD, like an EP pretty much.  I don’t think people really wanna listen to albums anymore, with the attention span being as limited as it is.

Erin: Yeeeahhh, I would kind of have to agree with that because I’ve noticed more and more bands are putting out more EP’s versus LP’s and I’m like, what the heck?

Richard: Did you actually think, “what the heck” or something else?

Erin: It is more like me to say “what the fuck?” I’m not sure what just happened there!

Richard: As an artist, you want people to listen to it. There was a point when the Stones were releasing 14-15 songs on a CD, I mean not like I’ve bought a new Stones record in a long time, but I don’t know too many people who are going to sit there for an hour listening to a whole album, you know?  With social media being what it is, it’s hard to say, for lack of a better term, to stay at the top of people’s newsfeeds if you aren’t ALWAYS doing something or pushing something.  The way I picked the songs for the new album was that most of them were videos that my friend R.D. Cane had shot.  Some of the videos have been up on Facebook and YouTube for a while but unavailable unless you went to a link and sometimes those things have a way of getting buried at some point.  I tried to have a thread where they obviously all kind of fit together and flow.  I was going to put “Tainted Love” on it but it didn’t really fit with the vibe.  It was a bit poppier.  So yeah, that was that.  I’m horrible at interviews.

Erin: That’s all right!

Richard: We could talk for hours easily, but interviews I get side-tracked sometimes.

Erin: It’s perfect because you go off on one tangent then another and it just makes it all that more interesting!

Richard: MAY-be…

Erin: How old were you when you decided music was your calling?

Richard: Oh fuck, I was listening to music pretty young and one of my cousins was 2,3,4 years older than me and we used to buy a lot of records.  Remember those things, records?

Erin: Yes, which I love!

Richard: So I would go over to his place and he would play us all this stuff like the Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  He would then get bored and move onto his next musical thing and he would sell me his records for cheap.  Eventually, probably about 1974, my dad was playing baseball and one of his teammates was selling musical lessons.  So I bugged my dad to get him to come over and he came over and was going to give me an aptitude test.  Of course I wanted to play guitar, so he shows up with an accordion.

Erin: (Laughing hysterically at the mental image,) NO WAY!!!!

Richard: YES.  My big first musical moment was doing an aptitude test on an accordion which I failed miserably of course.  That was that!  I guess then it was around 1976-1977 when we started listening to punk rock.  Insert random tangent here: The Sex Pistols were called like the first boy band like manufactured and maybe it is or maybe it isn’t, I don’t really fucking care, but what it did was give me the OK to just buy a cheap guitar and a cheap amp and for my friend a cheap set of drums and we just started playing punk rock.  To me, no matter what happens after that, to me, that was what punk rock was.  What I got out of it was the freedom that it’s OK to suck and to learn as you go versus being in your bedroom and learning to play Yes or Genesis.  Probably around 1972 I had heard “Kick Out the Jams”.  A friend of mine had a cousin who had it on 8-track. We just listened to it going, “holy shit!”  It was way different but it was just so fucking good.  Another friend of mine who turned out to be the first gay guy I ever met which of course we didn’t know at the time,  his brother had “Too Much Too Soon,” (the New York Dolls second studio album,) which must’ve been in 1974 and I remember trying to buy it off him and that didn’t happen.  And it all started to move into my unconsciousness.  And believe me, there was plenty of unconsciousness at that point in my life.  As soon as in the 60’s I wanted to be a musician, but the mentality at least for me back then, was that only truly gifted people were able to do so.  It’s not like today where I see what everyone has for lunch within 2 seconds, where back then it was all about the mystique and waiting for Rock Scene or Creem and all those music magazines to see who was doing what and who was making records and then later on NME and Melody Maker.  To me, that was the greatest gift of punk rock was tearing down that whole mystery and mystique thing.  I like to reference this Brian James quote which I think was from Sniffin’ Glue fanzine, there was this awesome picture of him photocopied as it was, and the quote under that was, “Nobody playing in a band is worthless.”  I’ve learned that that is not necessarily true but generally speaking.  Those certain things just made it OK to suck and just do what you wanted to do, learn as you go in front of people and I’m not sure if that answered the question.

Erin: Of course it answered the question!  I was speaking with a friend of mine a few days ago, that I’m old enough to remember before the internet came out, how I used to ride my bike to the local record store in Huntington Beach and comb through the magazines or get a ride to Tower to look for the import magazines to see who was playing with who or releasing what and you had to kind of hunt to find new bands or find what you liked or were looking for and I was telling my friend over coffee, there just isn’t that HUNT anymore for me.  Because all you have to do is go on Spotify and it’s all right there with suggestions for other bands that are like whatever it is you’re listening to and what not.  I was telling her that it really bums me out because I used to love being able to find like that “hidden gem” and turn all your friends on and it was like a clubhouse secret.

