Richard Harris takes the Reflection and Response interview to heart. In this piece, Rich informs about his perspective becoming an integral part of the Madrid music scene coming from England, highlights the role that Reflection and Response has played in some recent events in his life, and stresses the importance of creativity and expression. The interview touches on the talent found throughout the Spanish capital city and how this Collective inspires artistic creation. Three of Richard’s tracks accompany the interview to provide an audio reference to the interesting and enlightening words below. Without further adieu, we’re proud to present Richard Harris.
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
RH: I’m from Basildon, Essex. Close to London & famous for being home to Depeche Mode & very little else! Where am I at? Good question. Here in Madrid & immersing myself further & further into what is, at the moment, a vibrant music scene. I’m currently running the open mic at Triskel Tavern, recording an album with my band The Red Telephones & playing live whenever I can. There are so many people making good music in the city at the moment & I take the opportunity to see just about all of them when they play live.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
RH: Reflection & Response. Still a difficult one this is. I lost one of my oldest friends to cancer just over a year ago & my response was to write a song about him because I miss him. Recently, my mum had cancer & it was a difficult time for my family. Fortunately she is ok now. The response was at once to write a song about it. I also split with my girlfriend around the same time, so no prizes for guessing what the response was! Let’s just say it’s not going to be the happiest of albums when it’s done. On reflection, I have to move on for my sake but I’m still finding it hard regarding Lee. I miss him, simple as that.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
RH: Read the above. Lee’s Tune, The Ties That Bind & Love Is Blind. It’s difficult to remove yourself from your own writing but I reckon The Ties That Bind is possibly the best thing I’ve ever written.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?
RH: I’m incredibly insecure about my voice, probably because I know so many great vocalists here in Madrid so I went into the studio during Semana Santa & recorded a cover version for the first time. The song is an old traditional called I Know My Rider & I know the song because The Byrds did a version of it. I wanted to see if I could sing in a different style than the Joe Strummer/Punk Rock thing that I normally do. I think it worked & I’m happy with the results. It has given me some ideas regarding what to do with some of the remaining vocals on the album.
Who or what inspires you?
RH: Inspirations? Musical ones first. My biggest one is The Clash; inspiring, life changing & as a 14 year old in Essex with some of my peers drifting towards right-wing politics, The Clash coming out in favour of The Anti-Nazi League & Rock Against Racism had a powerful & lasting effect. I despise racism & racists to this day. My favourite album is Forever Changes by Love, it’s a masterpiece, simple as that & if you haven’t heard it make sure you do a.s.a.p. I’m a massive fan of The Stone Roses, La’s, Byrds, Velvet Underground, Stooges, Stones, MC5, Bo Diddley, Dylan, 13th Floor Elevators, New York Dolls, Pistols, Smiths & countless others. I’m into most types of music, very big on reggae & currently really digging country for the first time in my life, in fact I don’t know how I lived without it for so long. As I type this I’m listening to the Black Angels, proof that there are still good bands out there.
Life Inspirations? Anyone who has stood up against oppression—Gandhi, Mandela, Rosa Parks, Victor Jara, Jan Palach etc; all of these are bigger heroes than any musician.
Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?
RH: What else? Well, not that it really matters but I’m not exactly young. When I came here 4.5 years ago I’d pretty much given up music & I’m still in a state of shock that this is actually happening! I didn’t expect to finally be recording, gigging & organizing open mic nights in my 40s. I’m happy that I am though-it feels great. I really get a buzz out of watching other musicians, particularly the ones who are nervous to begin with, just like I was. Watching their confidence grow & their stage presence improve is really satisfying.
Shout out to…?
RH: Too many people to mention because there are so many wonderful musicians & friends so I’m going to keep it in house. Woody, former open mic host, Red Telephones drummer & Pop Robinson Guitarist/Singer gets the biggest shout of all. If he hadn’t encouraged me to come back after a rabbit in the headlights first night at Triskel I wouldn’t be doing this interview now. Not only is he a fantastic musician he’s a top bloke, even if he prefers Guns & Roses to the Stone Roses!
Padraig O’Connor. A fantastic composer & singer songwriter in his own right, Padraig plays piano & sings backing vocals for the Red Telephones. His own stuff is great & ‘Cream Seems Fine’ is one of the best songs I’ve heard by anybody in recent years & I wish I had written it myself!
Amber Stiles. Best voice in Madrid as far as I’m concerned. She has contributed backing vocals to some tracks on the current album. Her sweet vocals are a wonderful antidote to my less than dulcet Essex tones.
Joe Wellwood. Not an open mic regular but the new Red Telephones bassist. Great musician & top bloke as well.
Rob Green. Former resident of Madrid & owner of Spaceland studios. Rob has produced all of the Red Telephones recordings & played bass on the second album. He has also played live with us, on one occasion learning an entire set in a matter of days when another bass player had to cancel a gig.
Mark Doran, now in Korea but bass player on the first album. Also a shout to Rhys Berry, former Triskel regular & now Barcelona resident who played harmonica on Chime & Melanie Lawrence who played viola & violin on The Ties That Bind & a number of other tracks.
Last but not least, Jim Montague. My best friend & a fantastic percussionist. He’s on the current album playing a variety of instruments & singing poignant backing vocals on Lee’s Tune. He misses him too.
-Reflection and Response