A Phone call with INTO ANOTHER'S beautiful singer, Richie Birkenhead
Interview conducted August 1995. First Published by East Coast Rocker.
Into Another is the most thought provoking, musically influential bands I have ever heard. They
are like a fungus that grows within a listener. From the first chord of Peter Moses's guitar, or the
driving bass line from Tony Bono to the last crash of Drew Thomas's cymbal, an Into Another
song is something to behold.
They began their career about four years ago when singer Richie Birkenhead, formerly the
singer of Underdog and the guitarist for Youth of Today, and Drew Thomas, formerly of Bold
decided to create a sound unlike any other. They sought unique styles of playing outside of the
bands they had heard. They found guitar phoneme, Peter Moses, and bassist, Tony Bono.
Once their first album came out on Revelation records, (Revelation: 24) they had accomplished
their goal of musical individuality. The guitar style of Peter Moses leans more heavily classical
then on rock, and the bass work of Tony Bono is some of the best I have ever heard. If you add
those ingredients to a solid drummer and a singer who can make mothers cry and kids scream
their bloody heads off. You have one amazing foursome.
They have three LP's (Into Another, Ignaurus, and Seemless) each with their own passion and
their own unique style. The latest, Seemless, is no different. Produced by Rick Parashar (Alice in
Chains, Pearl Jam, and Blind Melon), Seemless is a force to be reckoned with.
I was fortunate enough, due to an unfortunate circumstance, to conduct this interview with the
voice of the band Richie Birkenhead. He is not only an man who possess a beautiful voice, but
who also possess an eloquent sense of writing some of the most thought provoking lyrics I have
Richie:Hi, this is Riche from Into Another
me:hey, how are you doin'?
Richie:I am hot and sweaty.
me:Where are you?
Richie:I am in my unairconditioned apartment in New York.
me:So you are back, how was recording with Rick Parashar?
Richie:It was amazing. He was awesome. He is the most down to earth,
unpretentious, coolest guy in the world. He wasn't like a tyrannical producer who forces his will
on the band. He just brought the best out of all of us. He made an atmosphere that was really
conducive to creativity and making a great record.
me:How may voices did you record on each song, because it sounds like
there are twenty of them?
Richie:No, actually there is almost never more than two; sometimes three. There
aren't any harmonies using more than three voices.
me:It seems like there are a lot more.
Richie:sarcastically) Yep, that's just me.
Way to go. You are fabulous. Did Drew [the drummer] do any over dubs?
Richie:He played congas on one song.
me:Because in "Regarding Earthlings," he was keeping time with a splash
cymbal on the quarter beat and he did a two beat snare fill, and the splash still fell on the
beat in between.
Richie:Oh, no there are no cymbal over dubs.
me:That was a really choice fill.
Richie:Yeah, he did some killer shit.
me:Do you miss his big ride bell ringing through the mix?
Richie:I think it sits in the mix a little better now.
me:You didn't like it before?
Richie:No, I liked it. It is still there. I like big guitars.
me:Are there a lot of other overdubs? Because the album sounds really
Richie:Not really, this was the first time we had more than a couple of days to
record an album. We spent three weeks recording this one, which was very luxurious. It is
essentially very raw. There aren't a million guitars on this record. There are a few layers, like on
some songs we have an acoustic guitars, or on "Regarding Earthlings" there is a tamboura way
back in the mix. Also on the song "May I", I play a Worlitzer. It is really relatively bare boned.
me:Is there an overall theme to Seemless? Because on Ignaurus it seems as if
the central theme is about a fear of dying.
Richie:Well, that figures into it, but even on Ignaurus there really isn't a central
theme. A lot of my poetry deals with on my insecurities and fears, but none of our records really
have a central theme. I think just by doing an album and playing these songs as one big symphony
for a while, they kind of take on this continuity. You know this singular musical journey, even
though each of these songs is a mutually exclusive musical entity. I think this album has a different
vibe from Ignaurus, but I think it definitely has a vibe. I love this record. This record is the only
record that we've done that I absolutely love. It is the only record I can listen to without gaging.
Richie:Yeah, that's just the way I am.
me:Getting off the record and into the Warped Tour, How many shows did
you guys play?
Richie:We just did nine shows.
me:You didn't play around here, did you?
Richie:No, we deliberately played in areas where we had not played at all or where
we had only played once. We just wanted to play to new kids. We played mostly new stuff.
Because even if we played something old they wouldn't have known it anyway.
me:Did they like you?
Richie:Yeah, we were shocked. The kids seemed like they absolutely loved us. We
weren't sure if they were going to throw things at us, but they went crazy. People even lined up to
talk to us afterwards. We got to hang out with some really cool people. It was really cool.
me:What do you think about the New York hard-core scene? Do you think
that you are still a part of it?
Richie:No, we have never claimed that Into Another is a hard-core band. I guess,
Drew and I came out of the hard-core scene here. Even when I was in Underdog, a so-called
hard-core band, we tried to be a unique and atypical band.
Do you ever hang out with Chuck?
Richie:Chuck Treece. I talk to him very rarely. I hardly ever see the guy, because he
is in a band.
me:My friends and are always talking about you to other people they always
refer to you as a hard-core band, and we can never understand why.
Richie:Well, I don't mind if people refer to us that way. I mean, we have for the past
four years, played to a hard-core audience. We were also on Revelation which was a hard-core
label. Now, they are putting out bands that are definitely not hard-core. I still think that hard-core
kids are the most politically aware and tolerant crowd to play for. We only ever played one show
that wasn't all ages.
me:When was that?