Richard: I feel exactly the same way.  I used to work as a dishwasher when I was a kid and every payday we would go downtown-take the bus, go to the record stores and look for the “hidden gems” and you would buy it and then on the bus ride home, you would open up the record and just memorise and learn everything about the inner sleeve and album and by the time you got home, there was even more of a draw or whatever you want to call it to it.  I use the term, “we used to be invested in music.”   Nowadays with Spotify and all these other things, there’s nothing invested.   There’s no part of you that really has anything to hold onto.  Music is kind of disposable now.  When I went up to Canada a few weeks ago, I make guarantees and all that and that’s awesome, but the money I come home with is all merchandise sales.  I feel more like a t-shirt salesman now!  You can’t at least at this point, download a t-shirt.  It is what it is.  The whole thing with the digital world and the internet and technology is amazing in a lot of ways.  The good news is you can make a record in your bedroom.  The bad news is that everyone is making a record in their bedroom!  Being my age, I don’t really have any aspirations or expectations other than wanting just to play music.  CD’s are even kind of obsolete at this point, but I want to put out CD’s because it’s my tangible legacy, for lack of a better word.

Erin: Well, it’s something that you can hold onto; it’s a physical thing you can see and recognise.  It’s cheaper to have the CD’s made than vinyl and whether or not a CD or record comes with a download code, there are still people that want something physical and when the artist takes the time to do cool liner notes or put photos in there or whatever, that’s the first thing I always look for-the liner notes!  What cool bit of info has the artist hidden in here for me to decipher or discover?  Basically, you still have something to hang onto and explore.  The music and the liner notes become intertangled in your mind and there’s your experience.  I mean, everyone has their own individual experience, but it’s STILL an experience of some sort.  Whereas, I’m looking up an album on Spotify, which I do daily, there’s no “experience” for me.

Richard: I think the “beginning of the end” in hindsight was the whole music video thing, like MTV.  I, in a wacky kind of sense, stopped creating my own imagery for these songs because you were being forced fed what to kind of see.  And there were some great videos!  I always go back to the Van Halen video, “Right Now” which didn’t feature the band at all; it was all about images and news clips and clever one line sort of commentary and I thought, THAT’S what videos should be more of!  It wasn’t the typical babe on the beach.  Don’t get me wrong; I love ZZ Top’s babe videos, but it was all about hot chicks, hot cars and guitars!   I don’t know if it’s called the dumbing down of the generational whatever.

Erin: I call it the “dumbing down of society.”

Richard: Yeah, in a bigger sense, absolutely.  My daughter is in grade 4 and every parent and every generation before us, our parents were “so outdated” and of course that’s gonna be the way it is.  I was 47 when we had my daughter and I went to school a LONG fucking time ago and it’s amazing how different each subsequent generation is and I get it.  I really try and think of my experience but I also try and think of it in a sense now of how kids that are 13, 14, 15 looking at music.  Every generation wants their own thing of course and that’s only fair.  I kind of wish there was just a bit more imagination going on.

Erin: Or substance!

Richard: Exactly.  Substance is the better word for it.

Erin: Like you said, every generation wants and has its own thing.  I just don’t think the whole DJ and voice overdub thing is of any creativity or substance.  I haven’t even watched MTV in YEARS.  Like literally, at least 10 years because, who is on it that I would even want to see?

Richard: There’s no music on it anymore.

Erin: Isn’t it all reality shows and shit? It really just makes me sad that the majority of young people won’t get to experience that whole “hunt” thing or get invested emotionally in something the same way as previous generations have been able to do.  Like you said, it’s so disposable.  It is what it is!  Guess we are the outdated fuddy-duddies now!  Get off my lawn!

Richard: My daughter has a new video coming out and we write and record and stuff like that and you know, the whole thing is just so manufactured and that’s my biggest issue with dare I say it, pop music these days.  It’s all focus groups and marketing and it probably was back in our day to a lesser extent.  What do I know?  I’m old!  I can’t see it through a kids eyes.  I’m jaded and cynical.  I’m kind of old school when it comes to parenting.  I learned how to parent from my parent’s lack of good parenting; I’ll put it that way.  You do your best and they take what they take out of it.  Doesn’t matter what you do-if you do it to the best of your ability, what else can you do?

Erin: I know you originally played bass and then you switched over to guitar in Personality Crisis.  Why did you choose bass and guitar?

