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TEN YEARS DEEP: GET WITH THE KING KLICK – AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY RICHTER

“It’s the mother-fuckin’ Kottonmouth Kings, bitch!”

An album review is written to hype a new release. You read what someone else has to say to form your opinion. Not today. You’re not gonna find it here. Do you wanna know why? Okay, sure, I’ll give you an explanation. Check this out. The Kottonmouth Kings have been at the top of their game for the past ten years. At this point in their career, you would think they’d wanna kick back and take it easy, right? Not a chance. They’re droppin’ a new album, “No. 7,” and this record has more punch than Mike Tyson. Twenty-one tracks. 75 minutes worth of music. I don’t need to say a damn thing. This release will speak for itself and you can take that to the bank.

I don’t wanna waste a lot of time giving you my opinion. I dig the band. ‘Nuff said. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Johnny Richter and I feel that what he has to say is more important and more interesting than anything I could type up. So, I’m gonna take a step back for once. Focus on what the artist has to say. Sure, I threw down a few questions. But, Johnny Richter rolled with the answers. Sink your teeth into this.

Paul Autry: Let’s get the ball rollin’ by talkin’ about your DVD, “Ten Years Deep.” I’ve been diggin’ on that and, my opinion, anyone who wants to know about the band, if they watch this release, they know your whole story. So, you wanna tell us a little about it?

Johnny Richter: Yeah. That’s pretty much what we were shootin’ for with this DVD. We have a few other releases. But, on this one, everyone pretty much told their story of who they either came to be with the Kottonmouth Kings or how the Kottonmouth Kings started, from the beginning. It’s more for the fans. You wanna know what we are? This is what we are, know what I mean? It’s kind of like the “behind the music” of the Kottonmouth Kings. How we started, how this whole thing began, how everyone came into it, the timeline of everything. Less show footage and more lifestyle footage, you know?

Paul Autry: Yeah. Well, we won’t get too much into your history here because anyone who wants to know that should pick up “Ten Years Deep.” So, how about just giving us an introduction to the band. Who’s who and what do they do in the band and, in your opinion, what do they bring to the band.

Johnny Richter: We’ll start off with Daddy X. He’s the lead vocalist…well…one of them. We have three. Me, Daddy X and D-Loc are the three vocalists. Daddy X brings more of a punk edge to it. He brings the craziness. He has a great stage presence. He’s kind of loony on stage and he’s a great character to look at. He brings great lyrics, deep lyrics and good songwriting to it and a good show…and guidance to a lot of us in the band. D-Loc is D-Loc. I’ve known D-Loc personally for twenty years now and he’s always been that kid that everyone wants to hang out with. He’s good at everything he does. Naturally gifted and able to do things. You know, when you’re around him…people just wanna hang out with him. He has that type of feeling or pulls with him. He brings a great stage show and, you know, we write all our own stuff. So, we all bring the writing into it. He does that. I personally bring the same thing on stage. I bring a good hip hop base. I like to sing a little bit on it. I bring a different element whereas X brings more of the punk edge and Loc and I bring more of the hip-hop elements to it. Then we have DJ Bobby B, who scratches on it all. But, he doesn’t just scratch like a cut scratch or whatever. He scratches in sounds, actual sounds and different crazy big tones and whatever throughout the show. If you look back at him, you can see that he’s running our whole program. Running the playback, running the tables. He’s running all that and adding it to the show and giving it a hip-hop feel. He’s one of the best DJ’s there is…no doubt. Pakelika, The Visual Assassin, six foot seven madness. He’s the tallest dude out there. He brings a translation of dance to our music and stage show. He wears a mask and he calls himself The Visual Assassin because he doesn’t want people to judge him on his looks, he wants to be judged on the music and how he dances, you know? Most people…not everyone…but most people do judge people by their looks. It’s a big thing for a lot of people, what your face looks like, if it’s the cutest or whatever. He wants to be judged strictly on his dancing. So, that’s the reason he wears the mask. He’s just up there, bustin’ the whole time on stage. It’s incredible to watch. I find myself, in the middle of a show, just watchin’ him because he’s so good. He translated our music into his own style of dance called hydromechanics, which he invented, the style. It’s his style and that’s what he does. Then we have Lou Dog, the drummer.