Richie:It was on our first tour, we played a 21 and over show. I don't know how we
got roped into it, and it was a nightmare. It was a bunch of drunken red necks, it sucked. I hope
the hard-core scene still supports the band. We support the hard-core scene even though we are
not a hard-core band. We have never pretended to be, and i think that they respect that about it.
me:Tell me about the P.E.T.A. single?
Richie:It was two songs that did not make it onto Ignaurus and a re-mix "Poison
Fingers." It is just to get a little bit of money together for them. It is an organization that we've
always supported being the radical tree huggers that we are.
Richie:We figured that we should do something with those songs.
me:Those songs are really great! I have seen you play "Herbivore," but i
have never heard "To Be Free" before the single was released.
Richie:We played that on the Warped tour.
me:What is the song about?
Richie:It is basically about putting an end to that subtle education parents pass on to
their children, in the way of racism and sexism. I think that is the most dangerous kind. Much
more dangerous than the heavy handed obvious kind.
me:Who is the song "William" [from Ignaurus] about?
Richie:William Hope Hodgenson. He was an author of the McCabe. He died in
1918. His books are virtually impossible to find. I have them, but it took a lot of searching. They
are out of print. He was a huge inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft. He was one of my favorite authors,
and it was a shame that he died.
me:That is a great song. I am just going to give you all types of compliments
because you have totally influenced my band.
Richie:Thanks! Who's your band?
me:A.K.U. I give Peter tapes every time I see you play, but I doubt he ever
listens to them.
Richie:I am sure he does.
me:What are you doing tonight? Do you want to go see us?
Richie:Actually, I am working at Don Hill's. Where are you playing?
me:At the Stone Pony.
Richie:Oh, that wouldn't work because I start work at 10 pm.
me:We are playing on Saturday.
Richie:I am going to a Tyson party.
me:Oh yeah. Who's going to win?
Richie:Who's going to win? Are you kidding? That white guy is going to get
knocked out in ten seconds.
me:That's what I think, some guy said that Tyson was going to loose.
Richie:Oh my God! It is like professional wrestling at this point.
me:How did you come up with Into Another for a name?
Richie:Umm, that actually came from a song that I wrote a long time ago when
Drew and I were just jamming. I liked it because we wanted a name that wasn't a noun or plural
noun. We also wanted a name that would be though provoking and could be interpreted an
number of ways. To some people the same could be a sexual reference to some it sounds
transcendental. I was so sick of noun names.
me:I always thought that from the first album, it was a sexual innuendo.
Then for Ignuarus, it was more of a passage into another dimension or life.
Richie:It is all of those.
me:What are your feelings about God?
Richie:I don't prescribe to any particular religion. Umm, however, I am fascinated
with ancient philosophy and eastern philosophy. I have read a lot of the religious books. I think to
say that one believes in something is 99 percent a cop out. I think that we should pretty much
admit that we are all in a permanent state of eternal wonderment and don't really know the
answers to those fundamental philosophical questions. I can't claim that I know that there is a
God. I could say that I have faith, but I am not sure that I do. I am fairly certain that there is a
God or a number of them, or at least something non-material.
me:Are you scared to die? Because a lot of your lyrics tend to deal with that
Richie:On one hand I am very much because there are things that I love about
living. On the other hand I am not because I am really really curious. I want to know. It is
inevitable anyway. There are times that I just want it to happen. I anxiously await death, but I am
me:Oh, that's a lyric (we laugh). How do you guys write songs?
Richie:Most of the time we jam and come up with stuff musically first and I live
with the song for a while in headphones and either adapt existing poetry to it, or just let the song
me:What is like to work with Peter [the guitarist]?
Richie:He is amazing. He is the most unique guitarist I have met. He plays really
peculiar and interesting voicings.
me:What is in that book that you carry around?
Richie:My phone book, my diary, my passport, and my life. Pretty much just
me:Don't lose it!
Richie:Oh, I have before, but it always comes back to me. It is charmed.
me:How do you think that your songs have evolved? You have gotten away
from the metal sounding songs to the more open, free, powerful ones.
Richie:We have just matured. We used to do a lot of musical masturbation. We
would try to drop out an eighth note or a sixteenth note in a measure or play in an odd time.
That's fine to do, if it appropriate. We don't do things that are inappropriate any more. We are
not afraid to kill our babies. We are not afraid to say this is a pretentious piece of shit and throw it
away. Any band grows and evolves and they tend to trim the fat away.
me:When are you guys going to tour?
Richie:Yeah, we are going to spend a year and a half on the road and then back into
me:Do you know any of the dates?
Richie:I know that we are touring with Seaweed form the 8th of September to the
21st of October. I have a few dates: the 8th and 9th in New York, the 10th in D.C., 11th in North
Carolina, 12th in Atlanta, 15th in Houston, and the 16th in Austin.
me:Are you going to shoot any videos?
Richie:Yeah we may shoot a video for "Mutate Me" before we leave.
me:Do you all hang out together?
Richie:Drew is actually here right now
me: Do you have any huge closing words of wisdom for the people?
Richie:Don't eat cows because cows are nice.
me:Are you all vegetarians?
me:Well, I don't want to keep you from Drew. I will see you on the 8th and I
will give you a tape of my band and bother you.
Richie:Geoff, it has been good talking to you. I look forward to meeting you in
me:Alright, take care.
Written By: Geoff T.