RICHARD X. HEYMAN
Incognito
(Turn-Up Records)

 

A 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 albums—as well as considering the music he’s 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 don’t think the political campaign or election had a direct effect on the writing of these songs. It was more subtle. I didn’t notice the effect until after the songs were done. There’s 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 you’re an optimist like me, you never lose hope." The 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

 




mwe3.com presents an interview with
RICHARD X. HEYMAN



mwe3: I was looking at that excellent hi-res version of that pic of you in the Incognito CD packaging crossing Delancey Street. I imagine Ratner’s 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 near?

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 CBGB’s 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 aren’t 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 don’t think the political campaign or election had a direct effect on the writing of these songs. It was more subtle. I didn’t notice the effect until after the songs were done. There’s 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 you’re an optimist like me, you never lose hope.

mwe3: What do you think happened with the 2016 election and what are your friends in the city saying? I don’t think there’s 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 doesn’t 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 Fool’s 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: I’m glad you enjoyed “A Fool’s Errand”! For me, it’s almost more 60’s influenced than 80’s. But then, I think a lot of the more melodic pop from the 80’s and 90’s was an homage to mid-to-late 60’s 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 Year’s Eve gig. Long story short, the woman was Nancy’s 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.

With 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 we’re 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.

To 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 you’ll be sorry, but deep down the singer knows he’s just blowing off steam, which is all you can do after you’ve been rejected. It’s happened a few times in my life and I suppose it’s the gift that keeps on giving because these lost love songs keep coming. As far as I know, there isn’t 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? (lol)

The 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? It’s 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 for Nancy.

mwe3: Is there a New Jersey rock sound? If so it’s 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 I’m 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 it’s in that vein. I’m doing all the vocals on that one. Though that’s Nancy singing the harmony on “So What” and “Gleam.”

mwe3: After giving “Her Garden Path” and “Lift” some good spins, I’m convinced you’re 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 50’s and early 60’s 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, it’s very subjective and the choices could be interchangeable.

mwe3: What’s 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, 1968!

Richard 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. There’s something very cohesive about that album. It just flows as a whole. The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night is pretty flawless. I love Help! – John Lennon’s 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 Trick.

mwe3: 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 influence?

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… Nice and a very effective kind of song.

Richard 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 troubled times?

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.

mwe3: 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? What’s 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!



 

 
   
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