Paul Autry: With the bicycle drum set.

Johnny Richter: Yeah. He’s got a new one. If you wanna see it, he’s got like four bikes now or something and, if you wanna check ’em out, he has his own website and he has pictures of all his bikes up there. What he does, for people who don’t know, he takes old three wheel bikes and, I don’t know how he came up with the concept, but, he attached a drum kit to the bike. He started the first one back in the day, it was like a regular bike that he put his drum kit on. As he started building more, it got more intricate and air brushing the frame and brushing the drums to match it all and giving the bike a theme…making it almost like a low rider car. But, it’s this bike with a drum kit on it. It’s an incredible invention that he came up with.

Paul Autry: I’m a bit curious. In your lyrics, I always here you mention “old school” and, I would assume that you’re influenced by that. But, what I’d like to ask you is, what do you consider old school? For me, I tell people I like old school rap and I’m talkin’ about stuff like “Raising Hell” by Run D.M.C. or The Beastie Boys album with “Fight For Your Right (To Party).”

Johnny Richter: Yeah, that’s old school for me too. That’s the begining of it pretty much. That’s what I grew up listening to, those types of records.

Paul Autry: I finally got the Run D.M.C. album on CD. So, I’m kind of happy about that. While we’re on the subject…The Kottonmouth Kings have been around for ten years now and, of course, music has continued to change and grow. Have your influences changed since the begining?

Johnny Richter: Music, yeah, it changes. Life influences our music more than music actually influences our music. If you’re at a good, happy point in your life, you’re probably gonna write good, happy, positive music. If you’re at a down point, you’re probably write a down thing. If you’re having girl problems, you’re gonna write about that or whatever. So, I think life influences us in our music. Growing up, personally, I listened to a lot of classic rock like Janis Joplin, Hendrix, The Doors, The Dead, The Band, whoever…Deep Purple. I could go on and on…old Petty, Fleetwood Mac. I grew up listening to all that. Then I started to listen to a lot of rap and hip hop when that started coming up. That was around my teen years, you know, and I listened to punk too. So, all different styles of music have influenced my life and it’s hard to put it to just one band, to say I’m influenced by this person or that person. Music has touched me and I love makin’ music and I love music and, depending on where I’m at in my life, that’s the kind of music that I make.

Paul Autry: It’s kind of interesting that you put it that way. I once did an interview with Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. and he made a comment that I like to use as a question, because he made a really good point. He said that when you make a record, it’s a reflection of who you are at that moment in time. So, with your new album, who are The Kottonmouth Kings at this point in your career.

Johnny Richter: At this point, we’re a very strong, confident group. We’ve been together for ten years now, we’ve been doing this…it’s our lives now. It’s not like we have a garage band on the side that we do on Saturdays. We run a full business. We have our own record label. We have our clothing line. Our touring company. We have other bands under us and we continually put out music, CD’s and DVD’s, you know what I mean? We’re constantly doing that. So, yeah, The Kottonmouth Kings right now are at a very strong point. I think we’re at the top of our game right now. On this record, we came up with some of the sickest rhyme patterns, we got the punk stuff, it has a great old school feel to it. We put some melodic songs on our record, we have some acoustic style. We always do that because that’s just how we grew up.

Paul Autry: Before you called, I was sitting here watching the “King Klick” video and, don’t take this the wrong way, but, what’s the point in doing a video? I mean, sure, MTV was big back in the day, they would play stuff like this. Not anymore though. I might be out of the loop when it comes to the video market, but, it seems to me that there’s not a lot of places where you could get it shown.

Johnny Richter: Well, yeah, MTV doesn’t play videos. MTV plays shows. I can tell you because I’ve been watchin’ “Cribs” all day. That’s all they’ve been playin’ all fuckin’ day, “Cribs,” “Road Rules” or “The Real World,” know what I mean? They don’t play music. But, you have a lot of independent cable access shows that will play a video, in the different cities. We get all our videos out to them, we also put all our videos on DVD. You know, being in the music industry, you make videos, it’s what you do, that’s how it goes, that’s how you promote yourself. You have to put a visual to the music for the people to see. If they wanna check out the video on the website, it’s probably a little more interesting that just hearing the song.