Richard: In the early, early days I was playing guitar and I use the term “playing guitar” loosely!  I actually have cassettes of early Lowlife sessions playing in my friend’s basement.  His mom used to brew us tea and bring us biscuits during breaks!  I asked to switch to bass because we got a guitar player who could actually PLAY.  Then I was playing bass and I sucked and just kept playing til I got better.  Then after Lowlife, I played in a few other bands in Winnipeg.  When Personality Crisis formed, fuck, in early 81’ I think? I was playing bass and played maybe 8 months then we were on tour in Vancouver, we broke up and when I got home to Winnipeg, I sold the bass and bought a guitar, which is the same guitar I have still! (Pans camera to show me the almighty guitar that has been through it all!) Through thick and thin!  I’ve had this guitar for 38 years!  I had always played a bit of guitar but then I really started to try and get better and whatnot.  There were 2 guitarists in Personality Crisis and one came off tour and quit, so they got me to play second guitar. I was back to doing that with them.  But I never stopped playing bass which has come in handy recording records and whatnot.

Erin: Do you play any other instruments?  What about drums?

Richard: I kind of sort of sing  (We both laugh) I program the drum tracks.  I’ll create those just so I can work and then for the most part I will take it into a studio and get a real drummer to play after, which is the ass end way of doing things, but it works for me.  As I’m writing, I just write as I go so it’s not like I sit and write a 3-4 minute song and record it.  I start and just keep going till I’m finished.  There’s one song on the new record where I wrote drums and it works really well so I didn’t bother getting a real drummer.

Erin: Which song?

Richard: Sundown’s and Shadows.

Erin: I did hear that one.  I couldn’t recognise that it was a programmed drum track!

Richard: I find that if it’s not a real fast song, they sound fine. Mostly the issue I’ve found and it’s probably through my lack of trying to work it out, is the hi-hats and the symbols sound like shit and the drums sound fine.  But if the tempo allows for it, they sound fine.  With that song, the FEEL of it, to me anyway, it works really well with how the song came about.  In some songs the drum programs detract from the overall song sound, where in that song I didn’t think it did.  It’s kind of got a “dirt” feel to it and I didn’t want to fuck with it and I asked a few drummers as well and they said no, it sounds great.  So I figured fuck it, I’ll leave it!  It’s a weird way to record where I just kind of start with either a melody or a guitar part or whatever and then just build it, but it’s kind of just the way I’ve learned how to do it myself.  I don’t think, at least I HOPE, that the songs don’t sound like one guy doing everything.

Erin: No, they don’t!  I didn’t even know you played bass as well until this new album.  You played bass on the majority of the songs on the new album?

Richard: Oh, all of them.

Erin: It doesn’t sound like a one-man-band or anything.  I figured you wrote it and then had studio musicians playing on it.  I didn’t know it was all you!

Richard: I’ve played lots of bass in my life and I don’t play bass like a guitar player usually plays bass, which is important because it’s a completely different mentality playing bass than it is playing guitar.  The songs aren’t all 8 note Dee Dee Ramone things which, don’t get me wrong, I love Dee Dee Ramone for sure, but my songs are not like that.  I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s where bass was a very prominent part.  In the last couple of decades maybe it’s become more of a foundation sonic thing versus an actual thing where it adds melody.  Growing up listening to Motown, like James Jamerson and even Alice Cooper’s bass player Dennis Dunaway, played very inventive things that were integral to the songs just as much as the guitar parts or horns or whatever it may be.  Dave Alexander from the Stooges-he played GREAT fucking bass lines like on “Funhouse.”  That stuff is amazing.

Erin: Out of guitar or bass, which one do you prefer playing?  I’m gonna guess guitar?

Richard: No! I love playing bass!  I love doing both for different reasons.  I mean, I do play some keyboards which I have no business doing it, but I do it anyway!

Erin: Why do you say that?

Richard: Because I don’t know how to play!  I can hear things in my head, like a keyboard.  Being kind of old school, the digital recording thing is pretty amazing in terms of what you can do.  Whatever I hear, I can pretty much do it.  It’s just a matter of generally just letting the song take you wherever it wants to go and you have to be its willing servant, you know?  To not get in the way of the song.

Erin: To let it evolve how it’s naturally supposed to happen.  Wayne (my husband,) also constructs songs on keyboard and piano as well as using drum tracks and I’ll hear him tinkering away and think “wow”!  Some of these music programs sound absolutely amazing and you can’t always tell a real orchestra from a digitally synthesised one!  I always thought of computer drum tracks as that cheesy 80’s synth stuff!

Richard: I use the program Logic and it’s an infinite kind of thing. You can get absolutely any sound you want. Then you can manipulate them again and get something else completely different.  It is pretty phenomenal in that respect.  Even using guitar modelling versus miking an amp-I couldn’t get those sounds otherwise.  Honestly, we’re not doing symphonies.  This is rock n’ roll.  If it sounds good, it is regardless of how you get there!

