Hi Nick, how are you? Well I'm interested in many things from your long career. Let's start at the beginning. You formed a band called Serpent. You released 7" vinyl in 1978. What do you remember from those years?
Hi Klemen I am functioning in norml parameters. Serpent was a hard rock power trio. Marshall and Sunn stacks and oversize drums. We all came out of other local bands from the early 70s. Richie Hall on guitar and vocals, Rick Browning on drums and I played bass and backing vocals and wrote most of the songs. Richie had the Hendrix thing down, we did a killer version of Voodoo Childe( Slight Return). We were from the Hendrix, Blue Cheer, Dust, Blue Oyster Cult, Captain Beyond, Ursa Major, Cactus era. By the time Serpent was at full black beauty speed, punk and new wave was thrown into the mix, Ramones, Sex Pistols, with UFO, Judas Priest, Cheap Trick, AC-DC. Just a big mess really, mixed in with our original songs. But we didn't sound like anyone else. We just had that background that came out as fast loud hard rock. I would say if that band had stayed the course of time we might be doing shows with Motorhead.
The 7" vinyl was my first studio experience. We recorded 4 songs live in the studio and released 500 copies. We had a manager who was ready to book a local and regional tour but Rick quit to get married and Richie and I couldn't find anyone in our small town in eastern Kentucky who could come close in the intensity needed so the band ceased to exist.
XY19 was your next project. You went more into punk waters. In 1980 you released a cassette.
I began jamming with various friends after Serpent. There were two versions of XY19 the first one leaned more into the space rock prog direction but with a totally punk attitude with Jud Slutz on vocals and Thomas Jones on drums. I eventually found myself in Lexington Kentucky where the band that was to become the stable line up rented a house. We just rocked it full volume when ever we could. It was me on guitar and screaming, Dan Williams on Moog and Arp synthesizers and David Thompson on Drums. This was nothing more than two years of psychedelics to excess. We did psychic experiments and tripped out stuff like pointing our amps and PA system up with speakers facing the sky to send our music to alien civilizations in other galaxies. I guess those sound waves are still traveling through space somewhere. We did make a cassette that was sent as demos and passed out at shows but not much came from it. Devo, the Residents, Gong, Utopia, Red Noise, Buzzcocks were faves. Eventually the pace of it all just reached an end point.
Later you played with some other punk bands. Among them were The Infamous Dragons and Hungry Young Men. Around 1984 you were in pretty well known band called The Attitude. How do you remember those days, Nick?
I moved to Columbus Ohio in 1980 and lived in my van until I could get a two room apartment, with only my guitar, amp, stereo and albums, a bed mattress, one cup, plate, fork, spoon, knife, bowl, some clothes and a $20 cassette recorder. It was a Zen decision and shedding of all but the most essential worldly attachments. I worked part time in a restaurant and did some studio work as bass guitar on a few projects. After Serpent and XY19 I just needed to stop and recharge-reconnect with so called reality. I spent a year like that. Instead of TV, I wrote about 50 songs sort of punk power pop rock style. After about a year of chill out, my friend Mike Welker who I met at a UFO concert agreed to play bass, We were both T Rex freaks, we got a drummer named Greg and the Infamous Dragons were born. Just local house parties and small clubs. Mostly testing the new songs.
I moved to Cleveland Ohio in 1981 and it was definitely rockin'. Great local scene. I met Mark Addison after his band The Generators broke up and he was forming a new band so I joined on bass guitar with David Magner on drums. We played tons of shows and I met the people I needed to in the Cleveland music scene. We released 300 copies of a 3 song EP. Money started disappearing up peoples noses so I decided to move on, switch back to guitar and finally form my own band, The Attitude. We were together four years, released a 5 song EP on local label Herb Jackson Records in 1986. We recorded a 13 song album but the label folded and we lost our direction in 1988 with the help of unfriendly outside influences. The Attitude was a great rock & roll band. We have finally released that album last year and actually did a reunion concert. Maybe more to come. We did shows with the Ramones, The Saints, and Chesterfield Kings to name only a few.
Well you decided to start your solo career in late 80's and your style change a lot. You started to play much more psychedelic music. You released a couple of albums...among them your first solo album called From the Heart of Oblivion, and Freak Element, which is really great! Would you mind telling me more about how it was recorded?
After The Attitude ended in such a debacle I decided to just do it myself so I wouldn't need to rely on anyone else. At the time it was simply the most efficient way of doing things. I love playing in bands but sometimes you have to do it yourself. Besides at the time I was married and had to relocate to a small town in Ohio and that was also a big factor in going solo as well. Just to survive as a musician I put together a studio with a Tascam 4 track cassette recorder a Roland TR 505 drum machine and a Yahama keyboard from Toys R Us that I ran through my guitar effects pedals for a home made synth effect. I was actually playing drums for a while at the time in a country band there. The guitar player was a Grateful Dead head with a clean connection, so you know me... Just a few times to get back in touch. After a while I had enough music and I wanted to get something out before the momentum of the Attitude faded so I released Heart Of Oblivion as a cassette and used it as a demo and sold it through magazines. I sent one to Freakbeat magazine and Richard Allen contacted me and told me about Delerium Records and offered to release it. Then later followed up with the Freak Element CD. Both releases were recorded in my Oblivion Studio in Zanesville Ohio and mastered by Chris Keffer at Magnetic North Studio in Cleveland Ohio.
