In 1980, Richard Heyman wrote and released one of the catchiest power-pop A-side’s ever with, “Vacation, ” and then fell into the hardships of the endless cycle of recording demos, trying to get a record deal and never getting anywhere. In the late 80’s, Heyman decided to record himself at a friend’s apartment and the rest is history. Ever since this, Heyman has been steadily writing, recording and releasing music “on his own terms.” Currently, Heyman is busier than ever with his solo work and playing drums with The Doughboys, the late ‘60’s garage rock band that he was an original member of, that has been revitalized in recent years.
Interview by Ed Stuart
Who’s answering the questions?
Richard X. Heyman
Where is the band from?
Originally from Plainfield, New Jersey, now living in NYC.
When you play live do you have a revolving group of musicians or use the same group?
I rarely play out live, but when I do, I call on people I've gigged with in the past. My wife Nancy is a great bassist and I use my nephew Russ Kaplan on keyboards. We also frequently ask our long-time guitarist Andy Resnick and drummer Kurt Reil to play with us.
Are you familiar with the Shake Some Action Compilations? Your song “Vacation” is on volume 4.
I was not aware of that. I am now!
The “Vacation” b/w “Takin’ My Chances” single was released in 1980, but there was a six-year wait until the Actual Size EP was released. What was going on in those six years?
I was playing the club circuit in New York City and other east coast cities. I performed many times at CBGB and other venues here, most of them long gone. I couldn't afford to record in a proper studio yet, and I didn't have it together enough to release my home recordings. So mainly I was writing songs, doing demos, and trying to get a record deal.
Why did you originally choose to record by yourself in the late 80’s in your living room?
I started recording at our friend Nick DiFabbio's apartment, whose tape deck was set up in his living room. He had a Tascam 8-track recorder and a vintage Neuman microphone. That's where I recorded “Actual Size” and “Living Room!!” I performed mostly by myself because we could only lay down one instrument at a time.
On your website, there is a quote that states “The technology today allows independent artists to record at home or wherever they want and still achieve a high level of sonic quality. I am so grateful for that. On one level, I feel bad that many fine studios have gone under and the whole seismic shift in the music business but…hey you can’t hold back or deny the times.” Since your first EP, Actual Size, you have been recording in a home studio, but the drums for X were recorded in a recording studio. What is the difference for you between the home recording and studio experience?
I always record the drums in a studio because at home I still can only record one track at a time and don't have the equipment, mics, inputs, etc. to record a full drum kit. So I go to a studio here in New York or to Kurt Reil's studio in New Jersey, where they can devote a track to each drum plus overhead and room mics, which takes about ten tracks. Once the drums are done, we load the tracks into our home studio computer and record everything else (guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals, percussion, etc.) in the privacy of our bedroom. The big difference, other than the equipment and size of the space, is the studio charges an hourly rate so I have to be cognizant of the time elapsing, whereas at home, it's free!
Do you think music can still be a vital force in such a disposable age?
I hope so. I think it depends on the listener. I'm sure there are many people who are still emotionally moved by music. I know I am, when I hear something really good. I've heard songs while driving in my car that have affected me so much I've had to pull over to the side of the road to pull myself together.
50 years ago people used to buy music and get their water for free, now people pay for water and get their music for free. Considering your lengthy career in music how do you think this affects music and bands in any way?
Computers and digital technology have changed the way music is recorded and listened to. The old adage "the cat's out of the bag" applies. The print media, recording industry, film industry and other businesses are greatly - and at this stage usually adversely - affected. I don't know how it will play out in the future. I hope musicians will be able to be compensated for their work, but we are in a transformative era where people are trying to sort out what's fair. So you still have musicians that lived through the pre-digital age and are trying to adjust to the fact that a large percentage of their effort can be downloaded for free and that other income streams will have to be cultivated.
In the bio on your website, there is a part I wanted to ask you about. It states, “Recording for a corporate label [Sire] helped to win Richard a wider audience and a higher media profile. But it also proved to be a frustrating experience, and it wasn’t long before he was back in indie territory, making and releasing his music on his own terms.” What was so frustrating about recording for Sire? Why did that experience make you want to just release your music on your own terms?
The label, which was handled by Warner Bros., didn't put much effort into promoting my album. The record got a lot of favorable press, but was overshadowed by other Warner Bros. releases that came out at the same time by their heavy hitters. It's definitely liberating to be able to completely in control of the creative process, like I am as an independent artist, and without the studio clock ticking away the dollars. Now if I record something that I consider to not be up to scratch, I just redo it, without worrying about time or money.
In recent years, you have been very busy between writing, recording and releasing LP’s for both yourself and The Doughboys. How have you been managing the time to be active in both? How exciting is this?
The Doughboys record very quickly. We track the whole band live, including the lead vocals. So that project doesn't interfere with my solo work time-wise. I can record at home whenever I have a new idea. It is exciting doing both my solo career and The Doughboys because the music is so different between the two. The Doughboys are more raw and raucous, while my stuff leans toward the melodic pop side.
How was it to have your song “Why Can't She See Me?” chosen as #3 Coolest Song in the World on Little Steven's Underground Garage Sirius XM channel for 2010?
It was very gratifying to have "Why Can't She See Me?" chosen as #3 Coolest Song In The World, especially because it was voted for by the fans and listeners of Little Steven's Underground Garage.
What are your favorite power-pop LP’s or singles?
I think The Who's first LP "My Generation" is the greatest power-pop album. Though I don't like to use that term, mainly because it's been watered down and wrongly used to describe a lot of music that is neither powerful or "pop"ular.
Where can people hear your music?
Amazon, com, iTunes, www.richardxheyman.com, CD Baby -- all the usual outlets.
What’s next for Richard X. Heyman?I'm writing new material for the next Doughboys album as well as songs for my upcoming LP. I do a lot of animal rescue as well as tending to the wildlife in my neighborhood.
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