Paul Autry: Has your video been in circulation long enough to get some feedback or is it just now starting to make the rounds?

Johnny Richter: I think it just went out a couple of weeks ago on the internet. I really haven’t heard too much feedback on it yet. I’ve been busy myself with a couple of other projects that I’ve been working on.

Paul Autry: Anything you wanna plug?

Johnny Richter: Well, I’m working on a solo record and we’re working on the new Kottonmouth Kings record, we’re gonna start working on. We’re gonna do a Kingspade record, trying to get some new Kingspade clothing designs for shirts and things like that. You know…stuff you do to keep the ball rolling.

Paul Autry: That’s the way to go. Now, you had mentioned that you write your own stuff. So, how does the whole songwriting thing go within the band, from idea to finished song?

Johnny Richter: Ah, there’s different ways it can go. On the CD you have, track sixteen, “P-Town,” that was a chorus that me and D-Loc wrote years ago. We just wrote the chorus, we never turned it into a song. We heard a beat and we were like, wow, we already have a chorus for this and we were like, check this out and we started to write the lyrics around the chorus. Sometimes we’ll go in and listen to a CD of beats, we’ll start bobbin’ our heads and we’ll be like…damn…and we’ll start working on something. Someone will do a couple of lines and someone else will jump in and say, well, you can do this right here. Or someone will already have an idea that they’ll bring to the table and they’ll tell us to check it out. Or we’ll go in with live musicians and create because we already have stuff written for some of the punk or some of the more acoustic stuff that we wanna do. We already have the lyrics, so, we’ll go in with them and just sing and have them build the music around it. We have producers who make tracks for us. We all write our own lyrics as far as verses go. But, as for the chorus, we all collaborate on that or somebody will come up with an idea for a song, everyone will like it and we’ll just run with it.

Paul Autry: You’ve been around for more than a decade now and you have a wealth of material to choose from. So, when it comes to the live show, how do you choose the set list?

Johnny Richter: When we put a new record out, we have every song ready to go. We go into practice to see how they sound and how we think they would go over live. Some songs just go over better live, they have more energy. When someone comes to a show, you don’t want them coming in to just sit there and stare at the band. You want ’em going off, you want to interact with the people. So, we try to keep a real hype show, a real fast paced moving show. It’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride. We do a lot of the more faster stuff, the more driving music that we have. Then we mellow it out real quick, take a little loop and then come back with another hard hittin’ track. We try to put a good mix of a few songs off of each record. You know, this is the 7th record that we put out and we do about 30 songs a night in a two hour show. So, we try to do like four or five songs from each record. We put ’em out there and play ’em and because we’ve been doing this for so long, we know what works and what doesn’t. We know the fan favorites and what people wanna hear and we know what we like to play personally.

Paul Autry: You guys were all set to go out on tour and you had to put it on hold because D-Loc messed up his leg or something like that?

Johnny Richter: Yeah, he busted his ankle. He just got out of surgery the other day. He’s got a few pins and rods and plates put in his ankle…he’s got a bionic ankle now.

Paul Autry: I heard he wanted to do the tour in a wheelchair.

Johnny Richter: Yeah. But, the way we look at it, if he does re-injure it, he could mess it up for life and he wouldn’t be able to shows at all. So, the best thing to do is to let him rest it the way he’s supposed to so that when we come back, we come back stronger than ever, we’re full force and there’s nothing missing. I got a feeling that when we come back out to do this tour, we are gonna be stronger than ever because we’re gonna be steamin’ to play out live since we haven’t been out in a few months. We’re starting to re-book the tour now. We’re coming…don’t get it wrong…this tour did not get cancelled, it just got pushed back a little bit. We just hit a bump in the road. We can’t wait to get out there and play our new songs for everyone. We love doing it.