Erin: This is where I think digital technology is amazing and fantastic.  When it opens up so many doors and possibilities!

Richard: That and being able to have a video chat 6,000 miles apart!

Erin: Right? So, who are your influences?  I know some of them!

Richard: At the risk of sounding like every other guitar player my age, obviously Johnny Thunders, Keith Richards, Ace Frehley-I love Kiss!  Joe Perry, like early Aerosmith stuff.  All the cool, yes I’m vapid and empty inside haha, people that just looked so fucking cool doing what they did-Fred “Sonic” Smith, maybe I spent too much time trying to chase that whole world (laughing,) or maybe not.  There’s just so many cool musicians, going down the drug rabbit hole here, and as dumb as that probably makes me sound, to me and a million other boys of that time, to me, it’s what defines rock n’ roll.  I mean, Chuck Berry of course.  We all have to start somewhere and hopefully, you take it someplace else then they did.  It’s pretty hard to reinvent the wheel after 50-60 years of rock n’ roll!  You put your own stamp on it one way or the other.  That’s all Keith Richards did!  He took Chuck Berry literally and fucking wrote hundreds of songs.

Erin: Well, what influences you today?  Like this last album, what influenced you to write it?

Richard: It’s funny.  I don’t think in those terms anymore.  Just for instance, again the song “Sundown’s and Shadows,” that and “Take the Money” are probably the best songs I’ve ever written, I was taking the dog to the dog park about 2 years ago in the morning and the line, “sheets of pain rain down from the jukebox,” has good imagery!  Anyway, that’s how that song started, whatever triggered that.  So the time from when I left the house, drove to the dog park and got home, I had already written the lyrics and the melody in my head for the chorus.  You just have to be open enough to allow it to come to fruition.  What influenced me?  Fuck, 55 years of walking this earth.  Everything that I think of now is influenced by everything I’ve seen and done my whole life.  Sometimes it may be a kind of autobiographical look back; sometimes it’s just a cool guitar riff.  “I Gotta Move,” the first track off the record, I just started playing a guitar riff, the intro riff and said, “ok, that sounds like a million things,” but I don’t overtly or consciously have any influence anymore, other than everything I’ve ever done, seen and heard, you know experience-that is a better word.

Erin: You just let it come to you and then you’re able to let it evolve and then shape it.

Richard: I had brain surgery in 2000, what is that? 18 years ago?  Pretty much every day since has been kind of a blessing, in that, when the doctor’s come to you in your room and go, “you’re probably not going to make it,” not like that’s a defining point of my life, although one could see it that way I guess, but who knows?  I still write and record because it’s who I am and what I do and I don’t even really listen to a lot of music anymore.  The goal is always to write a good fucking song.  Which happens every 20 songs maybe?  (Laughing.)

Erin: Are you going to be touring behind this album?  I know you did the shows in Canada in February; do you have other shows coming up?

Richard: I have absolutely nothing planned.  Not having a real band, like a touring band, I’m like the Chuck Berry of punk, where I fly to different cities and play with different people all the time.  Which is awesome because it keeps everything fresh and I don’t get a chance to become too lazy or stagnant.  With that said, I don’t get a chance to play the songs I always want to play because I generally defer to the easier songs so it’s easier for everybody playing with me.   It’s kind of frustrating sometimes.  I’ve never played “Sundance and Shadows” live.  I had planned to do another EP late spring and then tour.  My initial goal was to tour all over Canada with one group and it kind of didn’t work out, so it’s kind of put that on the back burner.  I want to start playing different cities; I can play Winnipeg and Vancouver and Toronto and Los Angeles of course but I want to play Houston and Calgary and it’s hard because I don’t know the right people to put together a band in those places.  So, I’m trying to figure out.  I would love to do a longer tour. The way it is now, I have to spend at least 4-5 days in each city to rehearse with the band and it’s great as a sort of holiday thing, but I’d rather play shows 3-4 nights a week for 3-4 weeks and play all of Canada if possible.  There’s not a shit ton of money to be earned as I’m sure you know, so it’s limiting in that respect.  I can’t fly people around.  I’m thinking of a way to do it differently this summer or late spring.

Erin: You said you’ve got another show coming up with Spent Idols in San Diego.  Are you going to be doing more shows with them?

Richard: We’ve got the show with the Weirdos in San Diego in May and then with Glittertrash in April at the Redwood in Los Angeles.

Erin: Thank you so much Richard for taking the time out to speak with me.  Hope to see you soon!

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