You released many stuff through random magazines. We can find you in numerous compilations in the U.S. and Europe. Would you like to name a few?
On Delerium - A Psychedelic Psauna, and Pick & Mix. Just this year Esoteric Records released a 3 disc retrospective called Delerium Records - Last Daze of the Underground ( with an instruction booklet. LOL ! ) The famous "Space Box" comp on Cleopatra Records, The compilation from the Space Daze festival featuring Hawkwind. A few regional and local Cleveland comps. There's a list on the official website www.nickriff.com There's probably a few I don't know about as well.
Cloak of Immortality was your next album. What can you tell me about recording this release? What happened in the next five years for you?
I was recently divorced and living in my car and camping at friends houses back in Cleveland for a while until I got my self back in order. During this time I met Steve Taylor who played bass guitar on the CD and Thom Marianetti on drums. They were going to back Hew Lloyd Langton on a tour but it didn't happen so they were available. I got Cleveland keyboardist Ched Stanisic and on percussion Chris Di Santis to fill out the studio band. We recorded it at Magnetic North where I later did my 2 vinyl 7" for Sonic Swirl Records with Chris Keffer producing. Chris will produce my next CD in the Riffdisc Series later this year as well. After Cloak was released I wanted a real band again and eventually formed Nick Riffs Freak Element with Peter Platten - synths, Kevin Hines- Bass, Tim Lane and later Rob King- Drums. We were an active concert band for about four years and did appearences with Yes, Moody Blues and Hawkwind. All of the members have their own bands and musical projects and by 2000 it was just really hard to keep it going so we went into suspended animation.
In 2006 you were back, if I'm not wrong with an album called Magick Museum. What did inspire you to record it?
After a time traveling episode that became five years Earth time I decided to form my own label Riffdisc to release a series of CDs called the Riffdisc Series. There have been four releases so far starting with Magick Muesum ( Riffdisc 001) in 2006. The Riffdisc Series will end in 2012. Being out of the public eye for so long I realized I almost had to start over so I put together a compilation from all my Delerium and Sonic Swirl releases and a few rare comp tracks as sort of a re-introduction to a new generation of psych music lovers. I wanted to put out a great CD to listen to stoned. Then in 2008 I released Nick Riffs Freak Element - The World's Alive (Riffdisc 002) the concert bands CD. All the Riffdisc are limited edition available from the official website. Magick Muesum is out of stock in physical CD but downloads are at iTunes.
Photon Shift is another great album you did in 2009 and this year you have a brand new album out called The Universe Is Mental. I would like if you can present us your new album.
Photon Shift is the third release in the series and first solo CD I've done since the first releases on Delerium. I didn't realize that until I was into the recording process. The focus is more psych-hard rock with metaphysical subject matter as I understand it relating to a lot of current events and 2012 theories. Produced by Mark Klein from legendary Cleveland metal band Breaker. It's the most popular one so far and the only release that I have re-ordered because I got distribution with Clear Spot International mail order out of the Netherlands, Hartbeat and Sulatron in Germany carries it too..
The Universe Is Mental is the fourth release in the series. I play all sounds human and otherwise except two songs where Jhaz Sigeret plays saxophone and woodwinds. It is a CD of mostly instrumental psych music, soundtrack and space rock driven by Paleolithic drum beats. I had recently returned to my hobby of Psychotropic astronomy and that influenced the music quite a bit. Plus after the topics of Photon Shift I felt I had said enough for now and just let the music do the talking. I made it to listen to in one continuous session so the drums and synth frequencies may assist in psychedelic trance or portal activation. It is a mix of modern technology and primitive rhythms based on the question, If the Universe is mental, is there an answer?
What are some of your future plans? Will you come over to Slovenia?, I would love to see you play one day...
My plans are to complete the Riffdisc Series. I have just started rehearsals for Riffdisc 005 with the musicians who will play on it. I hope to have it out later this year. We are in the process of over hauling the official web site as well. Besides that, I plan to construct a structure based on Sacred Geometry and the physical human psychic centers and use the molecular patterns produced by frequency tone generators to heal diseases. Also to develop this process as a method of connecting consciousness to the multi-verse, and provide freedom to the individual Soul within a quantum structure, to enable passage from three dimensional spacetime into an omni existence. Hence the power structures of this world will no longer effect you as your vibrational frequency will take you beyond their grasp. I have only tested it on fungus so far with mixed results. It has become apparent that I must first construct a building that is sound proof, micro wave, cell phone, satellite and TV frequency proof, in order to provide a pure environment in which to operate the Riffatron.
I would love to come to Slovenia for anything ! Especially to play music. I would if conditions ever permit me to. At best for now I am trying to get it together to do some festivals in Europe next year in some way.
Thanks a lot for this interview. I know you are huge fan of many psych bands, among them are SRC Would you like to share some other less known bands, that you love or add anything else?
Thank you. It's been fun. Most any band I would say is probably well known by most psych music listeners. SRC was a great influence on me. So cool you can talk with them. All I could add here is that since these days I am mostly a cyber entity, I hope visitors to my website will subscribe to the free monthly news letter. That's really where most all things Riff are happening. Music and pre-release offers and news info and psych links and direct contact firstname.lastname@example.org It's growing all the time. May the Human Spirit prevail in these times, stay Cosmic, Psych on. Peace...
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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