Paul Autry: I hope you get to come down this way because, you know, I’ve been to a lot of shows and I’ve done a few in person interviews and everyone I met was cool with me. But, some of the people I talked with seemed almost unapproachable. But, you guys seem to be the kind of band where an in person interview would be like, hey, let’s crash on the couch, kick back, have a beer and talk shit for a little bit.

Johnny Richter: Come on back and take a hit with us. Talkin’, whatever. It’s just like hangin’ out with friends. That’s how it is with us. That’s how it started with Kottonmouth Kings. We were friends before we were a band. I’ve known D-Loc for 20 years now, we met when were eight years old. We’ve been friends for 20 years and we’ve been a band for ten. Above and beyond anything, we were all friends before we made this band.

Paul Autry: There’s a lot of bands out there, even the ones who have been together for two, maybe three years, usually implode for one reason or another. Usually, it’s the old “musical differences” reason. So, what keeps the relationship strong and healthy within the band? Is it just friendship or is there something more to it?

Johnny Richter: As far as something more…there probably is a greater power and there probably is a reason why Kottonmouth Kings are here. We’re here to fufill some kind of destiny and to do something with our lives. I don’t believe in like religion…popular religion…and all that. I believe you get out of this life what you put into it. If you put out a lot of negative stuff in life, that’s what you’re gonna get back. If you put out a lot of positive stuff, you’re gonna get it back at the end of the day. You’ve gotta keep a good outlook on things. Everything always happens for a reason. D-Loc breakin’ his ankle, there’s a reason why we’re not supposed to be out on tour this summer.

Paul Autry: I can agree with that.

Johnny Richter: You can’t look at it like, ah…fuck…we can’t go out on tour. You know what? Now we have time to make a new record. We can put together a sicker show that way, when we do go out, we’re gonna have a next level show. We have time to do other things. Besides, we haven’t had a summer off for five, six years. We’ve always been out on tour.

Paul Autry: I know this is a major, major issue for a lot of musicians and record labels. What are your thoughts on file sharing?

Johnny Richter: I look at it like this…it’s out of my hands. What can I do? What can you really do about it? Our record was on the internet three weeks before it came out. I don’t really mind because, if the people want it that bad, that means you’re doing something right. That’s a good thing…and if your fans are real fans, they understand…our fans aren’t the here today, gone tomorrow fans. The people you see at our shows have been coming to our shows for fuckin’ years and years, they’re bringin’ their kids to our shows. Our fans support us because they know we’re not going anywhere, we’re gonna stick around. So, if someone really does want a CD, they’re gonna go out and buy the CD and they’re gonna support the band, especially if they want the real quality and the artwork and everything that goes with it. You’re gonna go out and support the band you like. A lot of the bands that are out right now don’t have full CD’s that have a following. They have people who like ’em for a song and they just wanna hear that song. Our fans wanna get that record and look at all the pictures, look at what we put out. If people really want it, they’re gonna buy it. I personally buy all my CD’s.

Paul Autry: For me, well, before you called, I was gonna download some of your material that I wasn’t familiar with. But, eventually, I’ll go out and pick up the disc because I like to have the full product.

Johnny Richter: Exactly. That’s the way it works. It works in our favor that way. People listen to our stuff and, if they like it, they go out and buy it. If they don’t like it, they don’t.

Paul Autry: For the people who aren’t familiar with Suburban Noize, can you give ’em a little information about that?

Johnny Richter: When we started Kottonmouth Kings ten years ago, everyone was lookin’ at us, kind of laughing, saying, “Sure, you guys are gonna do that.” We created Suburban Noize as a platform to put out Kottonmouth Kings records…just our own records. When we signed with Capitol, we had our own deal where it was Kottonmouth Kings…now we’re on Capitol slash Suburban Noize. It’s like The Beastie Boys, they have their own Capitol Records slash Grand Royal. It has always been a part of who we are. That’s how we started and now, it’s grown so much that it’s just…Suburban Noize is an independent label and we have artists on it. Big B, Judge D, OPM, The Last Laugh, The Dirtball.

Paul Autry: The Sub Noize Souljaz record….that was a really good album.

Johnny Richter: Yeah. That was just a fun compilation. That was all the different artists on Suburban Noize getting together in different factions. Instead of having a Kottonmouth Kings song or an OPM song or a Big B song or a Judge D song…you had Judge D and me on a track or whoever. We just had everyone workin’ together. People were like, was it hard to get everyone around to do that and I was like, no because, like, I would go in to record a song with Judge and Saint Dog & Big B were in the other room writing a song and it was like, hey, you wanna get on this track with me? You go in, write a verse and record it real quick. If you wanted to work with someone, you just call ’em up and say, hey, you wanna do this song and it worked out really well. It came together really easy. (EDITOR’S NOTE: At this point in the conversation, Johnny Richter was saying something to somebody…either that or I just couldn’t hear what he was saying. It was only for a few seconds though.) I just got a picture message from D-Loc of the cast that’s on his foot and it goes, “OUCH!” It’s a picture of his leg with this huge fuckin’ cast on. The thing looks like it five inches thick.

Paul Autry: Damn. I’ll bet he can’t wait to get that thing off.

Johnny Richter: Ah, yeah. But, you know, he’s bummed out too. He can’t go out on tour, know what I mean? It’s just…whatever. But, it’s all gonna be good.

Paul Autry: Yeah. Now, the thing I noticed with that Sub Noize record was, there seems to be a loyalty between all the artists. It’s not like, okay, this is my band, thhat’s your band, we’re better than you, blah, blah, blah. It’s more like, this is my band, we’re good. But, you should check out that band because they’re really good, stuff like that.

Johnny Richter: Yeah. At Suburban Noize, we all share the same theory in music and in life pretty much. Everybody’s got the same ideas. We are friends with all the other bands on the label, that’s the thing about us, that’s how it is. If we’re not friends with you, we obviously don’t wanna work with you. You wouldn’t have to wanna go to work with an asshole everyday if you didn’t have to and we’re in a position where we find other bands with the same ideas, the same work ethic, the do it yourself mentality…and we provide them with a platform to put out their music so they can be heard. We offer ’em tours, to go out with us. We’ll give ’em what they need. But, they’ve gotta go out and hustle their product like we had to hustle ours when we started Kottonmouth Kings. We have a platform to help our friends out so they can go out and do it themselves and have a way better start instead of having to start at the starting line. We give ’em a little push. They get to be creative and they get to make music the way they want to make music and not the way someone else would want them to make. It’s a place where like minded people go and, hell, everyone in the office is like that as well. Like it says on the “Ten Years Deep” DVD, do you want a guy that wears a suit every day and has never been to a show in the last five years saying what your record is gonna be or do you want someone who goes to shows all the time, someone who is right in the middle of the scene, someone who is more like you.

Paul Autry: I think some people out there should pay close attention to what you just said. They need to work together. It’s not a fuckin’ competition.

Johnny Richter: Exactly.

Paul Autry: On that note…I think I covered everything unless, of course, there’s something I didn’t mention that you’d wanna talk about.

Johnny Richter: Just keep yourself posted on the website. Tour dates, pick up the new record, “No. 7.” We’re ten years into this, we’re still doing it, still blowing smoke rings, still touring, still strong as ever if not stronger. We will be back out. We’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here for a long time.

Paul Autry: Damn. I was gonna ask you if you had any final comments. But, I don’t know, I think you might have just covered that…unless you wanna give a shout out to the fans who will be reading this, both old and new.

Johnny Richter: Old and new? Yeah…pick up the new record. Get it, play it for a friend. Live life the way you want just don’t hurt anyone while you’re doing it. Live free. Question authority. Be happy, live and be happy. The best days are always ahead. There’s always a reason to wake up tomorrow…there’s always a reason. Remember that.

Paul Autry: I agree. I just wanna say, it was a real pleasure talking with you today and I appreciate you taking the time to shoot the shit with me for a little bit.

Johnny Richter: No problem. Later.

http://www.kottonmouthkings.com
http://www.suburbannoizerecords.com
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